Busiek discussed the status of both projects — as well as his opus, Astro City, plus secret projects not yet announced — at a spotlight panel at San Diego Comic-Con hosted by his childhood friend, the world-famous comics theorist, Scott McCloud. The panel also went into what sparked Busiek’s interest in the medium, how he broke in at both Marvel and DC, and some of his work’s contributions to the Marvel movies. But we’ll get to all that in a moment.
Busiek said that Arrowsmith’s first return issue is currently being drawn by series artist Carlos Pacheco, and that he has completed and sent him the second script. The duo plan to solicit the first issue once they have six done, so that they can assure a monthly release schedule. Meanwhile, there are 40 pages of Autumnlands material completed, but Busiek’s recent health problems slowed progress, with artist Ben Dewey currently busy with other work, including Beasts of Burden and another project with Busiek he couldn’t announce yet.
Astro City, meanwhile, ended its most recent run at DC’s old Vertigo imprint in June 2018, with Busiek and artist Brent Anderson promising it would return in a different format: original graphic novels. Busiek said there were business issues that needed to be worked out before it could come back.
In the meantime, he’s working on something entirely new with Anderson that’s similar to Astro City but doesn’t have anything to do with superheroes.
So, that was all very exciting. The rest of the panel was less newsworthy, but it was a delightful look at comics history through the perspectives of McCloud and Busiek, who’ve both had sizable influences on the medium over the past 30 years or so.
They talked about breaking into the industry — McCloud did so in DC’s production department, Busiek by interviewing then-DC editor-in-chief Dick Giordano for a college project before subsequently pitching him scripts. They also talked about how they met on the first day of junior high school in September of 1972 in Boston, and how Kurt Busiek had to work hard to get McCloud to even read comics…but once he did, McCloud was hooked.
This lead to a symbiotic relationship, where they ultimately made comics together and rose through the industry, with Busiek becoming an influential writer of superhero stories and McCloud creating a series of comics theory books such as Understanding Comics, Making Comics, and Reinventing Comics.
“We were in a feedback loop,” Busiek said. “I kept him going, he kept me going.” He paused and looked around. “And we ended up here.”
Busiek’s contributions to the industry are numerous, including the Alex Ross collaboration Marvels, the last Marvel and DC crossover JLA/Avengers with George Perez, and one of the most underrated (if you ask me) Avengers runs of all time, which was also a collaboration with Perez.
Some of the work in Avengers has turned up in the Marvel films, including the Age of Ultron storyline, and, Busiek said, Tony Stark’s goatee and Stark Tower.
Perhaps Busiek’s biggest contribution to superhero comics was that it was his work in the ‘90s and early ‘00s that arguably reshifted the lens through which superhero stories were told after deconstructionist work like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns gave rise to grittier, more mature-themed stories in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Busiek’s own stories helped restore a sense of wonder to the genre, with books like Marvels putting superheroes into the real world (as did Watchmen), but then showing the reactions of real people to them, the awe and wonder that one would feel if members of human suddenly began to fly and control weather and battle each other on the streets of New York. It was that same humanistic view that later gave rise to his career-best work on Astro City.
At the spotlight, Kurt Busiek described the inspiration for that work. He recalled walking down the street as a teenager, thinking about how cool it would be not to be Spider-Man but to simply see Spider-Man swinging through the sky above