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, the two-part focus on the Broken Man concludes with Inside Astro City #46!
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 #46
“The final chapter in the Broken Man’s century-spanning revelations about Astro City, music, rebellion, heroes and the threat of the Oubor. The Broken Man is mounting a defense—but does it stand a chance, or is it as cracked as he is? Featuring Honor Guard, the First Family and more, in a story that sets the stage for everything that is to come for Astro City.”
MAJOR SPOILERS: Well, that explains why he’s called The Broken Man. If I’m judging the timeframe correctly (Glamorax mentioned the Sex Pistols, which means post-1975), he’s been institutionalized for about 40 years. Is there a reason why no one has put together Glam’s disappearance with the strange yellow man? Oubor influence? Or just me overthinking again?
KURT BUSIEK: People don’t think Glamorax disappeared, they think Glam died. And then, when the Broken Man appeared, years later, it would really be only those cops that found him in Tom’s apartment that would be able to connect him to “the spot where Glamorax died,” and they may simply not know about that.
So for the most part, nobody’s got a reason to connect the gender-bending Glam with the rather different-looking Broken Man. But if there was anyone who put it together, maybe the Oubor’s distracting them. It’s possible. Mostly, though, I figure they just don’t see the narrative all organized like we do, so they’ve got no reason to tie the two together.
MS: Broken Man mentions how he’d have liked to see a counterculture champion with a death-metal motif, and I agree. If you were to posit the existence of other potential avatars during his missing years, what cultural trends do you expect might have spawned an avatar? A 90s Billy Ray Cyrus bemulleted countrified champion might be interesting…
KB: I think that if Glam hadn’t been shattered, we’d have seen a very different musical history going forward. As the story notes, I think we’d have seen a rap avatar, but Billy Ray Cyrus isn’t counterculture in any way. I think we’ve seen music fragment and we’ve seen a lot of corporate control of what makes it to the airwaves, and that’s not the spirit that fuels those characters.
So I don’t know what we’d have seen, but one of the reasons the story goes the way it does is that there aren’t a whole lot of obvious choices. Punk, maybe new wave (maybe), rap…each of which, like their predecessors, started out rebellious and got co-opted. But after that…what? Had that wayward spirit continued, it might not have continued as an avatar of music. Maybe webcomics, or something…
MS: The naming conventions of Astro City fascinate me, from Mount Kirby to the Biro Penetentiary and beyond. What led to the naming of the Meskin Clinic for (presumably) Mort Meskin?
KB: It’s no secret that Mort Meskin had emotional issues, and was at times unable to face a blank page without help. He had multiple (if I’m remembering correctly) hospital stays for nervous breakdowns. So given his imagination, talent, skill and history, he seemed like the right guy to honor with that particular name. Whatever demons he wrestled with, his creativity was amazing.
MS: It looks like The Broken Man noticed us/the real world during the Thunderhead confrontation from the first issue of Volume 2, the beginnings of the ongoing series. Leaving aside the question of how he missed the solicits for the original mini (I remember being very excited about ’em), what led you to choose that moment for his awakening?
KB: I figured it needed to be something big, loud and attention-getting, something with enough chaos going on to give the Broken Man an impetus to slip the bonds of reality and see what lay beyond, and that seemed like as good a moment as any.
MS: Now that we know why the Punk’s naming is uncertain, as they never quite fully formed, it seems. Would you have preferred your Punk Peerless or Putrid? Or is there even a “correct” choice?
KB: Ha! We may never know!
He was in my notes as The Peerless Punk, but as time rolled on, that didn’t begin to seem right. And at some point I called him the Putrid Punk, which has a nice ring to it, and is a nod to the origin of Plastic Man, as well — but he never fully formed, so who’s to say? Maybe he’d have been the Purple Punk.
Or the Phantasmagorical Punk.
Or something else entirely.
MS: So, any coming attractions from next issue, with the adorable cover?
KB: It’s a two-part story featuring G-Dog — part man, part corgi — and how he saved lives, one in particular. Plus, an unexpected Honor Guard connection, the guest artwork of the astounding Mike Norton, and the threat of the Lichen-Thrope. That’s right, I said Lichen-Thrope.
And, well, not everything’s as cheerful as it looks…
Astro City #47: “Meet G-Dog, possibly Astro City’s most unusual superhero ever. Half man, half dog—but who’s running the show? The answers will change a life, reveal another hero’s deepest secrets, and possibly, just possibly, save the world. Oh, who are we kidding…they’ll definitely change the world. Do you see that handsome face? Also featuring Honor Guard, with guest art by Mike Norton (Revival, Battlepug).”