Van Lente's Big Three - Part II

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Our two-part interview with the ever-talkative Fred Van Lente concludes as we take a look at the two projects the writer has got up his sleeve next to Marvel's Amazing Fantasy: Action Philosophers and The Silencers. Brace yourselves for an exciting announcement regarding the latter title!
Hint: contrary to popular opinion, there is an "I" in team.

BF: Aside from your gig on the new Amazing Fantasy story debuting in April, you’ve got some other stuff up your sleeve, such as Action Philosophers. This book is more humorous in tone than your previous work, isn’t it?

Click to enlargeFRED VAN LENTE: More so than what most mainstream fans may have seen already, sure, although out of college I wrote humorous pieces for magazines, and I’ve written a comedy or two for the fine folks at Platinum Studios.

Of course, I should stress: though the stories in ACTION PHILOSOPHERS are told in a humorous way, these aren’t parodies or spoofs. These are the actual lives and works of these historical thinkers, but told in an irreverent and entertaining way in the comics format.

Readers should get a feel for what I’m talking out by checking out the full story of Bodhidharma, inventor of Zen Buddhism and Shaolin kung fu, which appears in Action Philosophers #1 but can be read in its entirety for free at our web site: www.actionphilosophers.com.

Click to enlargeBF: Please fill us in on the “Action” and “Philosophers” parts of the title, because both terms aren’t supposed to mix together very well. [Laughs]

FVL: Ah, but I would disagree! Thinking is an “action” – it’s something you do – The idea of the “Thinker” (like Rodin’s) sitting on his butt with his chin in his fist is something of a misnomer. One of the fun parts of this series is detailing the process of how the philosopher reached his conclusions – which can be as exciting and as interesting as the ideas themselves.

BF: Writing about philosophers is not exactly an idea everyone would want to work with. Why do you?

Click to enlargeFVL: I think ideas matter, more so in this time than any other, and I think ideas have a place in our mainstream society. Particularly here in America, we have a culture where the very idea of thinking is held in contempt. If you can’t digest it in thirty seconds or less, like a blog entry or a sound byte, it’s considered wasting your time. Even more frightening, “beliefs” or “feeling it with your gut” is touted as a superior form of knowledge by many of the people running our government and society, including our beloved (cough, cough) President.

So basically, Ryan and I are on a mission to liberate philosophy from Academia, where it’s been lying around collecting dust all these decades, and return them to the People where they belong.

And what better way to do that than through COMICS?

BF: Which of these all-wise folks is your favorite? Is Philosophy something you’re interested in in daily life?

FVL: Oh sure, I think everyone is. Anybody who’s gotten into a drunken or stoned argument in his or her dorm room over the existence of God or the meaning of life has been philosophising whether they know it or not.

I’d have to say I identify most closely with the Zen Buddhists, like Bodhidharma, that there is an unknowable quantity to life and our place in it that must be embraced at the deepest levels of our psyche to reach any true or permanent sense of contentment. I also like what Ayn Rand has to say about reason having to control the emotions, not the other way around. And Nietzsche’s explication of “slave versus master morality” is still the most dead-on critique of Western society, even today.

BF: As if Amazing Fantasy and Action Philosophers aren’t enough, you’re also still working on The Silencers. What’s the status report on that book?

FVL: I’m happy to report that THE SILENCERS will be relaunching at Image this July with a new #1.

This new arc, entitled POWERED & DANGEROUS, takes place a year after the Moonstone series ended. As you may recall, at the end of Silencers #4 both Johnny Pro’s Syndicates and the Tights were wiped out in one fell swoop by Cardinal & Co.

Into that vacuum of power has come every two-bit super-hood who can shoot gamma rays out of his butt from here to Alaska. The Silencers have been laying low with their loot from the Syndicate score, but unfortunately all the newbies know there is one quick and easy way for them to get street cred: Take out the guys who took out Johnny Pro, and that would be The Silencers. Cardinal decides it’s time to come out of hiding… and for their own safety, they’re going to have to take over the New York mobs themselves.

Yes, more people get whacked, new members of the Silencers start to appear – such as one flaming zoot suit-wearing villain that has been the most-requested character since he first appeared in #1.

And aside from that, there will also be new enemies, such as The Kabal, the Dutchman & Sabotage, Killjoy, Pokerface…

Wait, sorry, I had to wipe the drool off my keyboard. I’m so excited!

BF: Why did you and Steve Ellis, your artistic collaborator on the series, decide to move the property from Moonstone to Image?

FVL: Steve and I know that the Moonstone folks did everything in their power to make the Silencers a success and for that we’ll always be grateful. We wish them the best. In the end, though, we always felt like we were more of an “Image” title to begin with. Most of Moonstone’s books are horror and noir, with a few licensed properties like the Phantom, but we were the runt of the litter, this creator-owned superhero property, albeit with a more noir bent. Erik Larsen took over the reins at Image at about the same time our Moonstone series ended and it just seemed like destiny.

Click to enlarge

BF: What do you think of Image as a company and what they’re offering comic readers these days?

FVL: I think they’re an incredibly eclectic publisher with a wide variety of titles to offer people. It used to be when you said, “That’s an Image-type book” it meant a specific kind of series, and I don’t think that’s true any more. Not that that they don’t still publish those kinds of books, they do, but I think Erik & Co. can safely claim to be one of the most diverse independent publishers in the American market.

BF: Is the Image volume of The Silencers set to be a mini series like the Moonstone version or will this book be an ongoing series, much to fans’ delight?

FVL: Let me just say that Steve and I are going to keep doing this until they show our sorry asses the door.

Click to enlarge

BF: Aside from your current three projects, what does the future hold for Fred Van Lente?

FVL: Hopefully, more comics writing gigs, after this blitz! Up until this point, most of my paying jobs have come from “developing” motion pictures and TV, which is Hollywoodese for “writing movies that never get made.” I have already some of that lined up.

But at the moment it’s just a joy to have all three of these series going out at once, all of which I love equally. If people enjoy reading them just a tenth as much as I enjoyed creating them, I’ll be a happy man.

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge

- Frederik Hautain

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