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Interview: Fred Van Lente Delves into the Secrets of Project Black Sky at Dark Horse

There's a new superhero universe that's being shaped and formed.

There's a new comic book universe that's being born. It's actually been happening for some time now. With recent titles such as CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT, BRAIN BOY, and SKYMAN, Dark Horse has been fleshing out a shared superhero universe with a backstory full of secrets. That's where Project Black Sky comes in. There's stuff a government agency is trying to keep a secret and other stuff they're trying to prevent from happening.

During Free Comic Book Day, Dark Horse released a PROJECT BLACK SKY comic, written by Fred Van Lente with art by Michael Broussard, and featured a team-up between Captain Midnight and Brain Boy. Dark Horse has also recently launched a webcomic at, also written by Van Lente.

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COMIC VINE: Where did the idea of doing a webcomic for Project Black Sky come from?

FRED VAN LENTE: That was something Dark Horse suggested. They obviously are putting a lot of eggs into this superhero basket. The Free Comic Book Day issue was part of that. They flew me out to Portland. We had some meetings and some chats. The webcomic was one of the things that came out of that. It’s a sort of unofficial dark history of the world that the Dark Horse heroes operate in.

CV: The idea of a crashed UFO in this shared universe has been mentioned in other comics. Did you come up with the different “incidents” in the webcomic?

FVL: Dark Horse and Mike Richardson have been very good about letting me run around like a maniac in their sandbox. So far, they seem to be pleased with the results. I haven’t overturned too many apple carts yet. I sort of just hit on the idea of merging the tropes of UFO sightings and stuff with dark twisted superhero origins. You’ll see, as the web comic goes along, we’re exploring different archetypes. Not unlike in ASTRO CITY, PLANETARY, or something like that. I think doing it in such a way brings it into a more a horror/science fiction view that Dark Horse is known for.

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CV: Are you, in a way, setting up the groundwork for this universe?

FVL: Yes, although, this is sort of a weird way to answer this, what we’re doing with The Secret Files, we’re showing what the universe isn’t, what it could have been, and how it got to where it is. You’ll be seeing a lot of familiar origin stories but kind of turned on their heads and looked at from the point of view from an agency that wants to stop superheroes from coming into existence. Their job is to prevent origin stories.

CV: With the webcomic, a different page debuting online each day, did that affect the way you wrote each story? Did you change the way you approached it?

FVL: I tried to. The webcomics I like tend to be more humorous. I definitely tried to pace it in such a way where there’s a bit of suspense on every screen. We were hugely helped by the fact that Steve Ellis was our first artist and I’ve known Steve for years. We’ve done a lot of comics together. He did a really successful webcomic in the form of HIGH MOON. He visually set the pace for all that. It worked really well. And Michael Broussard, who did the Free Comic Book Day book, is doing some of the best work I’ve seen from him with this second story called “The Launch.” It’ll probably be going on the rest of the month. It’s one of the longest stories.

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CV: The FCBD issue had Brain Boy and Captain Midnight working together. Will we see more team ups with those two or other characters?

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FVL: You will. You will not necessarily see that in the webcomic. The webcomic is more about the background of Project Black Sky and what they’re all about and what their purpose is. They’re such a weird amoral ambiguous force in the Dark Horse world. They’re the classic, “Demons to some, angels to others,” as you’ll see as the story goes along. In the story, they are often both simultaneously in the roles of hero and villain.

CV: Your BRAIN BOY series was only 4 issues. Where will he turn up next?

FVL: Essentially, yes. We did a DARK HORSE PRESENTS serial and then a three-issue miniseries. Issue #0 came out, which was a reprint of DHP. Then the sequel [BRAIN BOY: THE MEN FROM G.E.S.T.A.L.T.], the first issue hits on May 21.

CV: So you’re going to be working on that?

FVL: Yes and Freddie Williams II, lately of DC’s THE MOVEMENT and he did the DARK HORSE PRESENTS serial, he’s drawing that.

[Check out the preview below!]

CV: Will we see more Ape X [seen in the FCBD issue]?

FVL: Sort of. Yes, I would like that very much. We’ll see…Our plans are for later in the year. It’s still in development.

CV: How much collaboration is there with the other writers of the Project Black Sky books, like Joshua Williamson?

FVL: To an informal degree. I read of all Josh’s great CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT series. And I saw him…most of the Dark Horse heroes creators were at Emerald City. We had a large chat and did a panel together. What Josh has planned is pretty awesome. That is really the flagship book, so far. We’re trying to make sure we don’t step on any toes. It’s kind of like the way Valiant has done it. It’s good to have our creative freedom. I like when a universe is grown organically otherwise it feels like one of the Big Two universes with a traffic cop coming in saying, “You can’t do that! You can’t use him! He’s over here.”

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CV: In the FCBD issue, there’s mention of a “second American Civil War” with a rogue government agency coming. Will we see that anytime soon? Is that a “wait and see” thing?

FVL: You can expect it pretty soon. Mike Richardson is starting with Phase Two of the hero universe and you’re definitely going to start seeing that coming up very shortly.

CV: If you had Brain Boy’s telepathic powers, would you use them for good purposes or would you be tempted to peek into people’s minds?

FVL: Uhm, geez. I’d probably have to say I’d like to think that I’d super uber-respectful of everybody but, nah. I’d probably be like Billy Mummy in that classic Twilight Zone episode. I’d be cool with everybody and blink if I didn’t like you and send you to the cornfield. At least I’m honest enough with myself to admit that. Who knows.

Make sure you check out the webcomic at BRAIN BOY: THE MEN FROM G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #1 is on sale on May 21 and CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT #11 is on sale May 28. Here's a preview for BRAIN BOY: THE MEN FROM G.E.S.T.A.L.T. #1.

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