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CSBG Archive

Kurt Busiek’s Back Pages

Every day this month I will share with you the first (at least as far as I know) U.S. professional work by a notable comic book creator. Here is an archive of the creators who have been featured so far.

Today’s featured creator is Kurt Busiek!


Kurt Busiek is one of the most notable comic book writers working today, having done acclaimed runs on titles like Avengers, Thunderbolts, JLA, Superman, Untold Tales of Spider-Man plus his creator-owned series, including his most famous series, the long-running Astro City. Besides continuing Astro City and doing some work for Boom!, Busiek will soon be doing a brand-new series for Dynamite with Alex Ross (who Busiek famously worked with on Marvels) revitalizing a number of characters created by Jack Kirby, like Silver Star and Captain Victory.

Busiek’s first professional comic book work was a back-up story in March 1983’s Green Lantern Corps #162.

The Green Lantern, Liana, discovers a previously unknown planet in her space sector where a race of metallic creatures are living. The problem is that their magnetic field around their planet is going haywire, causing recurring bursts of lightning that are killing the inhabitants of the planet one by one. When Liana tries to help them, they rebuke her. She decides then to show them what the problem is…

Good work for a first comic book story!!


(Very Minor) Secrets Behind the Comics Revealed: Liana’s home planet, M’Elu, is named for country singer Emmylou Harris, and the title of the story, “The Price You Pay,” is a nod to Harris’s version of the Bruce Springsteen song of that name.

Oh, and Richard Howell and I consistently referred to the planet she saved as “The Planet of the Metal Lou Grants.”


Man, Kurt. That was a downer. Good, but still sad.

Great stuff!! How come this wasn’t collected in the first three volumes of “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps”? What a great story!

I was actually hoping Brian would put up a few scans from Kurt’s early “What If?” stories from the late 80s, which I actually thought were really good- especially the X-Men stories.

Ah, those were the days…clear storytelling, artists who could draw, a lead character who wasn’t a total sh*t, linear panels, bright primary colors…how I miss those kind of comics…

It was supposed to be in that volume, Carter — it was even solicited as being in it, but there was a last-minute film problem of some sort, and they ran the _other_ GLC story from that issue instead.

It was so last-minute, in fact, that the editorial records were all wrong, and Richard and I not only got contributor copies of the book, but we got royalty checks that should have gone to Todd Klein and Dave Gibbons, and that had to be straightened out after the fact.

Maybe it’ll get collected someday.

Kurt, as always, thanks for joining us.

That is really too bad to hear. It sounds like I’m going to have to go find it on eBay, yet again.

Any word on when the new Astro City ongoing is being launched?

Those smurfs…cannot stand them

This ish has an honored place in my long box. It sits right in front of all my “first appearances of the original
Thunderbolts” collection

Until now I’d thought Kurt’s JLA Paragon story was his first comics work…I still remember reading the JLA issue all those years ago and taking note of the writer’s name as I hadn’t seen it before and it was a superb done-in-one tale. Great to see this story – poor Liana. And very nice art.

Damn, the Green Lantern Union really should file a greivance. Where is the progressive discipline? John Stewart blew up a planet and didn’t get as severe a punishment. The Guardians are such dicks.

I’d name planets after Emmylou Harris, too.

This is a typical case where the writing makes the story work, not the art. Ivan Reis could’ve drawn this instead of Richard Howell (who did a solid job) and you’d still enjoy it because of the words and ideas.

cool always curious what Kurt first work was. love that he named the ;planet after emily lou harris. plus also liked the rock creatures are the lou grant people.

…Is that it? She gets fired for trying to do the right thing? And SCREAMED at, to boot! There’s no scene later of her case being reconsidered, or her given another chance? The whole thing was just a deconstruction of heroic intervention? If that is the case, then the story doesn’t work for me. OK, so Liana was wrong- she should’ve contacted the Guardians and let them decide- but the story (as seen here) puts her in a position many heroes would have ‘failed’, and The Guardians seem to have not taken that in consideration.

Btw, what is it with people writing the Guardians as if they were bunch of selfish, secretive dicks? This goes *completely* against their original characterization as wise, benevolent beings- as befits the Masters of an intergalactic Heroic Organization. With all the ‘revelations’ about them in later years you can only wonder why anybody stays in the Corps. I guess today’s writers are just too cynical to believe in such a thing as an honest leadership. Either that or they don’t know what else to do with the Guardians.

