Happy Fred Van Lente Day, everyone!
Tuesday, we had a chat with Fred Van Lente and Crystal Skillman. Here is a transcript of that chat!
Brian Cronin: Welcome, everybody, to the 2018 Fred Van Lente Day Chat!
Fred Van Lente: WHAT UP NEW YORK CITY?!?
Crystal Skillman: Hi Guys!
Zach: Mr. Van Lente, I love your writing. I'm still a huge fan of your Slapstick run. Reviewing it was an honor. I wish it could have continued. My apologies if I sound rude or annoying. Have an excellent day!
FVL: Hey, no, my pleasure!
CS: Slapstick is one of my personal faves of Fred's. Just love it. Love hearing this Zach!
FVL: At one point, Marvel talked about relaunching it, because they liked it. Reilly and I talked about doing it as SLAPSTICK: ASSASSIN where he tries becoming a hitman and has to kill some ridiculously impossible to kill target (like Thanos, or Galactus, or whatever) and each issue he fails miserably. But the higher ups put the kibosh on it, as they sometimes do.
Zach: That would be incredible. There was a recent Deadpool: Assassin miniseries, so I can dream..."Slapstick Fools The Marvel Universe!"
BC: While we wait for some others to join us, why don't you guys tell us a little bit about Eat Fighter.
FVL: EAT FIGHTER is the Webtoon series Crystal and I do with the great artist Fernando Pinto. Here is the link.
CS: Eat Fighter is so fun - it for sure lives in the world of Slapstick too!
FVL: It's basically FIGHT CLUB meets FOOD NETWORK: A world set in the underground world of illegal competitive eating!
CS: Yup - all the goodies!
FVL: Also, there are psychic tapeworms. And fast food zombies.
FVL: Pirate BBQ operations. You know, the usual.
Zach: I just subscribed to it on WebToon!
FVL: Thanks, Zach!
BC: Any resemblance between the lead character and Crystal Skillman is, of course, incidental and, I would suspect, libelous
FVL: Believe it or not, to my knowledge Fernando had no idea what Crystal looked like before designing the character...!
BC: That's fascinating, Fred.
CS: Yes, it is true re: Missy & Me
FVL: The character description was "a 30 year old who dresses like a 12 year old." And so, you know, Crystal is a natural model for that
CS: Yes, that is the screen direction/action description of my life ...
AdamReynold1: Fred do you have any more upcoming work with Valiant?
FVL: Hey Adam! Short answer: Yes! It should be out this summer.
Zach: YAY, more Valiant work!
FVL: I am pretty pysched.
FVL: I am headed into the offices this week to talk about other things too, so there may be more in the offing.
AR: Thanks, Fred, cant wait to read it, your stories are always good
FVL: Thanks Adam!
Zach: Crystal, may I please ask you a question? Did you write the mock-Disney song for the Slapstick comic? Your name sounds familiar.
CS: Yes Zach I did! I am the bookwriter of a few musicals - one Mary and Max (based on the claymation film) premiered at Theater Calgary this fall!
Zach: That was a wonderful song.
CS: Thank you!! I LOVED writing it. We talked a LOT about it. I went off Reilly Brown's awesome panels!
FVL: Crystal also wrote the song for Dr. Doom & friends when Human Torch went to the All-Musicals Universe in MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR. (That's a deep cut)
Zach: I need to find and read that!
CS: Oh yes "Bow Down"
FVL: I believe it was MAFF #25....
CS: It is quite funny - and also at the time a BIT of a dig on the Lion King song "Chow Down"
CS: We should do a musical episode of Eat Fighter ...
Zach: "I chewed a morsel of meals gone by..."
Zach: -tomatoes are thrown at me-
CS: Oh La La! Les Eat Fighter! I love it!
BC: That IS a cool aspect of WebToons, that you can work music into them so well
Zach: "One timer more..."
CS: Oh very cute! Lovely Lobsters - making up a stew!
BC: The Marvel Adventures years were amazing. So much creativity between you, Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin and others on those titles. The very first Fred Van Lente Day celebrated one of those Marvel Adventures issues, I believe!
CS: Oh yes. You know, villains singing ... YOU CAN'T GO WRONG!!
Zach: Time to put the Marvel Adventures books on hold at the library!
CS: Love those Marvel years too - yes indeed - so much creativity!
FVL: Yup yup and Marvel still reprints them too.... royalties.... (makes Homer drooling noise)
Zach: Back when I was first reading Spider-Man comics, I would grab as many collections from the library as possible, including Marvel Adventures.
