Fred Van Lente is one of those writers you may not even realise you already love. His wry humour can be seen across a range of Marvel titles including Deadpool Team-Up and Marvel Zombies, and his quirky Action Philosophers recently returned in the rebooted Dark Horse Presents. He’s also had the helm for Dark Horse’s ambitious Project Black Sky (check out my recent review), but is back now with a new project: The Resurrectionists. We grabbed a few minutes with Fred to ask him about his latest venture.
Big Comic Page: First off, thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule to have a chat with us.
Fred Van Lente: My pleasure.
BCP: Can you tell us a little about the premise of ‘Resurrectionists’?
FVL: Resurrectionists is a new on-going series about people who can summon and become their own past lives. The same group of tomb-robbers in ancient Egypt have been reincarnated over and over again in different bodies, different ethnicities, different genders, all throughout history, all trying to pull off the same heist — and now, in 2015, it looks like they’ll finally have a chance to succeed.
BCP: One of the challenges for any first issue is world building. What research did you do for the background?
FVL: Like so many other people, I’m fascinated with ancient Egypt, both the culture and the mythology — each of our team members on “Resurrectionists” represents one of the seven souls that ancient Egyptians believed you and I and everybody else possesses — the Maker, the Scout, the Guardian, the Double, and so on — and these, of course, correspond with a different “specialty” in the heist. A lot of this is inspired by William S. Burroughs’ novel The Western Lands, which is steeped in this stuff, and bringing it to the present day. (Remember Burroughs’ enigmatic voice-over to the last season opener of The Sopranos? That’s from Western Lands.)
BCP: One of the most interesting things about this is the fact that the characters can relive past lives – are we going to see characters teaming up with old allies and enemies?
FVL: Yes, definitely. We cut back and forth between ancient Egypt and the present day, and part of the fun is seeing how characters are similar between their AD 2014 and 1050 BC counterparts, but how they’re similar too. Basically, every single storyline is a chock full of Easter Eggs and detail elements readers won’t notice until they’ve devoured the issues multiple times — I love doing stuff like that.
BCP: You’ve always been keen to give nods to other universes; the Black Sky webcomics were a thrilling and brilliant event (sorry for gushing!) Are we going to see the broader Dark Horse universe interact with this?
FVL: Nope, Resurrectionists is a creator-owned book, but one of the great things about a past-lives storyline is you’re perpetually doing a crossover storyline in your own book!
BCP: You’ve gone with relatively unknown artists on this (although obviously you’re working with one of your regular letterers). One of the first things I noticed was the attention given to eyes in the opening frames of the first issue; how did you end up bringing this team to the table?
FVL: Yeah, Maurizio and Moreno are an amazing team and super-well respected (and with good reason) in their native Italy, and I hope Resurrectionists launches them in a big way in the English-speaking world. As for the eyes, you are 100% right, and here’s one of those aforementioned Easter Egg — both disgraced architect Jericho Way and vengeance-bent tomb-builder Tao, one the past life of the other — are modeled on a hairless Egyptian cat — they both have the exact same eyes! And the cat itself shows up later too, I’ll let that be a pleasant surprise.
BCP: Do you enjoy the pressures of writing a creator-owned comic or a “big franchise” comic more?
FVL: Each has its own distinct pleasures and pressures. On a creator owned book, the burden of success or failure is all on me and the material, there’s no “built-in” audience for me to fall back on. On the other hand, Resurrectionists is the most, well, “me” comic I’ve done in a dog’s age, and there’s nothing more gratifying than that.
BCP: Dark Horse has some amazing talent in its stable. Who would you like to work with in a writing or art capacity, on this or another project, that you’ve not done so before?
FVL: Who do I need to pay off to get a Mike Mignola cover?!?!?
BCP: Who would you cite as major influences on your work and on this in particular?
FVL: Tim Powers, the great historical fantasy novelist, is one of my all time biggest influences — and his big book, The Anubis Gates, has a lot to do with Egyptian mythology, as the name suggests, and that never occurred to me there was maybe a connection until you asked me that question…
Well, Burroughs is a huge influence on Resurrectionists, as I said before, and I often describe this book as “What if Philip K. Dick wrote historical fiction?” There’s all these shifting identities, and genders, races, sexual orientation, etc., and attacks on the fundamental nature of identity that I think Dick would really dig (if I can be so presumptuous to suggest that).
BCP: Dark Horse’s comics often skirt around the edges of the Cthulhu Mythos. Is this something that might be lurking in the darkness for the Resurrectionists?
FVL: No, but to see my take on the Cthulhu Mythos in a modern-day police procedural, keep your eyes peeled for the new story “Greene” in an upcoming Dark Horse Presents!
BCP: This story arc begins with the mysterious Jericho. Once he and the world are established will we see other tales from other times and points of view?
FVL: Yeah, you’ll be seeing different points of view almost immediately. Everyone reacts to learning they’re a Resurrectionist in a different way — for some it’s the chance for redemption, for others, it’s the all-time monkey wrench in a life. As the team expands beyond Jericho in the near future, you’ll see some of those stories are tragic, some are heroic.
BCP: Are you going to be working on this title for the foreseeable future, or is there an end date to your involvement in sight?
FVL: There is a definite beginning, middle, and end to this story. It’s an ongoing, so how long it takes is up to the readers. I hope we get to stick around for a while.
BCP: What else can we expect to see from you in the months to come?
FVL: Very excited to unleash Timewalker from Clayton Henry and I out of Valiant at the beginning of the year, and I have another long-term creator-owned project with one of my most frequent collaborators I look forward to announcing very soon!
BCP: Final question, because we love a pun over here at BCP. What comics (or creators) do you think are under-appreciated at the moment – the real dark horses (sorry) of the industry as it stands?
FVL: I think with Harbinger at Valiant, Joshua Dysart is writing one of the best superhero books of all time, much less right now. He is also a great dude and someone I am proud to look up to and call a good friend.
BCP: Thanks again for your time.
Resurrectionists #1 goes on sale November 12th, and you can check out a preview of some of the series’ interior artwork below.
[CLICK FOR FULL SIZE IMAGE]
Interview by: Sam Graven
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