Van Sciver talks Justice League of America, Darkest Night

Tue, April 15th, 2008 at 12:03pm PDT | Updated: April 15th, 2008 at 2:14pm

Comic Books
Jami Philbrick, Staff Writer

"Justice League of America" 20 on sale next week

From his work with Grant Morrison on “New X-Men” to “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and “The Sinestro Corps Wars” with Geoff Johns, Ethan Van Sciver has become one of superhero comics’ most popular illustrators. And with Johns and Van Sciver’s third chapter of their Green Lantern trilogy -- “The Blackest Night” -- coming out next summer and another possible collaboration between the two before that, it doesn’t look the artist’s status comics is going to change anytime soon.

This month, Van Sciver teams up with writer Dwayne McDuffie for “Justice League Of America” #20, which hits stands April 23. In this stand-alone issue, Wonder Woman wants to know why The Flash is not answering his JLA signal. But before she can find out why, they’ll have to survive an attack from the Queen Bee. Things get a little sticky after that.

CBR News talked with the always outspoken Van Sciver about working with McDuffie on “JLA”, his upcoming projects with Geoff Johns, and why he should be playing third base for the DC Comics softball team.

What it was like to work on “Justice League Of America” with Dwayne McDuffie?

I met Dwayne at [Comic-Con International in San Diego], and I was hoping that we would sit down, chat and create something together because it’s just one issue. [DC] asked me what characters in particular I wanted to work on and I said that I really love Flash and Wonder Woman. I just meant that if I could have a couple of nice scenes with Flash and Wonder Woman in this issue, then that would be terrific.

Van Sciver previously drew The Flash in "Iron Heights," written by Geoff Johns and collected in "The Flash: Blood Will Run"
But Dwayne just took that to mean, write Ethan an issue of “JLA” that has only Flash and Wonder Woman in it. So I met him and said, “I have this great idea for these villains and I went to tell you about it.” Then he said, “But I was going to write you the issue where Wally West joins the JLA. I have it all planned.” So I said, “Okay, great. Do it”. That was really it. That was the extent of my working with Dwayne McDuffie.

You know, he’s such a professional that I felt like I could sit back and draw what he gave me and be happy. And as it turns out he wrote me a wonderful Flash and Wonder Woman story, with a little Queen Bee in it. I went all out on it. I just finished the issue a few weeks ago. It took me two and half months to pencil and ink this one issue. I’m very, very happy with the end result. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done so far. So I’m excited to see what people think about it. I wish there was more Batman and Aquaman or whatever in it but for a Flash and Wonder Woman story, I think it’s really good and I think people will be happy with it when it comes out.

Would you like the opportunity to the book at some point and draw some of the other members of the Justice League?

Absolutely. Honestly, at some point I have to get my hands on Batman. There was some talk about that last year but it turns out I’m being redirected for 2008. The wonderful thing about working for DC Comics, for me, is that I am a DC Comics artist. I love these characters. I love all of them. They could put me on Doom Patrol, Sgt. Rock, Hawkman; I don’t care. I would be happy anywhere. All of these characters are wonderful and worthwhile and I feel like I can add something to them. But the JLA, of course, whenever they make the call I will except.

“Green Lantern: Rebirth” and “The Sinestro Corps War” are really parts one and two of a trilogy, concluding with next year’s “The Blackest Night.” Now that you’re more then halfway through, are you happy with your work and the reaction that you’ve been getting from the fans?

"Green Lantern: Rebirth," part one of Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's Green Lantern Trilogy
I’m very pleased, obviously. I think we all knew that we were doing good work but I don’t think we had any clue how much the fans were going to love [“The Sinestro Corps War”] or that it would bring that kind of attention to “Green Lantern.” My hope was that we would be able to make Green Lantern into DC’s X-Men. Which I think it should be. It’s multi-faceted and huge. It’s just a gigantic concept that has mass appeal. I always thought that Green Lantern should have a lot of spin-off books, big stories and little stories. We’re finding out that “Green Lantern” does tend to draw in fans of the X-Men titles. I mean Marvel readers are starting to come over and read “Green Lantern” books. Which is more then we can ask for. So now that “The Sinestro Corps War” is over, I think that everyone involved is especially pleased. I know I am, for the small part that I played in it. I’m very, very pleased. Things are going as planned.

