Fred Van Lente Talks Dark Horse’s ‘Brain Boy’ [FALL COMIC BOOK PREVIEWS]

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Brain Boy is a fairly obscure character who originally starred in a short-lived 1960s Dell comic, then lay dormant until Dark Horse revived him earlier this year as part of their superhero line (which also includes Ghost, X, and Catalyst Comics). This week, after a three-issue tryout in the pages of Dark Horse Presents, he will end a 49 year and 11 month drought between headlining engagements when Brain Boy #1 hits comic shop shelves.

We here at MTV Geek are really excited about this series, so we’ve teamed with our friends at Dark Horse to bring you an exclusive interview with writer Fred Van Lente (and an eight-page preview of the forthcoming #0 issue)!

MTV Geek: How would you describe this title to the casual customer, someone who hasn’t read either the 60s material, or your recent reintroduction in DHP?

Fred Van Lente: BRAIN BOY is the not-very-nice nickname for Matt Price, a psychic secret service agent and one of a handful of psionic “bio-assets” developed by Albright Industries and other companies and governments around the to protect — and, in some of the more nefarious cases, kill — Very Important People. Because he learn things other people can’t, however, he’s not even trusted by his own employers — and so he has to play as much a cat-and-mouse game with them as the enemy psychics he has to fight.

Geek: The 60s Brain Boy comic was a pretty bizarre mix of sci-fi, superhero, and espionage elements.  Will this series have a similarly “everything and the kitchen sink” approach, or are you focusing more on couching it in a specific genre?

Van Lente: It’s a pretty grounded exercise in sci-fi espionage, though with definite super hero elements. I would describe it like The X-Files in that sense. There’s so many interesting thing you can do with psychic powers, and so many variations — and in Matt’s world there are very specific psychics, like Cloakers (think The Shadow), Coolers (who can shut down others’ powers) and Stingers, and so forth, that we’ve created a really rich world with its own logic and mythology.

Geek: What material are you pulling from the Dell series?  The settings?  Any particular supporting characters?  Will the lead still spend time flying around in well-tailored suits?

Van Lente: Y’know, I pulled quite a bit from the original series. His basic origin is still the same, President Ricorta, the villain of our first series, appeared there as well, though just like Matt he’s reimagined here, and … well, to say any more would be spoiling too much…

Geek: How closely will this tie in to the other Dark Horse Universe books?

Van Lente: Dark Horse is doing a very smart thing where they’re allowing each book to stand on its own first, to throw out threads in many different directions before showing how they tie together into one, big tapestry. Albright, obviously, is Captain Midnight’s company. So there’s a hint. But saying any more would be ruinous.

Geek: How much of the visual style is based directly on what Freddie Williams III established in the DHP story, and how much is series artist RB Silva developing his own take on the material?

Van Lente: Freddie did a lot of excellent design work, including on Matt himself, and the unique way he looks when his powers works, and my favorite is the utterly weird Georgina Delacorte, who heads the Bio-Vancements division Matt works for. It’s hard to nail a character who beta tests her own body-bending products, and appears with tiny little dinosaur arms in one scene and as a centaur the next. (She is definitely the weirdest aspect of the book.) But Freddie nailed it — and RB is definitely continuing that tradition.

Geek: For those readers who may have missed those introductory DHP chapters, are there plans to reprint them as a stand-alone issue like Dark Horse has with other DHP serials?

Van Lente: Yes. Although it wasn’t planned this way, the #0 issue turns out to be the perfect bridge between Series I and Series II.

Geek: Aside from the original Dell issues, what else would you cite as influencing your work on this title?

Van Lente: I worked for the United Nations for many years before becoming a comics pro, and so that informed Series I — it takes place during the United Nations General Assembly in September and all of the world’s leaders descend on New York and the United States Secret Service has to protect them all. So I was able to bring some real-life experience to Tom Clancy the whole thing up with a certain degree of verisimilitude, even though we have levitation and telekinesis and people’s heads exploding and so forth.

Geek: And while this initial series only runs four issues, do you have plans for more Brain Boy beyond that?

Van Lente: Yup, we’re coming back for a Series II that I’ll start writing shortly … assuming Matt survives this story…

Brain Boy #1 is in stores now.

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