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interviews archive
07-11-05
Kurt Busiek: The Magic Is On The Page
Interview conducted by more COMICDOM writers than we can remember

Edited by Dimitris Sakaridis

There are few writers who can claim they did more for mainstream comics in the last 10 years than Kurt Busiek did. If any exist, at all.

After purging the superhero image in the eyes of the average reader with MARVELS, he went on to create one of the most perfect superhero universes in ASTRO CITY and in the meantime, he found time to breathe new life in the faltering AVENGERS title.

Currently, he's proving that his magic touch doesn't work only on superheroes, as he's managed to make a best seller out of a much-maligned -and largely forgotten among comic readers- character, in Dark Horse's CONAN.

Despite his full schedule, he found some time to answer our questions and give us an extremely interesting, career-spanning interview.

 

COMICDOM: Did you grow up in a home that approved of (or even encouraged) reading comic books?

KURT BUSIEK: No, I didn't. My parents were young adults during the whole Wertham anti-comics crusade that led to the Comics Code, and were convinced that comic books - at least, American comic books - were dangerous brainrot that would warp their children's minds. So my sisters and I weren't allowed to read comics as kids, at least not until we were old enough to ignore the rules my parents set down.

They did have some comics material in the house, though. They had book collections of various newspaper comic strips, including POGO, DENNIS THE MENACE and PEANUTS, and they also had ASTERIX and TINTIN albums in a variety of languages, purchased in hopes of getting us kids interested in foreign languages (and it worked on one of my sisters, who became a language major in college).

I did, however, see American comic books at friends' houses, and at the barbershop, that sort of thing. But I didn't start reading comics regularly until I was 14 years old.

COMICDOM: It is commonly known that you had a frequent presence in the lettercolumns of many comic books in the seventies. Was this the first sign of "Kurt Busiek: Superhero Writer"?

KURT BUSIEK: I don't know, maybe. Mostly, I just enjoyed reading the lettercolumns and wanted to be a part of it, to let the creators know what I thought of the books. I didn't harbor any expectation that writing to the lettercols would be a way to help me become a professional writer - though as it turned out, when I was breaking in, the fact that editors knew my name and associated it with well-written material, even if it was just letters, was a big help.

And it was a lettercolumn that made me form the ambition to become a comics writer, though it wasn't one I had a letter in. It was an X-MEN lettercol in which Chris Claremont mentioned that his grandfather kept asking him, "yeah, yeah, you write for funnybooks, but what do you do for a living?" That was the point where I realized that people did this for a living, and it made me realize I could do it too.

COMICDOM: How did your family and friends react to the idea of your becoming a professional comic book writer?

KURT BUSIEK: My mother was very supportive - as far as she was concerned, her kids could do anything they wanted, if they worked for it hard enough. My father thought it was a terrible idea, and that there was no money in it, and I don't think he changed his mind until I'd been doing it for years and was successful enough to buy a house.

My friends - I think they just thought it sounded cool.

COMICDOM: In college (or was it high school?) you were very close friends with Scott McCloud. Do you still keep in touch with him? How do you see his views on "the future of comics" as expressed in his second book, REINVENTING COMICS?

KURT BUSIEK: I met Scott on the first day of junior high school, before either of us started reading comics, and we've been friends ever since. I last talked to him a couple of days ago, in fact. He lives in Southern California and I'm up in the Pacific Northwest, so we don't see each other that often, but we're still friends.

I think Scott's thoughts on comics and the Internet are interesting, and I have no doubt that they'll bear fruit - there are already web cartoonists making a living from putting their work online, and having that direct connection between cartoonist and audience. I think there are still problems with doing it on a widespread basis, but I expect they'll be solved as time goes on. Scott, as a formalist and a theorist, lives in the future, wondering what we can do next. I think I'm more tied to the present, to what I can do with what we have to work with now. But I'm always interested in what's coming.

COMICDOM: What was your first published work and how did you land the assignment?

KURT BUSIEK: When I was in college, I interviewed Dick Giordano, then the Editor-In-Chief at DC Comics, for a college term paper. This was 1981. I told him I hoped to write comics when I graduated, and he invited me to submit some scripts, which I did. As it turned out, Dick didn't have time to read my scripts, but he wound up handing them out to the editors of the books they were written for.

