In the newest edition of our creator interview series Multiversity Comics Presents, we have Fred Van Lente, the writer of Incredible Hercules, Amazing Spider-Man and the upcoming Deadpool Team Up. We were extremely excited to get Fred to do this interview with us, and it is a really fantastic one. Fred brought his A game and made it a very enjoyable read for all.
Please check it out, and if you enjoy it please leave a comment.
As huge fans of the industry and writers in our own right, we’re interested in how exactly one becomes a comic book writer. How did you get into the industry? What made you want to become a comic book writer?
FVL: I knew since I was very young I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t sure which kind. When I was in high school I wrote a lot of prose and I majored in film in college. But I had always been a comics fan and got excited like everyone else over the great strides in terms of sophistication superhero comics had achieved in the 1980s with creators like Alan Moore and Frank Miller.
At Syracuse University, I would hang out with a lot of talented guys studying to be comic book artists, guys I still work with today like Ryan Dunlavey who I do ACTION PHILOSOPHERS and COMIC BOOK COMICS with and Steve Ellis, who’s now best known for HIGH MOON over at Zuda. It just became natural to write stuff for my friends to draw, and one series I did with Steve, the creator-owned SILENCERS for Moonstone, caught the attention of Marvel editor Mark Paniccia. He invited me to pitch for the new SCORPION series he was developing, and that was the beginning of my mainstream career.
Your style of writing has the feel of classic comics without being an obvious homage and its fun without falling into the land of ridiculous. What are some influences on your writing?
FVL: Thanks. My biggest modern influence is probably Grant Morrison, although my interests are considerably more mainstream than his (in the non-comics sense of the word, that is). I feel like he’s as influenced by old comics and their surreal insanity as I am, the work of Kirby and Ditko and Lee and the Silver Age creators.
I find myself recently being more and more influence by television, a medium that is held in nearly as much contempt as comics, at least in terms of cultural respect, and undeservedly so. THE WIRE has been a huge influence recently, as well as THE SHIELD, two of my favorite series of all time.
FVL: Assault on New Olympus is the climax of several storylines Greg set in motion some time ago: What is the source of Athena’s interest in Amadeus Cho? What will be the fate of Hebe, Goddess of Youth and Herc’s estranged wife? How long will Hercules put up with this constant hounding from Hera before taking the fight to his wicked stepmother’s doorstep? What is CONTINUUM®, the Olympus Group product that got Norman Osborn so upset during our DARK REIGN crossover?
And, most importantly, when will we get to see Hercules punch Spider-Man in the face?
On Incredible Hercules, you get to write one of our favorite new characters from recent years – Amadeus Cho. With him being the ego to Herc’s id, their interactions are nothing short of hysterical month in and month out (besides right now…obviously). What does the future hold for young master Cho? Will he back in time for the Assault on New Olympus event?
FVL: Yes. Amadeus is a major player in Assault, and we learn fairly definitively what Athena has planned for him long-term.
But that doesn’t mean he’ll go along with her plans…Continued below
Since you writing for a character with as much history as Hercules, how much of each arc is devoted to reading old mythology and legends and how much is just using your own imagination?
FVL: I don’t read as much mythology for it as I did when I was starting out. I miss that aspect of it, frankly! When I was first given the Herc gig, I didn’t really know much about Marvel’s version of the big guy. I ended up reading the original myths instead, just because that’s what I had lying around the house. That’s what really hooked me on the character and affected me and Greg’s treatment of Herc and the direction of the title. Not to get too pretentious, in many ways INCREDIBLE HERCULES is the sequel to the original Greek myths. This will get more and more obvious as we drive toward our Big Climax.
How does it feel to work with such a fantastic stable of writers like you do on Amazing Spider-Man?
FVL: It’s really a great camaraderie. I don’t think I had met any of them, except for Dan Slott, before the big Spider-Retreat in March of this year. But we soon fell into a great working relationship. We bounce off ideas each other, check each other’s work, and have endless email chains of various bad running jokes.
What can you tell us about your part in the upcoming Spider-Man: Gauntlet event as well as the re-launch of Web of Spider-Man?
FVL: I am writing the segment involving Flint Marko, The Sandman, with the incomparable Javier Pulido on art chores. Javier kicked ass on the Mary Jane story in #605 and it’s great to be working with him again. Sandman’s often struggled with whether or not go straight or remain a criminal — but when he tries to forge a “normal” life for himself he commits some of his worst crimes ever, necessitating Spidey’s intervention.
“Gauntlet: Origins” is a series of a short stories in WEB OF SPIDER-MAN that runs side-by-side with the event in AMAZING and tells behind-the-scenes tales of the villains’ beginnings. Barry Kitson and I had such a blast doing RED-HEADED STRANGER, the Chameleon arc, that we’re keeping the band together. The art is just coming in for the first story, featuring Electro, and it looks, well… amazing!
