PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


To Be Kurt, Not Short: A Three-Part Interview with Kurt Busiek

A. David Lewis

Kurt speaks with A. David Lewis about his relationship with Marvel Comics, the difference between history and continuity, and what 'truly' matters to the readers.

To Be Kurt, Not Short

Item Type: Comic


Continuing PopMatters' interview with popular comic book writer Kurt Busiek during his June appearance at Beyond Comics in Washington DC. A. David Lewis asks Kurt about restoring Marvel Comics. premier superteam, the Avengers, to their former glory and his thoughts on mortality in comics.

PopMatters: Your run on the main Avengers title will be ending in July. When you first approached its reboot, what were your goals?

Kurt Busiek: Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, and a date with Annette Funicello.

PM: Annette Funicello?

KB: They're old goals. (Chuckles)

PM: (Laughs) OK, well, that leads to my second question rather well: "How did your goals change over the course of the run?"

KB: To get a date with Kathleen Turner.

PM: And the next question . . . I already know the answer to: "Did you meet those goals?"

KB: Alas. (Drops head)

PM: Seriously, was there a goal or mark you wanted to hit?

KB: The main goal we had in starting the Avengers up again was reestablishing them as who they're supposed to be: the varsity squad of the Marvel Universe. The heroes that stand on the wall and protect us from everything bad, so that you can sleep well at night. For too many years beforehand, the Avengers had been trying to be more like the X-Men [Marvel's top-selling outlaw superteam]. The only thing you get out of that is a book that people who want to read the Avengers aren't interested in because it's not doing the right kind of stories. It's a rather stupid idea to imitate a popular-but-crowded approach; I thought that Avengers should be the best possible book it could be by doing what it does best.

PM: One thing I find curious about both Thunderbolts and Avengers is that several of your characters, such as Jolt, Atlas, and Wonder Man, for instance, were "killed" and brought back . . .

KB: No.

PM: No?

KB: Nope.

PM: Er, okay.correct me.

KB: Jolt was killed by Fabian, after I left the series. Atlas I brought back, but from captivity, then he was also killed by Fabian. And, Wonder Man I did bring back, but did not kill. Innocent, innocent!

PM: OK, you're right. Bad interviewer . . . You're innocent. But, I was still going to ask what you think of resurrection as a storytelling device?

KB: It's much like semicolon use or the use of flashbacks. It's a tool. There are characters who are better off there than gone, and, if you can bring them back well? Great. And then there are characters where bringing them back isn't worth overturning the story they died in. For instance, the Swordsman who perished in Giant Size Avengers #2 . . . the best thing about that guy is his death story! It's a wonderful story, and the character, taken as a whole, isn't that much: just a guy with a shady past and a gimmick sword.

PM: So, there are some characters who are better off dead? Would that include landmark deaths, like Captain Marvel from The Death of Captain Marvel?

KB: Yeah, he's better off dead. I liked him as a character . . . I would even like to write a mini-series about him sometime . but I think he had a very powerful and involving death story. I think bringing him back would just be a step backwards.

PM: Is that your feeling for characters whose deaths are pivotal in origin stories? Like Spider-Man's late Uncle Ben, like Batman's murdered parents . KB (Grinning): Oh, yeah! Let's bring the Waynes back . . . Really shake up that book!

PM: Well, that would do it!

KB: Yes, it would. But, seriously, characters whose deaths are part of somebody's origin story are created to be corpses. Nobody invented Uncle Ben saying, "The things I can do with this guy!" A character's death can be an essential building block, and it's not as if new characters can't be created.

PM: Actually, I wanted to switch over to your Astro City, and this seems like the perfect way over: Astro City #1/2. This might be an interesting example of a "character created to be a corpse." A man dreams of a woman he never met, and it turns out to be his wife who had been erased from existence. Is this at all similar to the impact a death should have?

KB: Well, as you said, she wasn't dead . . . she was erased from existence. And, she was gone by the time the story opened. I mean, I'm very happy with the impact of that story, but it's not a death story. It's a story about this poor shlub who is caught up in a cosmic reset, and, with his life being reorganized, he's a cosmic D.P. Although, in his case, it's a displaced context . . . he's still there, but the context he was living in is lost.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.


15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.