Monday, December 26, 2016

Unearthly Visions Special - Kurt Busiek

I've made it no secret that Kurt Busiek's run in the Avengers, partnered first with the great George Perez and later with the legendary Alan Davis, is one of my favorite periods in Avengers history. The first issue of Avengers volume 3 is one of that hallmarks of the mainstream comic book industry returning to a standard of solid, proportionate art and nuanced, character driven storytelling. While Mark Waid's Kingdom Come and Grant Morrison's JLA, the other two corners of the trifecta of the 90's return to comic book greatness, predated Avengers volume 3 by over a year, both had a certain sense of darkness to them. In Waid's case, they darkness was a necessity as Kingdom Come brought the cynicism of 90s comics dragging kicking and screaming into adult scrutiny. JLA was, expectedly, very Morrison-esque. Busiek's Avengers was like a beacon of light, showing us that comics could not only we well written and entertaining, but also fun again, without resorting to barely covered boobs, gritting teeth, and every other characters code name containing the words blood or death.

A few weeks ago, Mr Busiek agreed to answer a few questions for my sassy little corner of the internets. Read on below for all the Busiek goodness.

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Unearthly Visions: One of the things that seems to define your run on the Avengers is your level of characterization. One of these elements that stands out the most for me was the love triangle between the Vision, Wanda, and Wonder Man, while also emphasizing the relationship between Vision and Simon as brothers. How much of this subplot was mapped out ahead of time, and how much of it emerged organically as the series progressed?

Kurt Busiek: It was mostly pretty organic. I knew we were going to start with the Vision distancing himself from Wanda, because I just didn’t want to put them back together, I wanted them to explore different paths, and then eventually come back together in a new way, after finding out more about      themselves as people.
  Obviously, I didn’t get all the way through that, but that was the idea.
And I knew Wonder Man would be resurrected because he was hanging on to life using his love of Wanda as an anchor, so I wanted to see where that led, too.
But beyond that, it was a matter of seeing where the stories led.

UV: One of my favorite things about your run was how you were able to "fix", or at least reconcile, a lot of the splintered continuity that had been laid down by previous writers over the years, both through the main Avengers series and in Avengers Forever. How challenging was it to find a way to streamline the Avengers history in a way that would be embraced by long time fans?

KB: I wasn’t thinking about that too much. I wanted to clean up a few things for myself, like Wanda’s powers — I thought I’d come up with an interesting way to merge her magical abilities and mutant abilities, so it wasn’t two separate things — and there were other bits that were old mysteries that never got resolved — who is Benedict, what’s the deal with Madame Masque and Masque, stuff like that that I could get story material out of.
So I wasn’t so much looking to clean them up for the audience, I was looking to get story material out of it or to rationalize things for me as writer.
In AVENGERS FOREVER, most of the continuity bits we played with, I could have just as easily left alone, except the premise of the series was that Immortus had been messing with Avengers history, so we needed examples of it. And it’s always more fun to use actual established comics history rather than make something up.
So there, I think we were following the needs of the story. And there were things along the way, like getting rid of the Terminatrix and the Anachronauts, that were pretty much a matter of me just not liking them, so I shuffled them off-stage in a way that gave me a cleaner, simpler Kang to work with, but did it in a way that any future writer who wants to use them can easily say that what we saw in AVENGERS FOREVER wasn’t quite what it appeared to be, that they were lost in time or something, rather than killed. And presto, they’re back.

UV: Speaking of splintered continuity, what aspect of the Vision's history, beyond his relationship with the Scarlet Witch, did you feel needed the most attention?

KB: In the main book, I wanted to delve into his personality — explore it a little. If he was based on Wonder Man’s brain patterns, I wanted to see how that worked. He was the bookish Simon Williams that Simon had been as a kid, without the memories of his father’s abuse or his own failures and shame. So he was that personality’s nature, while Simon is what it had become through nurture (not a very positive nurture, though). And I wanted him to explore the world and his role in it, try things out.
In AVENGERS FOREVER, we had to deal with his whole relationship with the Human Torch, something that Immortus could well have been involved it — especially since various of the stories contradicted each other. I thought it was key to his history that he had buried memories of the Torch’s claustrophobia, but if he was never the Torch, why would he have that? So I used the Forever Crystal to make both the Torch’s existence and the Vision’s being based on him true. Not the most elegant of solutions, but I didn’t have a better one, without negating either the Vision’s history or the Torch’s modern existence.

UV: For my last question I want to jump track and ask about another of the Vision's family members, the Wasp. She was easily my favorite character of the Destiny team in Avengers Forever, and it felt to me like she had come into her own more than in any previous iteration. What was your inspiration for Janet's characterization in AF?

KB: Her whole history, pretty much. But probably the two touchpoints that I thought about most were her early days, when she was a goofy ditz in that Stan Lee “women are are shopping-obsessed” way, and Roger Stern’s later use of her as a serious, competent leader. I tried to marge the two, deciding that the capability she showed in Roger’s stories had always been there, she just enjoyed goofing around and playing the ditz when she was younger, in part to keep nudging Hank out of his shell.
So that gave me a serious, skilled leader with a sense of fun, who liked to play and have a flighty side when there weren’t more crucial things to do. It worked out well, I thought.

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So there you have it Visionaries. I can't imagine a better wrap up for the year. As we venture into 2017 I have quite a few things in mind for future posts. Coming up next week I'll be exploring the science fiction and horror elements behind the Vision's creation by Roy Thomas and John Buscema. In the meantime, be sure to check out my daily countdown of my top five favorite Vision visuals, on unearthlyvisions.tumblr.com. Any questions or comments you want to share you can leave here on the blog or on my Twitter feed @GrantRichter9. Until next time, though, stay heavy Visionaries. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Interlude - Back in Business

Sometimes we all go a little nuts. To say that 2016 has been challenging would be something of an understatement. There's only so much socio-political shenanigans one can take before you have to forcibly withdraw your head (mostly) from the news media miasma and defiantly resume your joy. Thus, my trusty Marvel Infinite 3.75 inch Vision action figure in hand, I proudly announce the triumphant return of Unearthly Visions!

What's in store for the immediate future of my little corner of the comic book blogosphere, you may ask?  I thought I'd end 2016 on a high note, with my interview with one of my absolute favorite Avengers writers, Mister Kurt Busiek. Following that, as we progress on into 2017 I'll be starting a new series of episodes deconstructing some of what makes up the character of the Vision. I'll be exploring how, given the mentality of the 1960s and how science fiction was viewed by popular culture at the time, it could be argued that the Vision was originally something of a horror character. I'll be expounding upon my theory that, rather than being a souless, emotionless "toaster", as suggested by some fans and creators, that the Vision is, in fact, the equivalent of a a person with severe but highly functioning autism. I'll be discussing what sort of villain I'd most like to see become his arch-nemesis, and what hero I'd most want to see become his buddy-cop partner. Additionally, I'll also be doing a daily countdown on my Tumblr feed, unearthlyvisions.tumblr.com , of my top five favorite and least favorite of the Vision's many looks over the years in various media.

I'm very excited to get things going, and I'll see you back here soon. Until then, stay heavy Visionaries!