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2016 Fred Van Lente Day Chat Transcript

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
2016 Fred Van Lente Day Chat Transcript

Brian Cronin: Welcome, everyone, to the Fred Van Lente Day chat!

Brian Cronin: Some quick Fred Van Lente Day links for everyone to take a look at when they get here.

Brian Cronin: An exclusive preview of “Comic Book History of Comics” #3!

Brian Cronin: And a cool look at some weird connections in comic book history, using a lot of awesome Ryan Dunlavey art to illustrate a bunch of them!

Fred Van Lente: I like how you added not one, not two, but THREE random Jack Kirby + Celebrities encounters to this list

Brian Cronin: When we started talking connections, I couldn’t help it. It’s amazing that he really does have these connections to these super famous people. And that doesn’t even count his CIA connections when his art was used for the fake movie that they were filming that was made into the film “Argo”!

Fred Van Lente: I will never get tired of looking at his expression here:


“If I get closer, will he bite me”

Brian Cronin: You would have thought that Zappa would have prepared Kirby for Alan Moore. It should have taught him that long hairs could be his friend.

Fred Van Lente: This is before Moore became a wizard and expending all that mana really drained him (I don’t know why I bust on Alan Moore so much, when I was 16 I basically wanted to be him).

Brian Cronin: Was “HerStory” something that you and Ryan considered having in the original “Comic Book History of Comics”?

Fred Van Lente: It was. “Comic Book History of Comics” is unusual for us in a lot of ways structurally because both “Action Philosophers” (and soon “Action Presidents”) are biography based. But “CBHoC” is structured more around particular ideas or genres or movements. So I could never figure out how to get “Women in Comics” in there as a story without it smacking of raw tokenism. Then when the book came out and the biggest criticism was “Where are the women?” I was like, well, that was a missed opportunity.

Brian Cronin: And there, you’re obviously hurt by the very nature of patriarchal history.

Fred Van Lente: Yeah, exactly.

Brian Cronin: When IDW said they wanted to bring back the book I realized this was my chance to right that wrong.

Wayne Hotu: I watched “Carol” for the first time the other week… I thought it was great. I think I heard about Patricia Highsmith doing comics, but not which ones

Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I need to see “Carol.” I am on a big Patricia Highsmith kick right now as a result of doing that story. Tore through
“Talented Mr. Ripley,” and halfway through “Strangers on a Train” which I don’t like nearly as much. But then I think I’ll do “Price of Salt” (which was made into “Carol”).

Brian Cronin: I’m fascinated by how she was able to be so ruthless with her own history. Just excising the part of her past she didn’t want to discuss anymore. “If I said it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen.”

Fred Van Lente: Yeah. Highsmith, by all accounts (particularly her girlfriends’), was a real character. It’s not hard to see how she could really get into the mindset of a sociopath like Ripley. The info in the Patricia Highsmith piece comes mostly from “The Talented Miss Highsmith,” a good if rather … elliptically written biography. The author actually talked to Timely editor Vince Fago, and that’s how we know about this disastrous date with Stan Lee.

Wayne Hotu: The “Comic Book History of Comics” “HerStory” format kind of reminds me of those old Big Books that… Vertigo? Paradox Press? used to come out with… where they devote a page to a topic/person.

Fred Van Lente: The Paradox Press Big Books were a big influence! I have almost all of them on my shelf. Geez, maybe I should try and complete a collection of that. I’ve already lost interest in bobbleheads.

Wayne Hotu: Which other famous women will you cover?

Fred Van Lente: Highsmith is #3, we do Nell Brinkley in #1, Tarpe Mills in #2. Jackie Ormes is in #4.

Dennis Calero: Give us your top reasons that you love Dennis Calero.

Fred Van Lente: Why I love Dennis Calero:
1. He joins my live chat.
2. His “Six-pack”
3. I can’t remember

Dennis Calero: Airplane vodka bottles come in 6 packs

Fred Van Lente: “My abs look like airplane vodka bottles” was my opening line to girls in college.

Brian Cronin: When “Generation Zero” was being previewed, one of the hooks for it was “Archie Meets Authority”. If you had to write an “Archie” Comic, which one would you go for? You better say “Jughead.”

Fred Van Lente: “The Shield”. “Vic Mackey Infiltrates Riverdale”

Fred Van Lente: Sure, Jughead, I guess?

Brian Cronin: Good, I got the answer I wanted. Let’s close this chat down now!

