Welcome to Inside Astro City, a column focusing on the Vertigo Comics series Astro City from Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross. Each month, we’ll take a look at the current issue of the series, and ask series writer Kurt Busiek questions about the book. Let’s jump into issue 17 with art by Tom Grummet!

This is a spoiler-filled column, so if you have not yet read the issue you might want to come back later. You can find the issue at your local comic book shop or you can download it from Comixology here. 

AC 17 cover






Astro City #17: Krigari Ironhand. Tyrant. Emperor. Interdimensional scourge. Honor Guard’s greatest enemy. His rise. His fall. The death of one of Honor Guard’s own. And the secret story behind it all.


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1. A lot of this issue centers around Krigari the Ironhanded, a universal despot. When creating a villain that is probably the most despicable creature in the universe, where do you find inspiration?

Kurt Busiek: Oh, I’m sure there’s much more despicable than him out there. He’s very straightforward, very predictable.

Actually, since it really wasn’t his story (it was Eth’s, though hopefully readers didn’t know that while reading the Krigari scenes), we just needed him to be something Eth could react against — he had to feel like a force of nature, virtually unstoppable, and impossible to reason with. I started on that by thinking about how much fun I’d had writing Kang in AVENGERS as a much pulpier warrior-type than normal, someone who gloried in battle and wanted a challenge more than anything else. And then I cranked that up, making it Krigari’s sole motivation, his reason for existence for as long as he could remember. He needed to be all motivation, all drive, so we could shift that motivation from “Conquer all!” to “Conquer Honor Guard!” with the same level of obsession.

Beyond that, Krigari shares a lot with a multitude of cosmic conqueror types, ranging from Baron Karza to Thanos to Mongul to Despero and on and on. In designing him visually, Alex started with a gorilla body type, and added alien aspects, plus the science-fantasy armor. The visual inspired the name, too — since Alex was working with a gorilla, I borrowed Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Kreegah!” (“Beware!) as an appropriately-ominous root for his name.
Astro City 17 battle scene
2. We see a lot of various battles between Krigari and the Honor Guard. Do you plan to revisit and expand any of these battles? Should the readers pay more attention to one of the battle scenes more than the other?

KB: No immediate plans — the battle scenes aren’t usually the most important part of any ASTRO CITY story, and here they’re mostly there to build up the characters, make it clear what’s driving them. But now that they’re established in the characters’ histories, who knows? It could be fun to come at one of them from a different angle.

But that would depend on what story I’m telling, and how it’d reveal character or something in that story.
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3. Eth and his world of the Moleculands have played an important part in the history of the Honor Guard. Have there been any easter eggs to their world in any of the previous Astro City issues, and do you think we will see them in a future issue? Or is their story complete?

KB: I don’t think we’ve hinted at any of the sub-atomic lands before, no. But having established a whole nested progression of them, I expect we’ll explore them further in the future — plus, if there’s this whole progression of sub-atomic words, are there super-atomic world in which our solar system (or galaxy) is little more than an atom?

Lots to play with, there.
But the only deliberate Easter eggs (or perhaps more properly, in-jokes) in those world so far were the alien races of the Rgb and the Cmyk, which made the colorists and editors laugh out loud…
4. The excellent Tom Grummet stepped in on art duties for Brent Anderson on this issue. Does your work process differ in any major way between the two?

KB: In the past, when I’ve worked with Tom, it’s usually been plot-style. But in this case I wrote a full-script, same as I do for Brent. I expect I approached it a bit differently, since I’m used to working with both Brent and Tom, and I’m sure if I was writing the story for Brent to draw, I’d pitch it toward his sensibilities and strengths, and for Tom I pitched it toward his. Tom’s excellent at big, bold, classic superhero adventure, so giving him an Honor Guard story full of action and science fiction seemed like an ideal choice.

And I loved the opening two pages, where he gave us a quick glimpse into Stormhawk’s personal life, enough to humanize a character we hadn’t seen much of before, so we’d feel for him during the story.
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5. Can you gives us a quick tease of what we have to look forward to in the next issue?

KB: Next issue begins a four-part look at the life of my single favorite ASTRO CITY hero: Quarrel. And along with her, you’ll be learning a lot about Crackerjack, too, or at least seeing a lot of him. They’re both acrobatic superheroes who are getting older, so their bodies are starting to slow down. How are they going to cope with that? What are they going to do?

The 4-parter starts with the retirement of a longtime Astro City mainstay, and will lead to big changes for the city, the heroes and the comic. It’s a very personal story, but it’s going to have bigger repercussions than anyone knows…
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And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this special look inside Astro City #17! A special thank you to Kurt Busiek for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. If you haven’t had a chance to read Astro City, I highly recommend running down to your local shop and picking it up.


astro city #18 cover

Astro City #18:  A 4-part spotlight on Quarrel and Crackerjack begins as they face a real crisis: what does an aging crimefighter do when time starts to take its toll? Plus, a look into Quarrel’s origins – and the end of the line for one of Astro City’s most stalwart heroes. A rich, bittersweet and very human look inside the super human life.

About Author

Born in the land of Superman and now living in Los Angeles, Jason is a simple man who one day dreams of writing a scene where Superman punches the moon. He's worked for many companies including Walt Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Youtubers Rhett & Link. During his ever escaping free time, he produces content for his award winning Youtube channel while reading more comics than any one man should in a week.

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