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Busiek Discusses Arrowsmith, Part Two

Posted: Thursday, June 19
By: Tim O'Shea

In the second part of this Q&A with Kurt Busiek, SBC delves deeper into what he’s aiming for with Arrowsmith (the Cliffhanger miniseries set to launch July 16), as well as what makes his job so rewarding, among other things. Be sure to go here if you missed out on part one of this interview yesterday.

Tim O’Shea: How much of a character/universe bible have you and Carlos Pacheco developed for the series? Or are you waiting and seeing how readers react to the first few issues before mapping the Arrowsmith universe out?

Kurt Busiek: We've literally mapped out the entire northern hemisphere -- those maps will be showing up in the book early on -- and much of the southern hemisphere, and worked out history in general back to the fall of Atlantis and more specifically from 800 AD to the early 20th century. Much of this has been done with the considerable assistance of Lawrence Watt-Evans, who's serving as an advisor on the book and making sure we don't make too many dumb mistakes with out alternate history.

But we've worked out a ton of stuff, and are hoping we'll be doing Arrowsmith for a good long time, so we can explore it all and see what exotic adventures we can get Fletcher into.

TO: This is the second teen as pilot series you've done (that I can think of, I'm sure you may have done more)-with Shockrockets being the other. The power of flight seems to fancy you, be it in superheroes or through planes. What is the appeal for you as a writer?

KB: I suspect that if I could answer that, I wouldn't write about it as often as I do. But c'mon, isn't flight just a compelling idea? Everyone has flying dreams, it's deep in the human psyche. And the idea of soaring above the clouds, of banking and swooping like a bird -- it's exciting, it's visual, it's fascinating. Wouldn't you like to be able to fly?

I sure would. But at least I can let my characters have the fun ... and the danger.

TO: This is not the first time you've worked with the art team of Carlos Pacheco & Jésus Meriño. Over time, how has your creative process evolved over time from your perspective?

KB: I think it's more unconscious than anything else. As we do more work together, I get a better sense of how Carlos interprets my stories, so that changes the way I write them, to accommodate what's worked best in the past. I love Carlos's drawing, I trust him to tell the story and to bring the characters to life, and I think he's one of the best there is at making a fictional world feel real, so I'm thrilled that he enjoys my stuff enough to want to work with me on an ongoing basis. And Jésus is an accomplished penciler in his own right, which gives him an illustrative strength to bring to finishing Carlos's work.

We're actually hoping, at some point, to do a special or two that Jésus could draw, to show off to U.S. readers how good he is with a pencil as well as pen and brush.

TO: Given that this is a whole new universe you're playing in, have any other characters stood out (other than Fletcher) in the development, making you think: "Hey this person or place could be a miniseries in and of itself."

KB: So far, it's been more moments in history than other characters -- I'd love to do a special about how the war started, for instance, or about the Ottoman invasion of Austria, unleashing genies on Europe. Or on the fall of Atlantis, or the early experiences of wizards in court life just after the Peace of Charlemagne was signed, opening up the borders between the mundane world and the creatures of magic. But I'm sure as we go along that we'll encounter characters who might have a story or two of their own to tell.

TO: How much fun is it to get up in the morning and have a choice of different universes to write (from Arrowsmith to Conan to DC to Astro City to DC/Marvel [at the same time no less]). In your younger days, writing letters in the letter columns and being a fan, did you ever imagine that you would at one point you would be having this much fun? (You are having fun, aren't you?)

KB: Having a blast, thanks. I don't generally have a choice of universes to work in each morning -- I have the current assignment, and I'll go on to the next when the job at hand is done. But it's a thrill to be able to tell stories for a living, and to make up the kind of worlds I used to read raptly about, whether they're worlds of superheroes of fantasy or myth or science fiction or whatever. It's a constant delight that readers want to go where I want to take them, and I've got so many places to go yet, both in terms of worlds not yet fully explored and new worlds not yet encountered, that I hope it never ends.