6 Week online Course | Instructor: Fred Van Lente

Writing for a Shared Universe


Whether in a galaxy far, far away or the world outside your window, from the ancient past to the far future, shared universes have been a mainstay of comics from the very beginning—and learning how to write in them is the most important skill you can have to make it as a pro. Instructor Fred Van Lente has worked in the Marvel Universe, the Valiant Universe, John Carter’s Barsoom, GI Joe’s battlefields, Conan’s Hyboria, Archie’s Riverdale, and many others. He will teach you how to apply your abilities to work in other people’s worlds—and, not only that, together, in the class, we will create one of our own! This is as close to the simulation of working in a creative, multi-staffed comic book environment as we can make it, complete with editorial notes sessions and our very own writers’ summit. 

  • You will learn from professional comic book writer Fred Van Lente (Amazing Spider-Man, Taskmaster, MODOK’s 11, Deadpool vs the Punisher, Archer & Armstrong, G.I. Joe, Everything’s Archie, Conan the Avenger, Adventure Time, et al).
  • You’ll get Fred’s lessons and lectures and discussions!
  • You’ll develop comics scripts and/or stories in a series of pre-existing shared universes, some of them your choice, some of Fred’s. In the second half of the class, you will participate in a simulated “writer’s summit” to make each student’s ideas work together in a single, shared universe of the class’s own devising! 
  • You also get exclusive access to a dedicated class member-only online forum.
  • You’ll have access to recordings of any class in the series for the duration of the class and a few weeks after its conclusion—so you never have to miss a class!
  • Class size is limited to keep it awesome!
Fred Van Lente bio

Fred Van Lente is a six-time New York Times bestselling comics writer, novelist and playwright whose work spans mystery/thrillers to historical fiction to superheroes to comedy.

Van Lente burst onto the scene with his first collaboration with cartoonist Ryan Dunlavey, Action Philosophers, which became a YALSA Best Book for Teens and the NYT called “intensely goofy but intellectually rigorous”.

From there he went on to a long career at Marvel, where he worked on titles like The Amazing Spider-Man, Captain America and Marvel Zombies. He’s also written for DC, Archie Comics, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, Dynamite Comics, and Valiant, where his run on Archer & Armstrong was nominated for a Harvey Award for Best Continuing Series.

Van Lente has continued writing non-fiction graphic novels, often with his artistic collaborator Ryan Dunlavey, including the bestselling Comic Book History of Comics and the middle grade series Action Presidents. Two entries in the series were nominated for the Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards. In 2021, the third volume won the Theodore Roosevelt Association’s Theodore Roosevelt Children’s Book Prize.

After years of short story writing (including “Neversleeps,” which shortlisted for Best American Science Fiction), Van Lente graduated to prose novels with the acclaimed mysteries Ten Dead Comedians and The Con Artist.

His Platinum Studios graphic novel Cowboys & Aliens was adapted into a film in 2011 starring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, directed by Jon Favreau. The following year, Helen Cho, a character created with co-writer Greg Pak in their acclaimed Incredible Hercules series, made her MCU debut in the blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron. His MODOK’s 11 and Scorpion became Hulu’s Marvel’s MODOK, which named the elementary school in the show after him (in S1 E2).

King Kirby, his play with Crystal Skillman about the life of the legendary comics artist Jack Kirby, was a New York Times Critics’ Pick on its NYC debut in 2014. It debuted as a much-acclaimed free audio drama podcast in 2020 featuring the original cast on the Broadway Podcasting Network.

Starting as a 2020 pandemic lockdown hobby, Van Lente has a regular comics history column on the website 13th Dimension, where he tackles such burning topics of the day as Stan Lee’s legacy and which is better, Justice League or Fantastic Four?

Of course, none of this should be confused with Fred Van Lente Day, the annual celebration of his work on the Comic Book Resources web site that has been happening since 2005…the year Action Philosophers first came out.

Fred lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the playwright and his frequent co-collaborator Crystal Skillman, and some mostly ungrateful cats. He loves to hear from readers at fred.vanlente@gmail.com.

Professional working writers in comics, or any other media, don’t just work on their own ideas. Frequently you get hired to write someone else’s pre-established characters, whether that’s the X-Men or Batman or My Little Pony or Stranger Things. This course will challenge you to apply your skills and imagination to any writing assignment that may be lobbed your way in a professional setting. 

Do I need to already be a comics writer to take this course?

Not at all, but taking our Introduction to Comic Book Writing course is a prerequisite to this one. If you’ve completed Introduction to Comic Book Writing, you’re good to go for this one!

Wanting to work in comics is great, but what if I just want to tell my own stories?

Our courses are geared for this exact purpose. No matter where you are on the spectrum, beginner or an experienced writer, learning from someone who has achieved these same goals and can personally guide you is invaluable!

What do we do in this course?

The general purpose of this course is to simulate the working environment at a large comics company with a number of different properties that you, the students, will be hired to write. Your instructor, Fred, will be taking on the role of editor-in-chief and company man, handing out assignments, providing feedback, and, of course, to properly simulate working at a real comics company, pitching out curveballs galore. 

Is there anything I should bring with me to this course? 

For the first class, we’d like every student to think of a character they’d most like to write from some other company’s universe or franchise: Iron Man, Harley Quinn, Red Sonja, Bumblebee, John Wick, Kratos, whomever. It doesn’t matter the genre or media. Even though you’re writing for comics, the character does not have to come from comics. It can be the Domino’s Pizza Noid for all we care. This will form the basis of the first assignment, in ways that will become obvious once you attend the first session. (No spoilers.) 

Since this is about “Shared” Universes, will we be doing a lot of sharing with other students? 

Very perceptive, FAQ questioner! Unusually, in comparison to other Comics Experience courses, students won’t just be working on their own creations, they will be collaborating with each other through in-class workshopping. And, in some cases, you may be swapping characters and ideas to literally work on other people’s stories. Remember: Sharing is caring. 

Do I need to know a whole lot about comics?

Having at least an interest in comics and a basic knowledge as a reader is helpful, but not mandatory. 

What if I miss a class?

All of our classes are recorded and available to view via streaming link for the duration of the course. And on top of that, you’ll have exclusive access to the Comics Experience forum set up just for the class. You’ll be able to interact with the rest of your class all week long at any time!

If I don’t live in the United States, can I still take the course?

You bet. We’ve had students jump in from Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America and Africa. Not Antarctica yet, but give us time! Some of these students have not been able to attend live, but they’ve viewed the recordings and interacted with their classmates online!

Do we get any practical industry advice?

This course is pretty much all practical industry advice. We’re trying to make this the closest we can to simulating the actual freelance writer experience as possible. 

How do I sign up?

Click on the “Add to Cart” button for this course and you’ll get an email confirmation and instructions within two business days containing information about taking the class.

Go ahead and reserve your spot today! Space is limited.

Prerequisite: You must have completed the Introduction to Writing Comics course to enroll in this class.

In order to complete the work, the following system requirements are recommended:

  • Microsoft Word or some other writing software.

To participate in our live online sessions you will need:

What if I need to cancel my enrollment?

Unfortunately, Comics Experience cannot provide a full refund for course enrollment once the course is purchased.

  • From the time of purchase until twenty-one (21) days before the class start date, 50% of the course fee can be refunded.
  • Between twenty (20) and seven (7) days prior to the class start date, 25% of the course fee can be refunded.
  • Six (6) days or fewer before the course start date, no refund will be issued.
  • We appreciate your understanding and compliance to help us keep costs down and to continue offering high quality courses.