Volume 2, Issue #6, Page 13: The Gathering Dark

Astro City
©1997 Juke Box Productions. All Rights Reserved.

by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Will Blyberg
Volume 2, Issue #6, Page 13: The Gathering Dark
Graphite and ink on board
Signed by Brent Anderson
11" x 17"

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Astro City is the type of high-water mark that only happens once every decade or so. This common sense perspective of superpowered heroes and villains in the so-called real world caught the zeitgeist to become one of the most popular series of the Modern Era...

Long before Kurt Busiek was writing scripts for mainstream comic books, his name was known to comic fans for his frequently published letters that appeared in the fan mail columns of the many titles he was reading. He is credited for developing the idea that Phoenix and Jean Grey were actually separate entities, and when he teamed with painter Alex Ross to produce the Marvels mini-series in 1994, he officially rocketed to comic book superstar. Marvels focused on the real world social relevance of key events in the marvel comics universe as told by a newspaper reporter at a street-level perspective. It was a lightning bolt. It garnered mass media coverage and record breaking sales in an era that saw most of the comic industry collapse.

Busiek elaborated on this fresh, real-world treatment with a set of his own, creator-owned heroes, allowing him to dispense with the baggage of forty years of other writer's continuity. This unlimited series would reunite him with artist Alex Ross, who would provide the covers for this new series. His interior penciler (and co-creator) was comic book journeyman Brent Anderson, whose important collaboration with Chris Claremont on X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills helped establish the Graphic Novel format in 1982. Astro City was a well-needed breath of fresh air: it was successful, lauded and not a property owned by either DC or Marvel. It swept the awards ceremonies between 1996-1998.

In 1996, with Astro City, Busiek won both the Eisner and Harvey Awards for Best New Series. He won the Best Single Issue/Single Story Eisner three years in a row from 1996–1998, as well as in 2004. Astro City won the Best Continuing Series Eisner Award in 1997–1998, as well as the Best Serialized Story Award in 1998. In addition, the Astro City team of Busiek, Anderson & Blyberg was awarded the 1996 Best Single Issue or Story Harvey Award, and the 1998 Harvey Award for Best Continuing or Limited Series. Busiek was given the 1998 and 1999 Comics Buyer's Guide Awards for Favorite Writer, with additional nominations in 1997 and every year from 2000 to 2004. He has also received numerous Squiddy Awards, having been selected as Favorite Writer four years in a row from 1995 to 1998, and as a member of the favorite creative team for 1996, 1999, and 2003.

The page above is a perfect example of what made Astro City so unique. The top panel shows an undisturbed, skyline view of the titular Astro City. The middle panel shows an all-out, free-for-all between warring factions of heroes and villains. The third panel shows the reactions of everyday citizens, who have become regular witnesses to the actions of super powered individuals. In just three panels on a singular page we are given a 30,000 foot view, a chance perspective, and the added context of actual consequences. This is epic storytelling taken personally. More than just great words and pictures, Astro City used format as medium to shatter preconceptions.

In 2010, a deal with Working Title Films (Shaun of the Dead) was struck to bring Astro City to the big screen as a live action feature with Kurt Busiek adapting the screenplay and executive producing.


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