On Thursday, we held a public chat with the man, the myth, the legend himself, Fred Van Lente. Here is the transcrpt from that chat!
Brian Cronin: Welcome to our chat with Fred Van Lente! Happy Van Lente Day everyone!
Fred Van Lente: Hello and welcome!
Brian Cronin: While we wait for some more chatters, let me take the time to promote a little web show called Drunk Art Love.
Fred Van Lente: I am familiar with the creator of this show. One Miss Crystal Skillman, award winning playwright. It is very, very funny, and has some great young actors in it.
The first episode is called “ARTpocalypse” so definitely check it out and watch it later. After our awesome chat, that is.
Brian Cronin: “Forget this chat, I want to watch some Drunk Art Love!”
Fred Van Lente: The episodes are 5 minutes each, so you conceivably watch the whole series thus far (3 of 5 have been released) and come back here for the rest of the chat. But please don’t. We are so lonely.
Brian Cronin: Here’s something I was wondering – your G.I. Joe run, was that your idea? Or was that concept part of their pitch to you?
Fred Van Lente: Meaning, was me doing GI Joe was my idea? No, after the success of The Comic Book History of Comics at IDW the folks there had the idea I’d make a good fit.
Brian Cronin: No, I know they approached you. What I mean was the “G.I. Joe as sort of reality stars” take on it, was that your idea?
Fred Van Lente: Oh, yes, that aspect of it was my idea. Up until that point the GI Joe team were a clandestine sort of Seal Team 6 in the universe. And I just thought that wasn’t taking advantage of cool things like a guy dressed in sailor cap named “Shipwreck.” Chuck Dixon had this storyline in the run leading up to mine that “outed” GI Joe by Cobra, Wikileaks-style. So I thought I’d run with that, that the Pentagon would be just like, screw it, if it’s out, let’s go ALL the way out and kind of treat them like media celebrities. I didn’t go as far with the idea as I was originally conceiving. Working with Hasbro and IDW was really cool. I did like a 2- or 3-page pitch document when they first brought me on, and both camps really liked it. Other than two or three times, they didn’t give me any notes. They just really trusted this take on the mythos and let me run with it. The only downside is ended up using up all the ideas I was really interested in within a year, and then the opportunity to do Magnus came up. My schedule wouldn’t let me do both so with much regrets to my friends at IDW I had to let Joe go.
Brian Cronin: That’s what I figured, but I was just wondering. You see some of that in your current Magnus run, as well, especially with your take on Leeja.
Fred Van Lente: Right, yeah. Leeja is an interesting case. In the original 60s series, she was the Damsel in Distress. With Leeja, the same with Betty Ross in “Hulk: Season One,” was to take the 60s “Girl” character and make her much more of an equal with the title character. When editor Nate Cosby and I were developing the world of “Magnus” and it became clear that there was going to be this oppressive dichotomy of robots as the dominant people in North Am, the idea of having Leeja as a human antagonist for Magnus, a “collaborator” if you will with the robots, became very compelling.
I also really like girls who can kick your ass and shoot things. That’s how I started my career, with a science fiction comic called “Tranquility.” So Leeja was a sort of a call back to that.
Brian Cronin: Mary-Maria definitely fits that bill, as well!
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, she definitely does. It was cool how much the fans and particularly the folks at Valiant took to her.
Brian Cronin: Reading the Resurrectionists in concert with your work on Archer and Armstrong, it seems as though your work often ties in with history. Is that just a general case where you’re simply interested in history so it ends up informing your work?
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I was thinking about the history thing the other day. It does get my juices pumping like nothing else.
Brian Cronin: It certainly shows in your work
Fred Van Lente: I don’t know if that says something deeply psychologically profound about me, or it’s just something I got fascinated by early on. If I choose to read something, it’s usually historical fiction or non-fiction. And a lot of my creator-owned stuff has the historical bent, and I love it. Just today I was tweaking dialogue for Admiral Horatio Nelson in TIMEWALKER #1 and I my first thought was “This so cool.” And then my next thought was “You are such a huge nerd what the f is wrong with you”
Ryan Dunlavey: Fred tell us about your awesome collaborators, who is your most favorite?!
Fred Van Lente: Ryan, that would be Mr. Steve Ellis.
Ryan Dunlavey: Can’t stay – just thought I’d say hi. Happy FVL day everyone!
Fred Van Lente: Yo Ryan!
Strider_Tag: Hi Mr. Van Lente ! I LOVED your run on “Incredible Herc”, especially the “Thorcules” arc .
