Kurt Busiek

KURT BUSIEK is the acclaimed writer of (among many others) Marvels and Astro City.

"Cables of Champions," Champions #12 (March 1977)

Dear Peebles,

Champs #9 was pretty good. I can't pass judgment until the story finishes, but it looks to be a good one. Bob, I categorize your art along with early Dave Cockrum. It's quite good in most places, but it has a way to go. Of course, seeing that you come from the John Buscema Art School, I have a hunch you'll be doing just fine.

The Champions Inauguration was great! The idea of the group setting up shop and then announcing it publicly is fascinating. A few comments...

THE BLACK WIDOW: 'Tasha's crises from Amazing Adventures would, as Robert Helmerichs said, make good story material. The concept of her feeling responsible for the lives of the Champs could make for some incredible character development.

HERCULES: Herc should rebel a little every now and then. He is intelligent enough to realize that 'Tasha's orders are worth obeying — but to him, serving a mortal woman should be a bit degrading. I must disagree with Rob Helmerichs on this point, though. Herc is not as powerful as Thor. He has the strength, but not the Uru hammer (and his mace is not an irresistable force), nor can he fly, nor can he call up storms.

ANGEL: Warren should do well in this group, especially if he appropriates Herc's mace. That touch with tossing it around was cute, but it would heighten the Angel's effectiveness were he to keep it.

ICEMAN: Get rid of him. He is one of my favorite characters, but he's out of place in the Champs. His offbeat power and personality would fit in much better with the Defenders or the X-Men. He should be replaced with Havok and Lorna Dane. That is, if they're out of Eric the Red's clutches.

GHOST RIDER: Get rid of him, too. He makes an uninteresting group member.

— Kurt Busiek
41 Somerset Road
Lexington, MA 02173

"Omega Mail," Omega #7 (March 1977)

Dear Steve, Mary, and Jim:

I've noticed that of the letters you got most praise/denounce you for one of the best/worst mags to hit the stands since 1940. But you don't get any suggestions. This, I believe, is because you seem to know where you're going.

But I don't think so.

Oh, you know generally where you're going in regards to J.M., but while you further the Omega plotline every sixty days, you appear to have only a rough idea as to the specific happenings. Got that? I hope so.

The only really effective villain/antagonist Omega has had was Electro. Electro talked up a storm, thus emphasizing Omega's silence. He made Omega seem strange and other-worldly. The others didn't. The robot was as strange as Omega himself. The Hulk talked a lot, but he didn't say much and didn't find it strange that Omega didn't say anything. El Gato, again, was as strange as Omega. You need some down-to-earth antagonists. Rein in your experimentation for a while and hit Meg (well, what other nicknames are there? Ohm?) with some adversaries like Spider-Man, Nitro (remember him?), some of the F.F., or Cyclops.

Other than what I've mentioned, the mag is progressing beautifully. Jim Mooney is doing wonders with the artwork. Nothing spectacular, but it makes the story more understandable.

— Kurt Busiek
41 Somerset Road
Lexington, MA 02173

"Baxter Building Bulletins," Fantastic Four #186 (Sept. 1977)

Dear People,

In these days, one sees a lot of the "new, powerful, superheroine" who's a real scrapper, just as good as — or maybe even a little better than — the males. We've got women like Storm, Phoenix, Valkyrie, Ms. Marvel, the Red Guardian, and Misty Knight (note the recurring writer of most of these characters, Chris Claremont). None of these new heroines have anything to do with those old, weak women like the Invisible Girl.

Hold on a minute! The Invisible Girl isn't weak. If one takes a no-holds-barred free-for-all between all the FFers, who comes out on top? Right! Susan Storm Richards.

The Thing's most powerful blows have not clobbered that force-field. The Human Torch can try to burn it or punch it, but neither is gonna help. And Mr. Fantastic? Forget it!

Letters like this one have, in the past, been answered by saying that Sue's powers are defensive, rather than offensive. Well, let's go back to our hypothetical free-for-all. A quickly moving force-sphere, right between the eyes, would probably down Reed. And the Torch, brash young hot-head that he is, would never notice an invisible fire hose until it was too late. And as for the Thing — well, I seem to remember Sue almost suffocating the Hulk in a very compact field awhile back. Three down, none to go. And those stunts don't begin to compare with what Sue could up [with] after excercising a little imagination.