One of those scripts, a Flash sample, went to FLASH editor Ernie Colon, who liked it enough to ask me to pitch ideas for "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" backup stories. I pitched a bunch, he liked one, and so "The Price You Pay," in GREEN LANTERN #162, became my first comics sale. It was written and sold in May 1982, published in late December.

COMICDOM: How did you come up with the idea for MARVELS?

KURT BUSIEK: There's two beginnings for it. On the one hand, ever since I started reading comics, I was interested in the question of what else happened in the Marvel Universe - what was it like down the street, around the corner from the action, what was life like for the bystanders who are usually in the background on the stories.

The other part was working with Alex Ross on a science fiction piece for OPEN SPACE, a short-lived anthology series that I edited and hired him to do art for. He was interested in doing a painted anthology of Marvel superhero stories, and I convinced him it would be easier to sell if it was a mini-series, if it had a single story tying it all together. He and I bashed around ideas for a story that would work, many of them lousy, but we kept looking for something that would really take advantage of his artwork, of the feeling of realism it had. Eventually I suggested we see the whole thing from a reporter's point of view, which turned out to be an idea he'd be considering as well. The story came together from there.

COMICDOM: How easy was it to convince Marvel for the project?

KURT BUSIEK: They were quite interested in the art right from the start, though the story was a harder sell. At first, we'd made up new material, new superhero adventures for Phil to witness featuring the various Marvel heroes through time, and it was Tom DeFalco who suggested that we instead have Phil witness important moments from established Marvel history. It was also suggested that we scrap the World War II stuff, since nobody knew or cared about it.

Once I rewrote the pitch with established Marvel history -but keeping the World War II stuff- it went through.

COMICDOM: What we saw in MARVELS was an original and much more personal narrative and point of view of life in a superhero universe, which is -more or less- the idea behind ASTRO CITY, as well. Was MARVELS the first time you had this idea, or did the concept of ASTRO CITY come first (even though it was published later)?

KURT BUSIEK: I'd done a couple of stories around that concept already - an Iron Man story in a MARVEL SUPER HEROES quarterly, and an Avengers story in an AVENGERS Annual, both of which featured normal people dealing with the superhero stuff around them. And I'd pitched a series idea about the normal people in the Marvel Universe that hadn't gone anywhere - we actually put a nod to it in MARVELS #4. The series would have centered around a deli in the Baxter Building, and so we gave Phil's friend Iggy that deli, just as a reference to the early idea, one nobody would get.

It was MARVELS, though, that made it clear a book about that sort of thing could sell, and gave me the confidence to pitch it as a creator-owned project.

COMICDOM: Are there (or have there ever been) any plans for a second MARVELS mini-series?

KURT BUSIEK: Yes, and I'm working on two of those ideas now!

Right after the first series, Marvel wanted to do a sequel. Alex didn't want to be involved in it, but he encouraged me to do it. Unfortunately, the project fell apart over creative differences, so I took my story back and Marvel did a mini-series called CODE OF HONOR with the artist. When I formulated ASTRO CITY, it was always with the idea of using the story I had originally planned for the MARVELS sequel, and that story is currently coming out as ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE.

Years later, Marvel editor Tom Brevoort suggested doing something special for the tenth anniversary of the project, and that grew into a new mini-series, with a completely different story. That's taking us a lot longer to get done than we hoped, but it's currently in the works with Jay Anacleto doing the art.

COMICDOM: After more than ten years since it was published, MARVELS is considered by many people to be one of the modern masterpieces of 9th Art. Did you get this sense when you were writing it? Were you feeling that you were creating something important, or were you just trying to tell a good story?

KURT BUSIEK: We were just trying to do a good story, and make it something different, something that really took advantage of what Alex could do as an artist. We had no idea it was going to get the reception it got - we thought nobody would pay attention to it until #2, since that at least had the X-Men in it.

It was very, very satisfying to work on, because we were both so committed to the story and to making it as good as we could, but we didn't think much about how the audience would react - we just did it for ourselves.