Fred Van Lente: Thanks Strider. One of the biggest contributors to the awesomeness of the “Thorcules” arc was Reilly Brown, who’s dropping by here (my house) for drinks later, and I will pass along the compliment, I am sure he will appreciate it. The primary writer of that arc was Mr. Greg Pak, though the idea came out because Marvel wouldn’t let us use Thor because he was just exiled from Asgard because he killed his grandad or soemthing.
Strider_Tag: Yes, huge kudos to Reilly Brown!
Strider_Tag: Although I haven’t read the new “archer & armstrong” series yet (only read #1 … tight budget), it was good to see that it had the same happy tone as Incredible Herc
Fred Van Lente: Thanks Strider! Yeah, Valiant does a great job of keeping the prices of the trades down — Vol 1 is $10.00 or so — so they’re good for budget-watchers.
Brian Cronin: And Archer and Armstrong has Clayton Henry on it! So yes, if you liked Hercules, then you’ll love Archer and Armstrong.
Fred Van Lente: And if you like Hercules AND Archer & Armstrong, you’ll love TIMEWALKER, which Clayton is also drawing. He is doing, I think, some of his best work of his career.
Brian Cronin: On that Mary-Maria point, it is also nuts to see how well the sects have turned out. How soon before a new sect appears do you have a plan for them? Is it something where you’re literally coming up with new sects AS you write an issue?
Fred Van Lente: If you’ll notice the double-page spread that opens Vol. 4, “Sect Civil War,” most of the current and future Sect factions were laid out there. In the final issue, #25, I had to come up with some new ones, but they were just one-off gags.
Kevin: Hello, sir! I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your radical take on Taskmaster in your miniseries a few years back. It is pure comic fun.
Fred Van Lente: Thanks, Kevin!
Andrew: Long time fan, first time commenter. You have been kind enough to post script samples. Do you tweak your style depending on collaborators?
Fred Van Lente: Hey Andrew! If you mean my script style, no, that remains the same. The curious can check out examples of that at http://www.fredvanlente.com…
But there are some guys/gals who have certain strengths.Some people love doing double page spreads, some guys love drawing dinosaurs, some guys are really good at character interaction/acting. So you try to play to people’s strengths.
Brian Cronin: How was Delinquents written? Was it like when you worked with Greg on Hercules or was it a different approach?
Fred Van Lente: That was a case of James Asmus and I getting on Skype and trying to out-giggle each other.
Brian Cronin: That’s how McCartney and Lennon used to work.
Fred Van Lente: The hobo thing, and the ass-map, and the whole thing, made us laugh so hard my wife had to come up into my office and was like “Hell are you two doing?!” And Kano, man, I had worked with him before on Marvel Zombies, but he just KILLED on this book. He was trying to out-Aja Aja. And did!
Kate: I read the preview for Timewalker #1 and it made me think that this is what Doctor Who SHOULD be. The scientist character looks like she’s a lot more fun than most Who companions.
Fred Van Lente: Thanks Kate! Yeah, my understanding is Barry Windsor-Smith created Timewalker to be an out-and-out Doctor Who clone … back in the early 90s, of course, when there wasn’t a show on, so — less competition. So I guess rather than run away from the comparison I am embracing it with both arms and legs and trying to Out-Who Who. Keeping in mind I have only seen one episode of the show all the way through (The one where Carey Mulligan fights the evil statues).
Aloysius: Can we get a quick rundown of everything you’re currently or soon to work on for us to keep an eye out for?
Fred Van Lente: Aloysius, that is a tall order, but I will try:
Magnus Robot Fighter (ending in Feb)
Conan the Avenger
Howtoons ends in December, Delinquents/A&A just ended…
And of course a couple things in the first half of 2015 and beyond that haven’t been announced yet.
Brian Cronin: Until now!
Fred Van Lente: I wish I could!
Andrew: With the recent collection of Silencers from Dark Horse, can we hope to see some new content in that area?
Fred Van Lente: No, the Silencers is very much in our rearview mirror. Steve and I have chatted about doing some solo stories with Cardinal, their leader, but nothing’s really congealed (yet).
Brian Cronin: How intertwined is your first year on Ivar with the bigger Valiant universe?
Fred Van Lente: If you mean intertwined, like, events feed into the other books and vice-versa, not really. But I was reviewing the #1 letters today and two other Valiant characters show up in the book, and another is referenced, so it’s very much an In-Universe thing.
Kate: When you started writing Archer & Armstrong, were you familiar with 90s Valiant, or were you coming to the title with fresh eyes? I know a lot of people have strong feelings of nostalgia for classic Valiant, but it was all new to me.
Fred Van Lente: When Valiant came up to me at NYCC and asked me to do Archer and Armstrong, I had to Google it because I had no clue what it was. I’ve read a lot of the Valiant 1.0 stuff since then and I’ve got to say my favorite is…
Brian Cronin: Your current series?