FVL: Yeah, that was a fun series. MARVEL ADVENTURES IRON MAN, too. I did the entire run of that.
Zach: Another one to add to my list!
Zach: I feel like I remember reading a Thor story that had thinly-veiled human versions of Beaker and Bunsen, but I can't remember what it was called.
FVL: I am pretty sure that was THOR: THE MIGHTY AVENGER. That was by Roger Langbridge and Chris Samnee
BC: As a quick aside, Crystal, during the Mary and Max opening stuff, I would see a bunch of your stuff on Facebook and my wife was like, "Oh, Amy Rogers! I went to school with her!" Theater is a small world.
CS: It is such a small world! LOL yes to facebook too - Amy is WONDERFUL she did the first workshop of the piece at Pace new Musicals!
CS: Pace is terrific - so glad your wife went there!
BC: She went to SDSU back when Amy was a graduate student, I believe.
CS: Oh, cool! SDSU is fantastic.
BC: Any future plans with the Weapon X characters, Fred?
FVL: Oh, you meant for me.
BC: Yes, for you!
BC: Darn, so now the chat can't have any "Will obscure mutant character X be appearing in Weapon X?"questions. Which are the best kind of chat questions.
FVL: When I was doing the CBR X-Position column it was invariably the same questions: "When is X coming back?" from hte people who were in love with the same half-dozen obscure mutant characters.
FVL: One guy was obsessed with Mimic, a character who literally died in his first appearance and never came back
FVL: And another loved Sage, who was I guess was the Hellfire Club secretary, but in a costume. Or something.
Zach: I like the Exiles version of Mimic.
FVL: Writing Sabretooth was a lot of fun. And I always enjoy working with Greg. But I have never been the hugest X-Men fan.
BC: I think you should go post on the CBR Forums to go share your views about Sage
FVL: Brian, is there are a way to make the sound of crickets chirping on the CBR forums. That would aptly sum up my views on Sage
Zach: Is it possible that Valiant might have some Jewish characters in the future? I ask because I'm Jewish and I thought I might as well ask because I'm wearing a Chanukah sweater.
Nick Kaufman: I second Zach's demand for more Jewish characters!
FVL: Zach, are there not any Jewish Valiant characters? I guess that's possible...
FVL: Maybe I will reveal some previously existent Valiant characters to BE Jewish in an upcoming issue! (You know, like they did with Ben Grimm)
Zach: I'm not sure about Valiant, but I know that to my eternal despair, Archie Comics, Inc. doesn't have any Jewish characters in the comics, in the seventy-plus year history.
CS: Wait what - about Archie - that's crazy!
Zach: Sadly, it's true.
FVL: Considering Archie was founded by three Jewish men that's a bit surprising.
Zach: Even in the new Archie: 1941 miniseries (so far), there's no Jewish representation.
FVL: But I mean wasn't the first openly Jewish character in comics basically Kitty Pryde who came along in the late 1970s?
NK: In my heart, Veronica Lodge is Jewish.
FVL: Riverdale is the center of the Diaspora: They are all Jewish
Zach: Technically, there's a picture made for a fan showing Archie wearing a kippah, but considering he's never been shown celebrating any Jewish holidays in the past, it was just for that particular fan.
BC: Why don't you tell us a little bit about your most recent novel, Fred, about the deadly world of...SAN DIEGO COMIC CON!
NK: I just finished Fred's recent novel, Brian, and enjoyed it!
FVL: Thanks, Nick!
FVL: Why Brian, I believe you are referring to THE CON ARTIST, out this past summer from our friends at Qurik Books. Here is the link for it.
FVL: It's about a famous comic book artist who is accused of murdering his editor, and he has the rest of San Diego to figure out who really did it before he's hauled off to jail
FVL: I like to call it a "geek noir"
FVL: A term that has yet to catch on for some reason
NK: I think it's even better than 10 DEAD COMEDIANS.
FVL: Yeah, I'd agree, thanks!
CS: I love it!
FVL: 10 DEAD COMEDIANS is good too, but I do like CON ARTIST more.
NK: You are definitely in your element with THE CON ARTIST.
FVL: It was a lot of fun to draw on my 10-plus years of attending cons as well as cramming as many of the true stories as I could that my friends told me into the book.NK: Although I discovered that both 10 DEAD COMEDIANS and THE CON ARTIST both take place in the same universe. The Van Lenteverse, if you will.
FVL: Indeed. A character from 10DC appears in TCA. Very briefly though.
