COMIC CULTURE / REFLECTIONS: Talking with Ethan Van Sciver

Mon, February 13th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Robert Taylor, Staff Writer

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COMIC CULTURE/REFLECTIONS


Volume 2 Number 2

First off, let me explain the name change.

I'm at a new Web site. I have new opportunities to explore in my column and new aspects of interviewing I want to experiment with that I have never tried before, but have always wanted to. So, with so much new and different around me, why would I want to hang onto the past so tightly?

"Comic Culture" has been a good title; it's suited me perfectly for two years at Herorealm. But I'm not at Herorealm anymore, and I don't want to feel weighed down by my connections to the site anymore. It's time to start anew, symbolically and literally, and that means a name change is in order.

Therefore, as of this week, welcome to "Reflections." I will continue to do the same quality interviews as I always have, but with a few subtle changes in tone and execution.

Does anyone remember that fifth-week DC Comics event where the editors thought it would be an inspired idea to remove the America from "Justice League of America" and replace it every week with a different place? There was the "Justice League of Arkham," the "Justice League of Atlantis," the "Justice League of Assholes"…all sorts of fun one-shots like that.

Yeah, I don't really remember it either.

But I do remember that one of the one-shots, "JL?" featured the artwork of some up-and-comer called Ethan Van Sciver. It caught my eye, with its interesting stylistic mix of Bolland and Perez, and I made a mental note to keep an eye out for his work in the future.

Just a few years later Ethan Van Sciver has become one of the most sought-after superstars in the industry. He's worked with Grant Morrison on the uber-popular "New X-Men," reinvented the Green Lantern legend for a new generation with Geoff Johns, and recently he was named Wizard's Artist of 2005.

Now he is taking over "Superman/Batman," DC Comics' best-selling ongoing series for two years before it was surpassed by Van Sciver's work on "Green Lantern." He's teaming with on-the-rise writer Mark Verheiden. Van Sciver took a few moments away from the drawing board to sit down and talk all things "Superman/Batman" and a few things "Green Lantern."

Robert Taylor: So Ethan, how's life?

Ethan Van Sciver: It's good, I gather. I watch other people living, and I aspire to be like them.

Hey, by the way, I think I'll do an interview where I'll actually answer questions without any snark content. Fire away.

RT: Always good to shoot for, but if you want to say anything controversial that undermines the comic industry as a whole, please feel free! Anyway, I heard tell that you got some sort of award in Wizard magazine. What is that about?

EVS: Yeah, Wizard magazine named me as Artist of the Year for 2005. It was a nice compliment and it made me happy.

RT: Looking back at your artistic reinvention of the Green Lantern universe over the past two years, what are you most proud of and what, if anything, would you like to go back and change?

EVS: Looking back, I'm proud that I finished the entire thing by myself, even inking some of it, and that Geoff Johns was happy with it. It's the kind of project that will probably stay in print for many years, and that's a good thing.

What would I change? I don't really know. There are probably some panels I'd like to redraw with no deadline constraints, but that's the way it goes. We all aim for perfection and we all fall short. Except for Jim Lee. He's always good.

RT: What tested you the most in the Green Lantern universe?

EVS: Oh, maybe the Guardians. It's really hard to make them look cool. Before I was a fan of the Green Lantern mythos, I think I was a little put off by them. I thought they were silly. I mean, it's all part of what was apparently the main inspiration for the Green Lantern world; Oa is Oz, it's the Emerald City, and it's full of little people, but I wish they weren't blue. Again, it's a minor little point that I disagreed with, but it's so important to the whole Lantern mystique that it'd be a mistake to change it. They are what they are.

RT: Tell us about your working relationship with Geoff Johns.

EVS: It's probably the best creative situation for me. I understand Geoff and I think he understands me. Or he tries really hard to. But it's worth an artist's time to pay careful attention to his scripts, because they're so well crafted and so full of heart. If I can connect with his story, readers will connect with my drawings. And that's the chemistry that makes readers into fans.

RT: Why did you decide to leave "Green Lantern?"

EVS: I'm not sure that it happened that way. We planned out my schedule way ahead of time, and I think it went something like, "I'll do 'Rebirth' and then a few issues of 'Green Lantern' until it's time to do 'Superman/Batman.'" It's not as though I suddenly decided to leave.

RT: How'd you get the "Superman/Batman" gig, anyway?

EVS: Well, conventions are a good opportunity for creators and editors to get together and eat food, drink drinks and discuss the future. I think during one of those lunches or dinners, Geoff kind of quipped to Dan Didio that I might be good on "Superman/Batman." I probably chuckled nervously, and Dan probably nodded, processing that suggestion. A few months later, at another convention and during a one-on-one breakfast with Dan, he may have said, "How about if you draw 'Superman/Batman' after you've finished a few 'Green Lantern' issues?" And I probably said, "Wow, sure!"

RT: Have you read the (takes deep breath) Loeb/McGuinness/Lee/Turner/Pacheco issues? How'd you like 'em?

