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?

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I knew about Superman and Batman's other identities but they didn't really bring them to mind; maybe Batman and Robin but not Superman and Batman.

For what it's worth, I see the Black Rapier as a possible nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel or Zorro with a little Batman thrown in. We later discover that he's quite the detective.



Figserello said:

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)?)

I hate to pick that nit (oh who am I kidding I love it), but it was actually Superman and Jimmy Olsen originally. I think it makes sense that Dick chose Nightwing. Batman raised him, but to me Superman was his hero. That way the Titans had both Batman and Superman honored on the team. Or maybe I'm over thinking it.

I love everyone's different interpretation on who Silver Agent is.

I hate to pick that nit (oh who am I kidding I love it), but it was actually Superman and Jimmy Olsen originally.

Did Batman ever play one of the roles?  I could have swore it was Superman and Batman in a couple of my World's Finest.  Maybe I'm just remembering wrong.

Superman and Jimmy would be a better correlation.

For what it's worth, I see the Black Rapier as a possible nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel or Zorro with a little Batman thrown in. We later discover that he's quite the detective.

I can see that.  

That's the cool thing with only using an aspect in the character creation, the other aspects are available for more characters.  Black Rapier could be Batman's detective side and Zorro fondness.  Atomicus is definitely a different aspect of Superman.  

Anyway, that's how I see it, but then again, as Travis said, maybe you can just play this game with any character and find out where the parts came from...

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

Probably the biggest way the team goes about world building is simply consistency of character and follow through of plot.  This seems like an element that should just be a given for comic books, yet appears to be majorly lacking in a lot of big 2 stuff.  The team does such a phenomenal job with this that we can "believe" in this world.  We have enough faith in the storytellers that even when we see a discrepancy, like present day Cleopatra being black while her flashback version is white, we don't assume it's an error but rather that there's a story there.  

Another way is by building up the neighbourhoods and locations.  Every action is set in a specific location and each place addressed seems different, almost a separate character.  They seem like they could be real... quite an accomplishment, especially given that this includes signal towers, villain bars, and streets populated by monsters.

The newspaper articles, TV reports, and background chatter also build a deeper world.  Some headlines reference events we've seen, others hint at things to come, while still others give a sense of the wider world we won't specifically see.  I think this is the case where Busiek, Anderson, and the letterers really distinguish themselves.  What other book has newspapers seen from different angles in different panels, but always the same newspaper, with the same information just different pieces obscured depending on your angle?  Where else are we going to see an article page that is obviously written in full, but is partially obscured by shadow so that we never see the full page?  Way above and beyond.  

I don't really have time now, but since they put so much effort into putting them there, I think I'll go back through each issue and dig out the references.  This'll also give us a chance to look at each issue individually like Richard wanted.  If anyone wants to dig in before I get the chance, go for it. :) 

I actually re-read the issue where Dick explains his new identity, and he does specifically reference the points you mentioned in his monologue (honoring both Batman and Superman with his Nightwing identity)


Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) said:



Figserello said:

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)?)

I hate to pick that nit (oh who am I kidding I love it), but it was actually Superman and Jimmy Olsen originally. I think it makes sense that Dick chose Nightwing. Batman raised him, but to me Superman was his hero. That way the Titans had both Batman and Superman honored on the team. Or maybe I'm over thinking it.

I love everyone's different interpretation on who Silver Agent is.

With the help of GCD, I was able to determine that the Nightwing and Flamebird identities debuted in a book-length story in Superman #158(JAN63). They were Superman (as Nightwing) and Jimmy Olsen (as Flamebird). They were both stuck in Kandor and trying to thwart the schemes of several Phantom Zone baddies. Neither Jimmy, Nightwing, nor Flamebird are cover-featured.

As NIghtwing, Superman was essentially the Batman of Kandor. So by taking the name Nightwing, Dick was honouring both of his World's Finest partners--Superman and Batman. Also, a nightwing is a nocturnal bird of Krypton. Post-Crisis, the choice of Dick's new codename seems rather random.

Rich Steeves said:

I actually re-read the issue where Dick explains his new identity, and he does specifically reference the points you mentioned in his monologue (honoring both Batman and Superman with his Nightwing identity)

I'm sure I read that, and it was stuck in the back of my mind

Every time I see Scarlet Pimpernel, all I can think of is Daffy Duck as the Scarlet Pumpernickel :)

Randy Jackson said:

For what it's worth, I see the Black Rapier as a possible nod to the Scarlet Pimpernel or Zorro with a little Batman thrown in. We later discover that he's quite the detective.

Anyone who loves super-heroes should read THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL by Baroness Emma Orczy. I read it when I was in high school and the experience of reading it is something that has stayed with me through all the years.

I haven't read The Scarlet Pimpernel. I believe it was the inspiration for Zorro and later Batman, including the wimpy civilian identity. I local theater put on a production of it. Unfortunately they made it a camp-fest. My wife still doesn't understand why this upset me.

Jimmm Kelly said:

Anyone who loves super-heroes should read THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL by Baroness Emma Orczy. I read it when I was in high school and the experience of reading it is something that has stayed with me through all the years.

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