REFLECTIONS: Kurt Busiek, Part III

Welcome back for the third and final part of REFLECTIONS' trinity of interviews with fan-favorite comic book writer Kurt Busiek. If you've missed out on the first two parts, have no fear, just click here and here. Apologies for the inadvertent rhyming.

This week, Busiek talks about his weekly DC Comics series "Trinity," now entering its third month. The writer also dishes dirt on how much his master plan has changed since he started working on the book, and teases an upcoming storyline or two.

But that's not all! In addition to all the "Trinity" talk, Busiek talks about his now-finished run on "Superman." Wondering when and where Khyber, the villain of Busiek's first major arc who was last seen ascending back into the DC Universe, will pop up next? Or just how Chris Kent managed to have all those adventures in "Superman" when he was only on earth for a few days in sister title "Action Comics"? You've come to the right place.

All that and a lightning round to remember? What more could you ask for?

CBR: Now three months into "Trinity," has your master plan changed from how you originally envisioned the title?

Kurt Busiek: What we did was to make sure that the master plan was a solid structure, but loose. It hasn't so much changed as firmed-up as we go.

The first thing I did was a loose outline of the entire series and then a tight outline of act one. Once we were closing in on the end of act one, it became time to do a tight outline of act two. There isn't anything in the outline of act two that contradicts the loose outline, so it isn't a matter or throwing stuff out and doing something else. But there's a lot there that grew out of the things we discovered while doing act one, stuff made possible because we came up with new ideas or made discoveries in the first part, and the overall plan was open enough to accommodate adding them in.

To pick an example, there's a sequence coming up in act one that features the Crime Syndicate. It still does what it was there to do in act one, but we discovered other things that we could do to it as we were approaching it that made it a stronger and more vital part of the series. And the new material in that arc opened up opportunities to do stuff in act two that wasn't there before.

So I guess the answer is that we haven't really changed the master plan, but we have lots of room for improvisation. I did this many years ago, too, when I did "Avengers Forever." We started off knowing it was going to be twelve issues long and that we had to hit certain points along the way. How we moved along in between the points we didn't know, not starting out -- and because of that, it was a really refreshing experience. We could improvise along the way, as long as we were heading to the next signpost. So the series went in ways we didn't expect but not in ways that meant we were scrapping existing plans.

"Trinity" can't be done as loosely as that because we have two writers and two chapters a book, and we've got to plan further ahead, but we've got the benefit of having that looser structure and being able to fill some of it in as we go, just so long as we're going in the right direction, hitting those signposts.

Let's talk about your run on "Superman," specifically a continuity question that has been nagging some fans. In "Superman," Clark had many adventures with his adopted son Chris, who was introduced in the "Action Comics" story "Last Son." There were a lot of delays in completing that storyline, almost a full year. At the conclusion of "Last Son," Chris left Earth, seemingly after only a couple of days. Yet he took part in numerous adventures in your title, "Superman." Was this just plans gone wonky, or is there another explanation?

The continuity is definitely a little awkward. If you just read the "Last Son" arc it seems to take place all at once. However, in between Chris Kent's arrival on earth and his disappearance at the end of the [storyline], he mentions that he got to meet Robin. That's something that happened in one of my arcs. Clearly, there must have been room for more stuff to happen in between the major events of "Last Son" than it appeared.

The delay on "Last Son" really messed up a lot of stuff. I wasn't originally going to use Chris Kent as much, but ["Action Comics" writer] Geoff [Johns] couldn't use him because his story was in limbo at the time. So I was asked to use him just so it didn't seem like he'd vanished completely.

Originally, I think he was going to stick around at the end of "Last Son" and leave at a later point. I think that later point involved the "Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes" story, but as it turned out that story came out before "Last Son" concluded. Whatever Geoff had planned for Chris in that other story wasn't able to be done because he needed to get "Last Son" finished before he moved forward with Chris, and so events that should have already been shown, and should have been able to bleed over into other arcs, couldn't, because of the schedule snafus.