EVS: A few here and there, and I probably liked some more than others. But I've always enjoyed Jeph Loeb's work. I'm a little sad that he's over at Marvel now. I hope he saves his best stuff for when he comes back to DC.

RT: I take it that I can take the upcoming "Are you staying at DC for the foreseeable future?" question off my list then…

EVS: Yeah, that'd be a safe assumption.

RT: Who's taking over the writing duties now that Loeb has been ultimized?

EVS: Mark Verheiden, who will become a top ten writer after our first arc, I predict.

RT: The same Mark Verheiden who wrote the "Superman" comic for awhile, produced "Smallville" and wrote that episode of "Battlestar Galactica" with Xena in it?

EVS: That very one.

RT: Okay, who do you like better, Superman or Batman? Why?

EVS: I have to scrunch up my forehead and think hard about this one, trying to answer honestly. I'm perspiring. I love them both equally now, but I guess Superman has the edge because he was so important and beloved during my very early childhood.

RT: Well, if you thought that one was a forehead scruncher, here's another one: Who do you like to draw more?

EVS: Well, that's Batman. Give me a year to get my chops on Clark, and it'll be a different story.

RT: How's this version of "Superman/Batman" going to be different than what came before?

EVS: It'll probably be edgier, darker. I don't know. I just do what I do. I'm not sure how to compare that to what anyone else on the book has done. I think the fans will have to contrast them. But I'm aware of the quality of the past creative teams, and that's enough to make me turn in my best work.

RT: What (and who) is appearing in the first storyline that you are chomping at the bit to draw?

EVS: Ooo, many villains, including Titano, Dr. Phosphorus, and the original Parasite. As we go, we'll get into a little Hal Jordan and Supergirl as well.

RT: What characters, both in DC and beyond, can't you wait to get your hands on?

EVS: Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain Marvel, Aquaman, etc. All of them. I'd love to draw some Green Arrow. There really isn't anything that DC has to offer that I couldn't be happy drawing. Beyond DC, Top Cow looking very promising right now, and that might be fun. Wildstorm is also an exciting company with a great stable of characters, but I think they count as DC.

RT: What writers haven't you working with yet that you want to?

EVS: Greg Rucka. Gail Simone, although she might be mad at me that we never got an indy project she had planned off the ground. I hope not. And, without a doubt, Keith Giffen.

RT: Tell me, what comics are you loving right now? Movies? TV shows?

EVS: I just moved recently, and it so happened that UPS lost two of my comp boxes. So I had to go out and buy the comics that I couldn't live without today. Those amounted to "Infinite Crisis" #3, "All Star Batman and Robin" #3 and "All Star Superman" #2. And they were all great, except the recurring phrase "love chunks," which is disturbing beyond words. When you think of the word "chunk," don't you imagine something vaguely cubical in shape? And possibly digestible? I do.

RT: Uh, yes?

EVS: Maybe it's my problem. But the truth is, I mostly read the books that my friends are involved with. I don't have time to read everything. Wish I could, because I'm amazed at how talented everyone is.

About movies, I looooved "King Kong." I loved it. And I can't wait for the DVD.

About TV, I'm going to try to stick with "24." "American Idol" is a guilty pleasure. And "The Sopranos" is just around the corner, isn't it?

RT: It is indeed. So, what was the first comic book you ever worked on?

EVS: "Cyberfrog #1" for Hall of Heroes.

RT: And your favorite comic book of all time?

EVS: "The Killing Joke."

RT: Has there ever been a comic book that touched/changed your life? What was it?

EVS: No, not really, unless you mean to ask if there's a comic book that really opened my eyes to how great drawing comic books as a career might be. And that would be either John Byrne's "Man of Steel" #1 or Jon Bogdanove and Terry Austin's work on "Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men." Also, Daniel Clowes has made me wish I was as cool as him, many times. Peter Bagge, too.

RT: If you could only draw one book for the rest of your career, what would it be?

EVS: Boring answer aleRT: "JLA." Then I'd get to draw virtually everyone, so I'd never be envious of other artists. I might get tired though.

RT: What's the best comic book movie ever made?

EVS: "Superman." "Batman Begins" is up there, though. If Katie Holmes was removed from "Batman Begins," I'd put them both together.

RT: Talk to me about your weirdest convention experience?

EVS: Perhaps it's a bad sign that I don't find conventions all that weird. Sometimes I witness some sadness, perhaps some unfortunate or confused people, but that's not really weird. Just human. Fans have always been very nice to me.

RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

EVS: I'd like to take an unpopular or misused character and turn him/her into a gigantic success story. That's my goal. To have a positive effect on at least one of DC's characters, so that people years later might say, "It wasn't until Ethan Van Sciver got ahold of -whomever- that the book really started to sell well." That'd be a great legacy.

Coming Up In Future Installments of "Reflections": Frazer Irving! Tony Bedard and Paul Pelletier! The creative team behind the relaunch of "Cyberforce!" Walt Simonson! And someone so big I can't even mention his/her name yet, but it's big!

Contact "Reflections" scribe Robert Taylor at rtaylor@comicbookresources.com

 
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