Fred Van Lente: My grandfather had this cabin by the lake in Holland, MI and he had all these comics in a box up in the attic where we had to sleep. There were a lot of 1970s DC stuff, some real gems like “Brave and the Bold.” But then my dastardly older cousins stole them all for their personal collection. All that were left were the “Archies.” I learned a lot about Archie during that long, sad, hot summer. But in my mind he makes me think…of failure. [END SCENE] [APPLAUSE]

Brian Cronin: Hey, 1970s “Archie” comics had some great work in them. Frank Doyle, Dan DeCarlo, Samm Schwartz, George Gladir, some great creators on the books back then.

Fred Van Lente: Actually, no, “Betty and Veronica” are pretty cool. I like the idea of doing a whole comic about two high school girls trying to backstab each other. My first meeting with the editor it would be like: “Look, they brought back Bucky back, why can’t Betty FINALLY kill Veronica? I mean you know she wants it. Or maybe Veronica can kill Betty? I know: PHONE POLL! LET THE READERS DECIDE!!”

Dennis Calero: What about a “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane” type scenario?

Wayne Hotu: I’ve always been Team Veronica… why are so many other people wrong?

Fred Van Lente: I think I always liked Betty just because Veronica’s wealth is slightly intimidating.

Dennis Calero: I prefer Veronica because Betty’s poverty is crap.

Fred Van Lente: “Mr. Dennis Lodge”

Brian Cronin: The best character is clearly…Glenn Scarpelli, from “One Day at a Time”!


Brian Cronin: His father, Henry Scarpelli, was a long time “Archie” artist, so Glenn would appear in the comics when he became kind of sort of famous in the early 1980s.


Fred Van Lente: I hope Reggie and Archie kick that guy’s ass.

BikeTodd: Fred, you’ve worked for a lot of different companies just in the past year, is there a favorite among them?

Fred Van Lente: My lawyers tell me that it is bad business practice to name a favorite client on a chat forum that will later be posted on a public blog like “Comics Should Be Good.” But! Everybody’s got their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve worked for Boom, IDW, Dark Horse, Marvel, Valiant, Dynamite, and I’m working for most of those now and plan to keep doing so in the future. So they can’t be that bad, right?

Taimur Dar: I don’t suppose we’ll be seeing another Sebastian Greene mystery in the near future?


Fred Van Lente: No plans at present. I really liked how “Weird Detective” came together as a stand-alone trade paperback. Someone told me today the trade will be out in Feb 2017, so I am psyched for that.

Brian Cronin: Any plans for “Generation Zero” to cross over with any other Valiant titles?


Fred Van Lente: Generation Zero will remain in the wild, weird town of Rook, Michigan for the foreseeable future. I imagine they’ll be involved in “Harbinger Wars 2” (since they debuted in the original “Harbinger Wars”) but that’s not until 2018.

ZKrishef: Greetings, sir! I just wanted to say that I’m going to be reviewing Slapstick for a website called Critical Writ. I’m incredibly excited to review it. Everything about it looks marvelous. Have a wonderful day!

Fred Van Lente: Thanks! Reilly, Diego and I have such a great time doing that, I feel almost guilty.

Brian Cronin: Tell us something about this…Slapstick, that you speak of.


Fred Van Lente: Slapstick was named “Wizard Magazine”‘s Best New Character of…I want to say 1992? Slapstick is a living toon superhero, a kid from our world — well, the Marvel Universe — who gets transformed into Roger Rabbit, basically.

Dennis Calero: Isn’t there another Marvel cartooneqsue character? Tell me my mind, Fred Van Lente!

Mark Weisenberger Calise: I loved Slapstick.

Fred Van Lente: In our comic, he is a headcase who thinks he is a gritty, realistic superhero in the vein of the Punisher and tries to get work as a hero for hire but he ends up killing everyone because his cartoon physics actually horrible murder flesh and blood people.

Taimur Dar: I’m amazed Marvel let you do something involving Slapstick and his missing “dingus.”

Fred Van Lente: Like, I had never heard of Slapstick when Marvel asked me to do the book all I knew about him was literally:
1) He was like Who Framed Roger Rabbit was a hero
2) And he has no dick
So we kinda had to expand from there you know? In our comic crazed toons from Dimension Ecch invade Earth and only Slapstick can stop them because they’re only attacking New Jersey and no one else gives a shit. And…uhmmm…Ms Marvel is…uh…in space…yeah, she’s in space.