Fred Van Lente: …Timewalker. I really liked that book. But I am a sucker for history/time travel stories, as we previously established!
Aloysius: What’s the experience with Howtoons been like? It’s a different type of teaching comic than say the Action! books how difficult is it to integrate the education and fun (to make edutainment, if you will).
Fred Van Lente: Thanks, Aloysius. It’s helped, I think, that it’s a project that had a very long gestation period. Nick Dragotta approached me about writing it in very early, 2012, I want to say? He was wrapping up FF at the time and was planning to draw it. I flew out to the SF area where Nick and his wife and co-conspirator Ingrid live. Their Howtoons co-creator is a bonafide Genius (he got the MacArthur Grant and everything) named Saul Griffith who runs a think tank in downtown SF. It’s in an old pipe organ factory, of all things, with the pipes laying all around. He and his brainiacs develop cardboard robots for the military (so not making this up) And he showed me a water laser, which can cut through six inches of steel. Saul would make a great James Bond villain if Bond fought amiable Australian hippies. But Saul, Nick, Ingrid and I sat around for two or three days brainstorming the story. We knew we wanted it to be about energy literacy, and the climate change problem. I had a pretty solid outline when I left Frisco. When you have a nice strong general spine of a story it’s always easier to add things like scientific explanations and the project descriptions that Nick excels at. Nick was going to draw it originally but then this book he did called EAST OF WEST got popular I don’t know if you’ve heard of it (probably not) so it got set aside until NYCC (which my life now seems to revolve around it) when we were talking to Tom Fowler, and realized he’d be a perfect fit. So Tom brought on Jordie Bellaire as colorist, and we were off to the races!
Brian Cronin: Tom and Jordie did a great job on it.
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, they’re a great duo.
Brian Cronin: I’m sure Nick would have been great as well, of course.
Fred Van Lente: We have sworn to do something together again
Aloysius: It feels like Jordie colours 75% of the comics I encounter.
Fred Van Lente: I think Jordie thinks she colors 75% of the comics too. I pray for her health and sanity!!!
Brian Cronin: How did you end up hooking up with Maurizio Rosenzweig, the artist on Resurrectionists?
Fred Van Lente: Maurizio is a terrific artist. Dark Horse put us together. He had done a couple books at DH with Victor Gischler, and when I saw, I believe, KISS ME SATAN, I thought he would be a great fit for RESURRECTIONISTS. And he really has embraced the story and run with it. “Casting” artists is so important because once you choose one it becomes his book as much as yours, if not more. And I couldn’t be happier with what Maurizio and, uh, his Jordie, Moreno Dinisio, have done with the book. As good as #1 looks, #2+ gets better and better and better.
Brian Cronin: I presume Clayton Henry is not going to draw every issue of Ivar, right? Do you have someone in mind for that? For his break.
Fred Van Lente: I’m not sure. Tom Brennan, formerly of the Marvel Spider-Man office and who I did a lot of Spidey office, has joined Valiant as the editor of a bunch of things, TW among them, and we need to get together to discuss. But Clayton is doing the best work of his career on TIMEWALKER and we want to keep him around forever. So we will make him a vampire or an immortal or something. If anyone knows how to do that email me ‘k
Brian Cronin: For people interested in old school Valiant, Ivar’s first appearance is in this BRILLIANT issue by Barry Windsor-Smith, Eternal Warrior/Archer and Armstrong #8. Go seek it out.
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, it’s without a doubt my favorite issue of the whole series. Sadly, the hardback of the first few issues Valiant put out a few years ago doesn’t have it in it. But it is very much worth seeking out.
Brian Cronin: It’s a double-sized book with the brothers as the Three Musketeers
Fred Van Lente: And Archer as D’Artangan, yeah. It’s so awesome.
Brian Cronin: I like that it seems that there’s a decent chance that Ivar, who is a really cool character, was invented solely so BWS could have three musketeers for the bit
Fred Van Lente: And so he could have a Doctor Who, though that aspect didn’t come about until a couple issues later.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, a lot of that early stuff was very much flying by the seat of the pants. Which is great for you guys later, as you can pick what worked and lose what didn’t
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I was used to that from Marvel. I started out doing the kids’ line where there was a lot of picking and choosing and synthesizing from decades of comics history
My wife and I watched “Winter Soldier” for the first time last night and she was like, “Was there a comics storyline like this?” And I was like, “This is like five or six mushed together”
And mushed together quite well, I thought.
