Ethan Van Sciver’s Need for Speed

Thu, September 10th, 2009 at 11:58am PDT | Updated: September 10th, 2009 at 11:59am

Comic Books
Jeffrey Renaud, Staff Writer

Ethan Van Sciver at Fan Expo 2009

Ethan Van Sciver made a tough decision coming into 2009. His long-time collaborator Geoff Johns was helming two major events for DC Comics: “Blackest Night” and “The Flash: Rebirth.” Van Sciver had worked with the superstar writer in crafting the space epic since its inception a way back in “Green Lantern: Rebirth” in 2005. But The Flash was, and is, Van Sciver’s all-time favorite character, and he knew he’d never get a chance to tell a bigger speedster story than the return of Barry Allen. The artist picked “The Flash: Rebirth” and never looked back.

Having a history in illustrating speedsters in “The Flash” and “Impulse,” Van Sciver already knew how to channel speed to the printed page before he started on the “Rebirth” project. But rather than spinning his wheels, he kicked it into high gear and has been exploring new ways of depicting not only movement but the Speed Force itself.

Van Sciver also found time to design many of the elements and costumes seen in “Blackest Night” before handing that assignment over to his pal, Brazilian artist Ivan Reis.

Van Sciver was a featured guest at Fan Expo in Toronto last weekend, and CBR News chatted with him about both projects while he drew sketches for fans at his booth in Artists Alley.

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CBR: You’re midway through two major event series, “The Flash: Rebirth” and “Blackest Night.” It’s been quite a summer. What’s the reaction been like from readers as you’ve been out on the convention circuit?

ETHAN VAN SCIVER: I’m really happy to just walk around and see so many people wear color Corps shirts and Black Lantern shirts. Somebody made me a whole run of hats and I was wearing violet today because I am all about love. It’s the ring that I would get. To me, that’s a sign that this project is successful. It’s also taught me something about creating big events and being a part events. And that’s if there is fan interactivity, the way “Blackest Night” has been, when the fans are actually making themselves a part of it, when they are relating to it and saying, “I’m a Blue Lantern” or “I’m a Red Lantern,” and they’re sending me drawings of Doctor Doom as a Red Lantern. Then you know that you’ve got a hit. It’s probably one of the coolest grass roots comic book successes that I’ve ever seen. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Fans lined up to meet Ethan Van Sciver at Fan Expo 2009

And Ivan Reis is doing dynamite, knock-out work on it – the work of his career. He deserves all kinds of credit and love for “Blackest Night” so far.

And “Flash: Rebirth” has been terrific too. I’m signing a lot of copies of that too.

You and Geoff Johns enjoyed incredible success with Hal Jordan’s “Rebirth” and now that’s happening again with Barry Allen. Is it an honor to bring these icons back to the forefront of the DC Universe?

The cool thing about it is DC really believes in Geoff Johns and Geoff Johns believes in me. Wow. That’s so touching. I wish there was music to go along with that. “Geoff Johns believes in me.” And I’m sure DC believes in me too. But listen, we’re being given a lot of leeway in terms of being permitted to manipulate events and change these characters around – getting to being back Max Mercury, Barry Allen, Professor Zoom. It’s a privilege we don’t take for granted and we’re grateful for it because when you’re allowed to do things like that you can formulate and develop much, much bigger storylines. Being the guy who brought back Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, maybe I should end now? Maybe I should quit my career at this point and go done on a high, because it’s fantastic.

I heard you joking with a fan that if you and Johns created another “Rebirth” story, there would be a revolt. But I think fans are eager to know who you’re bringing back next. Do you know what you’re working on next?

Yes.

When are we going to hear about what that is?

Soon, I guess. Let me get “Flash: Rebirth” finished. That’s priority #1. And once “Flash: Rebirth” is in the can, I’ll be able to do some artwork. And once I have promo artwork then I’ll let everyone know.

We spoke last year at this very event and discussed the look of Barry Allen and drawing speedsters in general. You have a long history drawing The Flash and Impulse but have you developed any new techniques of drawing speed since you started your work on “The Flash: Rebirth?”