— Kurt Busiek
41 Somerset Road
Lexington, MA 02173

"Baxter Building Bulletins," Fantastic Four #187 (Oct. 1977)

Dear Folks,

When is George Perez gonna return to the FF? This plethora of guest-artists and writers is getting to me. Settle down, willya?

Oh, your cover to issue #183 was (if you'll pardon the phrase) neato. It exuded the flavor of the covers of old, which effectively previewed the action inside. And that action inside was quite refreshing. I'm almost tempted to suggest that the Original Joe's Committee Method might just be the best way to write Fantastic Four.

And now a couple of comments on characters:

The Invisible Girl: Beautiful this time around! She used her power to attack, and used it well. She is really is a very powerful heroine. Mr. Fantastic: Is he going to spend a long time trying to get his power back, when the answer is right in front of his eyes? How did he get his powers in the first place. Not from an accidental space trip — from prolonged exposure to cosmic rays. All he has to do is duplicate the dosage.

And on the old Villain Request-line, how about the FF fighting Graviton? And the FF really should have a run-in with the new X-Men!

— Kurt Busiek
41 Somerset Road
Lexington, MA 02173

"Defenders Dialogue," Defenders #57 (March 1978)

Dear folks:

For the first time since Klaus Janson left, I was able to read The Defenders as a normal comic, rather than straining through the so-called art to find the masterful story within. The strong inks and peculiar style of Austin made it difficult to figure out who did what, but I'll hazard a guess. Even more difficulties resulted from having never seen Golden's work before. The clues were Cockrum's strong chins and distinctive mouths, Giffen's careless disregard for the principles of art and human anatomy, and Golden's small mouths and sexy Hellcats. Here goes:

Dave Cockrum: page 1.
Keith Giffen: pages 2, 10, 15, and 18.
Mike Golden: the rest, except for page 3, which I credit to either Giffen or Cockrum.

Incidentally, the Clea story was also good, but I suggest you either confine the five-pagers to annuals or single-character titles, as team books need all the space they can get.

— Kurt Busiek
Lexington, MA 02173

"Avengers Assemble!" Avengers #182 (April 1979)

An Avengers issue featuring the Beast should have been great. A Steve Gerber Beast should have been great. Carmine Infantino left me skeptical. I was wrong on all three counts.

Oh, it was a fantastic story, I'll give you that. Carmine complimented [sic] it with some of his best artwork, and Rudy Nebres finished it with his natural pizzazz. But it was the Beast, the star, who was a failure in the issue. Steve should have been able to write him fantastically — it's his sort of character — but he didn't. If he had realized that the Beast has a remarkable and versatile speech pattern made up of a multitude of stereotypes (and the Beast knows it), he would've done fine. But no, Steve figured that the Beast's lingo was useful only for yoks, and wrote him like a serious Howard the Duck. The result: a furry HTD story.

The Beast may be going through mental turmoil, but he's still got his personality. This was all that was wrong with the issue, but it nearly ruined it. If Howard the Duck talked like Wolverine for an issue, would that make it a good story?

— Kurt Busiek
303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"Letters to the Living Legend," Captain America #232 (April 1979)

Dear Roger, Sal, and Don,

I've always liked Captain America, but now you've made him better than ever. I was looking forward to Roger McKenzie's scripts, but when they started appearing, they seemed empty, like we were only getting 12 pages of story in our 17 pages, and the dialogue didn't help matters much. But in Captain America #229, you changed all that. The story was crammed with action, and the script brought back memories of the way Cap used to be. Congratulations.

The only thing I didn't understand was your portrayal of the Beast. The last person to understand The Beast was Steve Englehart. No matter how Jim Shooter treats him, Hank McCoy is a very intelligent person, and not a muscle-bound Steve Martin.

But back to Cap. The art is... improved. Don Perlin works better on Sal than Esposito and Tartaglione, but I'd still rather see someone else penciling the book. Someone like George Perez or Mike Zeck must be free.

— Kurt Busiek
303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"Avengers Assemble!" Avengers #183 (May 1979)

Dear Assemblers,

I am sending this to the Avengers because — as a magazine — it's far more the spiritual figurehead of Marvel Comics than either Spider-Man or the FF, and the only mag to seem representative of Marvel as a whole.

