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 time around, we cue up A Flock Of Seagulls and head back to the 1980s with Inside Astro City #44!
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 #44
“A tale of murder, mystery…and a cat. Starring Nightingale, Sunhawk…and their cat. Did we mention the cat?
The cat’s the lead character.”
MAJOR SPOILERS: I really enjoyed this issue’s focus on a non-anthropomorphized animal hero, and kind of want to read more of Kittyhawk’s adventures. I know you’ve talked about not having the time to write an Astro City solo series, but in a perfect world, do you think that an ongoing series featuring a cat protagonist would even be feasible?
KURT BUSIEK: If Rick Leonardi was available to draw it, maybe!
There have been silent comics that have lasted for decades, so it’s a matter of making the lead character expressive and the situations visual. I don’t know if an audience would stick around forever for an ongoing monthly series about an animal hero that doesn’t speak, but I don’t think there are any technical hurdles. You could do action stories, emotional stories, relationship stories, mysteries, thrillers… it would just have to be done well, with someone who can make a character like that expressive.
Which is why the talents of someone like Rick would be so crucial…
MS: So, looking at our timeline, Nightingale and her partner Sunbird appeared circa 1995, 13 years after the events in this issue, which makes it possible that Ginny is a younger version of the character we first saw in Volume 1. In that appearance, her partner was called Sunbird; in this latest volume, we have also seen references to Nightingale working with a hero called Sunhawk. With vague references about their nature in this issue, is it safe to assume that Sunhawk is a new hero and not a new name for Sunbird?
KB: Have we made reference to Nightingale working with Sunhawk in the present?
That’s the sort of thing I forget, and then have to scramble to cover, so thanks for pointing it out.
In any case, whether that’s a new name for an adult Sunbird, or whether it’s even the same Nightingale, remains to be seen.
MS: As with the Krypto stories of the Silver Age, it seems that Kittyhawk is smarter than your average pet. Is that a side-effect of Stovepipe Johnny’s goop or a “stop overthinking a fun and clever story” moment?
KB: It’s a mystery!
Seriously, the cat’s not talking, and nobody seems to know how smart it was beforehand, so who can say?
MS: Last month, you referenced seeing a character we had only heard mentioned before. After reading this issue, I am unclear on who that was. What did I miss?
KB: Rocket Dog was mentioned in the “Lovers Quarrel” story, but not seen. So this is his first on-panel appearance, but not the first time he’s been brought up.
MS: This issue takes place in 1982 (kudos on the vintage computer equipment and other subtle touches, by the way.) There has been a lot of focus on the history of Astro City in recent months, but can you tell us why this one is set 35 years in the past?
KB: Because we wanted it to be happening while Nightingale was young, pretty much. We wanted to show an earlier iteration of the Bird of Light/Bird of Shadow team, to build some history, we wanted to use Rocket Dog (who’s already been established as a character in the past), and, well, we can. We’re not limited to telling stories set in the present, so why not use the whole tapestry of ASTRO CITY history as we see fit?
It gives us different textures to play with — as you note, with Rick supplying early-80s tech, and as Alex had fun with in giving Sunshrike 80s hair, and it’s a nice way to fill in readers on different time periods.
MS: What can we expect next issue?
KB: More of the Broken Man and his tour through Astro City’s broken counterculture history. Next issue involves Glamorax, the (possibly) Peerless (or maybe Putrid) Punk, the mystery of the Oubor and more!
Astro City #44: ” ‘WHAT BROKE THE BROKEN MAN?’ part one of two! Astro City’s tangled history of superheroes, music, counterculture, serpents and darkness comes to a head. Heroes are destroyed, minds are shattered… and an unlikely savior rises.”