FVL: If I do a 3rd novel with Quirk, I'll have to get characters from both 10DC and TCA in there.
CS: So good. There is a Skillman cross over in Con Artist too ... the Dante's Fire anime! It comes from my play Geek!
NK: Oh, I didn't know that, Crystal! So cool!
FVL: Oh yeah that's right! We've got a bunch of worlds colliding there.
CS: Yup!! Lots of good TRIVIA!!!
NK: Even more collisions: My 2013 novel DYING IS MY BUSINESS contains a McGuffin called The Van Lente Box!
FVL: It does not!
NK: Does too!
FVL: Ha, that's great. Actually now I think you telling me about that once...!
NK: You may not remember, but I even asked you for permission to do that!
FV: I was probably drunk. That's okay, it still counts.
BC: I imagine Fred, outraged, turning down permission
FVL: HOW DARE YOU SULLY THE VAN LENTE NAME WHICH IS ALSO A HOLIDAY
FVL: AT LEAST ON CBR.COM
NK: Or maybe I named it after your sister, Gretchen...
BC: I saw Ryan Dunlavey has an awesome Seduction of the Innocent print up for sale the other day.
BC: That reminds me that you should share your Steve Ditko story, Fred! The people want to hear it!
FVL: In essence, a Cerebus fan asked I send me and Ryans COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMICS floppy issues to Dave Sim, and I was like sure.
FVL: A few weeks back I got letter -- not an email, Dave doesn't do com-pew-ters -- from Sim in which he said he sent the issue about the history of Marvel to Steve Ditko at his famously in-the-phone-book studio in Manhattan.
FVL: (Dave had been corresponding with Steve about unrelated matters.)
FVL: I was like, huh, okay, and then a few weeks after that I get an email from Sim in which there's a photocopied letter from Ditko in which he basically says that it was a "personal fantasy."
FVL: In a story, mind you, that was largely quoted directly from Ditko's own writings.
FVL: So that was odd.
FVL: But on top of that Sim says that in order for us to keep corresponding I need to sign this on-line petition that says I think he isn't a misogynist.
FVL: Or he would refuse to keep corresponding with me.
FVL: He said that normally he doesn't talk to anyone who doesn't sign the position but I was off the hook because he contacted me initially, see.
FVL: So the correspondence ended there because I am too lazy to write people letters
FVL: And I kinda think Dave Sim is a misogynist
FVL: But I got cool Steve Ditko hate mail out of it
BC: Tell us when we can see the next Action Presidents and which president it is featuring!
FVL: Yeah, HarperCollins is rereleasing all four of them on the same day in 2020 but now in full color.
FVL: Vols 3 & 4 will feature Teddy Roosevelt and JFK, respectively.
FVL: Line art on Teddy is done, and Ryan is finishing JFK pencils now.
FVL: (Or he is IF HE KNOWS WHAT'S GOOD FOR HIM)
BC: Why is Roosevelt best known by Teddy Roosevelt? When he didn't like the nick name?
FVL: I assume it was because of the Teddy Bear.
BC: I guess you can't control the narrative of your own nickname
BC: Unlike Danger Cronin, of course
FVL: Wait, I thought it was Brian Danger
FVL: So mixed-up
BC: Shit, it's already gotten away from me!
CS: I'm C-Skillz
FVL: Also, the more powerful you are I think the more the masses like to put you in your place with a diminutive nickname
BC: How much research goes into a typical Action Presidents, time-wise?
FVL: I'm not going to lie to you, Brian, we've been working on those books since, like 2014, and it's been over a year since I finished writing the last one. But I read a lot of stuff. Sixish books plus innumerable articles and web sites?
BC: Give us a taste of the most interesting fact about Roosevelt that you found in your research that might not be super well known!
FVL: Roosevelt... he had such a nutty life...
FVL: I mean, he has a river named after him in the Amazon Jungle that he (and his son) nearly died while exploring, that's not super-well known.
FVL: Random Teddy Roosevelt thing: I enjoyed THE ALIENIST tv show and I liked the guy who plays Roosevelt when he was Police Commissioner but I found it super-annoying that they never showed him wearing glasses. Like, Teddy had the shittiest eyesight. His eyes were to him what teeth was to Washington
BC: Anti-glasses heathens
CS: As a four eyes myself, this hurts me where I live
BC: You, Crystal and I are all in the four eyes club. I will mock my wife for only sometimes wearing glasses
CS: Yup we're like SPIDERS
AR: What advice you'll give to an upcoming writer?
