Four years ago, in 1998, Marvel Comics had a problem: Their flagship non-mutant, non-spider books were in trouble. They'd just tried a year-long shake-up and stripping down of the line with the "Heroes Reborn" event, with Image creators giving their takes on "The Avengers," "The Fantastic Four," "Captain America" and "Iron Man."
The experiment was not one that would be fondly remembered by comic readers for years to come.
So, having failed to reinvigorate the line by modernizing, Marvel went old school, bringing in writers famous for their love of classic comics and whose work evinced a clear desire to build on what made the great works of the past so great.
And thus, Kurt Busiek – who had become a hot commodity with his creator-owned "Astro City" series that paid homage to the characters and situations of classic comics – was handed the reins of "The Avengers," instantly turning it into a hit.
And now, he's leaving the title.
"After over four years as the regular writer, I'll be leaving 'Avengers' soon," Busiek told CBR News. "This big Kang epic will be my swan song on the book, more or less. We'll wrap it up, with a blowout finale and an epilogue issue, then do a single-issue story that I plotted some years ago as the coda to my run. That should take us up through about #55, and then I'll hand the reins over to the new guy.
"I'm not fired, I'm not going away mad -- nobody's angry at anyone, and I haven't run dry on the book. I just feel like it's time to wrap things up, take my bows and get off the stage before people get tired of me, and this Kang epic seems like a good high note to go out on.
"I've had a wonderful time. It's been great working with Tom Brevoort, who I think is one of the all-time best editors in comics. I've been thrilled to work with artists of the caliber of George Pérez, Carlos Pacheco and Alan Davis, and I'm currently having a great time working with Kieron Dwyer, who's doing a fantastic job.
"It's also been great to have the enthusiastic support of the 'Avengers' readership all this time; I'm delighted the book has been so well liked. And I'd like to ask that, if people have enjoyed what I've done on 'Avengers,' they give 'Power Company' [from DC Comics] a shot as it debuts this winter -- it's my new primary home for superhero team adventure, so if you like the Busiek touch on that sort of thing, that'll be the place to go."
Following in Busiek's footsteps will be another writer who wears his love of classic comics on his sleeve, Geoff Johns, who currently writes DC Comics' "The Flash" and "JSA."
With the hand-off over eight months away, Johns isn't saying much for now.
"First off, I'm jumping into this at full speed, my enthusasim is maxed," Johns told CBR News. "It's way early to talk details, so I'll stick with the general. We're going to continue to build upon what's been established with respect and an eye towards the future. They are the world's mightiest heroes -- and that's the name of the game here. Heroes."
"When Kurt [Busiek] first broached the possibility that he'd be leaving 'Avengers' at some point in the near future, Geoff's was the first and only name I scrawled down on my little sticky-pad," Brevoort said in a statement released by Marvel Comics. "Like Kurt, he comes to any series he writes with a firm understanding of what has come before, but he's a different writer with a different voice, so he'll be bringing something new to the table while still maintaining some of the flavor that's made 'Avengers' a success. Geoff also walked in the door with a great kick-off storyline that'll serve to define his era right out of the gate."