The man behind the circles: An interview with Van Jensen

Read my interview with Cryptocracy writer Van Jensen.

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At the end of last month I read Cryptocracy, one of the standout opening issues to a comic book in 2016 and I’ve read for a long time. Why? Simple, it’s a story that captured my imagination and planted the seed of intrigue to make me want to know what happens next. All while thinking about the nine families and circles, talking animals and why the Greys’ are wiping people’s memories. And all in one issue.

You may wonder why it took me a month to pick issue one up – there’s no reason. I bought it and left it in my digital library while reading other stuff.

I did want to go straight into issue two but I had this little niggle that wanted to find out more about Cryptocracy, how it came about. What followed was an interview request from me to writer Van Jensen, who kindly accepted and you can read this below.

There’s no plot spoilers below but we do mention things from the issues one and two. If you haven’t read these yet, go do that first. Van kindly shared some artwork around the symbol and the base rings which I’ve posted at the end of the interview.

ItBH:

Hi Van, thanks for taking the time to answer some of my questions about Cryptocracy – what I can only describe as, the best comic book I’ve read in 2016 and for a long time.

Where does it all come from? I mean to create a world behind the one we know, is that something that just comes to you and you have to get it all down in one go, or something that’s developing between other projects?

Van Jensen:

Well, first, thank you! We’re sure having a lot of fun with the book and hope others are, too. I guess, for me, Cryptocracy is a few interests coming together. I’ve long been fascinated with conspiracies (not as a theorist myself, but with the idea and psychology of them), and then I always wanted to see the world from the perspective of the all-powerful shadow government, the proverbial “they” who usually are just portrayed as faceless and evil. So this is an idea that’s been percolating for probably seven years, and I’ve been building at it steadily in the background, doing lots of research, coming up with this overly detailed alternate history of the world.

ItBH:

The Circles are what interest me the most – not that I’m paranoid – but these capture on paper that feeling of ‘there’s somebody controlling it all behind the scenes.” What influenced you when creating them?

Van Jensen:

Structure felt key to this. That’s really what conspiracies are—people seeing chaos and forming some kind of tortured logic around it. So I wanted to make the Families organized along a geometric principle, to work in symbols and numbers, which really are the coin of the realm among conspiracy theorists. And I liked the idea that we are all part of that structure, even if we don’t know it exists. That felt appropriately horrifying.

What is it, do you think it is about this subject that draws people in?

I kind of alluded to this earlier, but the world is a very chaotic, nonsensical place. And people see these things happen that just seem incredible—beyond belief or comprehension. So they start to think, “There must be a reason.” But there also are so many examples of weird things happening, especially among the powerful of the world. Take Bohemian Grove, where the elites meet up, wear robes, get drunk and worship a giant owl statue. This is true stuff! So it isn’t THAT far of a leap from there to the Queen of England being a lizard person, I guess.

ItBH:

I love Jason ( after just one issue) but can’t decide if he’s all bear or someone that became a bear. Do we get to find out more about his background and the preserve?

Van Jensen:

Yes! In issue four, we learn Jason’s background, when he and Grahame return to The Preserve, which is the home for cryptids, hiding them from the world.

ItBH:

Why a Bear? Nothing more than curiosity.

Van Jensen:

Bugbear. Which is a lot like a werewolf, but I wanted to go with something a bit more unique. Also, bugbear sounds funny.

Editor note: I hope Jason isn’t going to kill me for getting this wrong.

ItBH:

Also, you can’t kill Jason off. Like ever, I’m just putting that out there.

Van Jensen:

Can’t I?!! (I can’t. I know. I love Jason. That #$*@.)

ItBH:

Gary and the other Greys’ – the way they’re eating fast food etc.  That gives a whole different view to their usual concept. I can’t help thinking they’re not just here to “scrub good”?

Van Jensen:

There’s a lot going on with the Greys that we’ll explore eventually. The fast food was Pete’s^ idea. They run on sugar, fat and carbs. But because they’re messing with the minds of Americans, they unintentionally leave an imprint on people—thus the obesity epidemic.

^Peter Wood – Cryptocracy’s artist

ItBH:

At the moment Grahame seems to be the only one who sees the merit of people from the other circles. Is he one to trust or does he have his own agenda?

Van Jensen:

Grahame is someone who craves order, when we meet him. So he sees a world divided among the Families, and it feels equal and fair, and he wants to maintain that stasis.

He also despite his years and experience is a little naïve, so he often takes others at their word. As we’ll see, the changes coming to this world are soon to throw him into a bit of chaos.

ItBH:

And Chronos, well he sounds like he might have a few bones to pick with the other families. He’s only spoken of in issue one but man the way he sends his regards – he’s peed off about something?

Van Jensen:

You bet he is. Or it. Whatever Chronos is. We’ll see Chronos more directly in some upcoming issues, and I think the mystery is only going to deepen at first.

ItBH:

Should we expect to see other species of aliens or will the Greys be the main alien presence? And what about other humanised, animal hybrids?

Van Jensen:

Who said the Greys are aliens? I sure didn’t. 😉

Mothmen show up in issue #2, and then in issues #3 and #4, we’ll see all sorts of crazy beings inside The Preserve.

ItBH:

The diary entries of Farrell Fain really help to fill in the back story. Will we see him appear in visibly in the panels? Or is it top secret?

Van Jensen:

He has a bit of an appearance in the story in #2, and he’ll play a bigger role going forward, for sure. The journal isn’t there by happenstance.

ItBH:

Finally, I always think a little bit of the writer gets into their characters. Which character (s) would represent elements of you the most?

Van Jensen:

Well, not Jason. I have a toddler, so trying to cut back on the swearing. I think Bela, the conspiracy radio host, probably. She is both a sceptic and a believer, wanting to see the mysteries but also being dubious of anything she can’t prove.

ItBH:

Actually. Final, final question: What would make you want to pick this comic book up and why should everyone out there? On the spot time, sorry:).

Van Jensen

Will you ever let me escape this interview?! You’ve gone mad with power. Mad!

Sorry, where were we? Yes. I think if people enjoy conspiratorial-themed shows or books, things like The X-Files, then Cryptocracy would be a good bet. It imagines a world in which the shadow government does exist, but while they are not good, they also are not necessarily evil. They have a specific purpose and agenda, which we get to see from their side. But then, suddenly, someone begins to hunt and kill them. And for the first time, they are faced with a mystery that they can’t understand.

As mentioned Van kindly provided some images around the symbol and the circles. I hope you find them as fascinating as I did and give you a little bit of insight into how they came into being.

unnamed-7
The symbol
Base Rings
The CIrcles

Thanks for reading and I’ll keep posting Cryptocracy reviews. I can’t wait to see Jason’s background story and if the Greys’ aren’t aliens then … Wow.

Thanks to Van for the interview who you guys can follow on Twitter via @van_Jensen and @DarkHorseComics

Leave any comments below.

Author: intheblackhall

Blogger with professional communication, video and photography skills. I like to watch and review television programmes and comic books. I would like to further this by reviewing music as it's something I enjoy but never seem to write about. I continually strive to write a screenplay that gets commissioned and made into something brilliant. it'll happen one of these days.

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