Stan Lee has said that the letters pages are our pages, meaning they are a showcase for the fans, a place where we can voice our views and share our ideas about Marvel's publications. And hey, that's great. Remember the old what-is-a-mutant controversies X-Men letters pages used to have in the old days? Or the character essays that Avengers used to run, from the likes of Paty and Wendy Pini?

Unfortunately, it seems that Marvel no longer has the same attitude toward the letters page.

You know what I mean. With the exception of a few letters — spaced much too far apart — current letters pages are full of: "Gee, I really like the Avengers! Jim Shooter is the greatest thing since Stan Lee, and George Perez just can't be beat!" Well, presumably, we know that already.

(This isn't meant to say that Jim isn't the greatest thing since Stan, or that George can be beat. It's just that it's obvious in the mag itself, and doesn't bear constant repetition.)

Is a full page of almost groupie-level adulation really a benefit? Surely, you get enough well-thought out criticism, comment, or controversy.

Rereading this letter, I find that I seem to have delivered a resounding slap in the face to the likes of Dean Mullaney, Jack Frost, Peter Sanderson, Meredith Robbins, and... well... myself. And to some degree, I have. But then again, I haven't. Anyone who cares enough to think about what they put into their letters, who believes that their ideas can add to the industry (as Mullaney, Sanderson, and company certainly do), commands my deepest respect. So let's see some intelligent letters pages!

Hey, some of those early Marvel l.p.'s mught have been printed before I could read, but just because they're old, doesn't mean they're obsolete.

— Kurt Busiek
Lawrinson, Box 88, 303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Letters Page!" Marvel Two-in-One #52 (June 1979)

Dear Folks,

The Jack of Hearts has got to get his own mag! Pure and simple, he's a classy guy! Every artist who's handled him has outdone himself, from Gil Kane to Chic Stone. The character gets good visuals wherever he goes. And then there's the writing by Mantlo...

Query: The upcoming Captain America/Hulk storyline features the Corporation. Machine Man featured the Corporation, and I hear his loose ends will be tied up in the Hulk's book, so I guess he'll be in on the Corp's demise. But what about Jack Hart? He, more than any other, deserves to be in on the kill. Will he?

The past two issues have been fair. The plot was solid, but not much more than that. It would have been fine, but Chic's Machinesmith was hokey, and his robots and the Thing were clumsily done. And his big failure was with the Yancy Street Gang. Chic should have taken advantage of the fact that the Yancy Streeters couldn't be shown, and concealed their faces artfully, with a feeling of mystery. And he did pull a few nice stunts long those lines, but for the most part he contented himself with leaving their faces in dark shadow.

Marvel Two-in-One is suffering from a lack of direction right now, and that's its main problem. The shuffling of writers and the cornucopia of pencilers hurts the book, and gives the impression that nobody cares enough to spend the time to make MTIO a really great series.

John Byrne in two issues? Great! I'll be glad to see Byrne's writing and more than glad to see his art. But that leads me to my next question. What is John Byrne doing? As far as I can figure, he's drawing X-Men, Avengers, Marvel Team-Up, and now Marvel Two-in-One. Four monthlies? Is John really doing four books, or is he dropping one to do Two-in-One?

— Kurt Busiek
Box 88, Lawrinson
303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"Letters to the Living Legend" Captain America #235 (July 1979)

Dear Folks,

"The Flame and the Fury" strikes me as one of the more forgettable Cap stories to show up recently. It was well written and nicely paced, but it just didn't have anything to separate it from the other stuff. It was nice to see Cap back in a police uniform and it was nice to see what I think was the Red Skull on page 27. But it'll be even more exciting to see something different, something unexpected. I hope you've got that something planned for the near future.

— Kurt Busiek and Scott McLeod
Box 88 Lawrinson, 303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"Spotlight Mail" Marvel Spotlight #1 (July 1979)

Dear Doug, Pat, and Bruce,

POWER!! That's what made Captain Marvel #60. Here's how: Pages 2 and 3 — Drax's blast is obviously a mere fraction of his power, and yet the aftermath is still coming down three panels later. And Drax and Mar-Vell treat it for what it is, a minor event, not really important, however impressive it may be.

