When the last volume of Kurt Busiek and Brett Anderson‘s Astro City wrapped its 52-issue run back in 2018, the then-DC Comics series said it was the end “…for now.” Readers who’ve been waiting for the series return can now relax, as it’s been announced that Astro City will return in March of 2022, with a new publisher: Image Comics, where the series originally debuted back in 1995. Image has also announced that Busiek is bringing a number of other new projects to Image next year, including the returns of Arrowsmith with Carlos Pacheco and Autumnlands with Benjamin Dewey and Jordie Bellaire, plus new original projects The Gods on Sunday Morning with the full Astro City creative team, and Free Agents, co-written by Fabian Nicieza, with art by Stephen Mooney. Image will also release new print editions of the collections for all of the returning series, as well as of other Busiek-written projects Shockrockets and Superstar: As Seen On TV with Stuart Immonen and The Wizard’s Tale with David Wenzel. Image has already previously made many of those books available digitally via Comixology.
In a statement announcing the massive deal, Busiek, who initially teased the returns of Arrowsmith and Autumnlands back in 2019, and Image publisher Eric Stephenson both expressed their enthusiasm at what the next year and beyond will bring:
“I’m thrilled to be back at Image and glad to be working with Eric Stephenson and the whole crew here,” said Busiek. “Image is the best comics publisher for creator-owned work, so it’s very nice to be bringing my books together here, where they can be available as a group, supported by the team here—and sitting alongside such great series as Saga, The Walking Dead, Criminal, Savage Dragon and so many more. And not just because Image is only about twenty minutes from where I live, so I can actually drop by the place, once the pandemic is in the rearview. My creative partners and I are looking forward to a having a home for the work we’re doing now and lots of new ideas to come.”
Chief Creative Officer and Publisher at Image Comics, Eric Stephenson, is just as excited Kurt is making the move to Image. “When I was editing comics for Extreme Studios back in the ’90s, one of my big regrets was that I couldn’t close the deal on getting Kurt Busiek to write Supreme, so working with Kurt to make Image the home for all of his creator-owned work—from Astro City to Arrowsmith to Autumnlands and more—has been nothing short of a thrill. In addition to being one of comics’ finest writers, Kurt is also a magnet for equally talented artists, and we couldn’t be happier to see the Image ‘i’ on work by the likes of Carlos Pacheco, Brent Anderson, Alex Ross, Ben Dewey, Stephen Mooney, Jordie Bellaire, and Alex Sinclair.”
Here’s a full rundown of all of the upcoming projects:
First up, Busiek and superstar artist Carlos Pacheco (Fantastic Four, Avengers Forever, Final Crisis, X-Men, Superman) bring fans the much-anticipated return of Arrowsmith in Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines. This six issue miniseries launches from Image Comics in January 2022—followed in February by an oversized, fully re-mastered hardcover collected edition of the original series.
In the upcoming Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines, it’s World War I—but a war of wizards and dragons as much as bullets and barbed wire. Young airman Fletcher Arrowsmith plunges back into the heat of war—and finds himself behind enemy lines, facing a threat that could doom the Allied Powers. Old friends and new favorites will appear, and the world of Arrowsmith will be deepened, as previously-secret history and machinations are revealed.
For the re-mastered hardcover, Arrowsmith: So Smart In Their Fine Uniforms, readers are introduced to young Fletcher Arrowsmith who learns the true cost of war in an alternate history where dragons and magic spells are as much a part of World War I as bullets and barbed wire. This edition, deluxe-sized and in hardcover for the first time, will present the art as Pacheco originally intended, and will feature ancillary material about the creation and history of Arrowsmith.
In March, Arrowsmith will be joined by the return of Astro City, Busiek’s collaboration with Brent Anderson, Alex Ross, and Alex Sinclair, first with an Astro City one-shot special introducing new characters and setting the stage for upcoming dangers for the city and the world, plus new collected editions that will make the entire Astro City backlist available again.
