This interview was put together by Mario, one of the new bloggers here! I can already tell he’s going to be a great addition to the blog!
WhenNerdsAttack: Van, you have been as a regular weekend warrior in the comics convention circuit for a couple of years now as both an attendee and working with Top Shelf Comics but how many times have you made an appearance at what some refer to as “the nerd spring break” the San Diego Comic-Con?
Van Jensen: Last year was my first. It was pretty bizarre, being an invited guest and a newbie all at the same time.
WNA: Being invited must have been a thrill, especially for your first time. Was the invite expected or did it come out of nowhere? Where the accommodations great or did they leave that all up to you?
VJ: Totally came out of nowhere. I remember, I was at Heroes Con, and Heidi MacDonald walked up and was like, “Hey, big shot, way to go with Comic-Con!” I had no idea what she was talking about.
They do hook you up with a hotel, but I’d already planned to stay with my pals Rob Venditti and Andy Runton, so I just did that.
WNA: What where your expectations when you first arrived on the scene?
VJ: I’ll admit, I had sky high expectations. Part of it was that I was expecting an epic spectacle, and it certainly lived up to that. But I also was expecting it to be a place where I could go as a pro and be something of a celebrity. What I learned was that Comic-Con is so big that it’s almost impossible to stand out. Unless you’re in a movie, on TV, or you have a comic book that has been adapted into a movie or TV show, you’re just background scenery.
WNA: I can see where reaching that level becomes sort of a double edge sword. I believe there is a vague middle ground we can all aim for where you can be known and also not pestered everywhere you go.
VJ: The thing is, the most famous person in comics is still pretty much unknown in the broader sense of celebrity. I’m guessing Neil Gaiman doesn’t get mobbed at the Golden Corral buffet (or wherever he hangs out).
My goal is to be one of the top writers in comics, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to have that Comic-Con level of celebrity. I’d be OK with people knowing who I am for one week out of the year.
WNA: What was the one moment that made you think “only at comic-con”?
VJ: At one point, I was walking around and bumped into someone. Just then a friend spotted me, and he said, “Did you realize that you just almost knocked over Joss Whedon?” I had no clue. Joss, if you read this, my bad.
WNA: How awesome is it that your friend looked up at the perfect moment to witness this? If Joss he wanted to make a big deal of it do you think you could have taken him?
VJ: Put it this way — if Joss is slight enough that I didn’t even notice almost knocking him over, I’m not too worried if it comes to fisticuffs.
WNA: Nice! Besides the opportunity to potentially fight celebrities, another thing that Comic-Con is known for is the hundreds of yards work of vendors on the floor. Best purchase made at the event?
VJ: I picked up this almost totally unknown book called Frank and His Friend, published by Curio & Co., that is totally brilliant. I highly recommend it.
WNA: I read about that book online but have not gotten around to buying it myself. You have had some pretty good suggestions in the past so I will be sure to look for it. Any other books you would recommend? Maybe one which featuring a certain puppet who happens to be an unintentional pathological liar?
VJ: Ha, yes! Please everyone go read Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer! And the sequel! Other stuff I picked up at Comic-Con that I loved: Fluorescent Black, Blacksad and Beasts of Burden. All are awesome.
WNA: What was your biggest nerd-gasm moment?
VJ: I saw the actress who played Maebe on Arrested Development. And yes, I resisted the urge to quote lines from the show. Barely.
WNA: I am sure there were others lacking your restraint that took advantage of the situation immediately after you left. Was Alia Shawkat prettier in person?
VJ: I was floored. She’s a very, very attractive girl. But what matters is that she’s a great actress. Here’s hoping she gets some more roles.
WNA: Do you happen to have any memorable food stops while you where in town?
VJ: All I remember is that there’s an Indian place, I think on Fifth Avenue, that had the worst service of anywhere I’ve ever eaten. It took about two hours to get our food. Two hours of watching Bollywood dance numbers played on their ubiquitous TVs.
WNA: I’ll be sure to steer clear of that place. Are you scouting the internets for any new places you might be interested in trying?
VJ: My plan for this year is just to venture a little farther out. Apparently you just have to go a few blocks and the herd thins a bit.
I’m not much of a planner when it comes to trips. I like to wander around, get lost, stumble into things. This is what passes for adventure in my life.
WNA: I know of a few spots that will make you forget all about the curry. San Diego just isn’t San Diego without an attempt to enter the dreaded Hall H, failed or otherwise. Were you one of the many who waited several hours in line just to get in?
VJ: I have to admit I didn’t go to a single panel in Hall H. A panel featuring the second coming of Christ would not be enough for me to camp outside of Hall H.
WNA: That might actually be a great draw for the Westborough Baptist crowd if they show up again. Are there any potential television, comic, or movie panels that you are hoping to make it to?
VJ: I’ll admit, I’m not much of a nerd. I don’t get too excited for that stuff. Maybe I’d go to something for the show Chuck. I like that show.
WNA: What is craziest thing you have seen during your time on the main floor?
VJ: A guy walked past our booth, and he was wearing only sunglasses, cutoffs and sneakers. His body was otherwise covered in tattoos of female superheroes.
WNA: Would that be considered Nerd Swag? Did he at least have a decent cut to pull it off?
VJ: The dude was ripped. What made it fascinating was that, right as he walked by, he was met in a very affectionate embrace by his boyfriend.
WNA: What are your expectations for headed into this year?
VJ: Definitely tempered expectations. I’m aiming to have a good time, first and foremost, and see some comics friends. Last year I didn’t go to nearly enough parties. I’m also hoping to land a writing gig or two. And to avoid that damn Indian restaurant.
WNA: Maybe you can parlay the partying into career opportunities.
VJ: You have to be social, that’s for sure. Make sure to bring enough money to buy drinks for editors.
WNA: I assume I will see you at the Hyatt if that is the case, should I call now and reserve you a nightly table or just play it by ear?
VJ: Is the Hyatt where it happens? Man, I’m so out of the loop.
WNA: It is one of the more popular places the comic industry mainstays congregate at. Is there anyone you hope to bump into while you are in town?
VJ: Whedon, so I can apologize for last year. I also understand that I missed Tommy Wiseau last year. I actually might camp out to see him.
WNA: Joss should be there with the Avengers coming out soon. Maybe you can try to get into Hall H for it? As for Mr Wiseau, I would not be surprised to see him presenting an SDCC screening of The Room at some point.
VJ: For those not in the know, just go out and watch The Room right now. Thank me later.
WNA: With this now being considered a city-altering mega event on par with SXSW or even Sundance, what does Comic-Con mean to you?
VJ: Comic-Con is a contradiction. It’s so big that you have to go, but it’s so big that you end up a little fish in a big ocean. Calling it a necessary evil is too harsh, but only by half.
WNA: Well put. Are there any words of wisdom you would like to tell the readers that you had wished someone told you before you arrived last year?
VJ: Your first goal should be having a good time. And don’t go to that Indian restaurant.