Comics Epic Astro City Will End With Super-Pets Playing PokerS

A big reason why the character names and designs are so cool in Kurt Busiek's Astro City is because Busiek reaches beyond comics for his retro characters. He pretends that Astro City Comics is a publisher that's operated since the 1940s, and reaches into broader trends in popular culture, from Liz Taylor's Cleopatra to Evel Knievel, to create characters who seem like they belong to a bygone era. More secrets of Astro City, from today's panel at Wondercon, after the jump.

Astro City is a town packed with superheroes, but we often see the action from the perspective of ordinary people, or criminals, or sidekicks. Busiek sees his book as responding to the wave of "deconstruction" comics such as Alan Moore's Watchmen, which took superheroes apart. Busiek sees his mission not to put superheroes back together, so much as to use the lessons from taking them apart to make them work better.

Want to know the secret, overarching meta-story behind Astro City? There isn't one, Busiek revealed at today's Astro City panel at Wondercon. He has no "roadmap," and no ending for all the comic's characters in mind. Instead, he plans to keep telling stories set in the superhero-filled city until he runs out of ideas and writes an issue about super-pets playing poker. Find out what's in store for Astro City, after the jump.

Astro City is in the middle of a 16-issue mega-story called "The Dark Age," set in the bleak 1970s when everybody experiences a crisis of conscience due to the Vietnam War, Watergate and a wave of distrust in society's institutions. A collection of the first eight issues of "The Dark Age" is coming soon, and it'll also include the prologue that was published as one half of a flipbook with Arrowsmith, plus some sketches and stuff.

Also coming soon: two "character specials" featuring Astra (daughter of superteam the First Family) and the Silver Agent.

Busiek said he has lots of story ideas he hasn't gotten around to writing, including:

  • the guy who used to be The Enforcer, who's now promoting a book about being the country's most famous hired super-muscle
  • four teen sidekicks who turn 18 the same year, renovate an old crime-fighting vehicle and travel across America to figure out what their adult identities will be
  • why two heroes, Crackerjack and Quarrel, are a couple

I asked Busiek if Astro City has changed its focus from how ordinary people viewed superheroes (which took up a lot of the first batch of issues) to a broader focus on superheroes interacting with society. He said his earlier award-winning series, Marvels, was much more about how an ordinary guy viewed superheroes. But that wasn't ever meant to be the focus of Astro City, per se. The first six issues of the comic were individual stories showing the superhero world from different perspectives, including a superhero's, but also that of a reporter, a petty criminal, an innocent bystander and an alien spy. "This series is not about any one person's perspectives," Busiek added. "The focus has never been simply about how ordinary people see the superheroes but about different perspectives on how people view the world."

He'd originally planned, after those first six issues, to go straight into the longer story arc about the Confessor, a Batman-like figure who turns out to be a vampire. But instead Astro City went on a six-month hiatus and then returned with a new publisher, so Busiek did some more single-issue stories, with different perspectives, to relaunch the series.

Don't give up on the massive The Dark Age storyline, Busiek said: it may feel as though it's not going anywhere, but it'll look different when you read the whole thing. The current second "volume" of four issues consists of the two protagonists, the brothers Charles (a cop) and Royal (a criminal) flailing around and getting nowhere. But the end of volume two contains a development that sets up everything that happens in volumes three and four, when the two brothers begin to change their circumstances.