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. This month, Steeljack’s old friends are getting killed, but he’s on the case…
It’s Inside Astro City #33!
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.
Astro City #33: “Steeljack and Cutlass rekindle old memories, and more, as they plumb the depths of Astro City’s demimonde to try to clear her name. And, more ex-villains are getting in trouble. Plus: Introducing the Fix-It Man-and the indescribable threat of Retro Rocky’s Superbistro…”
MAJOR SPOILERS: One of the best parts of Astro City is seeing perspectives on a world full of superhumans that you normally wouldn’t; the villains, the people in the streets, the support personnel… Is there a particular perspective that’s most satisfying for you as a writer?
KURT BUSIEK: I like variety. That’s why ASTRO CITY has been consistently fun to write over the years — we’re always shifting from perspective to perspective. I do like writing characters who’ve been through a lot, who have a sort of bittersweet ruefulness to them. That always makes writing Steeljack fun, but it’s true of Quarrel too, and a few others.
But mainly, I like the fact that it keeps changing. I just wrote an 8-page monologue for the Broken Man, and that was a blast. So as long as I keep finding new angles, and don’t get in a rut, I’ll be having fun.
MS: Having recently re-read ‘Tarnished Angel’, the previous Steeljack arc, I realized that I wouldn’t mind seeing an ongoing series featuring his adventures, protestations of ineffectuality and all, sort of a superhuman version of ‘The Rockford Files.’ If you had the time, energy and a guaranteed audience, is there any particular Astro City character you’d like to write in an ongoing series?
KB: There are a few, but Steeljack would be high on the list. I like his attitude, I like his world, I like how he’s been beaten up by life but he never quite loses hope. If I wasn’t writing ASTRO CITY regularly, doing an ongoing STEELJACK series, or even a series of Steeljack novels, would be fun. Since I am doing ASTRO CITY regularly, it’d be just too much time in the same world, and I’d have no time to do anything else. So it’s fun to think about, but it’s not going to happen.
I could see writing a lot of the characters in a solo series, but if I had to pick a few, there’s the Silver Adept, Quarrel — and even Gundog would be fun. In a world with 40-hour days and 12-day weeks, maybe…
MS: Is Jared Everall visually based on Patton Oswalt, or is it once again all in my head?
KB: You’d have to ask Brent, but I don’t think so. I described him in the script as a kind of pudgy Marco Rubio, but I don’t think Brent stuck with that. I just wanted to give him an impression to build on, and he certainly did that.
MS: This issue’s mention of the Blasphemy Boys reminded me of the Broken Man subplot. With the hundredth issue approaching, is there a chance we’re going to see that plot come to a head?
KB: We’re going to see more of that plot, you bet. But the hundredth issue, while he’ll have some sort of presence in it, isn’t really about him. But it’s the middle of an arc that’ll tell a lot about him, even while it’s a self-contained anniversary story.
There’s a lot more to come about the Broken Man and the history of Astro City, though, so it’ll take a while to come to a head.
MS: My favorite bit of business in this whole issue was the subtle-yet-amusing moment where Carl hangs his hat over the Conquistador’s mask. It’s a lovely visual continuity nod, which makes me wonder whether it originated with you or with Brent?
KB: That was completely Brent. I asked for various bits of supervillain memorabilia that we’d seen before, here and there, but I didn’t specify anything for Steeljack and Cutlass’s booth. The helmet and the hat gag were all Brent’s. Glad you liked it!
MS: What to expect in next issue’s part 3?
KB: The rest of the Conquistador’s armor, for one thing. But let’s seem, what else… underwater lairs, demons, jail, betrayal, redemption, sex, lawyers, videotape, action, magic, a party, death, surprises and fake aliens from Uranus. How’s that?
MS: Sounds like one we don’t want to miss!
Astro City #34: “Steeljack goes up against Death Itself to save Cutlass. And that’s just for starters. But even if he survives, is he being set up to be the fall guy? A climactic tale of money, nostalgia, alibis, collecting, jail time and pure indestructible stubbornness. ”