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Kurt Busiek Discusses His DC Exclusive

by  in Comic News Comment
Kurt Busiek Discusses His DC Exclusive

Following the announcement Wednesday afternoon that writer Kurt Busiek had signed an exclusive contract with DC Comics, CBR News contacted Busiek to learn more about what this means for him, what the motivation was to make the move and how this affects some of his other work with Marvel and Dark Horse Comics.

Kurt Busiek at Wizard World Los Angeles, 2004.

Allright, let’s start at the beginning with the most obvious question and then we’ll move on from there: Why sign an exclusive with DC Comics?

It’s a terrific opportunity that fits what I’m trying to do at the moment. It’s nice to be involved with DC at a time when they’re making a lot of noise and big changes, doing a whole lot of things right. They’ve got a lot of really good people putting out the comics now and it’s nice to be a part of that team.

It’s also nice to have the security of being able to put all my work under one umbrella instead of juggling assignments and deadlines from multiple companies. The classic situation is if you’ve got two conflicting projects at the same company they say, “Oh, well, we can move this one because we need this one” and it all moves smoothly. Whereas if they’re at different companies the editors tend to say, “Oh, you’ve got a conflict between these two projects? Well, we don’t care about that! We want what we want!” The other company, not surprisingly, feels the same way. So, it’s easier in some ways to focus on the work and on long term plans when you know where you’re going to be for a while and everything is all on the same plate, as it were.

You said it “fits what I’m trying to do at the moment.” Can you describe that a bit? Is this leading to something else?

Oh, no, that may be an overly dramatic interpretation. It’s what I just said, really. I’ve been juggling multiple assignments for a while, so the idea that we can organize everything and have it all work together, rather than clashing here and there, that’s very attractive to me. That’s what I mean by “what I want to do right now.”

Fair enough. Now, you recently left “Conan” over at Dark Horse which I think many would argue helped launch you to an even higher profile than you had before.

That would be nice! (laugh)

Well, it’s been the number one book at Dark Horse since you launched it and you’ve received rave reviews for your work on “Conan.” Did this exclusive contract offer from DC affect your decision to leave the book?

Yes. It wasn’t the entirety of it, but it was a situation where an opportunity came up and I had to make some choices. I’ve loved working on “Conan” and I’ve gotten to work with great people on “Conan.” I’ve had a very good time working at Dark Horse and I’m glad we got the chance to be their #1 book and make such a splash. I wouldn’t want to just walk off the book without handing it off to good people and since I’m handing it off to Mike Mignola and Tim Truman (laughs), well, I think that’s going to be just fine.

It’s certainly being left in some pretty capable hands.

Yes, absolutely. “Conan” was also a lot of work and a lot of other projects I was doing were a lot of work and that’s where the juggling comes in. It’s all a matter of business and schedules and opportunities. It’s not like I was walking off “Conan” mad and looking for a new home. It was a situation where I was presented a terrific opportunity, where I’d also get to do cool stuff and get to work with terrific artists and will hopefully get a chance to break new ground and make splashes and I’ll be able to do it in a slightly less chaotic fashion.

Some of the exclusive contracts signed by artists and writers with both Marvel and DC have had in them specific exception clauses allowing those creators to work for other companies while under contract. As an example, let’s use Greg Rucka’s contract with DC which allows him to continue working on “Queen & Country” with Oni Press. While you’re creator owned work, “Astro City,” is already set up with Wildstorm/Homage, a DC Comics company, does your contract have any other exemptions allowing you to continue working outside the publisher?

There was a period when I was exclusive with Marvel where an exception was made for “Astro City,” but with DC we obviously don’t have to make that exception since we’re already there. The answer is there are some exceptions in the DC contract. For instance, I am still finishing up “Conan” and “Conan: The Book of Thoth” and the “Born on the Battlefield” arc, which continues to be individual issues dropped in between arcs of “Conan.” So, the exceptions will allow me to work on the “Conan” stuff and Marvel’s “Eye of the Camera” mini-series which is slowly, slowly coming along at Marvel.

Outside of that, I wasn’t really looking for a DC exclusive that would let me do work on the side elsewhere because that would take me back into the same juggling situation I was in before. It’s more a matter of finishing up stuff I’m already committed to and coming to a decent stopping point, rather than just shrieking over a cliff.

“Eye on the Camera” is your follow-up to “Marvels.” Any idea when that might be nearing completion?

No. We’re working on the third issue now, it’s a six issue project. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years now and I expect we’ll be working on it for a couple of years more, at least. We’ll keep rolling and when it’s done it’ll be gorgeous. Considering it takes place within Marvel continuity of the ’70s and ’80s, it’s not like we have to get it out next year or we won’t make the next big crossover! (laughs) We have the luxury to do it in a slow and deliberate way that will hopefully result in a book that will stay in print and make readers happy as long as “Marvels” has.

While your recent work on “Conan” has certainly brought your work to a new audience, I think most fans would best identify you by your Marvel body of work on books like “Marvels,” “Thunderbolts” and “Avengers” as well as the Marvel/DC Cross-Over “JLA/Avengers.” In fact it seems your largest body of work is with Marvel. Do you feel more connected to one universe over the other?

No, not really. My first big company professional sale was to DC. It was a “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” back-up in “Green Lantern” #162. I’ve worked back and forth for DC & Marvel over the years. I’ve done more stuff at Marvel, largely because the opportunities showed up there at the right time. [Marvel Editor] Tom Brevoort is a silver tongued devil! (laughs) When opportunities would turn up at DC it would usually be six months after I committed to a full work load at Marvel. Certainly a decent amount of my early stuff was done at DC. I’ve done Wonder Woman projects, I did the Red Tornado mini-series. My roots across the ’80s are probably more in DC stuff than with Marvel and it wasn’t until after “Marvels” that I spent the next ten years mostly working for Marvel, although never completely. Now, “Superman: Secret Identity” went over very well, I’m working on a Superman project with Geoff Johns, I’m doing “Aquaman” with Jackson Guice. It seems like things are working out quite smoothly now.

Every writer in mainstream comics seems to have a favorite underused or underutilized character that they always have an eye on. Do you have some characters over at DC you’re keeping an eye on?

Kamandi! Kamandi’s always my standard answer. It’s such a wonderful book. It looks great and it’s full of adventure and excitement and cool Kirby-esque imagination. I’ve told Dan DiDio that when it gets time to revive Kamandi you better give me a call. He laughed and said, “Do you know how many people have told me that?” (laughs)

(laughs) So, you’ve got a little competition apparently!

Yeah, I guess! Who knows.

Thanks for your time, Kurt.

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