Van Sciver: The "Rebirth" Of Cool

Wed, August 27th, 2008 at 1:12pm PDT | Updated: August 27th, 2008 at 3:52pm

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Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

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"The Flash: Rebirth" begins in January 2009
As far as Ethan Van Sciver is concerned, the return of Barry Allen in January’s “The Flash: Rebirth” is long overdue. In fact, outside maybe the series writer Geoff Johns, Van Sciver thinks he may be the character’s biggest fan working at DC Comics today.

From Artist Alley at Fan Expo in Toronto, the superstar artist told CBR News, “It is my conviction that it is time Barry Allen returned. I really think the way he died was noble and wonderful and everything, but I miss the character. I want to tell stories about him. So does Geoff. People want to read him, I think. And if they don’t think they do now, we’ll make them realize that they did.”

Created by writers Robert Kanigher and John Broome and penciler Carmine Infantino, Barry Allen died in 1985 in the pages of Marv Wolfman and George’s Perez’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” in a heroic sacrifice to save the universe(s) from the evil Anti-Monitor (a character Johns has also picked up and run with in “Infinite Crisis” and “Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War”).

After being presumed dead for 23 years, it was strongly hinted in May’s “DC Universe Zero” that the Silver Age Flash had somehow survived the death and rebirth of the Multiverse. Barry Allen made his official return to the DCU proper in June, in Grant Morrison and JG Jones’s “Final Crisis” #2.

“I mean what I say,” continued Van Sciver, as he sketched The Flash for a fan. “This is going to be a revolution for Flash comics " an absolute revolution. We will make this comic brand new.”

The first appearance of Barry Allen (reprinted in "The Flash Archives" Vol. 1 launched the Silver Age. Barry Allen died in "Crisis On Infinite Earths"

The fact that Barry Allen ushered in the Silver Age of comics is reason enough, said Van Sciver, to bring the character back from the dead. “He is as important to DC Comics, in my opinion, as Superman for that very reason,” explained Van Sciver. “And now, more than ever, it’s time to bring back Barry Allen because he is a CSI scientist that is incredibly relevant. Geoff is going to have a blast telling stories with him. PG-13 scary crime stories with a Flash. It’s a lot of fun.

“And the great thing about it is that Hal Jordan and Barry Allen were such great friends,” Van Sciver continued, referring to the Silver Age Green Lantern, whom the artist Johns also revitalized, in the wildly successful “Green Lantern: Rebirth.” “To have both of them back together again could be the return of that classic buddy team comic, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I hope there is a sort of ‘Brave and the Bold’ situation down the line with these two.”

Having already illustrated scarlet speedsters in “The Flash: Iron Heights” and “Impulse,” Van Sciver knows how to bring the quick. “There are simple ways that comic book artists have been taught to show something moving fast. Just down to very simple speed lines that are used in comic strips,” said Van Sciver. “These are repeated and copied and understood as comic book language by other comic book artists. But honestly, it’s time for me to rethink and reinvent all of that. I want to find new ways to draw a two-dimensional image moving at the speed of light and that’s the great challenge of this book. I don’t take it lightly.”

Barry Allen returned after two decades in the pages of "DC Universe Zero" and "Final Crisis" #2

To hear him speak, Van Sciver doesn’t take Barry’s costume lightly either. In fact, he’d wear his boots if given a chance. “The boots are awesome and I wish I had a pair because if I did, I’d wear them,” laughed Van Sciver. “I’d be wearing them now. But really, the great thing about Flash’s costume is the number of hot areas on it. I love the little bands around his arms that are red hot. And the lightning bolt across his chest that makes his costume asymmetrical. And that belt. Those are areas that other artists have drawn lightning to and made energy bounce across. It’s a really smart, simple and clever costume design. I really enjoy drawing it. No matter who is under the mask, the [Flash] costumes are always great.”

CBR News also wanted to hear from Van Sciver about his planned Plastic Man project, which DCU Executive Editor Dan DiDio confirmed had already been approved as long as Van Sciver is the artist. “It’s always been a matter of finding a block of time to do it and then the right talent to help me with it,” said Van Sciver. “I don’t dare write it myself. I just want to have a creative hand in it to make sure it represents the vision I have for the character.”

Barry Allen's appearance in "Final Crisis" #2 (art by JG Jones)

Created by Jack Cole, Plastic Man was first introduced as a crook named Patrick ‘Eel’ O’Brian in 1941. Following a freak chemical spill during a botched robbery, O’Brian changed sides, took up his heroic mantle and after decades of do-goodedness as a police officer and FBI agent, ultimately joined Grant Morrison’s ”Justice League of America” in 1997 -- albeit serving as comic relief. The character also enjoyed a short-lived series by award-winning cartoonist Kyle Baker.

