Interview: Kurt Busiek on Dynamite Entertainment’s Kirby: Genesis

Kurt Busiek has written such popular books as Avengers, Superman: Secret Identity, and Astro City. This month, he reunites with his Marvels collaborator, Alex Ross, for Kirby: Genesis from Dynamite Entertainment. Westfield’s Roger Ash recently contacted Busiek to learn more about the book.

Kirby Genesis #0

Kirby Genesis #0

Westfield: Alex Ross has painted covers and designed characters for Astro City, but this is the first time since Marvels that you’ve worked on a story with him. How is it collaborating with him at that level again?

Kurt Busiek: It’s actually very similar. Maybe a little more relaxed, since we’ve both got a lot more experience under our belts than either of us had then.

But the process is about the same. We talked a whole bunch of ideas back and forth, talking about what we liked most, what we didn’t care as much about, what images and concepts were the most powerful, how to fit them together, that sort of thing. By the time we’d done that, we had a rough storyline in mind, or at least the signposts for one. I worked it up into a series outline, adding and changing stuff as I did, and then it went over to Alex and Dynamite for their input. We bashed it around some more, changing things again where needed, to find the comfort zone where everyone was happy with it, I revised it, and it was that version that went to the Kirby Estate for their final okay.

From there, I’m writing the scripts, and once Alex reads them we’ll fine-tune them here and there as needed, but the writing is pretty much my area, now that we’ve got a working outline. And the art works the same way — Alex will send me the layouts he does, and I’ll have a chance to give my input where necessary, but it’s largely his turf. We each know what we’re doing and we trust the other guy.

But one of the joys of working on Marvels was the fun of just talking at obsessive length about the material, finding the best way to go forward with it. One time we spent half an hour figuring out what kind of fabric the classic FF uniforms were made of, back in the Kirby days — what kind of material would have those thick, slashing folds Kirby and Sinnott put into them. We ultimately settled on denim. Here, we spent at least that long — longer, I think — working out the perfect backstory to use to build to the introduction of Tiger 21 in a way that’d serve the story well, give both Alex and me moments we wanted to have in the story, and allow us to use multiple Kirby designs for the character.

The knowledge that we both care about the minor details enough to spend this kind of time on them is part of the reason we work well together — we know the other guy cares too, and we’re not going to blow anything off. If it matters to one of us, the other one’s willing to dig in and find the best common ground for the story, even if it’s something the reader would never notice.

So it’s good to have that kind of collaboration going again.

Kirby Genesis #0 Ross Variant

Kirby Genesis #0 Ross Variant

Westfield: What attracted you to this project?

Busiek: There are three basic questions involved: “How’d you like to work with unused Jack Kirby concepts?” “How’d you like to do a project with Alex Ross?” “How’d you like to build a whole new interconnecting SF/adventure/pulp/fantasy universe?” Any one of those would be enough to get me interested, all three at once are irresistible.

Add to that that the whole shebang gets to be owned by Kirby’s family and they’ll be able to benefit from it the way Kirby would have wanted them to.

I’ll also add that, with all that as background, Alex described an image he wanted to see, a striking visual of one of the Kirby concepts we had available to us, and it triggered the story idea — once Alex described that image, I suddenly had a concept and a perspective from which the story could unfold, and at least the beginnings of a plot. I knew it would work, at that point, knew I had a story worth telling. So at that point, I was solidly on board.

And just in case anyone’s wondering, that image Alex described is page 8 of #1.

Kirby Genesis #1

Kirby Genesis #1

Westfield: What can you tell us about the story in Kirby: Genesis?

Busiek: Not that much, I hope!

I know that I need to tease the story to some degree — it’s a promo interview, after all — but I hate giving away details. I always want the reader to find out this stuff by reading the story, and seeing it on the comics page. But that said, I’ll reveal at least this much: A message was sent into outer space, back in the 1970s, on the Pioneer 10 space probe. And now, in the present-day, we get a response. But it’s not a response we’d ever have imagined. And it’s a response that changes the world, attracting cosmic journeyers, revealing long-lost secrets, drawing wild things into the open, and more. And at the heart of the story are three ordinary people who are there when the response comes. Their lives are thrown into upheaval, and through their eyes, we’ll see the story unfold, see the world change — and they’ll be part of it all, taking part in the adventure and the climax.

And just to toss out some of the stuff you’ll see along the way, the story features Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers, Silver Star, Galaxy Green, The Wanderer, The Glory Knights, The Midnight Swan, Dragonsbane and the Mythics, Thunderfoot the Half-Human, The Phantom Continent, The Primals, Lady Lightning, Darius Drumm and more besides.

Kirby Genesis #1 Cover Spread

Kirby Genesis #1 Cover Spread

Westfield: Aside from Alex, you’re also working with artist Jack Herbert. What can you say about his contribution to the book?

Busiek: I’ve never met Jackson, and only communicated with him a time or two through Twitter. So mostly, I know him from his artwork, and he’s doing a spectacular job. He’s doing some pages on his own, some pages from Alex’s layouts, some pages that’ll combine his artwork and fully-painted panels by Alex — so he’s got to keep it all consistent, keep it exciting, make sure the story is told well and harmonize with Alex’s work so the two style come together into a single work. And he’s been completely up to the task. I’m blown away by what he’s doing.

Some day, I look forward to actually meeting the guy!

Westfield: Are there any other projects you’re working on you’d like to mention?

Busiek: Let’s see…I’m doing more Astro City, as we prepare for the series to come back monthly. I’m also working on another creator-owned book DC will be publishing alongside Astro City, called The Witchlands. It’s urban fantasy rather than superheroes, but it has a similar kind of sprawling, personal-stories-against-a-big-canvas feel to it, just in another genre. It’s being drawn by Connor Willumsen, and it’s looking gorgeous.

Over at DC proper, I’m working on Batman: Creature Of The Night, a thematic follow-up to Superman: Secret Identity, with art by John Paul Leon. Another gorgeous-looking book, though that’ll be a while in the making.

And I just revised an Astro City screen treatment for Working Title Films, and have the Arrowsmith novel to work on, and a few other things here and there. So all that keeps me hopping.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Busiek: I’m amazed at the talent I get to work with here, from Alex and Brent and Jackson and Conner and John Paul to getting to play with Kirby ideas and designs. If the readers have half as much fun reading Kirby: Genesis and the other books as I’m having writing them, they’ll have a great time. But I’m shooting for “twice as much fun,” once the rest of the team is through with it!


Purchase Kirby: Genesis #0