Fred Van Lente has been working with Maurizio Rosenzweig to produce Resurrectionists, a story about a select group of individuals who not only are able to remember their past lives, but are able to activate them as they attempt to pull off a heist 3,000 years in the making.
We had a chat with Fred Van Lente, a.k.a “The Time Dampener” (Yea, we just made this up, but hope it sticks!), on his recent work with Dark Horse Comics’ Resurrectionists and a little bit about what he does in his free time when he isn’t churning out quality stories. To sweeten the deal, Fred and Dark Horse gave us a first look at some of the artwork in the upcoming issue of Resurrectionists and an exclusive of Juan Doe’s alternative cover featuring the big bad himself, Lennox. So, let’s get to it.
AiPT!: Hey Fred! Thanks for taking the time. I have really enjoyed Resurrectionists!
Fred Van Lente: Thanks so much!
AiPT!: How did you first get started in comics?
Van Lente: I got very lucky in college (Syracuse University) and befriended some super-talented people who were studying illustration and got into the industry. Steve Ellis, whom I did Project Black Sky with here at Dark Horse, and I did an Indy “super crime” book called The Silencers that got me noticed at Marvel (and, hey, what a coincidence, Dark Horse reissued that too!) — after like ten years of struggle! And I’ve been in the industry more or less ever since. So I am the classic ten-year overnight success.
AiPT!: What are some of the previous books you have worked on that would be a good starting point for people who are just getting into comics?
Van Lente: In addition to The Silencers, the early book that kind of I’m known for is Action Philosophers, the comic book history of thought with fart jokes. Ryan Dunlavey, whom I also met at Syracuse, created that series with me, and, if you can follow a theme here, Dark Horse just brought out a new edition of that too (I love those guys).
At Marvel I got known for a bunch of things, primarily Amazing Spider-Man and Marvel Zombies, but also Incredible Hercules, which I co-wrote with my buddy, Greg Pak. You can grab those digitally off my page on Comixology, along with the work I’ve been doing for Valiant, the conspiracy-hunting buddy comedy Archer & Armstrong, for which I was flattered to receive a Harvey Award nomination last year, and the time travel romance/adventure, Timewalker.
AiPT!: Resurrectionists has a very unique premise with past lives and a 3,000 year-old heist. What inspired or influenced this idea?
Van Lente: I was researching an issue of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four for a story where they fought Rama-Tut (and the fact I was doing actual historical research about an issue of Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four says all you need to know about it) and I stumbled across this reference to tomb robbers, that it was an actual job that people — they were hired to “kill” mummies in their tombs, because that then killed them in the afterlife. I just thought the idea of a crime series set in Ancient Egypt was fascinating, and once I realized the concept of reincarnation meant you could have a modern-day element to it as well, that’s where it all came together for me.
AiPT!: What makes Resurrectionists different from many of the other titles you have worked on?
Van Lente: Well, it’s the first creator-owned (fiction) book I’ve done since Silencers, so that’s a pretty big deal for me. It’s all got a way larger cast that I’m working with. It’s about thieves who have been reincarnated over and over again, always trying to pull off the same heist, and so each person on the team has, at the very least, a past counterpart in the dual storyline in 2015 BC, along with the main story in 2015 AD.
AiPT!: Since Resurrectionists is a creator-owned title, is there a certain thrill associated with this as compared to publisher-owned?
Van Lente: Yes, definitely. It’s always cool to bring something totally new into the world.
AiPT!: Resurrectionists crosses tons of time periods. How in-depth is your research on making sure many of the historical points are accurate?
Van Lente: The Egyptians compulsively wrote everything down, and, of course, their rich people buried with them everything they wanted to be reborn with in the afterlife (a.k.a., “the future” in Resurrectionists) and so we actually know quite a lot about them. I tried to incorporate as much of that into the Egyptian storyline of Resurrectionists as possible. I love research — maybe a little too much, you can get drunk on it if you’re not careful. But historical adventure is probably my #1 favorite genre.
AiPT!: What is your favorite time period and what would you be doing if you found yourself transported back in time or into the future?
Van Lente: I am an American Revolution nut, and have done a comic about that as well, although I’m not sure I would want to go there? I’m really fond of indoor plumbing. So if I was transported back in time I’d probably try to invent the toilet.
AiPT!: One of the more interesting points in the story up to this point has been the Scout’s abilities. Could you go into a little more detail as to how the Resurrectionists’ abilities work?
Van Lente: Basically, unlike the rest of us, when a Resurrectionist is “unlocked’ through a near-death experience, she remembers all of her past lives — and she can access all the skills she’s gathered during the past 3-4000 years of living. The Scout is a master close-quarters combatant, the Maker knows technology and planning, the Double is an expert at stealth, and so on. So when Jericho Way, our hero, becomes unlocked by Lena, the Scout, they have to go find the other members of the team and unlock them — before their enemies do it first!
AiPT!: When you aren’t working on a myriad of projects, what do you do to blow off steam and/or relax?
Van Lente: I actually am reliving my teenage years and started running a Call of Cthulhu RPG campaign with my friends. We all need a Sanity Check in our lives, you know?
AiPT!: What is it like working with different publishers and what is your favorite aspect of working with Dark Horse?
Van Lente: Dark Horse is unparalleled in its commitment to unique creator-owned comics and doing whatever they can to see it succeed. Their team from editorial, marketing to production is top notch — I mean, look at that Resurrectionists logo they came up with. How many comics have a James Baldwin quote incorporated in the logo. That’s gangsta.
AiPT!: Getting back to Resurrectionists, what can we expect to see in the upcoming issues and how far have you planned out the series?
Van Lente: Jericho’s nemesis, the guy who killed him the first time, was pharaoh in Egypt, but is now a powerful billionaire named Greg Lennox. Greg is laying a trap for Jericho and the rest of the Resurrectionists based on their next job, and the question is, will it work, or will they wriggle out of it? That sets up our big climax in #6, I hope people dig it.
AiPT!: Last but not least, what would be your dream character to write, or what power would you want to have if you had your choice?
Van Lente: It’d be nice to slow down time. Not for any nefarious reason, just so I can get my deadlines done!