San Diego Comic-Con Spotlight
Author Fred Van Lente Gives a Peek Behind the Curtain
If you're wondering whether or not San Diego Comic-Con is worth the hassle, then I've got three words for you: Fred. Van. Lente.
Yeah, THAT guy. (I know, right?) The #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning writer of comics like Archer & Armstrong (Harvey Award nominee, Best Series), Action Philosophers! (American Library Association Best Graphic Novel for Teens), and Cowboys & Aliens (with Andrew Foley), the basis for the feature film. His many other titles include Weird Detective, The Comic Book History of Comics, The Incredible Hercules (with Greg Pak), Taskmaster, Marvel Zombies and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Now Fred's stepping onto another stage as "suspense novelist," and his debut novel is a murder mystery called Ten Dead Comedians described as "both an homage to the Golden Age of Mystery and a thoroughly contemporary show-business satire." But here's the good part: Fred Van-Tastic took time out of his busy Con schedule to talk to us here at PopFam. So let's dive right in!
You’re best known as a comics writer, so let’s start by asking: How did you first discover comic books?
FRED VAN LENTE
My dad was a casual comics reader as a kid and had a copy of Jules Feiffer's 1966 The Great Comic Book Heroes lying about, which had a bunch of Golden Age comics stories in it -- Batman, Superman, Captain America, Sub-Mariner, Spirit. I just fell in love with it at a very early age, and pestered my mother to read it to me. Ultimately she got sick of reading it to me and refused, and so I just stared at it until I could read it myself, and that's how I learned how to read!
Tell us your favorite Comic Con story—what's a memorable moment for you?
My favorite thing overhead at a con was an angry wife turning to her frustrated husband and yelling, "If I knew where Lou Ferrigno was sitting, we'd be there by now!"
Your latest work is a Ten Dead Comedians. What’s the story behind that book?
Ten Dead Comedians is a murder mystery about a group of stand up comedians from all walks of life -- a late nite talk show host, a prop comic, a "blue-collar" comic and so on -- lured to an isolated island where they start to get horribly murdered one by one ... and one of them is the killer. They have to figure out who it is before it's too late. I was thinking about how the language of comedy was all about violence -- you "slay" the audience if you do well, you "die" on stage if you do badly. I had a lot of fun combining the two.
What are three “behind the scenes” secrets everyone should know about Fred Van Lente, Author?
1. My home office is next to my bedroom so I have a less-than-one-second commute every morning.
2. I use the word processing program Scrivener to write books and comics scripts pretty much exclusively since about 2012. I highly recommend it to everyone.
3. I tend to work on two projects a day -- one before lunch, and one after. It's a useful way to demarcate the day and work on novels and comics at the same time!
PopFam exists to help parents talk about pop culture with their kids. When they’re talking about Ten Dead Comedians, what do you hope comes up in the conversation?
A lot of the book is about how humor can be used as a weapon -- laughter can heal, but it can also be used to inflict pain. I'd like to discuss that, and about how different groups -- men, women, different races, different sexual orientations -- deploy human to protect and/or attack.
Imagine you and I are sitting around at a barbecue, eating burgers and brats and calmly solving the problems of the universe. What would you say is the most important thing in life—and how does that show up in your work?
You need to choose to be happy. You can't let other people and events validate your emotions. You are a conscious being -- you can use that consciousness to keep negativity and dread and anxiousness at bay. That doesn't mean it's easy, of course. It's a daily struggle. But a worthwhile one.
THE DIRTY DOZEN
1. Born where and when?
Fort Lewis, an army base in Washington State, on Valentine's Day, 1972.
3. Sports team loyalties?
4. Best book you’ve read in the past year?
So far, How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas.
5. Hidden talent?
I'm really good at packing things -- like a suitcase and such.
6. One random thought on God?
He did His best work in the ocean.
7. Thing you can’t do to save your life?
Too long to list here!
8. Worst advice you ever received?
"Overprint your book, that way you have to sell them"
9. Best advice for aspiring writers?
Finish it. A lot of time you won't know what it really is until you finish it, so finish it, then fix it. Allow yourself the freedom to suck. That's what first drafts are for.
Heights, from time to time.
11. Something you’d like to do before you die?
12. Best way for fans to contact you?
I love hearing from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also everywhere on the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, *.com) by my name...
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