BikeTodd: Well, it is Jersey.

Dennis Calero: Is this something to do with Crossroads of Dimensions like in that Man-Thing thing with Howard the Duck and the hot chick!

Fred Van Lente: The Nexus of All Realities doesn’t play a role here but A.R.M.O.R., the inter dimensional defense agency I created for “Marvel Zombies 3,” does (they were first seen defending the Nexus in “Marvel Zombies 3”)

Fred Van Lente: In the first four issues of “Slapstick” alone we have Bro-Man Master of the Multiverse, the Taurs (My Little Pony/Smurf centaurs) and WAR D.O.G.S., America’s Best Friend.

Brian Cronin: Like Dennis mentioned, will we see Madcap meet Slapstick at all? That would be an epic battle, much like Jesus vs. Socrates.

Dennis Calero: Madcap! Thanks, Brian, I thought I was going crazy!

Fred Van Lente They made Madcap into Deadpool’s arch-nemesis (which I think is a pretty good choice). So I think, if anything, he’s a tad over-saturated at just this moment, believe it or not.


Albert Ching: Madcap being overexposed is probably the most surprising thing to happen in 2016.

Dennis Calero: Yes. Madcap is definitely the most SURPRISING thing this year (COUGH COUGH)

Fred Van Lente: So yeah, buy “Slapstick,” it’s amazing, and there’s no movie attached to it so it’s not exactly going to burn up the sales charts.

p_keely: You have had a varied career in genres. Is there a genre you want to try?

Fred Van Lente: I’ve been doing a lot of mysteries a lot lately. My first prose novel, “Ten Dead Comedians,” will be out in July (random plug). So I’m hoping to do more of those. I love historical fiction. I had a great time with Dennis doing our Shanghai story in “Assassins Creed: Templars.” That’s a fun period of history.

Mark Belktron: Who would win in a fight, Jesus of Nazareth or Socrates?

Fred Van Lente: Mark, Jesus came back from the dead and Socrates didn’t, so I think you have your winner right there.

Dennis Calero: Even Jesus from 169th street would kick Socrates’ ass.

Mark Belktron: That is such a good answer. Thank you, Fred.

BikeTodd: Is there planned number of issues for “Generation Zero”? There has been some grumbling from the Valiant faithful over the apparent sudden end to series.

Fred Van Lente: In this instance, the fans’ fears are well-founded, looks like “Generation Zero” will only last two storyarcs. But there are two good storyarcs and I’ll be able to wrap the storyline the way I want.

RyanDunlavey: Happy Fred Van Lente Day, everybody! I am just here to let you know that Fred’s latest “Action Presidents” script did NOT make me tear up in the dentist chair yesterday. ALL LIES!

Fred Van Lente: Kind words from super-cartoonist Ryan Dunlavey!

Dennis Calero: Hey, it’s the fall me!

RyanDunlavey: Gotta go help my kid with his homework. Give him hell, Dennis!

Dennis Calero: On it!

Fred Van Lente: Yeah, that was the Theodore Roosevelt one, looking to see Ryan tear that one up.

Dennis Calero: Is there one on James Buchanan?

Fred Van Lente: Buchanan appears in “Abraham Lincoln,” does that count?

Dennis Calero: Sure, why not?

Dennis Calero: How did you feel about the musical portrayal of Hamilton? From the John Adams biography, he seems like a dick. What’s your verdict? Hero or dick?

Fred Van Lente: Oh, dick. Definitely dick. But he’s way less of a dick than Jefferson. Hamilton was OUR dick. “The People’s Dick.”

Brian Cronin: Okay, rank Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison and Hamilton in dickery.

Fred Van Lente: Well, I’m not going to lie I don’t know too much about Monroe and Madison. Monroe was kind of Jefferson’s toady. Madison basically wrote the Constitution and eventually outgrew Jefferson’s shadow. Hamilton was a horndog and pretty arrogant, to the point where not apologizing to Burr when he really was kind of a dick to Burr literally got him killed. Jefferson was a racist who wrote “All men are created equal”, go figure that one out. Adams was not really someone you would want to hang out with because he was pretty headstrong and full of himself, but on the other hand he didn’t own any human beings and actively try to keep them in slavery. And despite Jefferson having written the Declaration, the intellectual foundation of the Revolution really came from Adams.

