Interview: Fred Van Lente Discusses The Future (or Past) of “Ivar, Timewalker”

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Time travel is one of the staples of science fiction storytelling. On-screen fare such as Back to the Future and Doctor Who have captivated audiences by opening them up to new and unexplored possibilities using this device. Time-travel also has a long history in the comic book industry, and presently no title is working with time-travel better than Valiant Entertainment’s Ivar, Timewalker. Comics Bulletin had the opportunity to talk with series’ writer Fred Van Lente and discuss youthful immortals, brotherly love, and the future of the series.

Daniel Gehen for Comics Bulletin: Ivar previously showed up during your time on Archer & Armstrong. In shifting Ivar from a supporting character to a main protagonist, was there any change your approach to writing him?

Fred Van Lente: Sort of. He always had an arrogance, a sort of know-it-all attitude that a lot of smart people had, in his early appearances. I was able to play that up here. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that to me he still is primarily a supporting character — this is Neela’s story, paradoxically, even though Ivar is the title character.

CB: Positioning Neela in the lead role is one of my favorite aspects of the book. How have you approached this title’
s structure, particularly when it comes to juggling the various timelines?

Van Lente: I wouldn’t say this was planned, necessarily, but the way it’s worked out is “Making History” was set primarily in the past, “Breaking History” is set primarily in the future, and “Ending History” is set across various alternate realities. And since we’ve had three great artists — Clayton Henry, Francis Portela and Pere Perez, respectively — bringing those arcs to life, it’s worked out really well, structurally-speaking.

CB: We’ve seen this book’s time-travel element present us with different versions of Gilad. Will we be seeing something similar for the other Anni-Padda brothers?

Van Lente: Not really, since Armstrong doesn’t really age — he’s the only true immortal of the bunch — and I’ve always written him anarchronistically, so he’s exactly the same no matter what era of history we see him in, which is part of his charm of course!

CB: These brothers have managed to survive, one way or another, for thousands of years. However, their interactions among each other have a youthful quality to them – where does that come from?

Van Lente: I think all of us, no matter what age we are, regress to a certain youthfulness with people we’ve known our whole lives, especially our parents. And since I’ve written the brothers as young people a lot — most notably Archer & Armstrong #0 and the upcoming Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer #4 (spoilers!), it comes very naturally to me.

CB: I’m very excited to check that out! What kinds of storytelling opportunities does writing these immortal characters present?

Van Lente: Well, the most obvious is I have an excuse to show off my love of history, and my interest in cosmology. You get to deal with where we’ve been and where we’re going, and characters who have seen it all. Armstrong is the best immortal because he sees everyone’s bullshit — he’s seen enough reality not to tell himself the same comfortable lies we mere mortals do to get through the day.

CB: Based on the outcome of the issue #8, can readers expect Neela to take a bigger role in the future, and if so how might that be?

Van Lente: Yeah, I mean, she’s now the most experienced Timewalker in the cast, with (spoilers!) future-Ivar’s death. But she still needs an Ivar and in #9 she goes back in time to get one. But while it may be the Ivar she needs, it may not be the Ivar she wants.

CB: When might we see Neela’s crazed, cyborg-enhanced future self again, if ever?

Van Lente: Well, she is Neela’s future, right? So we most definitely will…

CB: Touche’. The previous arc hinted at a romantic relationship between Neela and Ivar  – what opportunities does this new arc present to explore that dynamic?

Van Lente: That would be telling.

CB: Ha, good point. Moving on, with Pere Perez jumping on the title at issue #9, how do you see his art shaping his latest arc?

Van Lente: Pere is great and was justly nominated for a Harvey for his work on Archer & Armstrong. And much of the third arc is set largely in a world called the Sauran Empire, and he’s had more fun with these creatures than I’ve ever seen him have — and I have a feeling the readers are going to get a huge kick out of it too.

CB: Something I’ve noticed across all of Valiant’s titles is that, for the most part, each arc has a different artist. How does that affect the creative process compared to having one artist for a consistent run?

Van Lente: Not really. You come to expect it, because that’s just the way the business is run these days. Fortunately, Valiant doesn’t have a non-genius in their stable!

CB: Too true. Now between this, Archer & Armstrong and Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer, you’ve touched a lot of corners in the Valiant Universe. Is there an area that you’ve yet to explore which has piqued your interest?

Van Lente: There is, and I’m exploring it now! Watch this space for details!


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