Astro City: Life in the Big City

(Includes issues 1-6 of Astro City Volume 1, published by Image in 1995)

In Dreams: A day in the life of the world’s premier super hero.

 

The Scoop: A newspaper editor reminisces about what could have been his first big story.

 

A Little Knowledge: A smalltime crook’s world is turned upside down when he discovers a super hero’s secret.

 

Safeguards: A woman must decide whether or not to leave behind her magical neighbourhood for the modern life of downtown Astro City.

 

Reconnaissance: An alien gets a feel for humanity while watching and evaluating the world’s super heroes.

 

Dinner at Eight: The world’s most famous hero and heroine take a night off to go on a date.

******

I don’t know if everyone’s going to want to look at each issue individually or address the trade as a whole, but here are some general questions I thought might be interesting to think about.

 

1. Which story did you enjoy most?

 

2. Is there anything gained (or lost) by reading the stories as part of a trade instead of in their original format?

 

3. Do you feel any of the stories would have worked better if Busiek had the “real” characters to play with?  Would any have been improved with more original characters?

 

4. Which characters are analogous to which other characters?

 

5. How much of the familiar elements in the stories are homage vs. world building?

 

6. In what way(s) is the world building done?

 

7. How many other characters are referenced in the background?  Of these references, how many stories will we actually see?

 

8. Could the Marvel and/or DC universes ever integrate this well?

 

9. Is Astro City a trend leader?  Is “reconstruction” an actual trend?

Views: 944

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

By changing my outlook, I meant that reading ASTRO CITY changed how I bought comics--at least for the next ten years. I still kept my hand in by buying a few monthly comics in the LCS, but I favoured buying collected edtions.

In fact, I bought and read all of the first four collected editions of ASTRO CITY in about a week. It was a totally immersive experience--and one of the best experiences I've had with post-Classic comics in the last twenty years. In truth, it might have ruined me for otther collected editions--because I got such a thrill out of reading all of those stories in one blast.

Do you feel any of the stories would have worked better if Busiek had the “real” characters to play with?  Would any have been improved with more original characters?

 

From my perspective, Astro City is a comic about comics.  The heroes seem meant to represent aspects of characters that Busiek wanted to explore, easter eggs are scattered throughout the series, the inter-connectedness is an attempt to make a true shared universe, (ironically, with only one set of creators), the single dominant city echoes Marvel's New York, (while its fictional aspect echoes the DCU), and even the style of covers and story mode will change over the course of the series, (reflecting the different ages super hero comics have gone through).  As such, even the stories that are less focused on the heroes are still world building, still representing a comic age world view, and therefore, work best with the characters reflecting the comics industry that's gone before.  Now, with all that being said, I think Astro City with all its different layers and depths of storytelling is, to borrow Figs' term, truly comics plus... but that's a whole other conversation.  photo tongue.gif

 

Which characters are analogous to which other characters?

 

I'm going to diverge a little bit from the common opinion in that I don't see too many composite or original characters, rather I see each character, even the obvious ones, as representing an aspect of a specific character; essentially this character if this was different.  One of the really cool things about Astro City is that even the metaphor characters, that Busiek specifically told us he was building, appear (to me anyway) to have been grafted on to specific characters.  Some characters the correlation is pretty obvious, but it's harder to see the divergence, others the correlation is harder to see because the divergence is more obvious.  That's my thoughts anyway. 

 

Just because I am that anal wonderful, here's a list of all the heroes and villains that appeared in this trade.  I put my guesses beside them but I can't correlate them all and I'd love to see other people's thoughts.

 

Samaritan - Superman (if he didn't have his human life / support network)

Winged Victory - Wonder Woman (if she wasn't born with her powers and didn't have the amazons)

 

Honor Guard (present) - Justice League

[For some reason the present Honor Guard just screams Justice League to me while the past version, from The Scoop, says Avengers.  There are some obvious Marvel analogs on the present team so I'm not really sure what the tipping point is.  Anyone else feel the same / have an idea why?]

M.P.H. - Flash

Cleopatra - Dr. Fate?

Quarrel - Black Canary (if she took over Green Arrow's gimmick) or maybe Mockingbird (with Hawkeye's gimmick)

Beauty - The Vision

Black Rapier - Black Knight

N-Forcer - Iron Man

 

The Tourist - The Watcher?

 

The Living Nightmare - The Hulk

 

Honor Guard (past) - Avengers

Silver Agent - Captain America (if he was a metaphor for the silver age instead of America)

Leopardman - Hawkman

Max O’ Millions - Nighthawk?

Kitkat - Hawkgirl

Starwoman - ?

