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Kurt Busiek is an American Comic Book
writer noted for seamlessly blending Silver Age
sensibilities with modern storytelling expectations, all while deconstructing and reconstructing various storytelling tropes along the way. He is arguably most renowned for his work on the Marvels
limited series and Thunderbolts
, as well as his acclaimed run on The Avengers
, (all three for Marvel Comics
), and his own Kurt Busiek's Astro City
. He is an unabashed fan of all comic books, and has a knowledge of canon and character history that borders on uncanny.
Busiek's work has won numerous awards in the comics industry, including several Harvey Awards for Best Writer and several Eisner Awards. He's also a repeat winner and regular nominee of Comics Buyer's Guide Award for Favorite Writer.
He is a regular collaborator with artist Alex Ross, who will often paint covers — or entire issues — of Busiek's work. In junior high school he made friends with Scott McCloud
, creator of Zot
and Understanding Comics
, and Scott has stated that it was Busiek who first got him interested in comics.
His website is here.
He also has a page on Formspring, located here
Works created or heavily influenced by Kurt Busiek include:
Tropes featured in Kurt Busiek's works include:
- Arc Welding
- Armed with Canon: By the time Busiek finished his run on The Avengers, he had managed to Retcon almost the entire Dark Age of Comics history of the team (his retconning of The Crossing amounted to everybody involved was an impostor).
- Beast of Battle: Arrowsmith has a version of World War I fought with various fantasy creatures.
- Church of Happyology: The Triune Understanding cult in his run on The Avengers was clearly supposed to represent this.
- Continuity Nod: Busiek loves to put Continuity Nods in all of his works, thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge of comic book history. Arguably, his most ambitious effort to date was Avengers Forever, which attempted to reconcile every single plot thread of the Avengersí convoluted past.
- Continuity Porn
- Creator Backlash: At conventions, Busiek accompanies his signature on copies of Spider-Man/X-Factor: Shadowgames with the refrain, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry..."
- Cryptic Background Reference: Most prevalent in the early issues of his original works, such as Astro City and Arrowsmith. There are constant references to heroes, villains, and incidents that the readers have not seen yet — and sometimes might never see.
- Day In The Life/A Day in the Limelight: Often appears when Busiek writes an ongoing series, and is a regular staple of Astro City.
- Doing It for the Art
- Dork Age: Invoked in the third issue of JLA/Avengers, when the Justice League and The Avengers ask to see their worlds the way they should be, instead of their idealized Silver Age versions. Each character sees the Face Heel Turns, Heroic Sacrifices, Suspiciously Similar Substitutes, and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity that they will experience in the "correct" universes. They are horrified.
- However, it's important to note that they decided to return the worlds to the way they were, because they cannot just pretend it didn't happen.
- Falling into the Cockpit
- Humans Are Special: Spelled out in Busiek's The Avengers run — everything that has happened, from Thor's ability to open portals getting stolen to killing the Supreme Intelligence was an effort by Immortus to keep humans on Earth. Why? Because if humans were allowed to reach and colonize space, they would quickly conquer it.
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Not only is Astro City properly titled Kurt Busiek's Astro City, but the major television station in the series has the callsign "KBAC".
- Inept Mage: The hero of Busiek's The Wizard's Tale is fearfully inept, partly because he knows he is supposed to be evil and can't pull it off.
- Istanbul Not Constantinople: Arrowsmith had the alternate earth version, with Divided States of America, and a war between Prussia and Galia.
- Powers as Programs: Subverted in Busiek's arc in Action Comics, where an intergalactic Auctioneer kidnaps a bunch of heroes with the intent of selling them to collectors. On his ship, everyone lost their powers. Superman figured that since everyone's powers came from different sources, that they were being blocked mentally. He breaks the block by putting himself in mortal danger (for a normal human) and is protected by his invulnerability. Since he knows it's a lie, the mental block is broken.
Busiek: "It strikes me that the only reason to take apart a pocket watch, or a car engine, aside from the simple delight of disassembly, is to find out how it works. To understand it, so you can put it back together again better than before, or build a new one that goes beyond what the old one could do. We've been taking apart the superhero for ten years or more; it's time to put it back together and wind it up, time to take it out on the road and floor it, see what it'll do."
- Reed Richards Is Useless: Deliberately invoked in Astro City.
- The Reveal: Perhaps the best executed twist in comics is the end of Thunderbolts #1, in which the titular team is revealed to actually be The Masters of Evil. What's really impressive is how far they went to keep secret the fact that there even was a secret. Peter David, as a favor to Busiek, even had the solicitations changed for the Hulk issue in which the Thunderbolts first appeared in order to keep the secret under the rug.
- Schedule Slip: Occurred for nearly a decade due to mercury poisoning; this mainly affected his work on Astro City, and eventually caused the title to go from a regular monthly schedule to periodic limited series as a result.
Busiek: "I'd spend days at a time unable to concentrate enough to write, and when it cleared a little bit, I'd have to get as much done as quickly as possible in order to stay on schedule."
- Self-Deprecation: Done in Busiek and Erik Larsen's early-2000's resurrection of The Defenders. In addition to portraying its principal characters as supreme Jerk Asses who eventually decide to take over the world so it won't need to be defended (and, more importantly, so they won't have to deal with one another), the series invoked Stylistic Suck via references to Marvel's incredibly goofy Silver Age giant monster comics, and one of its covers proudly boasted a Wizard Magazine quote proclaiming The Defenders to be "the worst comic ever produced."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Busiek's works tend towards the Idealistic side of the scale, with heroes who are noble and selfless models that the citizens admire. While he does veer into cynicism and disgrace at times, in the end idealism wins, and even former criminals can redeem themselves if they try. In his non-super-hero works however, this expectation is sometimes brutally shattered, such as Arrowsmith, where the lead character realizes no side of the war is living up to their ideals and millions of innocents are suffering. Some of his prose super-hero work has also gone extremely dark and cynical, most notably in a short story where a scientific genius and her ex-boyfriend are emotionally and psychologically manipulated into devastating, ultimately fatal series of super battles by a slick ad man hoping to increase tourist revenue.
- Star-Making Role: Marvels did this for both Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross.
- Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: In Astro City, Infidel narrates that he once destroyed the universe in a "fit of pique." After discovering even that wouldn't kill Samaritan (and Samaritan realizing the same for Infidel), they collaborated to put everything back together.