Kurt Busiek is a man who wears his passions on his proverbial sleeve. It’s difficult to find any works of his – save perhaps “The Liberty Project” published by Eclipse – that don’t show a clear love of classic comics, particularly Marvel Comics, on every page. So why would Busiek, for four years the writer of the monthly “Avengers” title give up his role telling stories set anywhere in the Marvel Universe he wants to go?
“Because I feel like, for the most part, I’m finished,” Busiek told CBR News late Tuesday. “Everybody’s got to go sometime, and it’s better to go while the audience is still applauding, instead of waiting ’til they’re bored and booing you off the stage.
“I’ve done a lot with ‘Avengers,’ over what’ll be 50-plus issues of the main book (five of them double-sized), several annuals, a #0, the year-long ‘Avengers Forever’ … it’s a pretty impressive stack, and I feel like what I set out to do with the book — reestablishing the Avengers as the Marvel varsity, and making them well-respected and distinctive — I’ve pretty well done it. I have more story ideas, and I like the characters — but really, the ‘Kang Dynasty’ epic makes for a pretty appropriate grand finale, doesn’t it?
“And it’s not as if I don’t have lots of other things I want to do, too. I’ve turned down a number of opportunities, the last few years, simply because I didn’t have the time — and I’ve come up with plenty of projects I’d like to do when I had more time, from company-owned stuff to stuff I could do for Homage or Top Cow, and even stuff that would fit right in at Vertigo.
“So I wouldn’t rule out doing more ‘Avengers’ in the future — I’ve got stuff I’d love to do with Zodiac, the Collector, a new Lethal Legion and more, and I’m even talking to Tom at the moment about a special project to wrap up the one major loose end from my run — but right now, it feels like it’s time to turn the monthly book over to someone else and do different stuff for a while.
“I’ve got [a new monthly comic from DC Comics,] ‘Power Company.’ I’ve got ‘Astro City,’ which I’m hoping I’ll be able to write more steadily as I get healthier. And I’ve got a lot of ideas that just couldn’t be worked into ‘Avengers.'”
Which isn’t to say he didn’t have fun while he was on “Avengers.”
“It’s been a blast. Tom Brevoort is a dream editor to work with — he’s supportive and he’s interested in a lot of the same kind of things I am, so I didn’t have any trouble playing with the kind of things I wanted to play with. And I got to work with a series of amazing artists who made it all look great — so what’s not to like?”
Among those things Brevoort gave Busiek the go-ahead on was Triathlon, a new Avenger with a link to 3-D Man, a decades-old character who only made it into the Avengers in the pages of “What If?” and Busiek’s time-twisting “Avengers Forever” series.
“The motivation behind creating him was several-fold. First, George and I had been challenged by Bob Harras to come up with at least one brand-new Avenger. Second, I’ve always liked the 3-D Man and wanted to someday do an updated take on those powers. And third, the Avengers have a very white history, and I wanted to take a look at that, bring in a new black member in a way that wouldn’t go in the directions readers would expect — and for all that some readers have been loud about what they think we’re doing, they’ve always been wrong. I wanted to create a character that was an individual, not a category, and have some fun fleshing him out and having him take some unusual paths.
“But there’s more about him — and about the 3-D Man, come to that – coming up, so I shouldn’t say too much …”
Leaving “Avengers” also marks Busiek’s continuing slow move away from being linked so closely with Marvel – he’s left “Thunderbolts,” a series he created, gotten a monthly assignment at DC that starts this winter, and now has left “Avengers.”
“Well, I’m still co-writing ‘Defenders,'” Busiek countered, “And I’m talking to Tom about a special project or two, but that’s about it at the moment.
“And while it’d be fun to say, ‘That rat-bastard Quesada! He’s dissed continuity for the last time — I’m outta here!’, it’s just not the case. I didn’t set out to disentangle myself from Marvel, I get along fine with the folks I work with there (even that rat-bastard Joe!), and I’m not looking to boycott the company or anything.
“But I’ve been working exclusively or near-exclusively for Marvel for years now, and any step I take toward doing different things virtually necessitates doing less for Marvel, because there are only so many hours in a day. I’ve been mainlining Marvel characters and Marvel history — maybe it’s time to play around in a few other places, either with stuff I’ve liked for years but haven’t had time to work with (like the DCU) or with stuff I create myself.
“Marvel’s been making some bold moves recently, and I hope they all work out, both for the company and the industry as a whole. And even if I’m not doing as much there next year as I was last year, I’ll still be paying attention and hoping it brings in new and enthusiastic readers.”
The torch has already been passed on “Avengers” – or at least, the next runner to carry the torch has been chosen. Geoff Johns, writer of DC’s “JSA” – a Busiekian title if ever there was one – has been tapped as the next writer on “Avengers.”
“I’ve enjoyed Geoff’s work on ‘Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.,’ on ‘JSA,’ on ‘Flash,'” Busiek said. “I think he’s a terrific writer, and I think he’ll be a fine choice for ‘Avengers.’ I don’t know if Tom and I ever talked about him — every now and then, we’d talk about what would happen when I finally got around to leaving, and I made suggestions here and there, but in the end, it’s Tom’s call. I think he’s made a bunch of really good calls on this sort of thing — Fabian on ‘T-Bolts,’ Mike Grell on ‘Iron Man,’ Waid on ‘Fantastic Four’ — and I think Geoff will be another good call from a guy who knows how to pick ’em.
“I did talk to Geoff, once Tom had made the offer, and he’d accepted – more to tell him how the whole Kang shebang would finish up, so he’d know what he was working with and could get started early than to find out what he had planned. He did tell me some of what’ll be coming up, but I don’t want to hear too much — I’m going to get to be an ‘Avengers’ reader for the first time in a long time, and I want to be surprised. But Geoff’s got the chops, he’s got the energy, and he loves the series, so I think he’ll do just great.”
But one day, expect Busiek to have some more Avengers stories of his own to tell.
“I think I mentioned a couple earlier. But the only one there’s been any concrete talk about is finding a way to address the whole Ego-trapped-inside-Quasar thing we wrapped up ‘Maximum Security’ with. That would have been what my last annual was about, but that rat-bastard Quesada spiked the annuals next year, so that’s not exactly available to us. Which is good, as it turns out, because as I currently envision the story, it wouldn’t fit in an annual. So Tom and I have talked about how to go about doing it, and in what format, and we’ll see what if anything happens.
“More than that, I can’t say ’cause I don’t know.”