FVL: I would say start small, with short stories, comics or otherwise, and just make sure you finish first drafts of things -- don't abandon halfway through for the shiny new thing.
FVL: Sometimes you don't know what something is about until you've finished it.
AR: thanks, good advice lol
FVL: And, since I tell everybody else this, I will point out that Greg Pak and I did a whole book about making comics that distills our collective wisdom from conceiving of ideas to marketing your work. You can see that book here.
CS: Adam, I was just in your shoes when starting to write comics! Every time you enter a new medium, you're using new ways to write dramatic action and it takes a bit - but makes ALL our writing better. And I really love it. No joke at all - I found Fred's book with Greg - Make Comics Like the Pros SO HELPFUL for writing comics. Here is the link.
CS: Fred, I just wrote that LOL! MARRIED
FVL: Ha ha, Crystal typed the same thing as me and we're in the same room!
BC: I would like to recommend this book that Fred and Greg Pak did. You can find it here. It should help you, as well.
CS: It's great! It's like having a Fred Van Lente in your house!
CS: Oh wait I do have one ....
FVL: Soft sell.
CS: But the book has pictures
BC: And Fred, as we all know, is visually nonexistent. So the pictures are an improvement on the fred experience
FVL: I am more Concept than Matter.
AR: Thanks, will hunt that book down
FVL: I'm also extremely noisy
CS: Fred does have a nickname at theater parties that I attend ...
FVL: "Screaming Void"
FVL: "Howling Void"?
CS: As many people want to meet him but he's there for just a bit or they miss him - so Snuffleupagus
BC: Okay, what else do you guys have to promote?
FVL: I'm in a quiet period at the moment. I am working on a bunch of cool stuff that's either not announced, not solidified, or not coming out until 2020!
FVL: EAT FIGHTER, as of next Saturday at midnight, will be halfway through its first season, so definitely check that out.
CS: SO CLOSE but lots of fabulous Cliff hangers - been getting a great reaction!
FVL: And a new subscriber as of this web chat! You are a miracle worker, Brian Danger.
BC: Anything else you'd like to promote, Crystal?
CS: I have a new play called Open that'll be announced very soon! It'll be at the Tank Theater running all of June - a co-production with All for One Theater Company - it is a magic show without magic - featuring one performer - a lady magician. Really beautiful - about love.
CS: And Mary and Max the musical has a second production that'll be announced soon.
BC: Oh, that's awesome!
CS: Thank you!___________________________________________________________________________
Nat Towsen: Hi Fred, am I late?
FV: Hey Nat! Only by 58 minutes But glad you're here!
NT: Just wanted to ask if you're ever going to write an Action Comedians series and if so, will I be issue #1 or like 3 or 4?
FVL: Hey, you know, that is a great idea. THE COMIC BOOK HISTORY OF COMEDY
BC: THE COMIC HISTORY OF COMICS
NT: I would absolutely buy that.
FVL: Vol 3? "The Lenny Bruce Years"
NT: The Bowery Boys just did a fantastic episode about the history of the NYC comedy scene (I am biased—I helped them research it)
FVL: Crystal and I just went to Eastville, the new comedy club on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, it was excellent
NT: Oh I haven't been to the new location!
FVL: It's a really great club!
FVL: Yeah, I love those guys -- I met Greg on your show! Nat does a great podcast called DOWNTOWN VARIETY that both Crystal and I have been guests on.
BC: Greg Pak?
FVL: Greg Young, of The Bowery Boys New York City History Podcast.
BC: Oh, gotcha. That makes a lot more sense
FVL: Greg Pak I met at the old Lobo's on 5th Ave when my editor wanted me to co-write HULK with them except Hercules was starring in it for some reason
NT: I met Greg Pak at NYCC when I was buying a book about how to make comics. Can't remember what it was called
FVL: I believe it was called BRIAN DANGER.
Call back in a call back! BOOM! CRUSHING IT
BC: We just need Nat to put in a link to the book to tie it all together
NT: Sorry, guys. I ran out of links. Look, I'm a freelancer. I'm on a budget
BC: It is better this way. It teases the audience, make them expect everything will be tied up in a bow, but that's not life
FVL: Crystal has declared it to be Happy Hour and is going to the wine store
BC: Happy Hour is the official end of FVL Day chat time
FVL: I have requested my traditional Fred Van Lente Day Malbec
FVL: Yeah, this was fun as always!
BC: Thanks for coming, Fred, and the addition of Crystal this year really classed up the joint!