Pages 10 and 11 — Mar-Vell and Drax are calmly walking around this windswept fantasy planet and, though their movements are casual, their attitude calm, the awareness of the power these two could uinleash is somehow heightened.

Pages 14 and 15 — Again, the same calm air, but strengthened by the action. Drax and Mar-Vell are just as self-assured, as accepting of their bizarre surroundings, even though these surroundings include exploding boulders and satyrs in settings from Greek mythology. Panel 1 of page 15 conveys their power by contrast on an otherwise idyllic setting. Even though they are merely landing, the impression of power is strong, straining to burst free. Conversely, were they unleashing their full might on a backdrop of cosmic fury, they'd seem far less impressive.

Page 16 — Captain Mar-Vell is not a superhero. Not in this story. To class him with Spider-Man, the Beast, and Hawkeye would be ridiculous. His costume is secondary. What is important is his very nature as a man. Lost before he starts, against a drug which has already flattened Drax, he nevertheless fights back valiantly. By sheer force of will — and no special ability — he resists a force which should have knocked him out with ease. He is a warrior, a man of power, rather merely a man with power.

Pages 27–31 — Again that unholy calm! That lack of wonder (which paradoxically inspires wonder in the reader) — for succumbing to wonder would only cloud his senses. It is for us, the readers, not for them. They must be prepared, ready for battle — against anything. At this point, they can't possibly know what's going to happen next. But they're ready for it.

Two beings of power traveling through a fantasy world on a noble quest; it beats a mere slugfest all hollow. And the credit must be shared equally between Doug Moench and Pat Broderick. Doug, for setting up this beautiful situation and choreographing it with the skill of the Ancients (do you play Dungeons and Dragons, Doug?) — and Pat, for illustrating the plot with a true feeling of otherworldliness and indescribable beauty.

The rest of the issue was similarly good. The close encounter with "Buford T. Justice" made for a nice down-to-earth viewpoint in contrast with the alien Titan sequences. And Pat Broderick just keeps getting better with each issue, not yet willing to bring a halt to his ongoing process of education and improvement. The influences of Jim Starlin, Craig Russell, Philippe Driullet, Berni Wrightson, and Maxfield Parrish (!) were all evident and quite enjoyable. I trust work of this quality will soon prompt monthly publication.

— Kurt Busiek and Scott McLeod
Box 88 Lawrinson Box 335, 303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Letters Page!" Marvel Two-in-One #56 (Oct. 1979)

Dear Folks,

Every so often a comicbook comes along that communicates something so powerful, so important, that fandom must hail that comic as a classic.

Marvel Two-in-One #51 was not one of those comics.

It should, however, still be considered a classic because it had one thing going for it that set it apart from most other comics with great stories and excellent artwork: Marvel Two-in-One #51 was fun! Sheer, unadulterated fun from start to finish.

The simultaneous plots of Pollock stealing the Sky Dragon and the superhero poker game, leading into the Avengers and the Thing pounding Pollock's men (figuratively) into the ground, were handled beautifully. Only a very, very few comics have succeeded this well in what they were trying to do, and none of these were humor stories.

'Course, I think it helps a) to have read Avengers Annual #6, so there's a swift recognition of Pollock, and b) never to have seen the Sky Dragon before. That way, the reaction is more impressive.

Suffice it to say, I enjoyed myself reading this book.

Here's a suggestion: The time has come for Colonel Nicholas Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., to return in his own book. You've finally got the artist for it in Frank Miller. Miller's Fury is different from Chaykin's, Springer's, Steranko's, and Kirby's, but for Fury to be successful, he's got to be different from what has gone before. Let's face it, any Sterankoesque Fury strip would be labelled a rip-off. Frank Miller would do an excellent Nick Fury. C'mon, you're gonna be doing a spy book with the Black Widow. If she can swing it, why not Fury?

— Kurt Busiek
303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"Avengers Assemble!" Avengers #196 (June 1980)

Dear People,

If we are to believe Avengers #192, anyone wishing to contact the Avengers via their front door will either have to have a valid entry pass (unlikely), or be attacked by the wall. What's the matter, did they forget to install a doorbell? Not only is this omission stupid, but it's contradictory to the Avengers' ideals as portrayed in issues #158–159. What if Sid Bloat had had a valid complaint? What if Ymir, the Frost Giant, had been sitting on his cable TV, terrorizing his children? How would the Avengers have known? Scooping up all of their visitors and aiming guns at them is hardly polite, much less the sort of thing a super hero team should be doing.

