Richard: What can you tell us about the storyline of "Super Villain Team-Up Modok's 11"?
Fred Van Lente: SVTU depicts the greatest "super-heist" in the history of the Marvel Universe. MODOK, sick of being hunted and hounded by AIM, has organized an eclectic team of Marvel's Most Wanted to rob the impenetrable fortress of The Infinicide, an unimaginably powerful cabal of temporal time cartographers from the end of time who have phased into our reality to "map" the events of World War Hulk. The prize? The power source of the Infinicide's ship, a hypernova constantly exploding in an endless temporal loop -- which can also be turned into the most fearsome weapon ever devised.
The problem? Other than the traitors in their own ranks (no honor among thieves, don't'cha know), the fact AIM has marked them all for death, once word gets round of their invaluable prize, every big-time baddie in the MU is coming after MODOK's team to steal their score for themselves!
Richard: Who are the eleven?
Fred: MODOK has picked each one of his team for their specific powers, which will be used in a very specific way in the heist:
Chameleon: Master of Disguise
The Spot: Breaking and Entering
Deadly Nightshade: Geneticist
Living Laser: Energy Flow
I know what you're saying: that's only nine. Well, count the number of characters on the #1 cover! There are a couple surprise members who show up as the series progresses ... and one of them might actually be a hero in disguise... Hmmmmmm...
Richard: Why is Modok a good choice to star in this comic?
Fred: He's a giant floating head and has a huge cult following ... as I've found out recently from writing this book! What better character to man such a quirky concept? And who else is smarter to pull off such a complicated heist?
Richard: Marvel Adventures are a line of comics geared for a younger audience, how are writing these different than the regular Marvel Universe?
Fred: The basic idea behind Marvel Adventures is that since they're widely available in "civilian" outlets like Wal-Mart, Target, the newsstands, et cetera (more so than they are in the Direct Market comics shops, certainly) anybody, from ages 7 to 77, should be able to pick up an issue, have no knowledge of any of the major characters or even comics in general, and have a fun, complete, satisfying reading experience. These are truly "all-ages" comics in the most literal sense of the phrase.
So, as a result of that, the Marvel Adventures stories are not connected to continuity in any way, shape or form; there are no continuing arcs and every story has to be complete in itself in 22 pages; and there can't be any sex, drugs, violence, cursing, rock-n-roll, to make it palpable for the kiddies. But I've gotten plenty of fan mail that suggests MA titles are being enjoyed by parents and adult fans just as much as kids.
Basically, Marvel has finally found a successful way to bring more kids into reading their comics, and it's very exciting and rewarding to be a part of that.
Richard: Do you like writing a comic about villains?
Fred: Ooooohh, yes. [laughs] Much more than heroes, which can be rather stale. In fact, I got started writing for Marvel in the first place because of a "super crime" series I wrote called THE SILENCERS, which was about a bunch of super powered mob enforcers who become freelance operators when the Mafia family they work for gets whacked.
Richard: What have you added to Modok's character?
Fred: We gave him a girlfriend! (laughs) Before his head got expanded, turns out he knocked boots with Monica Rappaccini, the new Scorpion's mother and a former girlfriend of the Hulk. (She must have a thing for monstrous scientists...) She's the head of AIM now, and part of the reason she's after MODOK has to be because her underlings always snicker behind her back when his name is mentioned and whisper, "You know she did that guy...?"
Richard: How did you get hired by Marvel?
Fred: Editor Mark Paniccia liked THE SILENCERS and asked me to pitch for the "New Scorpion" arc in AMAZING FANTASY. He liked my take on the character and so I wrote #7-12 of that title, creating Carmilla Black, the aforementioned Scientist Supreme, Monica Rappaccini, and SHIELD agent Derek Khanata, who starred in the justly-lauded AGENTS OF ATLAS.
Richard: What is "Action Philosophers!"?
Fred: ACTION PHILOSOPHERS is the lives and thoughts of history's A-list brain trust told in hip and humorous comic book fashion! You can preview the series yourself with a slew of free comics on our website: http://www.actionphilosophers.com .
Richard: Where does your inspiration come from?
Fred: My brain.
Richard: What do you have planned for the future comics wise?
Fred: Well, I have super top-secret project I'm writing with WORLD WAR HULK scribe Greg Pak and beginning next year Ryan Dunlavey and I will be following up Action Philosophers with COMIC BOOK COMICS, the definitive (and irreverent) history of the comics medium in comics form!
Richard: What books do you read and movies do you watch?
Fred: I just read a great collection of short stories by this Serbian fantasy and SF author, Zoran Zivkovic, SEVEN TOUCHES OF MUSIC, that I highly recommend; and I just saw a terrific old French crime picture called LE DOULOS ("The Stoolie") that was just awesome ... it starred Jean-Paul Belmondo of BREATHLESS fame.
Richard: What comics did you read as a child and do you read now?
Fred: I liked all the weird quirky 80's stuff like ALPHA FLIGHT and BATMAN & THE OUTSIDERS. (SUICIDE SQUAD, of course -- Yay villains!) I was always looking for quirky stuff. Now I read lots of reprints -- I'm catching up on all of Jack Kirby's oeuvre, with all these terrific omnibi coming out -- and the last superhero thing that really blew me away was Morrison's 7 SOLDIERS OF VICTORY.
Richard: How can someone contact you?
Fred: They can check out my stuff at http://www.fredvanlente.com and email me at email@example.com .
Richard: Any last words of wisdom?
Fred: Silence is sometimes the best answer.