INTERVIEW: Talking Howtoons: (Re)Ignition with Fred Van Lente

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An ecological disaster has hit the world and everyone has been put into suspended animation in order to ride out the disaster. But when kids Celine and Tucker wake up to find that their parents are missing they must use all their Howtoons knowledge and know-how to find them in this strange new world. Mixing real science with adventure, Howtoons teaches kids how to do practical science projects that can be done at home.

I had a chat with Howtoons: (Re)Ignition writer Fred Van Lente about this miniseries including how he got involved and how the DIY science projects will be incorporated into this all-ages narrative.

Howtoons: (Re)Igintion #1 cover by Tom Fowler. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

Howtoons: (Re)Igintion #1 cover by Tom Fowler. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

How did you get involved with Howtoons?

Nick Dragotta, the co-creator, and I had worked together on Marvel books like Marvel Zombies and Web of Spider-Man. He knew I had done a lot of work in non-fiction comics before, like Action Philosophers and The Comic Book History of Comics. When he decided to relaunch Howtoons he thought, as opposed to the past, this version would actually have a fictional narrative attached to it that the projects will be integral part of, so I was brought on board to develop that, and it’s been a blast so far.

From what I can understand, it looks like Howtoons: (Re)Ignition will be full of adventure. How are the science projects incorporated into the series? Will it be in the narrative or will they be a supplement?

What we’ve done is come up with a story line in which two kids, Tuck and Celine, awake after hundreds of years in suspended animation after an energy crisis to discover that the entire world has radically altered. Society has collapsed and humanity has fractured into major splinter groups — the feral Orphans and the aloof Stormbreakers — based on how they use energy. Tuck and Celine have to travel across this dangerous landscape to find their parents, using their Howtoons to survive along the way.

How much research have you had to do when it comes to the science projects involved? It sounds like it could easy for your imagination to go wild and you end up with something only MacGyver could do.

Ninety percent of the research has been done by Ingrid Dragotta, Nick’s wife and our project designer. I came up with one project by my lonesome based on the needs of the story, but for the most part she builds all the projects herself and takes detailed photographs for Tom Fowler to work from. It’s really an invaluable part of the project.

Howtoons: (Re)Igintion #2 cover by Tom Fowler. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

Howtoons: (Re)Igintion #2 cover by Tom Fowler. Colours by Jordie Bellaire.

The series looks like it will be both educational and fun. Sometimes it can be difficult to marry the two, with one often taking over the other. How will you be finding the right balance in this series?

I don’t really see a big difference between education and fun. As long as you have a witty, inspired, inspiring teacher, and kind of learning can be fun. And I certainly read a lot of non-fiction on my own, so it’s entertainment to me. It’s a cliche, but I think as long as you integrate facts and concepts in a really engaging story, nobody notices they’re gaining new knowledge, they’re just along for the ride.

Howtoons looks to build awareness and understanding about the problems of producing and using energy. What makes comics the best medium to spread this message?

I’m not sure that they are, but it’s an urgent enough global problem that any means and every means to transmit is good and necessary.

Tom Fowler and Jordie Bellaire on art duties, what do you think they bring to Howtoons: (Re)Ignition and how has it been working with them so far?

Their expressiveness is incredible, and they both compliment each other so well. Tom was born to draw a kids’ book, and this is some Jordie’s most innovative work yet.

Howtoons: (Re)Ignition #1 is published by Image Comics and is available in all good comic book stores and digitally from August 6th.

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Trevor Van As

Trevor Van As is the founder of How to Love Comics and has loved comics all his life. When he's not reading or talking about comics he can be found eating frozen yogurt and dancing like no one is watching.

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