Friday November 30, 2007
Writer of steel
Kurt Busiek, who writes the Superman comics, will give tips to aspiring writers in Singapore this weekend. By LEE SZE YONG.
EVEN for a seasoned comic book writer like Kurt Busiek, coming up with stories about one of America’s most iconic superheroes can be stressful.
The acclaimed Boston-born scribe is the current writer for DC Comics’ Superman series, with over 600 issues published to date.
Over the phone from his home in Portland, Oregon, recently, Busiek, 47, who has over 20 years of experience under his belt, said:
“Superman has over 70 years of history. Every fanboy has his own idea of how he should be like.
“You make any changes to him, you expect to hear a whole lot from them. They are not afraid to tell you what they think.”
The author, who also created the comic book series Astro City, about a city populated by superhumans, will be appearing at the Singapore Writers Festival.
An avid comic book fan himself, the father of two girls aged eight and six made his first foray into the comic book industry in 1982, when he noticed something was amiss with the comic book series about Power Man, an indestructible African American superhero, and his gong-fu-fighting sidekick Iron Fist.
“The comic book kept touting that a new writer would be writing the book, but when the next issue came, the editor was the one credited to the story,” he recalled.
It turned out that publisher Marvel Comics could not find a replacement. Busiek, then in university, sent in some drafts, and got the job immediately.
“And I wasn’t even really a fan of Power Man,” the gregarious man said with a chuckle.
He went on to become the man behind many big titles, including Avengers, Iron Man and Justice League Of America. In 1994, he won his first Eisner award, the comic book industry’s equivalent of a Booker Prize, for his work on Marvels, an ordinary man’s view of the Marvel Comics’ superhero world.
The following year, he launched the critically lauded Astro City, a comic book series set in a world where superheroes have existed since the 19th century. Busiek also said that he is in talks with a major Hollywood studio to make a TV or film adaptation.
However, unlike peers such as Jeph Loeb, who is writing for the hit TV series Heroes, he is not that keen to transit over to screenplays. He said: “I enjoy the process of seeing my plots translate into print. In comics, you really just deal with yourself and the artist. You feel a greater sense of ownership.”
Although superhero comic books are essentially make-believe tales, he said the trend is for writers to move towards realism.
He pointed out that stories in the Golden Age of comics – the 1950s and 1960s – were mostly fairy tales. “Readers tended to be very young, and probably had not travelled out of New York City, much less know about China or India,” he said.
“Now, comic book readers are considerably older, and more sophisticated. If you write a story set in London, they don’t want to just see the Big Ben in the background. You have to include the culture, the food, the flavour of the city to create a world which will entice readers.”
On aspiring comic book authors, he said they should start by writing what the publishers want.
“You may dream of writing for Superman or X-Men, but the publisher would use top guys for these titles. Offer something that they need for a small title, and work your way up from there.” – The Straits Times Singapore / Asia News Network