Painting It Orange: Philip Tan on the Orange Lanterns

Philip Tan on the Orange Lanterns

Green Lantern, by Philip Tan

Starting with February’s Green Lantern #39, readers will get a look at Agent Orange and the greed-focused Orange Lanterns through the artwork of Philip Tan.

The artist, who won rave reviews for his work on Final Crisis: Revelations, is the latest DC artist to help design the creatures who populate the Green Lantern universe as writer Geoff Johns takes the title toward the War of Light.

Based on the idea that emotions hold power that can be harnessed -- with the Green Lanterns harnessing the central green-colored power of willpower -- the War of Light is a prophesized battle between the Green Lanterns and other factions who control various colors in the emotional spectrum. It's all a precursor to the highly anticipated Green Lantern event titled "Blackest Night," which is scheduled to take place next year, featuring Black Lanterns who are raised from the dead of Earth.

So far, the Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps titles have seen the yellow fear-based energy of the Sinestro Corps, the violet love-based energy of the Zamorans, the hate-focused power of the Red Lanterns, and a hint of what the Blue Lanterns who offer hope can do.

Various artists have helped to design the aliens who make up the colored corps (with a foundation laid by Etahn Vansciver, and now it's Tan's turn to put his stamp on the Green Lantern universe through his designs for the greed-focused power of the Orange Lanterns and their leader, Agent Orange.

Newsarama talked to Tan about how he landed the Green Lantern gig and what he's hoping to portray in the creatures who harness the power of avarice.

Newsarama: Phil, we just saw Shane Davis put his stamp on the Green Lantern universe by designing many of the Red Lanterns who populate the comic right now. Are Agent Orange and the Orange Lanterns going to be your chance to do a little design work for the Green Lantern universe?

Philip Tan: Yes, that's what is most exciting about this project. I think Agent Orange was pretty much designed in Green Lantern #25. But I get to do the fun stuff of designing all the other Orange Lanterns. While I put the finishing touches on the last issue of Final Crisis: Revelations, I've been brainstorming and doing research into what I want to do with the Orange Lanterns.

An Orange Lantern, by Philip Tan

NRAMA: We're seeing some of your designs here for the first time. What can you tell us about them and why they look this way?

PT: Well, I've been talking to Geoff for a long time about the Orange Lanterns and what kind of a look we're trying to achieve with them. He really wants them to have, of course, this horrible look of being greedy, so they should look grotesque. It's not so much scary as it is just, twisted by avarice. They are the lanterns of avarice. A perfect example, if you think about it, is Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Obviously not everyone's going to look like that, but it's that grotesque look of having been possessed by greed. And it's interesting to see how even Agent Orange has been designed compared to the other Lantern colors because he's not very buff; he's a little leaner and more grotesque. His gestures will echo that as well. And it all inspires me as I design the Orange Lanterns.

NRAMA: They are very alien looking. Is there anything we should notice about these images?

PT: Well, there are things in the story that I don't want to give away. But one thing you might think about is how these creatures look like predators. A lot of these creatures are very hunting based. There are elements in their design that are based on a very believable back story about how they track down and go after their prey.

NRAMA: The creature with the wings has some type of rings on his tail?

PT: Well, again, we don't want to give away too much about the story, but you'll notice that he looks like a carcass. But it's actually a sentient creature. And the orange rings are there on his tail, appearing like they can be taken. So that would be a way to lure in his prey. You can imagine what would happen to someone who would be greedy and want to take away those rings, believing that he's dead.

NRAMA: There's another image here of a figure whose rings are on his horns atop his head. His tail looks similar to a Venus Fly Trap or something. Did he already catch something in there?

An Orange Lantern, by Philip Tan

PT: [Laughs] Yes. He's part of a hunter race who weave spells, and the horn is almost like a tuning fork for the spells they cast. All these creatures I'm trying to come up with, they don't work in one way. They don't just shoot power blasts out of their hands. They don't just go punch people. Some of them cast a special magic in space, and some may hunt their prey in other ways.

NRAMA: This last one looks more humanoid?

PT: Yes, but notice that there is something not quite humanoid about it. The idea is that a humanoid creature may have been taken into the Vega System somehow, and they have been adapted over the millennia into what you see now.

NRAMA: Anything else you can tell us about these three characters?

PT: Well, again, I don't want to give too much away. You will find out so much about the Orange Lanterns in the story. But the most important thing is that they're all designed on the idea that they are creatures of avarice. And they are supposed to look alien. We haven't seen the Vega System explored before, so that gives us a lot of freedom.

NRAMA: OK, switching gears, Phil, why was working on Green Lantern something you wanted to do after Revelations?

PT: I have another project I'm doing, but it's not going to start right away. And I've been a fan of Geoff's comics for a long time, and we've talked about doing something together for awhile now. So when my schedule opened up, Geoff wanted me to do some Green Lantern.

NRAMA: So are writers fighting over you now, Phil?

An Orange Lantern, by Philip Tan

PT: [Laughs] No, I wouldn't say that. I'm still a new guy in the DC fold. But this just worked out well. It didn't hurt that Eddie Berganza, my editor on Revelations, just happened to be the same editor for Green Lantern. So it turned out working well. I've talked to Geoff since this year's San Diego show. I was a big fan of his writing. And I was amazed to hear that he liked my art and he was interested in working together with me. It was a great feeling. So it worked out well.

NRAMA: You said you're a fan of Geoff's -- were you a Green Lantern fan?

PT: Honestly, I was a huge fan of his JSA stuff, and then I've been getting into his recent Superman stuff. So I hadn't really read a lot of his Green Lantern stories. I used to read Green Lantern, but not the recent ones. When I heard I might be working with him on the Green Lanterns, I started reading everything. Now, I'm a huge fan of what he's doing with Green Lantern. It's like... the way he puts it is, "Lord of the Rings set in space.” And that's something that plays to my strengths because I can design characters and I like drawing alien-looking, darker creatures.

It's also what I wanted to do next. I wanted to do something that would allow me to design characters from other worlds and galaxies and work on some of those kinds of things. I think it's very exciting.

NRAMA: As you looked back and read the issues of Green Lantern that have been done so far, what did you think of the look that's been established for the Green Lantern universe recently?

PT: Oh, it's really amazing. Ethan Vansciver and Ivan Reis have been presenting Green Lantern in ways that he hasn't been presented in a very long time, at least in my opinion. They have given it a fresh and new look. I hope that I can live up to that. I want to make sure I can support the War of Light storyline with my own unique approach to my artwork. I think my style will fit well with the Orange Lantern storyline in particular. And I hope that we really entertain people. That's probably the biggest goal I have is to tell the story well and entertain people. I couldn't be more excited about working with Geoff on this book, and I hope that excitement shows in the work.

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