Brian Cronin: Yeah, very good point. That does seem to be the approach of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – mush together a bunch of stories that worked the first time around
Brian Cronin: Aha! Here‘s the spotlight I did for Archer and Armstrong/Eternal Warrior #8.
Fred Van Lente: We were going to do, not a sequel to that book, but something in the same spirit where there would be a A&A/EW flipbook, like #8, except set during King Arthur times, with Armstrong as Sir Bors and Gilad as Sir Galahad and Archer as Sir Percival. The three knights who succeeded in the Quest for the Holy Grail. Sadly it didn’t mesh with the rest of the publishing plan. But you see bits of it in the final A&A arc, “American Wasteland.”
Brian Cronin: That’s too bad. That sounds cool. That was when Greg was writing Eternal Warrior?
Fred Van Lente: Yes, Greg was writing ETERNAL WARRIOR at the time, and Greg and I would have co-written the King Arthur thing together. But then that book ended before A&A and kind of killed the whole idea, sadly
Aloysius: Why did you and Greg decide to do a “How to” book at this stage of your respective careers? Were you approached about it or during a meet-up were you just like “It’s cruel of us to keep all this wisdom to ourselves”?
Fred Van Lente: The book in question, for those of you who know (or don’t) is MAKE COMICS LIKE THE PROS. What happened was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund invites creators to give seminars at their offices as a fundraiser and Alex Cox of the CBLDF asked me to do one. And as I was racking my brain to come up with something unique. I hit upon the idea asking Greg to do it with me and we could focus on collaboration (and also I’m lazy and wouldn’t have to do all the work myself). As it turns out a Random House editor, Patrick Barb, signed up for the class and after we did it he approached us and was like, “Hey have you thought about turning this into a book?” And we were like “We have NOW!” Thus a mighty partnership was forged
Brian Cronin: Is there any chance of a re-visitation of Renaissance, with Sarah Oleksyk?
Fred Van Lente: I don’t think so. Sarah is pretty well ensconced in animation. It’s a bummer, because she finished 60 or so pages out of a projected 200. But who knows? Maybe I will be able to think of a clever way to finish it with another artist or artists. It is a bummer when projects get stillborn, but c’est la vie. I wish I had known when I was younger how common it is, I would’ve stressed out a lot less.
Brian Cronin: Ha! True, these things just happen a lot.
Fred Van Lente: I believe the Regular Show creator (whose name escapes me) first approached her at … NYCC, the same NYCC Valiant approached me. And her table was next to mine! And she was sleeping on my couch! It’s amazing, looking back on it, how much revolves around NYCC…
Aloysius: You’ve written Comics, Games, Plays and Non-Fiction any other forms of media on the bucket-list?
Fred Van Lente: I have always wanted to make a low-budget horror movie. Like, always. Since I was 16. I really need to get around to it one of these days. If anyone knows of an abandoned scary place near their house I can write a low budget horror movie for, please email, ‘k
legendsoflog: Hi Fred. What is your favorite genre to write?
Fred Van Lente: I love historical fiction. I love comedy and any kind of satire. I try to love doing anything WHILE I’m doing it.
Brian Cronin: Any plans for future work with Cory Smith? He has been excellent on Magnus
Fred Van Lente: Cory has been awesome. He is tied up in other projects for the foreseeable future, but I am circling above him, vulture-like, waiting for him to be free. Then … I STRIKE!
Brian Cronin: Between H8R, Mary-Maria, and some of the sects, what minor character in your various works has surprised you the most by how well received they became?
Fred Van Lente: Ooh, that’s a good question…I guess what was the most pleasant surprise was Plato, who was the 2nd “Action Philosopher” we did and became the mascot for the series
Brian Cronin: Oh man, he really did blow up
Fred Van Lente: A one-off joke like “PLATO SMASH!” really contributed to that book’s success.
Brian Cronin: I think he sort of perfectly encapsulated the approach of the series
Fred Van Lente: It’s such a simple thing, but when we slap him on a banner or a cover and it just stops people dead in their tracks. I wish I have thought of dozen of ’em…
Brian Cronin: Any chance of future Action Presidents? Maybe if we all clap our hands like in Peter Pan Live?
Fred Van Lente: Yes, in fact.
Brian Cronin: See, the clapping worked!
Fred Van Lente: You could almost say that there’s guaranteed chance…a contractually guaranteed chance
Brian Cronin: Ha!
Fred Van Lente: There should be an announcement of the details before the year is out.
Brian Cronin: Well, that is quite happy news to end this chat.
Fred Van Lente: Indeed, thanks everybody for joining.
Kate: Thank you, Fred! Happy Fred Van Lente day!
Fred Van Lente: Thanks Kate! Thanks to one and all!
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