Welcome to a new column that’ll hopefully be recurring! Recently I was fortunate to have the opportunity to interview comic writer Van Jensen (known for his recently completed run on DC Comics’ The Flash) about his recent trip to Georgia as a Comics Ambassador, his work for DC and what the future holds for him.
The Comic Bubble: First of all, thank you Van for taking the time out of your busy schedule to let me ask you some questions. I’ve been a great admirer of your work for some time now and it’s truly a privilege to get to interview such a talented creator.
Van Jensen: Thank you! And it’s my pleasure. I’m so grateful for you sharing this with your readers.
TCB: You recently traveled overseas to Georgia as one of the first ever “comic book ambassadors”. That’s such an amazing title!
Van Jensen: Pretty incredible, right?
TCB: Tell us a little bit about the program. How did it come about? And what all did being a “comic book ambassador” entail?
Van Jensen: It started with Damian Wampler, a cultural attache in the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. He thought comics could be great for cultural diplomacy, connecting with children and teens especially. Comics are great for literacy, and they’re also a relatively cheap and easy medium to learn. So it was all about encouraging kids to read comics, as well as to create their own.
I worked with a specific team of four Georgian creators, helping them shape a story and script to make one of the first ever Georgian comics, and that was a hugely intensive but greatly rewarding project.
TCB: How did you decide on what you would teach in the workshop? And what did you specifically teach?
Van Jensen: I’ve done some teaching before, so it was really a matter of condensing my standard curriculum so we could cover it in a week. We focused on storytelling first, then on the process of comics creation, then on scripting and collaboration. The last day was all about troubleshooting their story.
TCB: Being chosen for such an important role sounds like a great honor. How were you chosen? And how did you feel when you found out that you were selected?
Van Jensen: Damian had asked around, and I was recommended. Initially, I thought it sounded too cool to be true. But like you said, it’s a huge honor. Both thrilling and intimidating.
TCB: How would you describe your experience as “comic book ambassador”?
Van Jensen: It was amazing. The Georgian people are so welcoming and warm. The country is beautiful, with a history that’s right at the surface. It’s a special place, and the time I spent there is probably the most incredible experience I’ve ever had.
TCB: Do you know if the program will only be a one-time thing or will it continue into the future? If so, would you participate in the program again?
Van Jensen: This was a pilot program, so we’re going to circle back once it wraps up and talk to some other embassies to see if it makes sense to expand it. I would definitely do it again, though it was a huge commitment of time and energy.
TCB: Switching gears to the work you’ve been doing in the comic industry, I have to commend you on your incredible Flash run. You and Robert Venditti have done amazing work together. Flash is one my favorite DC characters and I was always excited to read what you guys did with the Scarlet Speedster.
Van Jensen: Thank you! It was a very cool project to tackle.
TCB: Did you feel like it would be a daunting task to follow Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul’s epic two-volume run when you and Robert took over the series?
Van Jensen: That team did some truly unprecedented visual things in the book, so they left big shoes to fill, for sure. We just tried to tell our own stories. I felt pretty mixed about our run. There are things I liked. Lots of things I would do differently. But that’s how it goes. You live and learn and try to do better on the next thing.
TCB: You were also the writer for Green Lantern & Green Lantern: Corps for some time. How was it writing that series? And how did that series compared to others you’ve written?
Van Jensen: Green Lantern Corps was amazing. Very intense, with tons of moving pieces. So many characters and settings and aliens. A lot of work, but very rewarding. I miss writing John Stewart.
TCB: I’ve always loved Green Lantern with Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner being my top 2. Are you partial to any particular Green Lantern?
Van Jensen: Ha! See my last answer.
TCB: As a huge fan of your work, I am truly sad to see you leave not just The Flash but also DC Comics. Do you have any plans to return in the future?
Van Jensen: Never say never, right?
TCB: I originally assumed that my first introduction to your work was when I read your run on The Flash, but I later found out that you were one of the guys (along with Dustin Higgins) behind Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer! I remember checking that out from the library because the title and cover looked so cool. So thanks for that! I loved the book. How do you feel when you reflect on some of your previous work, compared to what you’re working on now?
Van Jensen: I always am a pretty tough critic of myself, but I thought Pinocchio came out pretty well. It’s great to have all three volumes collected in the omnibus. Anyway, I typically hate my work when it’s first published, then I gradually grow fonder toward it as years pass.
TCB: You have a new series from Dark Horse called “Cryptocracy” that’s coming soon. What’s the series about? And how do you think it’ll differ from your titles at DC?
Van Jensen: It’s about the secret, shadowy group that truly controls the world. Except rather than being the villains, they’re the heroes of the story. We see why they do the things they do, and then we learn what it is that scares them. It’s a big mashup of sci-fi and conspiracy theories, with the first issue out 6/29. I think the biggest difference from DC is that this is me writing with less of a filter. It’s 100% the story that artist Pete Woods and I want to tell, the way I want to tell it.
TCB: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you’d be willing to tease?
Van Jensen: I do! I’m writing a new Six Million Dollar Man series from Dynamite with artist Ron Salas. First issue is out in July. Then I have a bunch of other stuff coming up, though it’s all secret for now. I’m just about to direct a short film that I wrote, which is a new thing for me.
TCB: I’d like to thank you again Van for taking your time to (virtually) sit and chat with me. I’m very much looking forward to your upcoming series and all of your work in the future. You’re a magnificent writer and I can’t wait until I meet you in person one day!
Van Jensen: Thank you so much! You are too kind.
For more detailed information on Van Jensen’s trip to Georgia, you can read his article at Pastemagazine.com!
Wait, there’s more!