Writer Kurt Busiek has always been known as a diverse writer of comics; while best known for his superhero work on Astro City and Marvels, he’s also done far separate work such as the sci-fi story Shockrockets, the medieval magic of Arrowsmith, and has worked on titles as far flung as Metal Hurlant and Mickey Mouse. But in his new upcoming series from Wildstorm, he’s going closer to home – sort of.
Announced last month at Comic-Con International: San Diego, Kurt Busiek’s American Gothic was described by the writer at Comic-Con as “a way of inventing an American mythology.” Described by some as a Twilight Zone-esque spin on contemporary stories, it takes the far-flung elements of American mythology and puts a cohesive state that his both human and supernatural.
For more, we talked by Busiek by e-mail about his new WildStorm series shortly after his return from San Diego.
Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us, Kurt. Let's get right to the point here - what can you tell us about American Gothic?
Kurt Busiek: It's a little tricky to describe. But then, the last two projects I did that were tricky to describe were Astro City and Marvels, so maybe it's in good company.
My publishers and editors would like me to say that what Astro City does for superheroes, American Gothic does for fantasy, which isn't completely accurate, but it's close, in a lot of ways. American Gothic is a wide-ranging series about magic and myth, set in America and dealing with American mythology as a setting, a context for a wide variety of stories. We’ll cover things from the story of a long haul trucker whose wife died when he was on the road, so he never had a chance to say goodbye, who finds himself driving her ghost on to her final reward; the story of a girl in an economically-depressed fishing town who discovers that the Norse god Thor is living in exile on a coastal island nearby; the story of some college students who accidentally resurrect Ninkasi, the Sumerian goddess of beer; the tale of a voodoo priest, called in to deal with the unquiet ghost of a murdered business; the story of a washed-up cooking-show host, whose quest for the perfect burger leads him out of the real world and into the borderlands of Hell, and more. Lots more.
It'll range from character stories about ordinary people caught up in magical events to exploring the secret occult history of the United States (and the world as well), and more. Like Astro City, it'll have recurring characters, but no single regular set of leads - the stories will focus on whoever we need to focus on, all as part of the same background and history, and with certain characters showing up as we need them.
It's a shadowy ramble into the parts of America that no one gets to see, full of unseen magic all around us, in settings that range from suburbia to the borderlands of reality. A mosaic of stories that link into a very big picture...
Nrama: At Comic-Con, you said it has a bit of a Twilight Zone/Outer Limits kind of thing. If you had to pigeonhole this into a genre (or two), what would you say about this?
Busiek: Actually, I didn't say that - that was in an Internet account of the panel, but it didn't come from me.
Nrama: Sorry about that. But continuing on, how would you describe this upcoming series?
Busiek: But from what I know of The Twilight Zone, it has something of that kind of flavor, if all the Twilight Zone stories fit together into one big mythology. Outer Limits I know next to nothing about, so I can't really judge.
Beyond that, I'd say it spills across multiple genres, but closely linked ones - it mixes urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, dark fantasy/horror, historical fantasy/secret history... It's definitely fantasy, but fantasy of the "magic existing in familiar surroundings" school, not the secondary-world "magic in a whole new setting" style of, say, Lord of the Rings, Conan, or Narnia. Fantasy happening right here, from the deep lakes of Minnesota to the subway tunnels of Manhattan to the nooks and crannies of cyberspace.
Nrama: Comics fan that I am, I can't place who the artist is for this image you sent us. Who is it, and will they be working with you on the series itself?
Busiek: That piece was done by Connor Willumsen, whose work can be found at http://www.connorwillumsen.com . There's some wonderful comics work there, and that's what brought him to our attention. Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter linked to Connor's site, at a time editor Scott Peterson and I were batting around names of potential American Gothic artists. I loved what I saw of Connor's comics work, and thought he had just what we were looking for - a great sense of mood, winning and accessible characters, a strong sense of design and dynamite storytelling. So I sent Scott to Connor's site, and he wound up making contact.
Connor will be drawing at least the first arc of the series, and I hope it won't stop there.
Nrama: Timeline wise, when do you expect the first issue of this to appear on shelves?
Busiek: It's a ways off at the moment; we're just getting started. We're expecting to have the series debut sometime next year, around the time Astro City resumes its ongoing monthly numbering. We ought to have plenty in the drawer by then, and no concerns about tight schedules.
Nrama: Will this be an ongoing?
Busiek: It will be indeed. I've got about six years' worth of it loosely outlined, so I'm hoping it lasts a good long time.