When did you and Johns first come up with the trilogy idea? Is this something you two had been planning since “Green Lantern: Rebirth”?

I think at the time we were only thinking of “Rebirth” and the “Green Lantern” series that would follow. I’m not sure that we were thinking of something like a big, gigantic trilogy then. The great thing about this whole experience is that it’s been very, very organic. One thing has just led to another and we’re figuring things out as we go. I’m lucky to be in a position where I’m able to contribute ideas.

What’s it like working with Geoff Johns?

Geoff is the kind of writer who is just a dynamite collaborator. He listens and if you have an idea that is good, he’ll use it. There’s not a lot of ego there. For example, the Parallax symbol that I created for “Rebirth,” it was my idea to have that be the symbol for the Sinestro Corps and to have their costumes be yellow instead of blue. Which is obvious, these guys are yellow lanterns so their costumes should be yellow. Believe it or not that was a big deal. It was difficult to make everyone accept that Sinestro would be wearing yellow instead of blue.

"Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War" part two of Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver's Green Lantern Trilogy
If you look at “Green Lantern” #10 or #11 or whatever it was, when the Sinestro Corps first started making their appearance, Ivan Reis was drawing Arkillo in the Sinestro Corps uniform and it was blue. It took a little while for us to say, look, eventually there are going to be Blue Lanterns so we have to make this costume yellow. I have to admit I was a little afraid of putting Sinestro in a yellow suit, I thought it would look silly. But it needed to happen. It was important to what we had planned for later on. And now I hate that blue suit. Now, whenever I see that blue suit it looks wrong. The new yellow suit that he wears as the Sinestro Corps uniform looks absolutely right to me.

But back to your question, [Geoff and I] have a lot of late night phone conversations that spin out of control. A lot of great ideas are thrown around, crazy stuff and Geoff will pick up on small things that an artist will throw out and expand on them. Also, he’ll call me and tell me what the next ten issues of “Green Lantern” are and it’s amazing that he’ll let me in on that kind of stuff. I mean I’m not going to draw it. It’s for other guys to do but he’s just so excited about stories still. He’s not jaded. That energy and that enthusiesum, comes across and makes you want to get involved too.

Can you tell us anything about “Blackest Night”? How is it coming along?

I think the best time I’ve ever had with Geoff was coming up with the emotional color spectrum with him. That was just one of these phone conversations where after we were finished putting together these puzzle pieces and planning for the future, we were both so excited. We were jazzed about this next chapter of “Green Lantern” called “Blackest Night.” We were so excited about it and then we realized that we had put together a trilogy. It was then that we started calling it the Green Lantern Trilogy. But like I said, when we started with “Rebirth” there wasn’t like a set plan to do three huge Green Lantern stories, it just happened that way. One event led to another. Things just happened the right way.

"Green Lantern: Blackest Night" teaser
And also, you’re very lucky working on something like “Green Lantern” because there are a lot of pieces that are all ready there. They were all ready in place. It just seems interesting to me that accidentally yellow falls next to green on the color spectrum. All through Green Lantern’s history, these two colors were sort of merging together and meeting each other. Guy Gardner had a yellow ring at one time. Sinestro started out as a Green Lantern and Hal Jordan was Parallax once. It seemed interesting that like yellow blends into green on a rainbow, so many little events were happening over the course of Green Lantern’s history that represented that and it helped us build the rest of the mythos. I don’t want to say much more about it, it’s really big and it’s very exciting but people will just have to wait to see.

One of the characters you designed for the Red Lantern Corps is named Atrocitus. Is there anything you can tell us about him?

