|FRED VAN LANTE
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DF Interview: Fred Van Lente brings readers murder, mystery with a little Lovecraftian twist in Weird Detective
By Byron Brewer
Lovecraftian cops, the Innsmouth Mafia and other outrages of insanity stalk the streets of New York! The city has been plagued by a regular pattern of crimes too weird and bizarre for the average detective. Lurking in the evidence are shadows of loathsome horrors from beyond space and time, seeking to usher in the unimaginable evil of the Old Ones. The only man capable of fighting against the unspeakable terrors isn’t a man at all. Detective Sebastian Greene is one of them—it takes a monster to catch a monster.
Amid this bizarre backdrop comes a new comic from Dark Horse, Weird Detective, by writer Fred Van Lente (Brain Boy, Conan the Avenger, Resurrectionists) and illustrator Guiu Vilanova (Conan the Avenger).
Dynamic Forces wished to know more, so we could tell you more, and thus sat down with FVL for a little chat.
Dynamic Forces: Fred, we (or rather I as a reader) were just lamenting the end of your brilliant run of Conan (the Avenger) and here comes an intriguing book spinning out of Dark Horse Presents and involving apparently everything from Cthulhu police to telepathic cats (Cosmo, beware! lol). Tell us as its creator how this book came about as a series.
Fred Van Lente: Well, it started out many eons ago as a “Martian Manhunter: Year One” pitch for DC, but when they passed the idea kind of evolved into more of a horror series. I loved how in the original J’onn J’onzz they just came up with new super powers for him any time he got into a tough spot. This was back when the strip was more of a detective strip, before MM became Green Superman. And I was interested in having a character that was truly alien, not just like a Star Trek guy with body paint and stuff glued to his face. What would such a person be like? And then you merge that with the “super-cop” trope that’s so prevalent in TV, dating back to Sherlock Holmes, and then you really have the makings of an interesting series.
DF: Speaking of Conan the Avenger, you are re-teaming with its illustrator Guiu Vilanova on Weird Detective. How does that feel?
Fred Van Lente: Great! I actually first became aware of Guiu’s work when we did a web comic for Dark Horse, Project Black Sky. Weird Detective had already been greenlit and I was like, “This guy would be perfect for WD,” and boy was a right, he’s been a terrific collaborator. He draws gritty street scenes and Lovecraftian horrors with equal aplomb.
DF: Tell us about our protagonist, Detective Sebastian Greene.
Fred Van Lente: [Spoilers ahead.] There are two Greenes, really. One is a somewhat mediocre, mildly corrupt member of the New York Police Department’s Minor Crimes Squad. But his mind has been swapped by a member of the Great Race of Yith, who are these powerful telepathic beings from Earth’s past.
DF: What can you tell us about the storyline for this new series?
Fred Van Lente: Greene -- or, at least, the being possessing the real Greene -- has been sent to the future (our present) to learn how to defeat the various horrific menaces that trouble the Great Race in the past, thereby, presumably changing history. And he’s decided that by possessing the body of a police officer is the best way to do that. And wouldn’t you know it, various horrific murders are happening around the city that appear to be committed by just such entities … and Greene is in possession of Yithian senses and tech far beyond our own comprehension to track them down, so he may be our only hope.
DF: Any interesting big-bads you can comment on?
Fred Van Lente: There’s the Anzio Family, a Mafia crew that’s been tainted by the Deep Ones of Innsmouth -- there’s a group called “The Wisdom” that appears to be pulling the strings of the police department from behind the scenes -- and most terrifying of all, there’s what the press has dubbed the Juice Box Killer, a serial killer running around scooping out people’s insides and leaving nothing but their skin behind -- that’s the primary focus of Greene’s investigation.
DF: You’re kind of sticking Lovecraft strangeness into a blender with true-crime police grit, a rather unusual genre mashup. Tell me, are you a fan of both?
Fred Van Lente: Oh yeah, very much so. Merging Lovecraft with a cop show was my main inspiration here. A lot of what’s in Weird Detective comes from one of Lovecraft’s earliest stories, “Horror at Red Hook,” which is one of his few set in New York City. In fact, I don’t live too far from Lovecraft’s main Brooklyn apartment!
DF: Any of the vaunted FVL wit and humor (ala Hercules) on display in Weird Detective amid the monsters and murders?
Fred Van Lente: Oh, of course. I just can’t help myself!
DF: Fred, any other current or near-future projects you would like to discuss?
Fred Van Lente: Definitely check out Assassin’s Creed: Templars, a new series Dennis Calero and I are doing set in the world of the best-selling video game series. That’s out now from Titan.
Dynamic Forces would like to thank Fred Van Lente for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Weird Detective #1 from Dark Horse hits stores June 15th!
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