Ethan Van Sciver's violet Lantern Corps hat

It’s interesting. I’ve been trying to figure out new blur effects, new ways to draw blurs without leaving it entirely up to the colorist, which is something I think that’s been done in the past. Also, actually drawing and rendering the Speed Force. Before in Flash comics, we had seen a little bit of electricity breaking in the air behind some of the Flashes as they run and I’m not sure what that was meant to be. I think that might have just been, “Hey, we’re going so fast, we’re breaking the sound barrier and it’s causing the air to explode.” I think that was the initial impetus behind that. But we’re kind of suggesting that is the Speed Force is generated and offered to other speedsters as Barry Allen runs, so drawing electricity all over the place has also been a lot of fun. It just adds energy to the drawing.

It’s a challenge. There are just things that I want to do with the Flashes that I have to introduce very, very slowly. Because if I started drawing them the way I initially conceived them, I think fans would be shocked. There would be whiplash, so I have to do it very slowly – bit by bit. And if you look at “Green Lantern: Rebirth,” you’ll see that in the first issue, John Stewart is flying through the air and he has little graphs coming off him. It’s very, very subtle and by the time I got to issues #4, #5 and #6, suddenly, I think, it was okay to suggest that John Stewart actually made a kind of bitmap graph technology around him, like a draftsman would. That’s how his mind works and fans were accepting of it by then. So I still have a lot of ideas that I need to slowly put out there to make the Flashes look even more interesting when they run.

And the next artist can accept or reject [my ideas]. I just want to experiment. I really just want to try new things and we’ll see what works and what doesn’t.

It was announced at Comic-Con that Geoff Johns will be heavily involved in the upcoming Flash movie as both a producer and a writer. Are you going to be involved in any design work or anything?

Not that I know of. I mean, if Geoff asks me, I’ll say yes but I have no plans right now. No.

You mentioned Ivan Reis and his excellence thus far on “Blackest Night,” but you were heavily involved in the look and feel of that series too. What Lanterns Corps did you design? Did you design any particular Black Lanterns?

"The Flash: Rebirth" #4 on sale now

I think the idea was that I should design everything because I started the Sinestro Corps and got the ball rolling and then I worked my way into the other color Lantern Corps. In “Green Lantern” #25, where I showed a splash page, I had to design all of the suits, all of the symbols and give examples of what kind of aliens would be wearing what. That was a big job and by the time, “Blackest Night” came around. It had been something that Geoff and I had talked about quite a bit and I think it was important that same guy that did all of those should be responsible for designing the Black Lanterns, just to make sure the look is consistent. And once the look is consistent, from there, other artists can take it and run.

I did a standard Black Lantern suit, which would be a civilian. If this gentleman [points to the Fan Expo attendee waiting for his Batman sketch] was a Black Lantern, he would wear the standard Black Lantern suit. But the idea is you take that suit and it’s easy to mix it with almost any other DC character that has ever been done. It’s a lot of fun to make amalgams of that suit and then when you do, Terra of the Titans, or Earth-2 Superman or Martian Manhunter, you get brand new, really exciting designs. My initial thought was that the Black Lanterns should be devoid of color. They should be like the images of black and white movies. They should be grey tones. They should look like things of the past, washed out. It’s a contrast, obviously, to the colorful Lantern Corps, which sort of symbolize life. And I think they’ve done that.

So I turned in those and I also turned in Earth-2 Superman, Firestorm, Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and Deadman. And then Joe Prado and Ivan and Pat Gleason and Doug Mahnke, the rest of the creative team, they make them as they go. It’s just wonderful.

What about Reis in particular, have you worked closely with him on this series?

That’s not really my job. With somebody like Ivan, I chose to do “Flash: Rebirth” instead of “Blackest Night,” because it just seemed A) I really love Barry Allen. Flash is my favorite character and this is my opportunity to do the biggest Flash story possible. And B) I knew Ivan was doing such a dynamite job on Green Lantern, the story was in good hands. If I were going to leave Blackest Night to some brand-X artist that I’d never heard of before and I didn’t know his work or I didn’t like his work, I probably would have been more concerned. But he’s so good. The book is better that he’s doing it. So I feel kind of laissez-faire about it. Let Geoff handle it. Let the editors handle it. Let Ivan handle it. I’ve not been upset or disappointed one single bit, so far. Very happy with it.

Last year at this convention, there was lots of talk of a Plastic Man project. Any word on that? Is it still something you’d love to do?

It’s still something I’d love to do. We’ll see.

“The Flash: Rebirth” #5 goes on sale October 14 from DC Comics.

TAGS:  the flash: rebirth, blackest night, ethan van sciver, dc comics, fanexpo2009

 
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