Assistant Editor Moonlights as Comic Book Artist

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It all started with a doodle — that is, a doodle of Pinocchio stabbing a vampire.  

“I actually wanted to be a comic book illustrator before I went into journalism,” said Van Jensen, an assistant editor of the Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine. “While I was working at a newspaper, I met Dusty Higgins, an illustrator, and one day he doodled Pinocchio stabbing a vampire. Later, he asked if I wanted to write a graphic novel based on the idea.”

Jensen jumped at the chance. The first “Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer” came out in 2009. The plot is based on the Carlo Collodi fairy tale, but Jensen’s spin mixes horror with humor. A sequel was released last year, and the final book in the trilogy is slated to come out in 2012.

“It’s been kind of crazy how fast it’s happened,” he said. “Dusty and I were actually special guests at Comic-Con [an annual convention for lovers of all things comics] last year, which was amazing.”

For those comic book readers who are looking for something that is a bit more fact than fiction, Jensen also writes and illustrates a series of autobiographical comics called “Nebraska” — true stories about growing up in a town of 300 in western Nebraska.

Recently, The Whistle sat down with Jensen to learn more about him and his time at Tech. Here’s what we learned:

How did you get to Georgia Tech?
I realized that I wanted to be a writer in high school and studied journalism in college. I was editor-in-chief of my college paper and then got a job as a crime reporter at a paper in Little Rock, Ark. My wife was accepted to Emory University’s law school, which brought us to Atlanta. Once we arrived, I decided to take a break from newspapers, and that’s how I ended up here.

What does your job entail?    
I get to interview faculty, staff, students and alumni who are doing amazing things. I also take photos and do web programming, page design, writing and editing.   

What do you enjoy most about your job and least? What do you do to make your least-favorite part bearable?
I love learning about people’s lives and the work they do. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll receive a letter that’s pretty critical regarding something I’ve written. It’s always tough to hear someone was upset by something I wrote. But, I try to learn from any criticism and use it to improve going forward.       

What piece of technology could you not live without?
Even though I write about technology all of the time, I’m no techie. I have an ancient cell phone, take most of my notes by hand, don’t play video games and don’t even have cable at home. I did just get a new Wacom tablet, which is a digital drawing surface. I’m getting back into drawing, so I’m excited about that.

What are three things everyone should do while working at Tech?
Go bowling at the Student Center, walk to Sublime Doughnuts and attend a softball game — oh, and send a story idea to the Alumni Magazine.  

Best place to grab lunch, and what do you order?
The curry at Spoon — but only if you like spicy food.

Any ideas in the works for future comic books?
It hasn’t been published yet, but I also wrote a graphic novel that features the disembodied-yet-sentient leg of Mexican President Santa Anna as the protagonist.



  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Created: 04/18/2011
  • Modified By: Fletcher Moore
  • Modified: 10/07/2016

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