Smash Pages Q&A: Fred van Lente

The veteran comics creator talks about his latest novel, “The Con Artist,” his current comics projects and more.

Fred van Lente is the comics writer best known to some of us for the series Action Philosophers!, Action Presidents and the Comic Book History of Comics. He’s also spent years writing a wide variety of books for Valiant, Marvel and Dark Horse including Archer and Armstrong, Brain Boy, Conan, Marvel Zombies, Super-Villain Team-Up: MODOK’s 11 and his current project, the Valiant series Psi-Lords.

Van Lente also has a busy career outside of comics. He’s a playwright, perhaps best known to comics fans for King Kirby, which he wrote with his wife the writer Crystal Skillman. He’s also a novelist with two crime novels under his belt, Ten Dead Comedians and The Con Artist.

The Con Artist came out last year and features a comics creator at the San Diego Comic Con who gets drawn into an elaborate web of murder and corruption in the comics industry. It manages to be both laugh out loud funny and incredibly inventive, making a book that is very much about comics and industry, but also telling a story that is firmly in the noir tradition of corruption, betrayal and violence that leads back to original sins.

Convention season is mostly over, but I asked Van Lente if he would be up for a few questions about the book and his work.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Jorge J. Santos, Jr.

The writer and assistant professor discusses his book ‘Graphic Memories of the Civil Rights Movement.’

Jorge J. Santos, Jr. is the author of the new book Graphic Memories of the Civil Rights Movement: Reframing History in Comics, which was recently published by the University of Texas Press. The Assistant Professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts has been a longtime comics reader, but never made comics the subject of his scholarship in college and graduate school and only recently has been examining comics.

His book, which is an important and thoughtful work which has far-reaching impacts beyond the world of comics studies, is about rethinking the legacy and meaning of the Civil Rights movement. Santos looks at five graphic novels and considers the X-Men series in an effort to look at how collective memory is constructed and the ways that comics can be particularly useful in retelling and re-contextualizing history.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Will Murray

The journalist, writer and Squirrel Girl co-creator discusses his work on Doc Savage, The Shadow and other pulp heroes — and his return to Squirrel Girl.

Will Murray has long been a journalist for Starlog and other publications, but he’s best known as one of the great pulp historians. Murray’s been involved with the recent reprints of Doc Savage, The Shadow and other characters. A few years ago, Murray had two major books published, Writings in Bronze, which collected a lot of his writings about Doc Savage and Lester Dent, and Wordslingers, a book about the pulp Westerns, and more broadly, about what the Western genre was and continues to mean.

All along, Murray has also been writing fiction, something that he’s spent more time and energy on in recent years. Besides writing multiple Doc Savage novels under the pen name Kenneth Robeson, Murray has written a Pat Savage novel, crossovers between Doc Savage and The Shadow, and books featuring The Spider, Tarzan and King Kong. Murray has also written a number of comics over the years, including co-creating one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved characters with legendary artist Steve Ditko – Squirrel Girl.

I spoke with Murray about his current projects, including John Carter and The Spider, his continuing love of pulp fiction and writing Squirrel Girl again.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Bill Schelly’s ‘Sense of Wonder’

The writer and biographer discusses his latest book, which details his youth as a comic fan in the 1960s and beyond.

Bill Schelly is one of the great writers about comics. Currently the Associate Editor of Alter Ego, he’s written biographies of Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Kubert, Otto Binder and others in addition to writing and editing a number of art books and anthologies. Among his many awards are an Eisner Award and an Inkpot Award. Besides being one of the very best biographers who has taken on cartoonists and comics as a subject, Schelly is also one of the great writers about fandom in books like The Golden Age of Comic Fandom and Founders of Comic Fandom.

This year saw the publication of Sense of Wonder: My Life in Comic Fandom–The Whole Story. Schelly had originally published an earlier version of the book, where he wrote about his youth in comics fandom. For this new edition he rewrite the original book and expanded it to nearly twice the length. Schelly has been involved since the 1960s, editing and contributing to various fanzines as a writer and artist. One aspect of this new edition of Sense of Wonder is Schelly talking openly about growing up gay in the 1960s and finding a place in fandom. He also talks about more recent decades, how he got back into reading comics, finding a creative outlet, and other aspects of his life, including the death of his son. I’ve read and admired Schelly for many years, though we’ve never met and I asked if we could talk about his new book.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Andrea Tsurumi on ‘Accident!’

