X-POSITION: Fred Van Lente

X-Men Noir

"X-Men Noir" #1, "Marvel Zombies 3" #3 on sale December 3

Here's a challenge for you wannabe writers out there: take a character who was previously a mentally unstable killer, give him a cute teenaged girl sidekick, and write an all-ages appropriate comic book starring them. Oh, and complete the story in twenty-two pages.

This is the situation Fred Van Lente faces every month as he sits in front of his computer to write "Wolverine: First Class," the Marvel Comics title costarring the spunky Kitty Pryde. And when he's not wrestling with the keyboard over this paradox of a book, he's keeping himself plenty busy with "The Incredible Hercules," "Marvel Zombies 3," and the upcoming "X-Men Noir."

Luckily, we were able to convince Van Lente and his "X-Men Noir" collaborator Dennis Calero - who pencils, inks and colors the four-issue miniseries -- to take a five-minute X-POSITION break and answer some of questions sent in by you. As these guys don't have much time, let's jump into the breach.

We'll start things off with a walk on the dark side, courtesy of Kroller and his queries about "X-Men: Noir."

1) I saw the MySpace preview of "X-Men Noir" and the art is awesome! Where else can I find work by Dennis Calero and how was he picked for this assignment? He seems like a perfect fit.

Dennis Calero: I'll let Fred speak to whether or not I was a "perfect fit," but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed working with him on truly some of the best scripts I've ever drawn. My work has appeared in "X-Factor," "Legion of Superheroes" as well as various odds and ends, including "Masters Of Horror" for IDW and "Kolchak" for Moonstone.

I've got interesting stuff coming up too, so hopefully after you readers are finished enjoying "X-Men Noir," there'll be some more goodness coming from us.

To answer the other part of your question, I wasn't really picked at all. Fred and I came together to flesh out a basic concept I had that was very similar to "X-Men Noir" but using another character, and we were assigned to editor Nate Cosby, who's just been so helpful and supportive and a great fount of creativity himself. He allowed us the time and freedom to make the book as good as it is.

Fred Van Lente: As you can see, Kroller, there simply would be no "X-Men Noir" without Dennis Calero, so he's about as "perfect" as a fit can get! (His kick-ass artwork is easy on the eyes too, no?)

2) In the preview, we meet several police detectives. Are they all supposed to be characters from the Marvel Universe? Is Peter supposed to be Pietro? And when they talk about his Dad - that's Magneto? Sorry if I'm slow on the uptake...

FVL: "X-Men Noir" exists in its own universe, which we have dubbed (with utter originality) "the Noirverse."

As for those other questions, they will be made abundantly clear before issue #1 is over.

3) If the above assumption is correct, does that mean that Magneto is on the side of good in this universe? Of course, cops are usually crooked in noir. Any hint?

FVL: Hmmm... Who is this Magneto of which you speak? Eric Magnus, Chief of Detectives of New York City, certainly believes he is on the side of good. Whether or not you agree with him once you read the series, of course, is up to you...

4) On to the "Marvel Zombies 3" universe! "MZ3" has a very different feel than the previous two "Marvel Zombie" series. The first two series seemed to be told from the zombies' point-of-views. This story is told from the POV of two robots trying to save humanity. How did you come to this decision?

FVL: Well, since by the end of "Marvel Zombies 2," the cosmic-powered zombies literally ate everything in the entire universe except for a handful of humans on Earth, a fairly drastic change of direction was needed to wring a story out of the whole thing. I believe it was Undead Editor Bill Rosemann's idea to use robots. And then I thought of sending in the 616 incarnations of Machine Man and Jocasta to the zombie universe, and after that - I know this is such a cliche, but in this instance it's true - the whole thing pretty much wrote itself.

5) Due to Kirkman's stories being told from the zombies' POV, his tales ended somewhat on a gloom and doom note (i.e. the zombies won in the end). As your series takes place in the "real" Marvel Universe, should we expect a more uplifting finale?

FVL: Mmmmmaybe... Mmmmaybe not. You'll just have to keep reading and see.

6) Speaking of Kirkman's stories, will the cosmic-powered zombies (Iron Man, Wolverine, etc.) be making an appearance?

FVL: Nope. They've been banished to some other dimension as of "Marvel Zombies 2." (That isn't the Marvel Universe, obviously.)

As long as we're on the pleasant subject of rotting corpses, let's continue the fun with a question or three from Maroutz.

1) In "Marvel Zombies 3," I really enjoyed seeing the Aquarian, Conquistador, Jennifer Kale, and Siege. Were they there as Initiative members working with A.R.M.O.R.? Or do they not know about A.R.M.O.R.'s existence?

FVL: Not really. The existence of ARMOR is a closely-guarded secret, even within SHIELD itself, as we will see in later issues.

And Jennifer Kale fans will be quite pleased by coming developments...

2) Regarding "Wolverine: First Class," I thought the "Kitty's Dream" mini-comic was hilarious! Will we see more of these in "WFC?"

FVL: I know, it was terrific, wasn't it? I give all the credit to the brilliant Colleen Coover, who I worked with on "Power Pack: Day One" (digest in stores now!), and whose wonderful cartooning graces such books as "The Age of the Sentry" and "X-Men: First Class."

I suppose I should confess that at this point I am the wrong person to be making forecasts about coming issues of "Wolverine: First Class," since after #12, I will be unfortunately leaving the title due to other commitments. It was a tough decision, as it is a book I originated and is near and dear to my heart; particularly because of all the wonderful emails and convention comments I keep getting from longtime X-fans and new readers alike - particularly here among the "X-Position" crowd, and for your support I can't thank y'all enough.