Bouncing Beatnik - Green Arrow (if he represented the Beatnik culture instead of liberalism)

 

The Old Soldier - Uncle Sam (if he represented the American military instead of America in general)

Jack-In-The-Box - Spider-Man (if he didn't gain powers and was a legacy instead of scarred by his own choices)

The Hanged Man - The Spectre (if he wasn't focussed on vengeance)

 

First Family - Fantastic Four

Augustus Furst - Mr. Fantastic (if he never gained powers)

Julius Furst - Ben Grimm (if he wasn't changed into the Thing)

Nick Furst - Human Torch

Natalie Furst - Invisible Woman (if she went for Namor instead of Reed)

Rex - Namor (if he was truly a prince and not the king... and if he was a dinosaur  photo biggrin.gif )

Astra - ?

 

Astro City Irregulars - X-Men

Palmetto - ?

El Robo - ?

Jailbait - Rogue or Jubilee?

Ruby - ?

Juice - ?

Stray - Wolverine

 

Crackerjack - Daredevil (if he wasn't blind or Catholic)

 

Nightingale - ?

Sunbird - ?

 

Dr. Saturday - Toyman?

Menagerie Gang - Terrible Trio

Pyramid - AIM or Hydra?

Karnus - Felix Faust

Shirak, The Devourer - ?

The Deacon - The Kingpin

The Brass Monkey -

 

Unholy Alliance - Fatal Five or the Wrecking Crew?

Demolitia - ?

Flamethrower - ?

Glowworm - ?

Spice - ?

Slamburger - ?

 

Gnomicron - ?

The Enelsians (Bridwell) - Skrulls

Goldenboy - Mandrill (if he was human)

I would argue that Max O'Millions is an analogue for Giant Man/Goliath, going by your description. Also, I see the Bouncing Beatnik as sort of a mix of Snapper Carr/Rick Jones.

I would say later stories established the Crossbreed as the X-Men analogue. The Irregulars are more like the Titans or the Defenders.

While the Silver Agent resembled Captain America and the Guardian, I thought his story evoked much more of the Flash. At the time, Barry was dead and there was no hope of him coming back. Barry symbolized the "Silver Age" and there's a lot of simitlarities between the way the Astro citizens viewed the Silver Agent and the way the DCUers viewed Central City's Scarlet Speedster.

Another hero Silver Agent reminded me of was the Shileld. In particular the Shield from Radio and Mighty Comics.

I agree with Randy about the Irregulars. I thought Titans when I first saw them, but that might be my DC bias.

El Robo - Cyborg

Jailbait - Terra

Ruby - Starfire maybe?

Palmetto - Perhaps Changeling

Nightingale and Sunbird remind me of the Kandorian versions of Nightwing and Flamebird. Heck the names are very similar.

As for the First Family I always figured Rex was The Thing.

Yeah.  I think we are told that the Irregulars are former sidekicks so align more with the Teen Titans in their later incarnations.

It's funny to see that there is disagreement with some of your assignments of the analogues.  Different readers will see different things.  It is a fun game, but I definitely think it's doing Busiek a disservice to see his creations purely as analogues.  What he's done here is a bit like what Neil Innes and Eric Idle did with The Rutles, where they produced a fictional band that were incredibly Beatles-esque in sound and look (and wouldn't exist without the Beatles), but they had their own spark too and had to be suitably different as well.  'Reversed engineered' (to be lawyer-proof) is probably a useful term for both the Rutles and Astro-City, I think.

I suppose Crackerjack does have something of the pre-Miller Daredevil about him.  Even his name sounds like something to do with carnival and entertainment.

Speaking of Crackerjack - The alien spy sees Crackerjack lose a home, and community of friends and some of his prize possessions, yet still shrug it off to go out there and start helping those in need straight away.  Yet Bridewell still judges humanity harshly on Crackerjack's account... Doesn't seem fair...  And then, what became of that invasion?  I guess that wasn't the story Busiek wanted to tell.

Some other possible anologues I'd suggest:

Leopardman = Black Panther

Kitkat = Hellcat/Tigra (both these are more Avenger-ish, so accord with your ideas.)

The Old Soldier - Captain America (he's wrapped in the flag, inspirational embodiment of America, moves between eras etc.)

The Tourist - The Stranger

Cleopatra - Wonder Woman - in her associations with Greek/Egyptian history/myth

N=Forcer - the vaguely defined energy being that we always get in 3rd rate superteams?  :-)

Hanged Man - Very Spectre but also touches of Dr Strange - he's attached to a socially outlying sector of the city, he protects and guides mortals from supernatural threats while they sleep, like early Dr Strange, rather than hunting down criminals.

