Ethan Vansciver on Flash: Rebirth, Blackest Night and More
by Vaneta Rogers
Date: 08 October 2008 Time: 12:20 PM ET
Vansciver on Flash, Blackest Night...
The nameplate at the top of Ethan Van Sciver's booth at Mid-Ohio Con this past weekend had a slogan hand-written under it: CHANGE WE NEED.As anyone who has ever met and talked with Van Sciver can attest, the artist's quirky sense of humor is usually communicated with a straight face as the people around him break up in laughter. And this "Change You Need" label was no different, as Van Sciver entertained the visitors to his booth with his tongue-in-cheek "campaign" for change to the comics convention industry, a thinly-veiled parody of the language being used in this year's presidential election. But what Van Sciver probably didn't realize as he joked about "change" is that the label actually fits him pretty well right now. As the artist on Flash: Rebirth, which reintroduces the long-dead Barry Allen to comics, and the designer for Blackest Night, which promises to raise the dead in a different way, Van Sciver is playing a central role in two of the most-talked-about changes coming to the DC Universe in 2009, both orchestrated by Van Sciver's frequent collaborator, writer Geoff Johns.
And away from the booth, Van Sciver was pursuing another kind of change as he left the con on Saturday, when he went out of his way to introduce himself to Darryl Banks, the former Green Lantern artist who co-created Kyle Rayner. Van Sciver told Banks how inspirational his work was to many of his recent Green Lantern designs. "People ask me all the time how I came up with the design for Kyle's Parallax costume, and I always say, 'That wasn't me. That was Darryl Banks.' He designed Parallax," Van Sciver told the artist. As Newsarama has reported more than once, Banks has been impressed with the artwork on Green Lantern recently, so it was no surprise that he was complimentary of Van Sciver's work as well. While Banks isn't currently working on comic books, keeping busy with design work for various collectibles companies while he looks for work in the comics industry, the two exchanged contact information and Newsarama snapped a photograph of the Green Lantern artists together. Van Sciver encouraged Banks to get back into comics, pointing out how dynamic his recent work was, raving about the various prints Banks was showing at his booth. But before that "every-Green-Lantern-fans'-dream" discussion took place, we talked to Van Sciver about his upcoming work on Flash: Rebirth, Blackest Night and the mysterious Wonder Woman project with Gail Simone that he told us about in Chicago. Newsarama: You've mentioned before when we've talked that you're already starting on Flash: Rebirth. Now that you're drawing the series, what do you think of the story so far? Ethan Van Sciver: So far, Geoff Johns has actually written the best thing he's ever written in his entire career. And that means it's pretty damn good. So far, it's full of foreboding, it's tense, and it's frightening, which is the kind of stuff I like to draw. I love establishing that type of a mood. And Geoff loves to write that kind of a mood. NRAMA: It's a little surprising to hear you use the word "foreboding," because this series is different from Green Lantern: Rebirth in that the big moment of return has already happened. Barry came back in Final Crisis. EVS: Doesn't that suck? That's the worst part about this job. I would love to be the guy that got to draw him for the first time ever since he went away, but that's J.G. Jones. And he did a nice job. But this is not just about Barry Allen's return; this is about the Flash's rebirth. This is the entire Flash legacy, all of the friends and neighbors, and bringing them all back and giving them a purpose and a new sort of lease on life. So even though Barry Allen has already appeared in Final Crisis, and was brought back in Final Crisis, which saved us a little bit of work, you'll still see many long-lost friends. And you'll be happy to see them again -- some for the first time in ages. NRAMA: Are you still working on other projects while you work on Flash: Rebirth? There was supposed to be a Wonder Woman project with Gail Simone, right? EVS: Yes, Gail. There was a Gail Simone Wonder Woman project. I'm interested in reading it myself, Gail. NRAMA: [laughs] I guess we'll leave it at that. And you're still working on designs for Blackest Night? EVS: Yes, the first batch of designs are in. I think they're a success. NRAMA: We know you designed several of the Red Lanterns because they were on that two-page spread you did for Green Lantern #25. But did you design the Agent Orange character who's the subject of an upcoming the following storyline in Green Lantern? EVS: I did design Agent Orange. NRAMA: Geoff has said Agent Orange is his favorite new character, so he must be something special. EVS: You know, I put way too much thought into this stuff. And it might be unhealthy. But in order to be selected for a certain Lantern corps, you have to have certain attributes that make you fit in. For example, I sort of made it a rule that in order to be a Blue Lantern, and they are the "hope" lanterns, as you know, you have to be just incredibly noble- and heroic-looking. There's nothing about fear in these characters. There's nothing scary. They are just strong, tough, fearless angels. Whereas, if you are an Orange Lantern, you are a filthy, vile mess. You are greedy and self-obsessed and maybe a little bit slothful. So Agent Orange, to me, is hilarious because he's so unkempt. That's what I like the most about him. He wouldn't fit in anywhere else. NRAMA: But this "first batch" for Blackest Night that you said you designed -- these aren't the Lanterns from the emotional spectrum because you designed those awhile ago. What exactly are you designing for Blackest Night? EVS: I've been working with Geoff and [Associate Editor] Adam Schlagman and [Editor] Eddie Berganza to compile a list of specific DC superheroes and supervillains who... have assumed room temperature. And I have been giving them -- let's just say I've been assigning a new look to each of them. Some of them look handsomer than others. NRAMA: Are the handsome ones among those that assumed room temperature more recently? EVS: Yes. NRAMA: So you're drawing ... zombies? EVS: Suuuuure. NRAMA: Hmmm... not zombies? EVS: Wait and see. NRAMA: And what's with the "CHANGE WE NEED" up there on your sign? EVS: Well, I too like to fill the people who come see me with hope and optimism for the future. I do believe that the system of convention-eering that we've got going now is outdated, and it's bad for the people. The very idea that anybody would charge for a sketch, when really, the convention itself should be paying for the sketches and providing them for free to the customers, to the convention-goers, seems like an idea whose time has come. I'm here campaigning and promoting that idea, much to the delight of the guy who's running this convention now. But I will be on my whistle-stop tour to a convention near you, establishing and promoting the idea of socialized convention sketching. Everybody should be able to have a sketch. Did you realize this statistic: Only the very wealthiest 1 percent of comic book fans actually own an Alex Ross painting. I think that's unfair, don't you? And yet, it seems like the bottom 90 percent of comic book fans are purchasing the majority of Alex Ross' artwork. And I think that speaks for itself. So, you know... listen, I don't think it's a radical idea. I think it's an idea whose time has come. I am change you can believe in. NRAMA: That's it? EVS: That's all. [laughs] Please don't make me go on. NRAMA: One last question about Flash: Rebirth. Is it true that you're redesigning Wally West's costume for that series? EVS: That's correct. He will have a very interesting and exciting new costume that will establish his own unique identity in the Flash Universe. When you see it, it will be instantly familiar. Nobody's going to freak out. It's not suddenly blue. He's not reverting to the costume he wore as an infant, or as Kid Flash. It's just a handy new look that fits right in, just like everything I've done. I just try to keep everything so that it looks like I didn't create it. It was already there. I believe in that, because I'm very humble. And very helpful. NRAMA: [laughs] And that's the kind of change we need. EVS: Yes! Thank you! That's the kind of change we need. Change you can believe in.