Geoff and I created a few key characters and he’s one of them. He’s one of the big ones. We decided to just put them all down on that double page spread [in “Green Lantern” #25] and not say anything about them. I guess Geoff is going to reveal a lot of the characters leading up to “Blackest Night” and you’ll be able to go back to that two page spread and find them. But Atrocitus is a big one and he’s my favorite.

Red Lantern Atrocitus
It’s great. Take a character like Sinestro. The name is so “Silver-Age” and wonderful because no mother would name their son Sinestro and not expect them to grow up to be evil. There are a lot of cool things like that in the DC lore. Things are often black and white, there is good and evil and I love names like that. I love names that are just scary sounding. I think Atrocitus sounds like something that would’ve been invented in the 1960s for Green Lantern. I mean it’s such a scary, evil name. A guy named Atrocitus is not going to be a Green Lantern. He’s going to fight the Green Lantern Corps. It was very exciting to create that character. Geoff has a lot of things planned for him. I think he shows up in “Green Lantern: Secret Origin,” big time.

Whose idea was it to create a movie-style teaser trailer for “Blackest Night” at the end of issue #25 of “Green Lantern?”

It’s all Geoff. He’s the movie guy. I love the idea of having this sort of teaser trailer for a big upcoming event. The idea of having just finished reading “Sinestro Corps War” and then being presented with a teaser trailer for an event that ties into all of this and is not coming for two years, I just think that’s badass. I get excited about that. I hope Geoff does more of that in the future, I really do.

Are you involved at all with “Final Crisis”?

Van Scivers famous double-page spread from "Sinestro Corps War"
In a very small way. I think I’m doing one page of “Final Crisis” #0. To be honest with you, I don’t know what’s going on with “Final Crisis.” I’m not sure what the story’s about. I’m seeing a few, “Green Lantern”-like images, including that image of Mongul with different colored lantern rings. That alarms me. Obviously that touches on what we’re doing a little bit. Again, I don’t know. I talk to Geoff Johns, we create our thing together and how that affects the rest of the DCU, I have no idea.

In the past you’ve said you would like to work on a Plastic Man book at some point. Will that be happening in the near future?

Honestly, I’ve made it no secret that I have great affection for Plastic Man and want to work on the character. It’s almost become a joke at DC now. I feel that Plastic Man is one of these characters that I think has been mishandled badly for many years now. Because of that he’s not able to sustain his own series like he use to and I just think I can help. I can fix that. I think that I can draw a Plastic Man book and help write a Plastic Man book perhaps, that would appeal to a larger audience. It’s taken a little time but I think [DC Executive Editor] Dan DiDio is sort of worn down and I think he’s excepting the idea that maybe I should be doing a Plastic Man book. I’ve got a project coming up right now and then “Blackest Night,” so maybe after that. Dan sent me an e-mail recently saying, “Do you want Plastic Man next? What do you think”? So hopefully that’ll happen.

"Green Lantern" art by Ethan Van Sciver
You know, the idea I had for Plastic Man was to make him more of a mobster again. Make him more of an underworld crime figure and Dan’s sort of found away to make that work with what he wanted to do [with the character]. That may be why he’s asking me if I want to do it next year.

Any other DC Characters that you’d really like to take a swing at?

Yeah, I’d like to work on Aquaman. But the only way I would do it is to take the original Aquaman and restore him. I’d want to re-present him in away that’s accessible to more fans. I really believe that all of these characters have a pure essence to them. You can go back and read the first ten issues of a character’s first appearance and then just use that [as a starting point]. If you’re going to do Batman then go back and read “Detective Comics” #27 on up for a little while and bring him back to his roots, for God’s sake.

The original intent of the creator is what I’m most interested in. So take Aquaman and just bring him back. Just straiten him out and untangle him. Give him to the audience as simply as possible and in a refined manner that people will find appealing.

