Wednesday 2 July 2014

Astro City: Confession Hardcover (Homage, 1997): Signed Graphic Novel by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross

NB: Linked in Friday's Forgotten Books, 4/7/14.

So then. Where was I before I drifted off on that protracted Patricia Highsmith tangent? Ah yes: signed books. Still got plenty of those from my collection to blog about, including a graphic novel or two. Like this one:

Astro City: Confession by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson, with cover artwork by Alex Ross, published in hardback by Homage/Image in 1997. This is the second collection of Busiek, Anderson and Ross's still-ongoing – it's now published by DC/Vertigo (and I'm still buying it) – superhero comic book series, which is a kind of extended love letter to the form and an extension of Busiek's preoccupation with the superhero fable as related from the perspective of the common man (or woman) (see also Marvels, 1994, which was illustrated by Ross). The main story collected within still stands as perhaps the best of the entire Astro City run, an exploration of the Batman myth as told from the point of view of a boy sidekick – one Brian Kinney, who arrives in Astro City full of hope and soon finds himself fighting crime alongside the mysterious Confessor.

I must have bought this copy – possibly in London's Forbidden Planet – not long after it was published, which would have been roundabout when I got back into comics after a ten-year break; limited to 1200 copies, the book is signed on the tip-in sheet by all three creators:

I have a particular reason for showing it off now, after all this time – other than it's signed and I've never blogged about it before – which I'll come to shortly, but it's worth dwelling a moment on the collectability of the thing. Unlike other collections of Astro City (including the first one, Life in the Big City), this edition marks the only time the Confession storyline has appeared in hardcover (to date). Accordingly it's quite hard to get hold of, at least affordably: the cheapest copy I can see online at present is north of £150. Of course, price often isn't necessarily a reliable indicator of anything other than the algorithms of Amazon Marketplace, but it does seem that over fifteen years on from publication the Confession hardcover remains an object of desire: witness these enthusiastic posts on it at The Next Great Adventure Blog! and The Alex Ross Collector, the latter of whom was kind enough to scan Alex Ross's jaw-dropping dust jacket design in its glorious entirety:

My other reason for showcasing the book right now is to do with the introduction, which was written by Neil Gaiman – not so much because of what Neil wrote, eloquent and insightful though it is as regards how stories can "mean more than they literally mean", but because Neil has been much on my mind of late. Actually I say "of late": he's been much on my mind for more than three years, i.e. the length of time that I've been editing a just-about-to-be-published (in the UK; it's been out in the US since late May) book called The Art of Neil Gaiman, a lavishly illustrated biography by Hayley Campbell, about which I'll be blogging very soon.


  1. I agree with you that this is the best Astro City storyline, which is saying something since for the most part Astro City is amazing.

    I don't read superhero comics much anymore (though I like other comics and devour anything Mike Mignola is involved in.) Busiek writes superhero stories with real heart. That's missing in most mainstream DC/Marvel titles.

  2. There are three comics that I don't miss: Astro City, Fables and Usaki Yojimbo. This is a VG story line, and perhaps it's time to reread it. Thanks for the review!

  3. I don't miss those titles either, unfortunately Fables is ending. But Usagi is coming back after too long of a break. This time he's fighting H.G. Wells's Martians.

    So it's a rabbit samurai against aliens.

  4. Re: Hayley Campbell's Neil Gaiman book: I would have congratulated you earlier if you had mentioned the book more often, but I thought you'd like to hear that it's more or less ubiquitous in bookstores here in New York. Looking forward to reading more about it.

  5. Thank you Matt – and thank you to all of you for the comments. I've just (re)posted something on The Art of Neil Gaiman, should you be interested.