Fred Van Lente

On January 11, 2020, writer Fred Van Lente will lead a Comics Experience Master Seminar on Pitching Comics! Van Lente is a New York Times bestselling author. With one of the most expansive and unique resumes in comics, his body of work spans top superhero titles (Amazing Spider-Man), AND genre-redefining nonfiction (Action Philosophers, The Comic Book History of Comics).

Now, Van Lente shares his expertise with our community on pitching — one of the most mysterious challenges for even the most experienced comics creators to master.

In this one-day seminar, you’ll gain the tools you need to craft concise, compelling project pitches that will resonate with editors and audiences alike. Registration is limited, and you can learn more and sign up here!

Van Lente talked with us about the art of pitching, what to expect from his seminar, and more.

Comics Experience: What was your own favorite comic pitching experience?

FVL: You have to be able to roll with the punches – just because a pitch is accepted doesn’t mean the final product will look much like it.

For my first Marvel gig, I was asked to pitch on re-imagining the Scorpion character as a teenage female S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (as one does) and I came up with this idea that the pretty well known villains Silver Samurai and Viper, longtime allies, got drunk and hooked up one night in Madripoor and the result was this Scorpion character, their daughter.

After an initial rejection my pitch was accepted, but they said I couldn’t use Silver Samurai or Viper because Mark Millar is using them in Wolverine. To which my brain said, “But….that’s literally like my whole pitch” but my mouth said, “You got it, Mr. Editor sir.”

So the new Scorpion ended up having a completely brand-new villain mother, AIM Scientist Supreme Monica Rappaccini, who, much to my surprise, has become one of the longer running Marvel characters I created, and a little bird told me is soon to make her major reoccurring-character TV debut. This road takes you to strange, but interesting places.

What’s one thing you wish more people understood about pitching a comic project?

Distilling the essence of a project into the catchiest sound bite is a skill unto itself. It requires confidence in your material that you don’t have to blizzard people with verbiage to get them to be into it. I wish people would understand they “pitch” thing to their friends and family all the time, whenever you say, “I really liked this movie/book/video game” and they respond, “What’s it about?” Whatever you say after that is the pitch, and you instinctually choose the words that convey how and why you liked this thing. You just need to be able to do that for your own projects as well as other people’s.

What will students be able to do differently after taking your Comics Experience seminar?

My plan is to hand people scalpels that will let them precisely pare down their pitch into its most efficient, effective essence. Simplicity is key because rarely are you the only person pitching your project. The editor who takes your pitch is going to take that pitch to their superiors to get them buy-in. Editorial needs buy-in from Marketing. Marketing needs buy-in from the Media. And the Media has to sell their article on your idea to the public. And as I said above, your fans need to be able to get the non-converted excited about your idea. It’s the Circle of Life!

What you’re not writing comics, what do you, Fred Van Lente, enjoy doing for fun?

I am a big bike rider, traveler, and baseball fan. I play a lot of role playing games and video games — probably too many. And I love cooking. That’s probably my favorite of all.

To cook up something of your own, head to our Master Seminar with Fred Van Lente page to register for this one-time-only event on January 11!