And then, I always add a little touch of horror. There is always something a little scary about what I do. I believe in creepy, scary villains. I believe in dark shadows and really contrasting good and evil in my comics. Because I’m a DC Comics artist, I think that line is very definite in our books. So a character like Black Manta would be great. It would be an awful lot of fun to work on. I get shivers. I have goose-bumps right now just thinking about it. So I’d like to do an “Aquaman” book and work on our boy Arthur.

The Sinestro Corps drawn by Ethan Van Sciver
Are there any writers that you are really itching to work with?

Gail Simone is at the top of the list. Obviously, I’d love to [work on] “Wonder Woman” with Gail. Because it looks like Gail Simone is the “Wonder Woman” writer of our age. Isn’t she? In just a few issue’s I’m convinced. I’m sold. I’m really excited and hopefully I’ll get a chance to double-dutch in there and do something. I like what Gail does and I think I have something I can add to it.

Grant Morrison, but I’ve worked with him before on “New X-Men.” I’d like to work with him again in a more pleasant setting. I don’t think either of us had a good time on that. I’m older now and a little more mature so I definitely think I’d be able to do better work on his stories.

Also I like this guy Jeff Katz (“Booster Gold”). I’m excited about Jeff Katz. If he decides to stick with comics and who knows, he’s got his whole other career [as an Executive at 20th Century Fox], but that would be spectacular. I think he’s got a lot of potential in the industry and could be a big name. I keep my eye out and watch for newcomers. I try to read what everybody’s doing to know who the players are on the board.

But those are my three people right now, other than Geoff Johns who I will always want to work with. Whenever he calls I will be there. I will always take the call. But Geoff said to me the other day, “You know Ethan, we can’t just do little projects together any more.” Listen, we did an issue of “Hawkman” together that no one knows about. We did three issues of “Green Lantern,” the regular series that people seem to forget about. They talk about “Rebirth” and “Sinestro Corps,” that’s it. So it’s pretty clear that when we do something, it has to be something huge just so people will notice it.

You appear at a lot of comic book conventions. You must enjoy attending?

Ethan Van Sciver
I really do enjoy it and I think it’s necessary. I did a lot of “touring” in 2005 with “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and I really think it helped a lot, an awful lot. To be able to meet fans and do sketch’s for them, say thank you and shake their hands, it makes the whole experience more personal. It’s more intimate and special for the fans reading these books to actually meet the people who’ve worked on them. I think it helped me out a lot. I think I won a lot of fans by going to the conventions.

I plan on doing it a lot this year, especially because there is going to be a wide gap between this issue of “JLA” and the first issue of my next project. I think it’s important to get out and say hello and do sketches for people. I have a policy that if you bring me a hard cover book that I worked on, I’ll draw a free sketch in it for you.

You’re on the DC convention panels a lot. They can get pretty funny with Dan DiDio doing all of his shtick. Do you enjoy participating in the panels?

I just sit there like a wooden dummy, I really do. The thing is, I think I’m kind of outspoken on my own. I’ll do one-on-one panels, where it’s just me in a little room full of fans. But when I’m sitting on that panel with Dan DiDio, [DC VP of Sales] Bob Wayne and Mark Waid, I just keep my mouth shut. Those guys are hilarious. Why interrupt them? They’ve got great timing. Not only that but I’m an artist and there aren’t a lot of things to ask an artist. Other than, what are you working on next? Writers know everything that is coming up, like what obscure characters are going to be used. They’re the ones to address questions to. I just sit there to fill out the panel but it’s fun.

I heard that you were a hell of a third baseman in high school. Any chance you’ll be playing on the DC softball team this year?

No, I’m never invited and I’m a great player. Look, I haven’t played in so many years but I would love to play softball. I can’t remember who, but someone was talking about the latest game and I thought, why wasn’t I there? I would love to play and if anyone asks me I will be there and I will kick ass.

Now discuss this story in CBR’s DC Comics forum.

TAGS:  ethan van sciver, justice league, green lantern, sinestro corps, darkest night

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