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