“It’s also wonderful to be back in the world of Astro City,” said Busiek. “Alex, Brent, and I have been planning this for a long time—we’re introducing a teen-hero team, The Jayhawks (and more), in the special, and setting off a mystery as important to Astro City as what happened to the Silver Agent or the story of the Broken Man. Alex has designed a cornucopia of new characters, and Brent is going to town on the artwork. It’ll be a very fun ride—and yes, longtime readers, we will get to the story of the N-Forcer, I promise! Plus, I think The Gods on Sunday Morning will be a treat, both for Astro City readers and others. It’s a standalone urban fantasy graphic novel about a group of long-forgotten gods in the world today, taking a similar approach to fantasy as what Brent, Alex, and I have done with superheroes, and it’s looking just gorgeous.”
Artist Brent Anderson added: “Twenty-seven years ago Kurt Busiek offered me the chance-of-a-lifetime to co-create an entire universe filled with super-powered heroes, crazy villains, wizards, sorcerers, mad geniuses, monsters of all stripes, and extraterrestrial aliens, a universe the center of which is Astro City. Originally published by Image in 1995, these are comic book stories I am proud to see on my bookshelves, and I look forward to creating many more. Like I said, chance-of-a-lifetime! Over the years, Kurt has asked me to draw several non-Astro City stories—The Spirit, Green Lantern, the Avengers, but the most recent is The Gods on Sunday Morning, an excitingly original graphic novel published exclusively through Image Comics by Kurt Busiek. Drawing it made me feel young again.”
Also in the works is Free Agents, a new series launch from Busiek with co-writer Fabian Nicieza and artist Stephen Mooney and the return of Autumnlands from Busiek with Benjamin Dewey and Jordie Bellaire, all planned for late 2022.
On future projects, Busiek said: “I can’t wait to start telling you about what’s coming for Dusty and Learoyd in Autumnlands, what the Free Agents are all about, and beyond. We’ve been cooking up a lot, and it’s great to finally get to see it becoming a reality.”
Ben Dewey said of Autumnlands, “Kurt is one of my favorite creators. He can invent captivating stories that have a grand, high-concept cosmological scale or get a reader deeply invested in the details of a simple fireside conversation between two regular people. He understands characters and why we love or despise them. His work is proof that comics can be magical.”
“Working with him on Autumnlands pushed me to be my best and it’s a world that has many exciting frontiers ready to be explored. When it returns I think it’ll be just as big a challenge for me as it was when we started off because the scale of the world demands it. I treasure every project I’ve gotten to work on with Kurt; as his collaborator there’s always opportunities to learn more about the craft of storytelling in comics. He never fails to inspire me with his boundless imagination, enthusiasm and wit. I’m a fan and I’m looking forward to seeing what new worlds he’s going to show us. I’m lucky because I get to see them first!”
“Kurt and I have always had fun working together,” said Fabian Nicieza. “I’ve been waiting 30 damn years to have an Image book! Free Agents hits all our strengths and sweet spots, and Stephen and Tamra only add to my excitement.”
“I’m thrilled to be joining such a top-notch team,” added Stephen Mooney. “Kurt and Fabian put together some incredible concepts, and I’m eager to show what Tamra and I can bring to the party. Teaming up with Image again just makes it all the sweeter.”
The Image deal marks Busiek’s return to creator-owned work. For the past several years Busiek has been working primarily with Marvel on projects with ties to the 1994 Marvels series he wrote with artist Alex Ross. That’s included curating a number of Marvels Snapshots one-shots, and writing the currently-ongoing The Marvels series. The Snapshots one-shots in particular had a very Astro City vibe to them, which just made the absence of new installments of that series on stands even more noticeable. At one point Busiek had discussed bringing Astro City back as a series of graphic novels; whatever form it’s in, it will be very nice to have that series back.
The first issue of Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines is due out on January 19th, while the new edition of Arrowsmith: So Smart In Their Fine Uniforms is set for release in February.