COMICDOM: One of the things that still puzzles me is the commercial failure of UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN. There was a book which had an extremely popular character, a very hot new writer, a well-respected artist and a highly alluring cover price... and it still sold rather poorly (at least by the current standards of the time). What do you think was the reason for this?

KURT BUSIEK: UNTOLD TALES was specifically designed to be an outreach book, to be the sort of thing new readers could pick up, and get interested in Spider-Man - and hopefully, become regular comics readers. Unfortunately, the whole Marvel 99-cent line was handicapped from the beginning, because they hadn't checked with newsstand outlets first to see if they'd even carry a 99-cent comic. As it turned out, they wouldn't - they didn't want to give display space to something that wouldn't make them as much profit as other comics - so Marvel invented a new package, sticking two of the 99-cent books together for the same price as the other books. Which was still a bargain, but not one many new readers noticed.

So the only place the 99-cent price happened was in the direct market, where comics fans don't need a book designed for new readers, and are resistant to buying a series set in the past, in which little or nothing that happens will "matter" to the rest of the books. That, combined with the odd phenomenon that comics fans thought that anything that was that cheap couldn't be very good, made it hard to get readers to pick the book up, though those who did pick it up were very loyal to it.

There were other problems, here and there, like the title of the series being anything but welcoming, but I think those two were the big ones.

COMICDOM: Would you consider doing something in the same vein again?

KURT BUSIEK: Sure, if I thought it could work better this time.

COMICDOM: In ASTRO CITY, most of the heroes you have created were sort-of-archetypal heroes based on other archetypal heroes. There are two times in the past when I can remember something similar to this happening. One was in WATCHMEN and the other in Mark Gruenwald's SQUADRON SUPREME. Was any of these two books some sort of inspiration for you?

KURT BUSIEK: Not really, no. The Astro City heroes really aren't based on "other archetypal heroes" - they're based on archetypes. So the idea isn't "let's do a Superman character" or "let's do a Batman character," but rather, "Let's do a savior character" or "let's do a dark avenger of the night" or whatever, and similarities are inevitable.

But for all the conviction on the part of some readers that there's a one-to-one correspondence between any Astro City character and some Marvel or DC character somewhere, there really isn't - and I think the fact that they so often disagree on who we're copying bears that out.

As such, where WATCHMEN is a reworking of the Charlton characters, originally pitched with the Charlton characters and reworked at DC's request, and SQUADRON SUPREME features characters who were designed to be gag stand-ins for the JLA, ASTRO CITY is as likely to draw on myth or history or literature as other comics.

COMICDOM: I think the main difference between MARVELS and ASTRO CITY is that in the former, the heroes are still the protagonists. Even though we mostly see the reactions of the "common folk" to the superheroes' endeavors, the "icons" are basically what it's mainly about. On the other hand, in ASTRO CITY, I tend to believe that it's not about "everyday people reacting to the heroes", but more about learning to live with them and treating them as part of everyday life. This, in my opinion, tends to take the spotlight away from the "costumes" and throws it on the regular men and women who live in the city, making the heroes function more as backgrounds. Do you feel the same way, or do you have a different take on this?

KURT BUSIEK: That's an interesting observation, but I can't say I've really thought about it. To my mind, the big difference is that with MARVELS, we had a single viewpoint - Phil's. And Phil is an observer. In ASTRO CITY, we move the viewpoint around, so we can see a story through the eyes of an observer, a participant, a hero, a villain - whoever. It gives us more possibilities, more variety.

COMICDOM: What can we expect in ASTRO CITY after THE DARK AGE is over?

KURT BUSIEK: That's going to be quite some ways away - DARK AGE is 16 issues long, and there'll be character-focus specials in between each DARK AGE arc. I've got a number of ideas for what to do next, but I've got time to change my mind six or seven times between now and then.

COMICDOM: In 1997 you revitalized the AVENGERS franchise with the highly successful run you did with George Perez. What was your plan with this book? What were you shooting for when you started?

KURT BUSIEK: For a long time, the book hadn't really felt like the Avengers to me - it had been trying to follow in the footsteps of more popular titles, being imitative of someone else's success rather than playing to its own strengths, doing what AVENGERS does best. So I wanted to get back to a book that felt like the Avengers, like the big, bold heroes that stand between us and danger, with all the action and character drama that entails.

