Comic Book Writer Fred Van Lente Touts “Comic Supremacy” on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #72

Fred Van Lente has writ­ten for more than 15 years for his own Evil Twin Comics, Mar­vel and oth­er out­lets. In this episode of Pret­ty Much Pop, he joins your hosts Mark Lin­sen­may­er, Eri­ca Spyres, and Bri­an Hirt to dis­cuss comics as an idio­syn­crat­ic form of lit­er­a­ture.

In the realm of non-fic­tion, Ryan start­ed with the beloved Action Philoso­phers! series in 2004 with illus­tra­tor Ryan Dunlavey, and this team has gone on to cre­ate the very suc­cess­ful Com­ic Book His­to­ry of Comics, plus more recent­ly Action Pres­i­dents, Action Activists (avail­able free in asso­ci­a­tion with the NYC Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion’s Civics for All pro­gram), and have just begun releas­ing The Com­ic Book His­to­ry of Ani­ma­tion. While the non-fic­tion comics for­mat is com­mon in places like Japan, and has a sto­ried his­to­ry in Amer­i­ca, hav­ing been used to train sol­diers in World War II, this is still some­thing of a nov­el­ty in Amer­i­ca as comics still strug­gle to over­come their rep­u­ta­tion in (as Ryan puts it) “trash for morons.” Giv­en that visu­al con­tent is well known to help peo­ple learn as com­pared to text alone, the use of tools like Action Pres­i­dents in class­rooms should­n’t be sur­pris­ing.

The inter­view also gets into Ryan’s fic­tion work, from Cow­boys & Aliens, which was turned into a 2011 Jon Favreau/Steven Spiel­berg film entire­ly with­out Ryan’s involve­ment, to titles like Mar­vel Zom­bies and X‑Men Noir which use alter­nate dimen­sion ver­sions of pop­u­lar char­ac­ters to tell sto­ries too dark and/or whim­si­cal to have much pos­si­bil­i­ty of ever being trans­ferred to the screen. Despite comics’ rep­u­ta­tion as being basi­cal­ly like elab­o­rate film sto­ry-boards, their low over­head is exact­ly what dis­tin­guish­es them so strong­ly from film: Their cre­ativ­i­ty is unlim­it­ed by bud­get, and cre­ators can take tremen­dous risks. What­ev­er the main­stream palata­bil­i­ty of (alter­nate dimen­sion) Peter Park­er eat­ing Aunt May’s brain, this has been one of the most pop­u­lar things that Ryan’s been involved with among com­ic book read­ers.

Learn more about Fred’s work at You can read there about how Fred con­structs scripts; the one Mark refers to with the mys­te­ri­ous­ly changed coat is right there high­light­ed at the top of this page, and there are also sev­er­al sam­ple scripts includ­ing the one for Action Philoso­phers: Immanuel Kant that demon­strates Fred’s meth­ods for vivid­ly explain­ing a com­plex idea.

Hear more of this pod­cast at This episode includes bonus dis­cus­sion you can access by sup­port­ing the pod­cast at This pod­cast is part of the Par­tial­ly Exam­ined Life pod­cast net­work.

Pret­ty Much Pop: A Cul­ture Pod­cast is the first pod­cast curat­ed by Open Cul­ture. Browse all Pret­ty Much Pop posts.

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