SPOILER WARNING: The following interview contains spoilers for "The Flash" #1, on sale now.
It's only a day after DC Comics latest incarnation of "The Flash" raced onto stands, and already the franchise that follows the Fastest Man Alive has introduced a number of new mysteries to readers. From the plot twist that saw Commander Cold and the Rogues from the 25th Century arrive in Central City to accuse Barry Allen of the future murder of the Mirror Monarch, to the two-page teaser hinting at a wide-raning project called "Flashpoint," the creative team of Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul set out to take readers into the character's world as fast as possible.
Johns described the opening "Death of the Rogues" arc as "one of the most accessible stories I've ever written. My goal is to make a Flash book that anyone can read with some new concepts and new ideas." However, when it came to discussing "Flashpoint," he simply said, "All I can say about it is that it's me and Andy Kubert." Asked if the project would expand the writer's views of the broader Flash Universe, he added "It's in 2011, and it's a bit bigger than that. Obviously it's a big story."
However, Johns did have a few words outside his regular GEOFF JOHNS PRIME feature to talk up the work of Manapul, the collaborator who accompanied the scribe over from "Adventure Comics. " "Francis brings such a unique style and energy to the DC Universe. On Superboy, it was so character focused and nuanced, but at the same time it was a big ol' superhero book. I think our work on the Flash will be part what we did on 'Adventure Comics,' part what I'm doing on 'Green Lantern' and then a whole new unique tone all its own. Francis brings speed and humanity to the character, and it's definitely a book that he's the perfect artist for. You look at the Flash and the way he moves and then look at how open Francis' art is, and it's pretty breath-taking."
For more on the artist, his work with Johns, his view on moving Barry Allen forward both as a visual and a character and a peak into the process of unleashing the Rogue's of the 25th Century, CBR caught up with Manapul in a lenghty Q&A.
CBR News: What's it like transition from "Adventure Comics" to "Flash?"
Francis Manapul: It's been a pretty easy transition, because I've always wanted to work on the Flash and working with Geoff was even better going into it. It's been really seamless. What we did in "Adventure Comics" was a very nice, slow-paced, emotional story. Now, with "The Flash," I feel like we're now entering into the action movie part. So, it's been such a seamless, seamless transition.
You mentioned you always wanted to work on the Flash. What about him as a character appeals to you so much as a fan and as an artist?
Well, visually I've always been a fan of the book. I was actually a fan of Wally West. I'm actually just learning about Barry as I'm getting the scripts from Geoff. For me, it was that, visually, I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed Mark Waid's run on the book, right around the time he introduced Impulse and he was fighting Savitar and stuff like that. So, it was just cool, you know? It's hard for me to really explain why I like what I like.
Working with Geoff, he's a very open collaborator. He likes bouncing ideas off of his artists. But considering Geoff's long history with the character, do you sometimes find yourself defaulting to his take and opinion?
He already pretty much has an agenda for what he wants to do, and before we started working on the book, we had many discussions about where he was going to take the story and what direction it was going to go in. I could put input into it, but at the same time, I'm sort of like, "Why divert him from the direction he wants to go in?" So, more so my contribution to it is the way I like to pace the story. We would have many discussions before he would write the scripts about how I want the speed of the story to unravel. That was pretty much the discussion we had with "Adventure Comics," before we started. For me, as a storyteller, that's actually the part that I enjoy the most – the pacing of the story. In terms of actual plotting, I leave that to Geoff.
So, you were fan of Wally and are now learning about Barry. How do the two differ, in your opinion?
What I enjoyed about Wally was that he was this fun-loving, young character. He's changed a lot since then. He has a family and kids. So, with Barry, to me, it's kind of new and fresh. I'm sure to many fans he's not, but I think there's just as many fans like me who don't know who Barry is. So, it's quite intriguing learning more about this character."
A lot of artists approach how to visually convey the Flash's powers in different ways. How do you approach showing his speed on the page?