Until then though, you can look forward to: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu! Jack Russell, Werewolf-by-Night! And the return of Cyclops! And a little thing happening in 2009 called Free Comic Book Day - maybe you've heard of it...?

3) I love the classic feel of your "First Class" stories. One thing about the "classic feel" though - they sure do a lot of exposition. As a writer, how do you balance the need to quickly give out info for these short-ish stories (mostly done-in-one) without using too many talking heads?

FVL: You really have to condense the characters and situations down to their essence, and not get bogged down by our beloved Marvel continuity. I have something of a mania for storytelling efficiency, so I kind of enjoy that challenge, but in some cases... High Evolutionary and Wundagore? Ugh! Simplifying that was rough, man.

4) What noir books and films served as inspiration in crafting the story for "X-Men Noir"? Are there any others you would recommend reading/watching?

FVL: Noir is one of my all-time favorite genres. I am huge Raymond Chandler fan, particularly "The Lady in the Lake" and "The Long Goodbye." I loved "Red Harvest" by Dashiell Hammet. Our brilliant letterer, Nate "Blambot" Piekos, recommended Dan Simmons' Joe Kurtz novels, and I look forward to sinking my teeth into those, beginning with "Hardcase." Thomas Kelly's historical novel, "Empire Rising," was a big influence on the plot of "X-Men Noir," particularly the character of Magneto...er, Eric Magnus and what he's really up to.

As for movies, my faves include: "Out of the Past," "Murder, My Sweet," "The Naked City," "The Killing," and "The Big Heat." The timeless "ahistoricality" of the series was largely inspired by the Coen Brothers' "Miller's Crossing." And there's certainly a lot of "Chinatown" in there.

X-POSITION regular Caleb Warren was kind enough to send us the following missive:

In "X-Men Noir," you've said that each character has characteristics that give nods to their powers (I believe you said Bobby fences diamonds, and that Wanda is a compulsive gambler). I love this idea and can't wait to see more of it, but I was curious: does this mean that we'll see Storm as a meteorologist, or Madrox in an asylum suffering from some extreme Multiple Personality Disorder? Please?

FVL: Those are both terrific ideas, and I plan on stealing them from you if we do a sequel. I'll make sure there's a "Caleb Warren" in there too, to say thanks.

See? Writing in to X-POSITION does pay off!

Capt. Cavalier is a gentleman, and as such, he's worried about any possible "improprieties" occurring in those all-ages books. Can you help put his mind at ease, Fred?

1) One thing I was never clear about in Peter and Kitty's relationship was their ages. Is he over 18 and she under 18? During these "First Class" years (and other early X-Men stories), their ages always seemed a little too far apart for them to be dating?

FVL: Yeah, that's the impression I got. I think Colossus during the early "All-New, All-Different" years was supposed to be around 17, but I have a feeling there are "X-Position" readers way more qualified to answer that than me.

To be honest, the age differential has always made me a little uncomfortable, which is why in "Wolverine: First Class" the Kitty/Colossus relationship hasn't evolved past a very one-sided schoolgirl-type crush on Kitty's part.

2) Someone may have asked you this before, but is there any chance we'll see Lockheed in "Wolverine: First Class?"

No, not under my tenure - sorry. I got my fill of cute animal sidekicks over in "Incredible Hercules," to be honest.

Colleen Coover, who drew the "Kitty's Dream" back-up mentioned earlier, draws a mean Lockheed though. Hopefully my successor will make full use of that ability!

Peltzer brings things to a close for us with a few more questions about those zombies. Let's face it - the undead rule!

1) I'm kind of confused about the zombie disease in "Marvel Zombies 3." Machine Man acted surprised that Kingpin got infected, because he doesn't have powers. And yet, there are others who are zombies without powers (the Vulture, Iron Man, the people in the beginning of MZ3 #1). Does the disease only work in those with powers or not?

FVL: Well, it's not that Aaron is surprised that Kingpin got infected. The disease infects everyone - superpowered, normal, mutant, human, animals (way more of Zombie Lockjaw in future issues!) If you're organic, it infects you.

What surprised Aaron was that Kingpin actually survived (i.e. wasn't completely devoured.) The conceit of the Marvel Zombies universe is that all the normal humans got swallowed whole by the superhumans. There are still zombies - that is to say, corpses - walking around because the powered undead were able to defend themselves from each other. Then, the virus rendered them inedible to each other, as Kirkman and Philips set up in the original "Marvel Zombies" series.

2) And speaking of Kingpin, he has super "will power?" What the heck is that? And from Kingpin's appearance, I'd have to say this power is susceptible to Ding-Dongs.

FVL: It's the "Will to Power," my friend! "Der Wille zur Macht," as the Germans say. And Kingpin doesn't have any more or less of it than you or I do. He just knows how to use it. Read your Nietzsche! (Or, failing that, your Schopenhauer.)

Remember what the Kingpin used to say in all those Lee/Romita, Sr. Spider-Man comics when foolish gangsters made fun of his weight? He'd say "It's all muscle," then he'd beat the snot out of them. So be careful what you say to him!

3) Is A.R.M.O.R. something new? This is the first I've heard of it. If they deal with other dimensions, are they busy with Marvel Apes at the moment too?

FVL: A.R.M.O.R.'s first appearance was in "Marvel Zombies 3" #1. They defend the Marvel Universe from any interdimensional threat. If the Marvel Apes ever tried to invade - or fling feces at - the Marvel Universe, Charles Little Sky & Co. would indeed have something to say about it, by gum.

For next week's X-POSITION, we've decided to stick with the classy theme seen in today's fun-filled Q&A, so we'll be talking with creator Marc Sumerak about "Weapon X: First Class." Read up and send us those emails as quickly as you can. Put "X-Position" in the subject line, and it will keep us from going into a berserker rage. See you in seven!

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