COMICDOM: What were the initial reactions to your work on the title, after a couple of issues were published? I mean, we know that the sales were great (again, by the standards of that period), but what did you perceive as a reaction from fans and peers both?

KURT BUSIEK: The initial reactions were overwhelmingly positive, from readers and from other creators. At least, if anyone thought otherwise, they didn't mention it much.

COMICDOM: Some people believe that you simply stayed too long on the title and that the final 10 (or so) issues you did were not up to the same standards you set in the beginning. What's your reaction to this?

KURT BUSIEK: They're perfectly entitled to their opinion, of course. I'd rather not review the book myself - I don't have a reader's perspective on it, for one thing. But I'm happy with what we did, for the most part, and I'll leave others to judge it.

COMICDOM: Many people believe that AVENGERS FOREVER is one of the best superhero stories you have ever written. Is there any chance that we might see a follow-up to that story in the future?

KURT BUSIEK: There were follow-ups - AVENGERS INFINITY, MAXIMUM SECURITY and the Peter David CAPTAIN MARVEL series were all follow-ups to AVENGERS FOREVER, to one degree or another.

But if you mean a story where we try to do the same sort of thing again, I don't think so. It was a very specific story set-up, and having things work out to do just that sort of thing again would strain credulity past the breaking point, I think.

COMICDOM: Compared to the AVENGERS you wrote, which do you think are the main differences between your take on the book and that of current writer Brian Michael Bendis (assuming, of course, you follow the title)?

KURT BUSIEK: I haven't read Brian's run - after I've written a book for a long time, I find I'm too close to it to approach it as a reader, so I don't usually read it unless I need to for research or something. I read a few of Geoff Johns's issues, but haven't read any since then.

Brian is a good guy, though, so I'm glad it's doing well for him.

COMICDOM: What do you think was the reason behind the failure -and quick demise- of Gorilla Comics? The talent was definitely there, but do you have the sense that something essential was missing?

KURT BUSIEK: Yes, money. Our financial backer turned out to have been misleading us, and we discovered he had no money shortly after we solicited the first few titles. So we were suddenly and unexpectedly put into the position of funding the books out of our own pockets, which few of us were prepared to do. Had we known ahead of time we'd be doing that, we would have planned things differently.

As it is, our books launched better than CrossGen's, and if we had appropriate financial backing, so that we could have lasted longer, done more promotion, gotten the books into trade paperback form, I think we'd have done a lot better. But when you have no war chest, you can't survive unless you're an instant hit.

COMICDOM: What about the projects you did for Gorilla? Do you plan on ever revisiting them?

KURT BUSIEK: I'd like to revisit both. Stuart (Immonen - artist on SHOCK ROCKETS) and I have at least two more SHOCKROCKETS arcs we'd like to do, and I'd love to do a nice long run of SUPERSTAR. And the great part of the Gorilla experience is that there are no strings on these properties - when we're in position to do them again, nobody can stop us.

COMICDOM: How did you come up with the concept for ARROWSMITH?

KURT BUSIEK: It was a combination of factors. On the one hand, I'd been in the habit, when talking about ASTRO CITY and how superhero books aren't inherently "realistic," to bring up the fact that fairy tales aren't terribly consistent - magical creatures abound, but we don't trade with them, we don't make war on them, they don't seem to affect anything. And that got me thinking about what a world where they did affect things would be like.

On the other hand, I'd been talking to a friend, fantasy novelist Lawrence Watt-Evans, about a "big fantasy epic" his publisher had asked for, and he was trying to come up with ideas for. I suggested doing something about magic, but not the normal magical set-up - instead, what if there was a war like World War I where young soldiers were hastily taught a few spells and thrown into battle to survive or die, much like young aviators in WW1? Lawrence did something completely different with the idea, in his novel TOUCHED BY THE GODS, but I kept thinking about those hedge-wizards, and what life might be like for them.

