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CSBG Archive

A Month of Writing Stars – Jen Van Meter

Every day this month I’m going to feature a current comic book writing “star,” someone who I think is a very good writer.

I’m mostly going to try to keep from the biggest names as much as possible, because, really, do I need to talk more about the awesomeness of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis?

Here is the archive of previously featured writers.

Today we look at a neat writer who is returning to mainstream comics after a short break!


A “problem” with Jen Van Meter is that she devotes a lot of her time in her life to her family, so we really do not get as many comics from her as we (well, I, at least) would like to see.

Luckily (for me, at least), Van Meter is coming out with at least one comic book project this year, a Black Lightning Year One mini-series for DC Comics with the great Cully Hamner on pencils.

And apparently, we will see more of her signature series, Hopeless Savages, some time very soon!

Hopeless Savages is the endearing and fun comic book series by Jen Van Meter that she wrote for Oni Press. The art for the series is set up so that for each volume, more than one artist contributes (typically in the form of one artist for the main story and one artist for flashbacks). The artists that have worked with Van Meter on the series are practically a Who’s Who? of awesome indie artists, like Christine Norrie, Chynna Clugston, Andi Watson, Bryan Lee O’Malley and Ross Campbell (plus others I didn’t even mention).

The main gist of the series is that two non-conformist “damn the man!” punk rockers from the 70s, Dirk Hopeless and Nikki Savage marry and have four kids – now, the kids are mostly grown, and, well, hilarity ensues!

What else do you expect when you have kids named Rat Bastard, Arsenal Fierce, Twitch Strummer and Skank Zero?

The big joke of the first volume is that the oldest sibling, Rat Bastard, has rebelled against his parents in the only way he could think of – by conforming!

The books are a lot of madcap fun, but at the heart of the stories are what Van Meter does best – establishing characters filled with depth and humanity. While all the characters appear to be painted with broad strokes, that is just the surface – below the surface (which Van Meter always makes sure to get to) the characters are deep, fully realized people.

On the Oni Press website for Hopeless Savages, they have a really cool offer. You can download a short one-shot that Van Meter did detailing the origins of Skank Zero’s band. It is a great look at the great character work Van Meter does.

Van Meter has brought this attention to characterization to her mainstream comic work, as well, like her western comic for DC Cinammon and her arc on JSA Classified (where she gave Icicle a great deal of intriguing depth).

From her discussions about her upcoming Black Lightning Year One series (which is out any day now), her attention to characterization shines through, as she specifically has noted how the continuity insert that Jefferson Pierce had two daughters that he did not help raise really did not fit his character at all. I am quite interested in seeing what kind of explanation she will come up for it.

And I can’t wait for new Hopeless Savages!!!


Tom Fitzpatrick

January 5, 2009 at 4:10 am

For some reason, I’m hoping for a spotlight on John Ney Reiber.

Haven’t heard from him in years, and he did strong solid works on many Vertigo titles.

I would say the same as Tom abut another former Vertigo writer, John Rozum, whose two MIDNIGHT, MASS., minis I discovered last year. More recently, he did a solid job on Boom!’s THE FOUNDATION. Apparently, he forged his rep to some extent with work for Milestone (XOMBI?), but I’m unfamiliar with those comics.

In the meantime, nice to see Jen Van Meter highlighted. Within the last year I also tracked down & read most of her HOPELESS SAVAGES work (that I hadn’t read previously), & I was really impressed with how much she expands beyond the basic Ozzy-&-Sharon-Osbourne-as-punks premise, which otherwise could’ve gotten really old really fast (perhaps especially so to card-carrying first-generation punk veterans like moi). I’m pretty sure the only mainstream thing of hers I’ve read is a short piece in CAPTAIN AMERICA #50 from a couple of series ago, but clearly I need to keep an eye out for her other work.

I was hoping that there might be a focus on some 2000AD writers… Those that haven’t emigrated yet…

People like Pat Mills, John Smith, Al Ewing and returnees John Wagner and Alan Grant…

… but then I thin kit’s already been established that I’m the only CSBG reader who reads 2000AD…


Though I should point out that I am still enjoying these spotlights and will be looking for Hopeless Savages… Not sure about Black Lightning. May wait to see what the reviews are like before picking up the eventul TPB…

Good choice with Gen. Her Hopeless Savages minis are some of Oni’s best projects. While we’re on good Oni writers or writers in general, I do hope to see Andi Watson in there somewhere.

Good pick! (Had in my brain that you weren’t a huge Hopeless Savages fan, so SURPRISING pick. But good. :))

sorry, I only know her as “Greg Rucka’s wife”. Her few comics work I’ve read has been forgettable…

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