The Moody Bat: John Van Fleet talks 'Batman: The Ankh'

Tue, August 21st, 2001 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Keith Giles, Staff Writer

[Batman: The Ankh]The painted art of John Van Fleet is easily recognizable and this November you'll be able to see more of it when his new book "Batman: The Ankh" is released from DC Comics.

"I have about five jobs going on right now," Van Fleet told CBR News on Tuesday. "My new Batman book 'The Ankh', is a two-parter (48 pages each) from DC (shipping November) as well as some covers for the Vertigo office. I am also doing some movie stuff that I can not talk about, and odd jobs that are too fun to say no to."

Working with Chuck Dixon on "The Ankh" has proven to be more of a challenge than Van Fleet first thought. "The book is taking me longer than I had planned," says Van Fleet. "But so far DC Comics has been great about not riding me to much. The Chalice is my best super hero work so far, I hope to beat it with the Ankh," said Van Fleet.

Some describe Van Fleet's artwork as moody and mysterious, but the artist doesn't see it quite that way.

"I don't see my stuff as being that dark," said Van Fleet. "I mean I use a lot of black but I use it as a color and as a design tool, so I see it differently I guess. I have been told a lot of things about my art, some I see, some I don't. The most common is it's dark and moody, I like a good urban grit is all."

John Van Fleet got his start at Marvel Comics working on the book "Hellraiser."

"My best friend Mark Chiarello kept saying I should bring my stuff in and show the editor," said Van Fleet. "I was doing Graphic Design at the time and I hated it. I went home with my first job and couldn't sleep trying to figure out how the hell I was going to pull it off."

Van Fleet keeps a fairly steady pace to keep his projects as on time as possible. "I go to work by 9:30 and go till 6:30. Things pop up but I try to stick to that if I can. Working at home takes on new meaning when you have a wife and two kids so it's important to try and keep a rhythm."

Like many artists, Van Fleet is one who's never quite satisfied with his work. "I will be happy if I can look back (and see) continued growth," he said. "Some of my old art can scare the pants off you but it makes me work harder and try new things to keep my art alive and fresh."

Van Fleet trained as an artist alongside an impressive list of others. "I went to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. We had a great class. George Pratt, Kent Williams, Mark Chiarello, Scott Hanna, just to name a few. [We] were all in the same group and we are all working in Comics."

Outside the world of comic books, Van Fleet's art has graced a wide range of mediums. "I have worked on editorial Illustrations for magazines and book covers," said Van Fleet. "As well as CD cover art and gaming art for White Wolf. I have a web site that shows most of the stuff at www.johnvanfleet.com. I don't care where it sees print or under what title I just like to tell stories, so it's all the same to me."

One of the secrets to Van Fleet's rich artistry is his attitude. "I let it all in and hope for the best. I never could nail (my influences) down to just a handful of people," said Van Fleet. "Great art can be found everywhere if you don't limit your view."

If he wasn't making his living as an artist, Van Fleet would have a hard time expressing himself. "I guess as long as I was problem solving I would be happy," said Van Fleet. "I like carpentry so maybe I would give that a shot. That or end up in a bell tower some where with a Red Rider BB Gun with a compass in the stock."

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