List of posts

Interview: Kurt Busiek on Redhand

Friday, May 29, 2015

With the June release of Redhand: Twilight of the Gods fast approaching, we wanted to speak with Kurt Busiek about Redhand, The Avengers, and more. This interview was conducted by Jo Witherington (Marketing & Social Media for Humanoids).

1. How did Redhand: Twilight of the Gods come about?

I'd been thinking for a while about doing a project about a sword-and-sorcery title, and playing around with ideas about fate and gods, and trapping a hero in an inescapable "destiny" or freeing others from control.

So when the guys at Humanoids asked me if I had any projects I might do for them, I had all that to build on. And they brought in the fantastic Mario Alberti, who made it all look amazing.

2. The project evolved over many years. What are your thoughts on the final product?

It's not quite what I'd have done solo — I had a much more rambling, episodic series in mind — but I think Sam Timel (Milan K.) wrapped it all up in a dramatic and fitting way, making it into a nice taut trilogy instead of the long, journeying ramble I'd originally had in mind. So I think it worked out nicely.

3. How did you get into writing?

I've wanted to be a writer as long as I can remember. But I was always intimidated, even as a kid, by the idea of writing something as long an intensive as a novel or a screenplay, knowing that your first efforts would almost certainly be awful. I didn't think I'd have the guts to get up and do another one after that. But when I started reading comics regularly, I realized that hey, they were pretty short, so maybe I could try that, and if the first one was awful, so what? I wouldn't have wasted all that much time.

So I talked a friend of mine — Scott McCloud — into drawing a comics story I'd write. And it took us years, and it was awful, but by the time we were done with it, we'd fallen in love with the comics form and started to figure it out, so we were both charged up to do more. Scott went on to do ZOT! and UNDERSTANDING COMICS and more, and I aimed myself at Marvel and DC.

I interviewed Dick Giordano — then DC's editor-in-chief — for a college term paper, and told him I wanted to write comics. He invited me to submit some sample scripts, so I went back to school and wrote up a bunch of stuff. He liked it enough to show it around to the editors of the books they were written for, and one of my samples, a Flash script, got me a chance to write a Green Lantern backup story.

From there I pitched stuff at Marvel, and wrote Power Man/Iron First for them for a year, and I've just kept going from there, moving more and more toward wanting to do my own stuff, and learning and getting better with practice.

4. What are your thoughts on comics today?

I think there's an amazing amount of great stuff coming out today, from great creator-owned work to classic comic strip reprints, and everything in-between. I'm most drawn to books that have a strong and individual creative vision, so things like HELLBOY and SANDMAN and such have been favorites. I like a lot of what Image and Vertigo have done in recent years, but there's a huge amount of creativity going on all over the place. From SAGA to LOCKE & KEY to THE FADE OUT to FABLES to LUMBERJANES and more, there's just a terrific amount of variety and a wonderful fount of talent. It's really a comics Renaissance.

5. What is your basic scripting process like?

I rough out the story, then break it down into pages, fairly loosely. Then I script from that, pacing it out and fine-tuning incidents and dialogue as I go along. I used to outline much more tightly, but after over 30 years of practice, I'm much more flexible and confident about my ability to write a good story.

But the script is only the starting point. Once the artist draws the pages, I'll fine tune the script before it's lettered, reworking it to match the art better. Because in the final analysis, the job isn't to write a terrific script, it's to write a terrific comic. So whatever I can do to improve the final product, I want to do it.

6. If Redhand were a movie, who would you cast as Redhand? Who would direct?

I really never know — I think about the characters from the inside out, so I rarely have any idea who should play them in a movie. And then if I do have ideas, they're invariably too old, because I'm remembering a performance from a decade ago or more.

How about Jared Leto, directed by Guillermo del Toro?

7. Would Redhand have made a good member of your Avengers?

No. He's not a team player, and he's not a superhero. If he wasn't in the situation he's in, he wouldn't volunteer to go off and fight bad guys; the Avengers have plenty of people to do that. He'd try to find somewhere he could live peacefully.

8. Redhand Vs. Captain America: Who wins?

Gotta say, probably Captain America. Not that Redhand isn't a terrific fighter, but his world isn't as over the top as Cap's. It's heroic fantasy, but it's a bit closer to realistic levels, when it comes to the action, than the exaggerated mayhem of a superhero world, particularly a Jack Kirby world.

So he's the best there is in his world, but Cap's world is just bigger, wilder, and more extreme.

9. What are you currently working on?

I'm doing ASTRO CITY, my creator-owned series about life in the madness of a superhero universe, every month through Vertigo, with Brent Anderson and Alex Ross. And I'm doing THE AUTUMNLANDS, a new heroic fantasy epic in a world of beast-people, with Benjamin Dewey at Image. Some ideas I wasn't able to fit into REDHAND have already shown up in AUTUMNLANDS, so if you like one of them, try the other!

Beyond that, I'm doing a long-in-development BATMAN project at DC with John Paul Leon, kind of a thematic companion to my SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY series. And I've got several other things in the pipeline, but nothing that's ready to be firmly announced yet.

10. If you could write any major comic book today, what would it be?

Aside from what I'm already doing? It'd be something of my own creation, I'm sure. Probably something you haven't seen before.

But if I had to pick an existing series, I'd probably pick either WONDER WOMAN or LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. If I could do them my way, not to someone else's direction.

11. Do you see future stories for Redhand or did everything get wrapped up?

I think it wrapped up pretty solidly. That said, you never know with these adventure heroes...

12. Favorite artist that you NEVER worked with?

Hard to choose between Jack Kirby, Alex Toth and Frank Robbins. But as for the ones who are still with us, I haven't given up yet!

To pick an unexpected name, I'd love to do comics someday with Claire Wendling, who did LES LUMIERES DE L'AMALOU in France. Absolutely amazing fantasy art. Not sure she's doing comics any more, though she does covers here and there.

13. Favorite comic book movie adaptation?

For superhero movies, it might be a tie between THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the first AVENGERS film.

For non-superheroes, I dunno — but ROAD TO PERDITION would be way up there on the list.

Thanks again to Kurt Busiek for for being so generous with his time. Redhand: Twilight of the Gods will be available June 17, 2015 on our store and wherever Humanoids titles are carried.

Tags: Interview