Exclusive: Kurt Busiek Talks ‘American Gothic'


Writer Kurt Busiek may be best known for his unique perspective on the superhero genre, as exemplified by comics like Marvels and the ongoing Astro City. But the Eisner Award-winning scribe may soon redefine the way we look at urban legends and the supernatural as well – with his new series from Wildstorm, American Gothic (announced at last month's San Diego Comic-Con). I chatted last week with Busiek, and he gave me the details on what's likely to be the next hit book in the horror comics renaissance. Hit the jump to read what he had to say.

How would you describe American Gothic? Will it be dark fantasy, horror?

It probably has a fair amount of dark to it. At one point, I was asked what type of genre this falls in and I said, "Contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, dark fantasy, historical fantasy, secret history and horror." Which is kind of a spectrum, but the idea is that if there is this unseen magical history all around us there are going to be aspects of it that are light and whimsical and aspects of it that are dark and dangerous and horrific, and everything in between. If you're going to tell dramatic adventure stories, the darker and more dangerous parts are probably going to loom over a little bit larger than the [lighter] stories. There are horror elements for sure. There's a vampire in our second issue. There are ghosts, there are creatures beyond ordinary reality that prey on the living. I'm going to back up a second to say… When Neil Gaiman's Sandman series launched, they pitched it as a horror series because fantasy was not a saleable word in the comic industry. So the very first tagline for Sandman was "I'll Show You Terror in a Handful of Dust." But when you finish Sandman, it's not a horror series – it's got horror elements, but it's a fantasy. And by the time you're done with Sandman, fantasy isn't a dirty word in the comic industry anymore at all. So without trying to draw a comparison – because what Sandman does and what American Gothic does are completely different worlds – it will have horror elements to it rather in the way Sandman had horror elements to it. Full-blown straight-on horror stories are possible in that world, and stories that you look at and say, "Horror? That's not horror!" are also possible.

Will American Gothic be published as self-contained mini-series within an overarching series?

Our first six issues will be four single-issue stories and then a two-issue story; and then we'll do a six-issue storyline that will stand on its own. But on the other hand, the two-issue story that ends the first arc deals with stuff that is part of the background of the six-issue arc. So while each story can stand on its own just fine, they're in a shared-universe context, and there's stuff going on in the background that fits this stuff together, so some arcs will be serialized graphic novels – finish it, collect it, put it in hardback or paperback, and throw it on the shelf, and you've got a novel. Sometimes it will be a collection of short stories, sometimes it will be "Those guys in the background of issue six are getting their own arc here." Or these guys who had a story here are going to the back of this other guy's story. Much like the way I write Astro City, you will never have to read all the other stories to understand what is going on. Even if somebody who had their own six-issue arc two years ago comes in as a background character in a couple of issues in another arc – you would be able to read that arc on its own. But there will be a large and sprawling tapestry in which all this stuff takes place.