Geoff mentioned he was a big fan of Carmine Infantino – the way he did multiple images and things like that. I'm incorporating more and more of that. At the beginning, I was digging what Ethan [Van Sciver] was doing with tons of lightning and stuff like that. So, I used some of that at the beginning, but I found more and more that, the deeper I get into the pages, the more I enjoy the multiple images the way Carmine did it. So, I've been doing a lot of that. It's actually been advantageous being able to do the watercolor [effect on] my own work, because the way I would draw the trail of images where he was running from, I'm able to draw on a lighter scale. Also on top of that, what makes it interesting is that with every issue, Geoff had raised the bar with this. I don't know how long we can keep this up, but the goal is that with every issue, you're going to see the Flash do something completely different, in terms of showing his speed, that you haven't seen before. It's very interesting seeing the process and the new things that Geoff throws at me. It's been very, very interesting and very fun. The way he is approaching it is that, showing his speed isn't just about the way I would physically draw speed lines. It's about putting [the Flash] in certain scenarios that show off his speed as well.
Geoff's known for creating these massive stories that gestate and build up for a number of years before exploding onto the page. We saw it with "Green Lantern" most recently. Is this something that's going on in "The Flash," and does this first arc kind of set all that up?
[Laughs] I don't want to reveal too much about the storyline, but the thing with Geoff is that the story sort of evolves naturally. I know where you're going, because when you read "Green Lantern," they have like a one-liner about Blackest Night, and "Blackest Night" happens many years later. So, we'll see what happens. The thing with Geoff is that he loves the Flash, so I'm sure there is stuff knocking around in his head about what he wants to do and where he wants to take it. I'm just trying to make sure I'm along for the ride.
Geoff was known for defining the Rogues during his previous "Flash" run. In the ending of the first issue, you sort of defined the Rogues as well – the Rogues of the 25th Century. What was it like designing these new Rogues?
It was pretty fun. Visually, all it is is that I just tried the make all the costumes more streamlined while at the same time still reminiscent of the original Rogue. That's pretty much all I can say about it. The way they look pretty much tells you what they're about and what their deal is. The thing, too, is that when I redesign characters, tell you the truth, a lot of people say, "I put a ton of thought into it," but I kind of just draw it and go with it, you know? I don't really over think it too much. I don't feel character design is a strong suit of mine, because I don't really particularly enjoy it. I know a lot of artists can't wait to redesign something and put their mark on it. I just want to tell stories, you know? The enjoyment I get from drawing comics comes from doing the sequencing and panel-to-panel stuff, not in the character redesign stuff. That's just a bonus. For me, being allowed the luxury to redesign a character just means that I can design them in a way that makes it easier for me to draw them. That's what I did when I was on the "Legion of Super-Heroes." Their costumes are very complex, so the first thing I did when I got to redesign them was to make it all simpler.
Looking at the new Rogues, is there one that's your favorite?
I really like Commander Cold. Just visually, he's got the hood and the little glasses and the trench coat. I actually really like the new Trickster. He's not as bouncy as the current one. He's a little more professional.
When it comes to Commander Cold, as an artist, does his power set appeal to you? That visual representation of ice?
Yeah. It's always fun to draw snow. Just splatter white paint all over the page. It's scary and liberating at the same time. Sometimes you might splatter it over a face and have to redraw it back in. But visually it's just fun. There's so much energy and motion you can do with snow. Of all the Rogues, the other guys have lightning beams or fireballs and explosives. But with snow, there's a real chance to show motion with it, and I think it works really well with the Flash. What slows down something that's really fast? The cold.
Looking at the modern day Rogues, is there one you haven't drawn yet but are itching to get to?
To tell you the truth, around the time that I was reading the book, it was the time that the Rogues weren't that prominently portrayed. So, I can't really say. I enjoyed drawing Captain Boomerang, but they're all fun because they're all new to me right now.
Well, if not the Rogues, what about other Flash supporting characters? Wally? The citizens of Gorilla City?
Oh yeah. I can't wait to draw Gorilla Grodd. I just like drawing furry stuff. It's fun. I would love to get to draw Wally and Impulse. I don't think there's anything that I want that the fans don't want. I feel like that if I'm enjoying the book, they'll probably enjoy it to.
Looking forward, what else is to come from these new characters that are being introduced and setting up this storyline that's playing out in the first arc?
That's a loaded question. [Laughs] There's a lot happening, and there's a mystery being spun right now. It's hard to really say because it all works together. Basically, Barry is going to be put into a situation where he's going to begin to question himself. That's really the best thing I can say.
"The Flash" #1 is in stores now from DC Comics.