Nightingale and Sunbird remind me of the Kandorian versions of Nightwing and Flamebird. -

BINGO!  I guess having read the rather not-very-good One Year Later versions of the characters where they were the alter egos of Supergirl and Power-girl made it more obvoius to me reading Astro City this time.

I find it strange, looking at the overall run of the series that a central group called the 'First Family' get fairly little time as central characters in any of the stories.

The Silver Agent screams Guardian to me, but Jimmy has a great point about the Flash resonances.

BTW - Black Rapier = Swordsman (less Olde Worlde baggage than Black Knight.).

(All these analogues are IMHO- of course)

I'd agree about the Guardian/Silver Agent comparison. That's where my mind automatically went nearly twenty years ago (GOOD LORD!) when I first read this.

I'd have to admit that I didn't know much superhero history the first time I read this.  So most of the Easter Eggs and shout-outs didn't mean that much to me then.

I lent this book to various people who knew even less about old comicbooks than I did and they loved it too...

I would argue that Max O'Millions is an analogue for Giant Man/Goliath, going by your description.

Sheesh, I hadn't even realized he'd grown.  Good catch Randy.

Also, I see the Bouncing Beatnik as sort of a mix of Snapper Carr/Rick Jones.

I could see the Beatnik standing in for Snapper Carr and Leopardman for the Black Panther.  The big thing that brought Green Arrow and Hawkman to my mind was the way the two of them interacted.

As for the First Family I always figured Rex was The Thing.

I was originally jumping to Rex being the Thing's analogue as well except, in the bar scene of the Confessor storyline, I thought Julius sounded quite a bit more Thing-ish, (and Rex's backstory seemed a lot more Namor-ish).  Visually though, Rex is a lot closer to the Thing than Namor.

I agree with Randy about the Irregulars. I thought Titans when I first saw them, but that might be my DC bias.

El Robo - Cyborg

Jailbait - Terra

Ruby - Starfire maybe?

Palmetto - Perhaps Changeling

Yeah, I think I was off base, they're much more Titans than X-Men.

Nightingale and Sunbird remind me of the Kandorian versions of Nightwing and Flamebird. Heck the names are very similar.

I was kind of thinking this as well but I wasn't sure they'd predated this book.  They certainly fit better than the other duo they very slightly reminded me of, Cloak and Dagger.

BTW - Black Rapier = Swordsman (less Olde Worlde baggage than Black Knight.)

I'm only familiar with the Black Knight from Stern's run on the Avengers and he seemed pretty tech savvy there, but I'll defer to someone with greater Avengers knowledge, the Swordsman wins the point. :)

Speaking of Crackerjack - The alien spy sees Crackerjack lose a home, and community of friends and some of his prize possessions, yet still shrug it off to go out there and start helping those in need straight away.  Yet Bridewell still judges humanity harshly on Crackerjack's account... Doesn't seem fair...  And then, what became of that invasion?  I guess that wasn't the story Busiek wanted to tell.

That actually comes up in the next trade.

I definitely think it's doing Busiek a disservice to see his creations purely as analogues.  What he's done here is a bit like what Neil Innes and Eric Idle did with The Rutles, where they produced a fictional band that were incredibly Beatles-esque in sound and look (and wouldn't exist without the Beatles), but they had their own spark too and had to be suitably different as well.  'Reversed engineered' (to be lawyer-proof) is probably a useful term for both the Rutles and Astro-City, I think.

I wouldn't even think to argue that the Astro City characters aren't original.  Even the closest have extensive differences from the characters they're based on and generally their differences are just as well fleshed out as the original character, (maybe not as deeply since they don't have as much printed history), but what's addressed is uniquely fleshed out.  These aren't the same guys with a different paint job, they're different characters.  What I would argue though is that despite their differences, it's the aspects they share with their progenitors that resonates and that Busiek is most interested in working with.  So, it's kind of a different situation from say Captain Marvel who was designed to be similar but different from Superman and wound up being a completely different character, with only the most superficial things in common.

Nightingale and Sunbird remind me of the Kandorian versions of Nightwing and Flamebird. Heck the names are very similar.

I was kind of thinking this as well but I wasn't sure they'd predated this book.  They certainly fit better than the other duo they very slightly reminded me of, Cloak and Dagger.

Not sure if you know this, but Nightwing and Flamebird were Superman and Batman's alter-egos when they visited Kandor in the 60s.  What 's interesting about this is that it shows DC were strip-mining and recycling concepts back in the New Teen Titans era, but of course they were doing that long before then, too.  (And how did Batman feel about Dick taking Superman's identity rather than his (Batman's)?)

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2018   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service