And Carlos (Pacheco - artist on ARROWSMITH) and I wanted to do a new project together, and I wanted it to take advantage of Carlos's amazing skill at thinking out an exotic world and making it visually spectacular and still credible, and I was looking for a project that would do that. I thought it might work if we had a world where magic and technology were both present, and that made me think of the WW1 wizards idea, thinking, "What if that wasn't just a war like WW1, but it was actually 1917 in the trenches of France?" And that snapped me back to the idea about fairytale creatures in a realer world, and it all fell together from there.

COMICDOM: Although it was, by no means, a failure, it still didn't exactly fly off the shelves, when it came out. Do you feel that this a, more or less, normal problem for any straight adventure book that doesn't feature superheroes?

KURT BUSIEK: Actually, ARROWSMITH did fly off the shelves, at least to the extent that the first issue sold out from DC a week before it went on sale, and the second issue sold out the day it went on sale. The orders weren't as high as they'd have been if we were doing an established superhero, but nobody's dissatisfied with the book's performance.

And yes, almost any non-superhero book will run into sales resistance at some level. But so it goes - that's just something you've got to deal with if you're doing comics in the US.

COMICDOM: Are we going to see more of ARROWSMITH in the future? And when (or if) we do, is Carlos Pacheco still going to be your collaborator?

KURT BUSIEK: Yes, there'll be more ARROWSMITH and yes, when it comes it'll be me and Carlos. When it'll appear is up to our schedules and when we have the time, but there'll be more.

COMICDOM: Who came up with the idea for JLA/AVENGERS? Was it your concept, or did the two publishers decide it and then approached you and George to put it on paper?

KURT BUSIEK: Marvel and DC have been talking about doing JLA/AVENGERS ever since the first run at it fell apart (in the early 80's, the two publishers were planning this crossover and a number of pages were already pencilled by George Perez, but the idea collapsed due to creative differences), but usually, whenever one company was willing, the other wasn't, and then when the one that wasn't changed their minds, something had happened to make the first company decide they weren't interested. And back and forth it went.

When Joe Quesada took over Marvel Editorial, making JLA/AVENGERS happen was one of his first priorities - and DC had just recently approached Marvel about it, but Marvel wasn't interested. So now, Marvel was interested and DC hadn't changed their minds yet - so the deal was struck, and it happened.

I was brought in to the project because I was the AVENGERS writer at the time. The JLA writer at the time was Mark Waid, and he'd just struck an exclusive deal with CrossGen, so I got to do it solo.

The story itself was largely mine, though my Marvel and DC editors were involved as sounding boards. Tom Brevoort made a lot of good suggestions, and George Perez was up for anything - he's the one who wanted to see every Avenger and every JLAer make an appearance.

COMICDOM: Do you see the story in JLA/AVENGERS as a completed one, or do you think that there are loopholes in the plot that allow for a follow-up? Essentially, will there be a sequel?

KURT BUSIEK: I think it's a complete story as is, but that doesn't mean there can't be follow-ups - I did one in JLA myself, featuring the Cosmic Egg and the Crime Syndicate of America, and I know writers at Marvel who've talked about following up stuff on their side.

As for a direct sequel, JLA/AVENGERS II: THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL? Well, DC and Marvel are mad at each other again, so until they're both interested at the same time, I wouldn't hold my breath.

COMICDOM: Did Dark Horse come to you with the proposal for CONAN or did you contact them when you heard they had the rights to publish it?

KURT BUSIEK: Actually, Mike Richardson (Dark Horse Publisher) and I had had dinner at a con, just before they got the rights, and we wound up having a long talk about Conan and comics. He asked me if I'd be interested in writing a Conan mini-series, once they had the rights, and I said sure - but I wasn't that interested (in a mini-series). What I like about Conan is the grand sweep of it all, so I'd have been far more interested in doing it as an ongoing monthly than just a mini.

As it turned out, WIZARD convinced Dark Horse to do it as a monthly series, and Mike had mentioned me as a possible writer to editor Scott Allie. I called Scott about something unrelated, he assumed I was calling about CONAN, and we wound up talking about how to launch the series and make it work. And shortly after that, I got the offer...

COMICDOM: Did you expect the success of the new series? If I'm not mistaken, it's probably the only non-superhero comic that cracks the Top 50 sales charts.