Sorry, Kurt, you’ve always been my favorite writer, and I treasure nearly every comic of yours I have -even the ones with less-than-happy stories- but if this is how Liana’s story ended, I would have regretted paying for that comic.

Um, I’m pretty sure that isn’t the full comic…
Also, is she intended to look like classic Marvel Girl?

That is how the story ends. The Guardians have been jerks for decades.

I believe this also qualifies as Artist Richard Howell’s first pro work, although his delightful Portia Prinz series (at least the original series) predates this. And I think his gift for facial expressions, particualry on those last tow pages really adds to the story.

That’s a damn fine first story, and one I read years ago. Didn’t realize until now that it was Kurt’s, let alone his first.

The Guardians’ original characterization was one-dimensional. It didn’t explain why Green Lanterns couldn’t tackle war, poverty, hunger, or pollution. The more recent characterization attempts to explain this obvious discrepancy.

I wouldn’t blame Busiek for going with the characterization of the times. But someone could write a sequel explaining the Guardians’ shifting values and giving Liana another hearing. Geoff Johns, are you listening?

Travis Pelkie

April 2, 2011 at 2:20 am

I was gonna say, watch out, here comes Geoff Johns’s 2014 GL event, based off this story. Liana’s back…AND SHE’S PISSED!!!

I assume the letterer is either Adam or Andy Kubert (I forget which one did lettering early on in their careers, or if both did), so that’s a lot of talent in one story.

I saw an early Busiek story, JLofA 232? I think, with a JSA crossover, iirc. I remember after I got it being happy to see an early Busiek work.

Nice to see people arguing about a story I wrote 29 years ago! A few responses:

I think Richard’s art was very important to making the story work — without his treatment of Liana’s facial expressions and body language, it’d be a much colder story.

I don’t really see it as her being fired because the Guardians are selfish, but because they’re keeping limits on themselves — they don’t want themselves or the GLC to become tyrants, so one of the rules is (or was at the time), “Don’t intervene if the people involved directly refuse your help.” That’s not selfishness on Oa’s part, that’s letting the locals retain self-determination. But the whole story was about putting her in a no-win situation (editor Ernie Colon wanted to change the title to “…Of Two Evils,” which I thought gave away the ending) and having her go with her heart over the rules was, to my mind, the right choice, but a costly one. She knew what she was doing, and chose to do it anyway, because saving as many lives as possible was ultimately more important to her than keeping her ring, wrenching though it was. Then she immediately went to report in and pay the price.

I think all my GLC stories are little morality plays about difficult choices; they’re easier to do in 7 pages than a big action piece.

And I think Liana did get reinstated at some point — at least, I have a memory of her showing up in the background in some Geoff-Johns-written GL crowd scene, though she’s never had another spotlight story. Hopefully, she won’t run into a choice that tough again.

Yes, her facial growths were inspired by Marvel Girl’s mask.

That’s Adam Kubert on letters.

And we’ll make an ASTRO CITY scheduling announcement just as soon as we’re sure we’re good to go — we want to make sure both books (AC and THE WITCHLANDS) will be monthly without scheduling disaster, and we haven’t been good at that historically, so we’re being extra-careful.

One of my favorite Green Lantern stories of the 80s, which I read way back when it came out! I remember being somewhat shocked by the Guardians’ judgment, but upon reflection it made a lot ot sense – it was truly a no-win scenario. I hereby nominate it as the Kobyashi Maru of Green Lantern stories.

I picked up the Tales of the GLC vol. 1 trade a couple of years ago hoping it’d be there alongside the other excellent stories from the era – Final Duties by Len Wein & Gil Kane, and of course all the excellent stories by Todd Klein & Dave Gibbons. I bought vol. 2 thinking it’d be there too, to no avail. Hopefully it’ll appear in a future volume.

Thanks to Kurt Busiek for the further insights on the story, as well as the story itself!

I find it interesting that Kurt’s name pops up in many, many letters pages, as he was a prolific letter writer before going pro.

Five years later, I’m wondering why nobody saw this as being about Star Trek?
It really talks to me about the Prime Directive, and the reasons for it.

Though I’m glad Sandor (above) brought up the Kobayashi Maru in response to the no-win situation.

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