Your type of light and fun writing is pretty much perfect for characters like Herc and well…Deadpool. What’s it like to participate in a historic issue such as Deadpool #900 (just seems like yesterday I was picking up #1)? Are you excited to work with the Merc with a Mouth in Deadpool Team-Up? Idea: Deadpool and Rom: Space Knight. The guy needs to make a comeback.
FVL: Well, in our story, he’s the Merc with the Myth because he’s teaming up with the Incredible Hercules! That story was a blast to write. We just sent the finished comic off to the printer. It turned out great. It’s fun to team up Herc with people even more irresponsible than he is, and Amadeus and definitely Deadpool fall into that category. I tried to do a fight between the two of them, in the classic I-mistook-you-for-a-villain fashion, but it only lasted a few panels because I realized these two wiseass galoots would naturally love each other. Fortunately, Deadpool’s competitor assassin Arcade and Nightmare, who still has a mad-on for Herc from the “Sacred Invasion” arc in his own book, are on hand to provide plenty of conflict.
Marvel doesn’t own the rights to Rom anymore, as I understand it. I constantly hear people say how great the series was — but I’ve never read it, unfortunately. Hopefully one day the copyright issues will be straightened out and I’ll get to read an ESSENTIALS volume or something.
You were part of the start of Marvel Noir with X-Men Noir. Now that X-Men Noir 2: Mark of Cain is coming out, what can you tell us about the new series as well as the future of the Noir line at Marvel?
FVL: Marvel has many new Noir series in the works; MARK OF CAIN and the second Spider-Man series are only the vanguard of a bunch of new titles, completely revamping familiar characters in a gritty urban environment.Continued below
MARK OF CAIN picks up with our antiheroes from the first series – Angel, Cyclops, Cap’n Logan and his first mate Eugene Judd – being hired by the mercenary Cain Marko to steal the Crimson Gem of Cyttorak from a temple in Madripoor. But when Cain winds up murdered, all points to his estranged half-brother, Charles Xavier, the infamous “Professor of Crime”, who has recently been released from prison …
With Kitty Pryde (sort of) dying at the end of Whedon and Cassaday’s run on Astonishing X-Men, you were the sole source of Kitty for the many fans out there in your run on Wolverine: First Class. And you nailed it, as you handled Kitty as well as Claremont and Whedon ever did. How did you capture the spirit of that character so well? Were you a big fan of Kitty before that run?
FVL: Thanks for the kind words. Kitty was a fun character. I’ve never really been a huge X-Men fan but I enjoyed writing her. I just tried to put myself in the position of this hyper-intelligent 13 year old who is thrust in this dangerous adult world of mutant terrorism and counter-terrorism she doesn’t entirely understand. Plus, she’s great to take the piss out of Wolverine, who can be a really grim and one-note without being grounded by other characters.
With Wizard magazine nominating you as one of the breakout talents of 2008 and Marvel putting you on increasingly high profile books, your star is definitely rising. If you could use your “breakout star” powers to write any one character/title, what would it be?
FVL: It’d be fun to get a MACHINE MAN on-going on its feet, since I had such a blast writing him in MARVEL ZOMBIES. I wouldn’t mind taking over FANTASTIC FOUR for an extended spell. I had a bunch of ideas when I was doing MARVEL ADVENTURES FANTASTIC FOUR that weren’t appropriate for all-ages but would work really well in the main book.
What titles are you currently reading? Anything you think is woefully under read?
FVL: I wish I had more time to read more comics. I really enjoyed David Mazzucchelli’s new graphic novel ASTERIOS POLYP, about an architect who has to reexamine his life after a fire destroys his apartment. Great stuff.
Who’s the hardest character you’ve ever had to write? Who’s the easiest?
FVL: If you’ve constructed your story right all characters should be pretty easy to write in the sense that the events of the plot flow naturally from their actions and reactions.
If you could put together your own Avengers team, who would you assemble and why?
FVL: Hmmmm… Well… I thought about it for a little bit (two minutes) and after I wrote down the first couple characters I just like, I started adding people I thought would work playing off each other well, so I came up with a motley crew:
They’d never let me do this, of course. But it would be a unique combo, no?
Who’s your favorite artist to work with? Who’s your dream collaborator (you know, one you haven’t already worked with)?
FVL: You crazy kids, I have to say they’re all my favorite, or else some of them will get mad when they read this!
It’d be great to work with Jack Kirby. ‘Cause he’s dead.
Who do you think would win in a fight, a taco or a grilled cheese sandwich?
FVL: Hard shell taco beats chesse sandwich. But if we’re talking soft shell, I’ve got to give the edge to cheese.
If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to check out Fred’s work. We have links below to places you can purchase them at, or please, remember to support your local comic book store. Without us readers, they can’t survive!