“I need a really, really, really good writer who wants to have an unlikely hit book,” Van Sciver said. “And the word is out. How about Darwyn Cooke? That would be cool. Darwyn is good at that mobster thing, And Geoff Johns also said he would do it but Geoff has a lot on his plate. I really don’t want to weigh him down with something else.”

At Fan Expo’s DC Nation panel, legendary creator Keith Giffen offered to write the book, as well.

Van Sciver said while he knew Plastic Man as a kid, his love of the character (and his creator) didn’t develop until he started working at DC. “I always liked Plastic Man. But when I started working at DC and I got a comp box from them, it contained ‘Plastic Man’ Archives Vol. 1. And that was my first exposure to the work of Jack Cole, which I immediately fell in love with,” said Van Sciver. “I was reading all of the Golden Age stuff, the reprints that were coming my way but I really had a reaction to Jack Cole’s work as just feeling like something that I aspired to. It felt like I knew him. Through his train of thought and wacky stories that just went in unexpected directions. He would have been a friend of mine, I think. And then I found out about how sad his life was and it just made me a little more interested in finding out about him.”

Ethan Van Sciver is an admirer of Jack Cole's Plastic Man stories, collected in DC's numerous Archive Editions

Jack Cole, a celebrated comic book creator and Playboy cartoonist, committed suicide in 1958 at the age of 44.

“And then after reading about 50 issues of ‘Police Comics’ and ‘Plastic Man’ comics, I went to find out what had come next,” Van Sciver continued. “What did they do to this character that I had really grown to love and appreciate? And I could not find, for the life of me, anything that DC had done to -- I don’t want to use the word dignify, because it’s the wrong word to use for a character like Plastic Man -- but none of the Plastic Man appearances or one-shots that DC did retained that dignity of Jack Cole’s original creation. The madcap, spark of genius and who that character actually was.

“I think over the years Plastic Man became kind of a jackass. He became an annoyance to the DCU, rather than the super smart, clever, playing both sides of the fence detective-type that he was in Jack Cole’s books. I just felt like I wanted to fix that. I wanted to do it for Jack in a way; make that character new and yet, pay tribute to what happened before. So that’s what I have thinking about for years now.”

"Green Lantern: Blackest Night" teaser

Van Sciver has another project to complete before anything happens with Plas, and that’s next summer’s “Green Lantern: Blackest Night,” again with Geoff Johns. The artist will serve primarily as the cover artist for the third and final chapter of the creative team’s Green Lantern trilogy, which follows “Rebirth” and “The Sinestro Corps War.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” laughed Van Sciver.

Never one to shy away from hyperbole (or from some good natured ribbing at a competitor’s expense), Van Sciver remarked, “People are really excited about ‘Blackest Night.’ It’s good to see. I have been on the con circuit quite extensively this year, I have run into fans of every ilk and all of them are excited about ‘Blackest Night.’ And all of them have shown that ‘Blackest Night’ will be the single biggest blockbuster hit of the past 10 years, the past decade at least. That’s my prediction.

“Marvel Comics better watch out. They better ban together and find something that is half as clever, smart, interesting, involved and as kick ass as what we have coming in 2009.”

Also by Ethan Van Sciver and Geoff Johns, "Green Lantern: Rebirth" and "The Flash: Iron Heights" (collected in "The Flash: Blood Will Run" trade paperback)

Van Sciver said he loves working with the “über-talented” Geoff Johns and said he hopes they will continue working together for the next 20 years. “He and I do good stuff together. He is my best collaborator. And when he calls, I will come running and create some cool comics with him.”

Could their next project be “Aquaman: Rebirth” in 2010? Didio confirmed Friday night at Fan Expo during the DC Nation panel that the Sea King would return in “Blackest Night.” “Anything’s possible. They’d have to renew my contract,” laughed Van Sciver. “He’s got a big part in ‘Blackest Night.’ But he doesn’t look as well as he used to look. Let’s put it that way.”

Van Sciver continued, “Like Plastic Man, Aquaman is an ongoing source of frustration in a way because everybody wants to work on him. I have some ideas for him. But I think DC is unsure how to proceed. Like Barry Allen. I would bring him up and they would say, ‘Uh, uh. Now is not the time’ or ‘No, it’s never going to happen.’ And I am hearing that with an ongoing Aquaman series, as well. So until they come to me and say, ‘Now it’s time,’ I am not even going to ask or bring it up. It seemed to work with Barry Allen. Finally, they came to us.”

TAGS:  ethan van sciver, the flash: rebirth, blackest night, plastic man, dc comics

 
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