Van Jensen is an up and coming comic writer with current duties on the FLASH with Robert Venditti and GREEN LANTERN CORPS. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Jensen at Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA, which is where Jensen also currently resides. Jensen discusses the intricacies of writing the FLASH and re-introducing fan favorite, Wally West, in the New 52 for the first time. The challenge of writing for the Green Lantern universe and his Kickstarter campaign based original graphic novel, THE LEG.
UNLEASH THE FANBOY: Talk to me about co-writing the FLASH with Robert Venditti now that you are several issues into your run.
VAN JENSEN: Flash is a lot of fun, in that, Robert and I are friends, have been for years and getting to sit down with one of my best friends to plot out the future of the Flash. I struggle to believe that’s what I’m doing with my life. It’s great, I really think we push each other in the right way and we have a very similar writing esthetic, we’re very character focused writers. We both like doing the big action heavy superhero stuff, but also stuff with intricate plot mechanics, stuff that’s planned out a long way into the future. For example we just sat down and planned out, beat by beat, seven issues ahead. Just because, for us, we like to have that roadmap where everything is going. This current storyline, with Flash during the present, future Flash and Wally West getting added into the mix, it’s a very complicated story, so we just want to put the work in to make sure it’s executed in the best possible way.
UTF: Fans have been clamoring for DC to bring back Wally West. What’s it like to have the responsibility of bringing back a fan favorite character into the New 52?
VJ: There’s definitely some pressure there. I grew up with Wally as the Flash that I knew from when I was growing up reading comics. So it’s a character that I had a strong emotional connection with, so there is that pressure. But there’s that pressure with any comic you write because every character is someone’s favorite. To a certain extent you have to set that to the side and focus on telling the best possible story. So you look at finding some of the pieces from the core of the character you carry over, but using these new circumstances, new events, to take them in completely new directions. The main thing with Wally was it was something DC came to us after we had been chosen to write the book. It was fortuitous because there were these plot mechanics we wanted to set-up with the book and then introducing Wally it allowed us to do all that in an even bigger way than with what we already had in place. It just made the story we were telling better and richer and especially bringing out a lot more of Barry Allen’s character.
UTF: You also write GREEN LANTERN CORPS and have for some time. The Green Lantern universe seems to always have big events and crossovers going on. For example; ‘Uprising’, ‘Lights Out’ and now you are moving into ‘Godhead’. What’s it like to do these big stories that tie together consistently?
VJ: I’ll say this. Green Lantern Corps was the first superhero stuff I’d ever done, it was the first single issue comic that I ever wrote. So when I was hired, I think I had about a week and a half to turn in my first script, so I was very much thrown into the fire. That was a year and a half ago that I got launched on it. I had done indie graphic novels up to that point and that’s it. So I was just going, going and going. I don’t know it from anything else, right? That’s all I know is Green Lantern Corps. Then at the point that we started working on the Flash, it was just like, “Oh, whoa, the Flash is easy. The Flash is a dude on Earth who runs fast. I got that. I got it!” Even with time travel it’s so much easier, just because the Green Lantern Corps has so many characters. The way that it’s set-up with Green Lantern even when we aren’t in a crossover, these books inhabit the same universe, so a lot of the characters overlap. There are all these little details that Rob and I are constantly calling or texting to each other.
For example, “Did Killawog tear the chair out of the floor and throw it? Has that happened already? So in my issue do I need to make sure there’s no chair in this room?” It’s just little tiny things and we’re both super anal retentive. We will wake up in the middle of the night, “Did I forget about the chair, did I forget about Killawog’s chair?” That’s how we are. I guess that’s our curse as writers maybe. ‘Godhead’ has been a very different kind of challenge. There’s a one-shot that is kicking off the event and I got to script the bulk of that which is my first time really serving as kind of the lead writer on a big event. Getting to work with amazing, amazing artists and, you know, it’s the fourth world. This is the big one! In some ways, creatively, I think this is like the white whale of comics. This is the thing a lot of people have gone on and tried to really do those characters justice. It’s just a very unwieldy concept and there were some creative challenges. At one point writing this one-shot I had three pages to tell the history of the universe, (laughs), and I had to sit down and figure out how exactly how do I make that happen? But we got there and then I had to send a note of apology to the artists, (laughs).
UTF: I do want to talk quickly about THE LEG, your independent graphic novel. It’s gone to print and fans can purchase it soon. Talk about how this project came together.
VJ: So it was the first graphic novel I ever wrote and the idea is based on a true story of Santa Anna, who was the president of Mexico, lost his left leg in the Pastry War and gave it a full military funeral. Later the leg was exhumed as a protest against him and then it disappeared. So this story is set one hundred years after that and this leg is sort of magically alive and it’s in a boot. So it’s just this knee-high boot hopping around getting in adventures. It doesn’t talk, I mean, it kind of emotes in it’s way.
I wrote it ten years ago but it just struck me as this really funny idea. Then I met Jose Pimienta, the artist, who’s from Mexico and it was very happenstance that we met each other and I happened to tell him about this story, not knowing, where he had grown up. He begged me to send him the script, I did, he loved it, and so I hired him to draw it. He’s been drawing over the course of a few years. I paid for everything up front to have it colored and lettered and totally done so that we launched a Kickstarter campaign and it was just to pre-order a copy of the book. We hit a stretch goal, so it’s going to be available digitally in Spanish as well as in English. It will be distributed through Top Shelf (Productions) and it will be available widely coming up in the near future.
You can pre-order your copy of THE LEG from Top Shelf Productions HERE.