The creator of ‘Zootrope’ and ‘Andrew Jackson Throws a Punch’ discusses her new children’s book, ‘Accident!’

Comics fans have known Andrea Tsurumi’s work for years. Comics like Andrew Jackson Throws a Punch and Zootrope, and her books Why Would You Do That? and But Suddenly an Octopus showed her inventiveness, and an ability to switch between styles. She’s made comics for The Nib, illustrations for The New York Times, and her picture book Accident! was just published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and has been named one of the best picture books of 2017 by Publishers Weekly.

The story of an armadillo named Lola, it starts with an accident and then becomes an out of control chase that ends as people (and armadillos) learn a lesson. It’s something that will look and feel familiar to people who have read Tsurumi’s comics and is an entertaining, madcap story that feels very much like her work. She was kind enough to take time out to talk about comics, picture books and more.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Stephanie Graegin on ‘Super Manny Stands Up!’

The young picture book artist talks about the backstory of the greatest superhero story of 2017.

In recent years, artist Stephanie Graegin has established herself as one of the best young picture book artists. If anyone wasn’t convinced of her talents, this year saw the release of three picture books that Greagin illustrated, including one based on the Elvis Presley song Love Me Tender, two novels that she illustrated, in addition to her debut as a writer and illustrator, Little Fox in the Forest.

The sheer volume of work she’s able to draw is impressible, but she is also very good, and there is so much detail and nuance in her work to pour over. From a day in the life of a city park to what it means to have a relative suffering from Alzheimer’s to the nature of being a collector to the small joys found in everyday, Graegin finds a way to blend a playful style with the profound in a way that brings these humanistic stories to life. Moreover she does so with such care and detail, as though each page is a world.

This summer saw the release of Super Manny Stands Up! which was written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Graegin. It is a story about the power of imagination and the way that it can influence and change lives, and is, quite simply, one of the best and most important superhero stories of the year. Super Manny is the hero we need and thankfully Stephanie Graegin is one of the artists we have. She answered a few questions about how she works, and how her superpower seems to be not sleeping.

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Smash Pages Q&A: Janice Macleod on ‘A Paris Year’

The author and painter discusses her ‘comics-adjacent’ books on the City of Lights.

Janice Macleod doesn’t make comics, but her Paris Letters are clearly comics-adjacent. For years she’s been painting images of Paris and elsewhere and combining it with text, a story or her own observations about the place or events. She detailed the story behind how she ended up in Paris, crafting these letters and selling them through etsy in her bestselling book Paris Letters. The book is essentially a how-to guide for leaving your job and becoming a flâneur in Paris, a description she enjoyed.

Her new book is A Paris Year, which is an artist’s book, a datebook-like volume of drawings, photographs and stories about the city.

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Cullen Bunn’s prose work collected in ‘A Passage in Black’

OmahaBound collects 27 ‘back-woods horror’ prose stories by Bunn, with illustrations by Tim Mayer.

When he’s not writing comics — and sometimes it’s hard to imagine that there’s a time when he’s not writing comics, based on all the projects he has going on — Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Harrow County) writes short stories, usually (and not surprisingly) in the horror genre. Now 27 of those stories are being collected by publisher OmahaBound.

A Passage in Black & Other Stories will include eight never-before published stories, along with 19 that were only released in the small press. Artist Tim Mayer will provide 23 illustrations for the collection, as well as the cover for the trade paperback version. Tyler Crook, Bunn’s collaborator on Harrow County, created the cover for the limited edition hardcover that will only be available on OmahaBound’s site. The publisher describes the stories as “back-woods horror, creepy and terrifying tales that only Cullen Bunn could tell.”

The collection is due out Oct. 6. Check out the two covers below.

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Check out Todd Klein’s process for creating a retro ‘American Gods’ cover

Klein worked with legendary paperback and movie poster artist Robert McGinnis to create a new cover for Neil Gaiman’s book, the first of many from the Gaiman library.

With the American Gods TV show getting a lot of attention right now, demand for Neil Gaiman’s original novel about old gods facing new gods has skyrocketed. Luckily, Gaiman and his publisher were already discussing a new paperback printing of the book — one featuring a cover by Robert McGinnis.

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