KURT BUSIEK: Not the only one, but it's in rare company. And I hoped it'd be successful, but I had no idea it was going to be quite that successful. When initial orders came in, it was Dark Horse's best-selling book in almost a decade - and then it sold out immediately and we did two more printings.

We were lucky to have a rare combination of talents -particularly the way Dave Stewart does gorgeous color work over Cary Nord's pencils- that really suited Conan.

COMICDOM: I think you'll agree that CONAN is vastly different from most of the work you've done in the past. How did you approach this new challenge?

KURT BUSIEK: I like variety - I like doing different kinds of things. I'm known for superheroes, but I've done horror, humor, SF, fantasy and more. And I like heroic fantasy, so it was fun to scratch that itch.

Mainly, what I did was try to capture the spirit of the original stories - be insanely faithful to them when adapting them, and strike the same tone when doing new material. I also got to take advantage of the way comics work these days, so I didn't have to worry about the Comics Code, and I knew I could let a story take a few issues to unfold without losing the audience's attention.

And I got great support from Cary, Dave and Richard (Starkings - letterer on CONAN).

COMICDOM: Was Cary Nord your personal choice for the pencilling duties? How do find collaborating with him to be?

KURT BUSIEK: I would never have imagined Cary Nord for the book. That was Scott Allie's brainstorm, and as soon as we saw Cary's samples, we knew he was the guy. The only concerns anyone had were schedule ones - Cary's not fast. But creatively? He was perfect, right from those very first pages - which we printed in the back of the first book collection.

Collaborating with him is great - I actually don't talk to him that often, but he's open to trying anything and he makes it all look good. Early on, we were trying to help him out on the storytelling, which is why Tom Yeates did layouts for a bunch of issues - and I even did layouts for #16, 17, 19 and 20 myself. But after that, Cary had clicked into what we were looking for, and now he's doing the line art solo.

COMICDOM: A question about the creative process of the new CONAN series: Have you put all the Robert E. Howard stories at chronological order and continue from there or is it all just a "work in progress"?

KURT BUSIEK: There are a couple of different fan-created chronologies for the Howard stories, so I weigh all the ideas and figure out where I think the stories belong myself. But I've got a rough outline, and the few stories where I'm not 100% sure yet which order they go in, I'm years away from having to figure it out, so I think I'm safe...

COMICDOM: I feel that CONAN is to you as personal as a creator-owned series and the love you have for the character and his world is reflected in the stories. Can you imagine the moment you will leave the series? How soon do you think this will be?

KURT BUSIEK: I've had such a great time working on the series that I figure, if and when I leave it, it'll likely be over business issues than creative ones. That's the peril of work-for-hire - in the end, someone else owns it, so if things shake out so that there's a problem, you end up leaving and they keep the character, rather than you taking the character with you.

But that's just the risk you take with work-for-hire. I could be on the book for twenty years, or next week the people who own Conan could decide they want someone else. Or Marvel could call up and say they'll offer me a million bucks to just work for them. Or Dark Horse could lose the license. Or any number of things. Not that we're expecting any of them; it's just the way it goes.

COMICDOM: When can we expect the BOOK OF THOTH series? Is it still co-written with Len Wein?

KURT BUSIEK: CONAN: THE BOOK OF THOTH is under way for early next year, I think, and yes, Len and I are still co-writing it. Kelley Jones is doing the art, and it's gorgeous and creepy.

COMICDOM: This is a personal opinion but I feel that your creator-owned work is far superior to your work-for-hire projects. I mean that, even your extremely well-received work on the AVENGERS looked to me like a very conscious effort to recreate older stories. Stories that felt like they were emerging from "The Glorious Past Of The Earth's Mightiest Heroes". I think sometimes that the History of the characters can be too much of a baggage on a writer's effort to create exciting, new stories. Do you feel the same way?

KURT BUSIEK: Well, keep in mind that you lump CONAN, which is work-for-hire, in with the creator-owned stuff. And I think MARVELS and SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY were received at least as well as my creator-owned stuff. So go figure.

In any case, I think a character's long History can be a problem, but there are usually ways around it. And it can be a strength, too. It's all in what you do with it.