So bottom line: Chris Kent came to Earth, became a foster child of the Kents, did all the things he did in my stories, and then got lost in the Phantom Zone at the end of the "Last Son" arc. And, as far as I know, that's where he is now. But I might not be the right guy to ask. I simply worked with the information I was handed at the time, and when the information had to change because of the delays, I was already done, and Geoff was the one with the headache of figuring out how to solve it.

Your first major yearlong arc on "Superman" ended with a rather large cliffhanger that set up another story that never got to be told in your run on the book. When is Khyber's ascension going to be followed up on?

I honestly don't know. I have a wonderful cheat for it, though. What's been established is that Khyber is going to be working behind the scenes in global affairs, working in secret so he can make it all collapse like he's been planning to. This means if you don't see him, well, that doesn't mean he isn't doing anything. He's just doing it in secret.

You'd be seeing him sooner if I was still writing "Superman." But since I'm not, I have limited options -- the question becomes, what am I going to do next after I finish "Trinity." If what I'm going to do next was "Justice League," he could turn up there. If I was the new writer on "Wonder Woman," which no one wants to happen because Gail [Simone]'s doing a great job over there, I could use him there. If I returned to a "Superman" book, I could do that too. But since I don't have a book to put him in, I don't know where or when he's going to turn up next.

I will point out, though, that it's not a cliffhanger, it's a teaser. He's out there, on the loose, but nothing's hanging off a cliff -- nobody knows he's out there, so there's no imminent situation that has to be resolved right now.

Lightning round time. What was your very first comic book?

Molasses answer. I wasn't allowed to read comics as a kid because my mother was just getting out of high school when the whole Fredric Wertham/Comics Code thing was happening, and she thought comic books would turn you into juvenile delinquents. But I'd see "Superboy" and "Jimmy Olsen" comics at the barber shop, and I would see comics at friend's houses where there were stacks and stacks of them, usually things like "Sad Sack," "Little Dot" and "Casper."

My parents, in an effort to get us kids more interested in other languages, bought a bunch of "Asterix" and "Tintin" stuff in different languages. So we had them in English, German, French and Latin. So my first comic book would have been somewhere in there, and I don't specifically know what it was.

I can tell you that, by the time I was seven or eight, I knew enough about comic books to know who the DC superheroes were. This was because the first comic book I can remember buying was either "Avengers" #57 or #58, and I bought it because it looked like it had all the superheroes in it. I was really angry when I read it. Where the hell was Batman!?

And, ironically enough, you then wrote the story where Batman was basically in the Avengers. It all worked out in the end.

What is your biggest strength as a writer?

Probably characterization.

What is your biggest weakness as a writer?

I think that I can get caught up in things that fascinate me, but things that don't necessarily fascinate the readers. I have to guard against wonkiness. Are there really tons of other fans out there wanting to see Ixar and the Ultroids again?

If you could only write one comic book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

Existing comics? "Astro City."

Who would be your artist? Let me guess...Alex Ross?

Uh, no. Alex is a miserable prick. [laughs]

That's really impossible to answer. What I like about doing with comics is the variety. In "Astro City," I've got all the variety I could want because I can change up every few issues. But working with only one artist takes away a lot of the fun of having that variety. Still, if I was going to do "Astro City" forever, I'd have to pick Brent. The book is his to draw as long as he wants. And Alex is actually a very professional, smart and talented guy, just in case anyone out there doesn't have a sense of humor.

What is the best comic book movie ever made?

I think I'm going with "A History of Violence."

What is your weirdest convention experience?

The first time I went to the San Diego Con as a Marvel employee. I got there and discovered that I had forgotten to pack underwear. I went to a department store in Horton Plaza and was in the men's underwear section. I was flipping through three-packs in the bin, and looked up, and flipping through the bin across from me was Stan Lee. And that was how I met Stan Lee.

If you weren't a comics writer, what would you be?

A writer of another sort, probably novelist or screenwriter. Or maybe advertising.

If you could only be remembered for one thing in your career, what would it be?

It's an easy answer: "Astro City." That might change at some point, but right now, it's the only answer.

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