So Adams: Least Dickish, Jefferson: Most Dickish, Hamilton and Madison: Tied for second-least Dickish and Monroe= Just meh. I expect this to be a listicle on CBR tomorrow, Brian.

Wayne Hotu: Which one did William Daniels play in that movie?

Brian Cronin: Adams

Mark Weisenberger Calise: William Daniels played Adams in the original Broadway cast of “1776” too, I believe

Brian Cronin: Yep.

Fred Van Lente: I saw Brent Spiner play Adams in “1776.” He was rad

Dennis Calero: Brent Spiner should have chosen one night to play Data playing Adams.

Brian Cronin: That would have been too much awesomeness for the audience to handle

Fred Van Lente: “SIT DOWN, JOHN, SIT DOWN”
“All right”
(Data sits)

Fred Van Lente: I really like “Hamilton,” but it’s no “1776,” partly because it’s a straight-up biopic and not about this very specific drama of trying to get the Declaration out. So it’s a lot more … flabbier is the wrong word, but because a guy’s life story can’t be as dramatically structured.

Brian Cronin: Absolutely agreed. “Hamilton” is a great musical. I just like “1776” even better.

Fred Van Lente: Seconded.

Brian Cronin: How do you and Reilly write Slapstick? Co-plot and then you script?

Fred Van Lente: Reilly and I go to a bar and drink for like a sold two hours. I write out what we talked about semi-legibly on a single piece of paper. I tear off this piece of paper and give it to him and he types it for our editors because I was, like, “If you want to be co-writer you’ve got to like actually type some shit.”

Brian Cronin: Seems fair

Fred Van Lente: Marvel approves/disapproves/comments. Reilly draws out rough layouts — they’re called “storyboards” in the credits but they’re really more like regular comics thumbnails. And then Diego pencils and inks over them. Once all the pencils are done, I do lettering script that Reilly approves/comments on before I give to Marvel. So it’s kind of like regular Marvel Style just with a breakdown/co-writer component (Reilly)

Brian Cronin: It sounds a bit like how Giffen and DeMatteis did “Justice League International.” Although I think Giffen plotted solo.

Fred Van Lente: Yeah, Giffen/DeMatteis on “JLI” was my inspiration.

Brian Cronin: Well, it certainly worked out for a hilarious comic when Giffen and DeMatteis did it.

Fred Van Lente: I am super happy with it. I hope people check it out.

Taimur Dar: I know before “Slapstick,” Reilly did an “Incredible Hercules” story. Was that first time you worked together or was there something else before that?

Fred Van Lente: You know, I think that was the first time, the Thorcules arc of “iHerc.” He lives nearby and we became fast pals after that

Fred Van Lente: Wow, that hour flew by … last licks anybody?

Brian Cronin: Plug “Action Presidents”!


Fred Van Lente: I will plug “Action Presidents” on the THIRTEENTH Fred Van Lente Day chat because it will not be out until Presidents Day 2018. But it will be glorious and awesome. All four hardback books of it.

Dennis Calero: Plug the “Templar” trade!!!

Fred Van Lente: “Assassins Creed Templars: Black Cross” is 5 issues of Jazz Age Shanghai mayhem by Mr. Dennis Calero and myself currently available from Titan. It’s great historical adventure/mystery in the AC world, check it out.

Brian Cronin: Plug other stuff!

Fred Van Lente: “Generation Zero” is currently on-going from Valiant (at least for the next five months).

Fred Van Lente: Coming soon: “Z-Nation: Black Summer,” written by the show’s co-creator Craig Engler and me from Dynamite not too far into 2017.
A NEW Marvel project that they wouldn’t let me announce today because they didn’t want it to get lost in the X-Rollout (which made sense to me)
“Ten Dead Comedian” A Murder Mystery from Quirk Books next July.
“Weird Detective” trade paperback from Dark Horse in 2017.
That’s it … I think!

Brian Cronin: Plug something for Crystal!

Fred Van Lente: Come see my wife Crystal Skillman’s new play “Open” in February in NYC!

Fred Van Lente: Dennis is writing/drawing “Assassins Creed Templars” right now. Go get it!

Dennis Calero: Thanks, Fred!

Brian Cronin: Thanks, Fred for another awesome Fred Van Lente Day chat!

Fred Van Lente: Thanks, Brian. And most importantly….thanks, Glenn Scarpelli. Wherever you are.

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