The rest of the issue was fun, but Arv Jones is no John Byrne. Best of luck to John, and to George Perez.

– Kurt Busiek
No Address Given

"Letters to the Living Legend," Captain America #251 (Nov. 1980)

Captain America #247 was, technically, just another well-written, well-drawn comic book, clearing up an inconsistency about the main characters. But, aside from that...

Dum-Dum... Fury... Cap's old shield... Baron Strucker... what is this, old home week? The evocative nostalgia — plus the bit with the bus — made this issue a glorious reaffirmation of Captain America and all that he ought to be.

Stan Lee thawed Cap out in Avengers #4. Steve Englehart did it again in the seventies. And now, maybe Captain America has come out of his iceberg for good!


– Kurt Busiek
Box 79, Lawrinson
303 Stadium Place
Syracuse, NY 13210

"Letters to the Living Legend," Captain America #252 (Dec. 1980)

Dear Roger, John and Joe:

Captain America has been revitalized for two issues now – and aside from the fact that it's nice to see the same creative team for two issues in a row, you folks have been doing some really nice stuff. I sent my rave letter last month, so this time it's a critique. It's concerned with making the book better, now that's good enough to pay close attention to.

The characters have been well fleshed out, the action's been enjoyable, and each scene has been carefully presented to us. A bit too carefully, perhaps. While I'm not one to deny nifty fight scenes and time spent on the cast, the books are only seventeen pages long, and the book as a whole must be considered as well as the scenes that make it up. And the past two issues of Captain America have just been too short. You need to economize some scenes in order to get enough story material in the book. At the beginning of this issue, for example, two-and-a-half pages were spent on the fact that Machinesmith builds nice robots, and they blow up, too. Nicely done, it's true, but the first six pages could have been accomplished in four, leaving more room for the meat of the issue, which deserved more than eleven pages. The final five-page battle with Dragon Man amounted to little more than a chase, and a short one at that. The introduction of Bernie was well done, but it was really only a teaser. Either she could have been better defined, or Josh and Fireman Farrel could've got some coverage.

My point is, with all this even motion from scene to scene and even tone throughout the scenes, the issue lacked focus. It's didn't seem to begin or end, nor were there any major portions of it. Unless I'm wrong, the three major things I as reader should have remembered after I finished the book were: 1) Machinesmith is more than simply a malevolent super-villain, 2) Captain America is poised, cool, alert — he acts like the Sentinel of Liberty, and 3) Bernie Rosenthal is a character to watch. None of those came through (unless you looked for them on a second reading), because none of them were focused on. They were given the same coverage as everything else.

Anyway, my suggestion is: Try to put a little more story in each issue, or at least focus on the major points of the issue. Again, I'm making this criticism after noting that the book is one of Marvel's best — I just think that the best could be better.

One final thing... since you're going to be playing up the fact that Cap grew up in the Thirties, let me make a suggestion. I have always wanted to see Cap wax reminiscent about the movies and stars of his time. Gene Kelly, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart... I don't know when their various careers began, but Cap didn't go on ice until 1945... he must remember some of them. How about it?

– Kurt Busiek
Lexington, MA 02173

"X-Mail," Uncanny X-Men #143 (March 1981)

To the Editor:

I have a complete collection of X-Men. My first issue was #37. Since then, I've been an avid fan of the book through the old and new teams. But #138 is my last issue. I quit.

The change from the old X-Men to the new X-Men was fairly simple to adjust to, because the book was still excellently scripted and drawn. But for the past two years (since #113) I've watched the book degenerate, watched the X-Men become a perversion of what they once were, watched you twist and mangle characters you virtually created.

I first decided to stop buying during the "Hellfire Club" storyline, but held on for sentimental reasons and a vague hope that things would get better. During the "Dark Phoenix" story, I again decided to stick around 'til Cyclops left. And now, I can no longer justify buying the X-Men, not even to keep my collection complete. Each issue hurts too much.

I love the X-Men, and if you treated them as they deserve, I would still be a faithful supporter, but until matters change, you've lost yourself a reader.

–— Kurt Busiek
41 Somerset Rd.
Lexington, MA 02173

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