COMICDOM: Speaking about "glorious pasts", you seem to have a tremendous amount of knowledge on both the Marvel and DC universes. Which one do you feel you know best and which one do you feel more comfortable writing about?

KURT BUSIEK: I know the Marvel Universe best, I'd say, but I'm comfortable enough in both. It's not the storied past that makes things comfortable or not, it's what the present is like. There was a period Marvel was actively rejecting its past and viewing any book that used a lot of continuity with suspicion - that wasn't very comfortable. So it varies.

COMICDOM: What are your thoughts on the present and future of the superhero genre?

KURT BUSIEK: No real idea, sorry. Superheroes seem to be booming beyond comics, in movies and on TV, and there's a lot of interesting stuff going on in the comics, too, but what it'll lead to, what'll catch on and what'll fade away, I couldn't say. I just try to do my best and let the audience react as they choose.

COMICDOM: Do you follow the current comics scene? Any favorites?

KURT BUSIEK: I read tons of comics. Some favorites these days include USAGI YOJIMBO, FABLES, Y THE LAST MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, WALKING DEAD and ROCKETO.

COMICDOM: Would you consider this to be one of the good periods for comic books? Both as an industry and as an artform.

KURT BUSIEK: Well, the "industry" part's been kind of shaky the last ten years or so, but we're showing signs of recovery - particularly the boom in book collections. And as an artform, there's so much good and varied stuff out there that it's just amazing; it's a wonderful time for the artform. We just need to do a better job getting that great stuff to the right audiences.

COMICDOM: Where do you see comics heading in 5 or 10 years from now?

KURT BUSIEK: Probably more of an emphasis on books and on online stuff, and hopefully a wider variety of genres doing well. More than that, I couldn't begin to guess.

COMICDOM: Comics seem to be very "Hollywood-friendly" at the moment. Do you see this as something that could last for a long time, or do you think that it's just a passing fad?

KURT BUSIEK: If you mean the number of comics that are being made into movies, I'm guessing that'll last a while - there are a lot of good stories in comics and they're visual, which is a bonus for movies. As long as movie adaptations do well, whether it's SPIDER-MAN or A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, you'll see continuing interest.

COMICDOM: How perfectly do you think the silver screen can capture the magic of comic books (and mostly superhero books, which are -technically- the hardest to translate)? Which ones do you think succeeded in this regard and which ones failed?

KURT BUSIEK: I haven't seen them all, so I'm not the best guy to judge, but I thought the SPIDER-MAN movies worked well, and ROAD TO PERDITION was great. As THE INCREDIBLES, which is superheroes but not from comics, was wonderful.

But while it's possible to make great movies based on comics, that's not the same thing as capturing comics perfectly - the only thing that can do that is comics. Just like there can be great movies based on novels, but the novel's always going to be its own thing.

Movies have the magic of movies - and they can often translate comics well. But the magic of comics happens on the page.

COMICDOM: Who are your favorite collaborators (apart from Brent Anderson, which is a no-brainer)?

KURT BUSIEK: I'm always happy to work with Carlos (Pacheco), George Perez, Neil Vokes, James W. Fry, Mark Bagley, Cary Nord, Stuart Immonen, Alex Ross and more - and I'd love to do more work with Steve Epting and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.

COMICDOM: Are there any artists you'd like to collaborate with and haven't yet done so?

KURT BUSIEK: Sure. From Alex Toth to Adam Hughes, Lee Bermejo, Pasqual Ferry, John Paul Leon, Amanda Conner... the list goes on and on and on.

COMICDOM: Regardless of the end result, the sales, reviews, or the feedback from fans, which work of yours did you enjoy most while you were creating it? Which one was the most satisfying in the process?

KURT BUSIEK: Hard to choose just one, but ASTRO CITY, MARVELS, SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, CONAN, AVENGERS and THUNDERBOLTS would all be up there...

COMICDOM: Finally, is the correct pronunciation of your last name, "Bugh(as in "Hugh")-sack"? People must know!

KURT BUSIEK: It's "BYOO-sik". Rhymes with "You sick".

Or as you've put it, "Bugh (as in "Hugh")-sick". So you were almost right.

 




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