Ethan Van Sciver on the Symbols of the Lanterns

The Road to The Blackest Night

Blackest Night #1

As the Green Lantern comics get closer to Blackest Night, the whole DC Universe is becoming further embroiled in the prophesized "War of Light."

At the center of this war is the concept that emotions hold power, and that the energy of those emotions can be harnessed by ring-wearing "lanterns." Each of these seven distinct emotions have a color associated with them, so when a "lantern" wields the energy of hate, that power manifests as red, or when a lantern wield the energy of hope, that power manifests as blue.

The concept came from the mind of Geoff Johns, the writer on Green Lantern since he relaunched the comic in 2005, soon after bringing Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps back to life in Green Lantern: Rebirth. As he developed this idea, his collaborator was then-Green Lantern artist Ethan Van Sciver.

Along with the colors associated with emotions are the symbols – usually worn on the chest of those Lanterns who wield the emotion's energy.

In the first of a two-part interview with Van Sciver about the origins of these concepts, we talked to the artist about how he designed these symbols that have become so popular that it's hard to walk through a comic book convention without running into someone wearing it on his chest.

Newsarama: Geoff told us on Newsarama recently that Graphitti Designs kept selling out of the various colored Lantern symbol shirts at New York Comic Con. How does it feel to see people at conventions walking around wearing these symbols you designed?

Ethan Van Sciver: I always see people wearing the Red Lantern shirt, which makes me happy. Because I'm diabolical, and I want everybody to wear my symbol of hatred and rage. And they're volunteering to wear it!

And also, the yellow lantern shirt – the Sinestro Corps symbol – is very popular. I don't see a lot of compassion T-shirts being worn. I don't see a lot of men wearing the Violet Lantern shirts – the symbol of love.

NRAMA: Those are probably more popular among women.

EVS: Yeah, but why are they meant for women? You know, from now on, I'm going to wear the Violet Lantern T-shirt at conventions, just to let everyone know where I stand. Everybody knows that I am all about love.

NRAMA: Like John Lennon said, right? It's all you need.

EVS: Yes. Seriously. John Lennon's gone now and I may have to fill in for him in a lot of respects. I am all about love, peace and understanding.

NRAMA: Let's talk about the symbols you designed. Can you tell us a little about how you designed them?

EVS: Sure. I mean, the one thing they all have in common, I'm sure almost everyone has noticed by now that there is a ring in the center. There is a circle. And that means something. And that something will be addressed in Blackest Night.

NRAMA: There's more of a meaning to it than just that they all wear rings?

EVS: Absolutely. I think that it's safe to say even the idea of wearing a ring comes from somewhere and means something. There's a lot of symbolism in the Green Lantern mythos that just... you know, it's almost religious. I love it. I think it's neat.

And you know, these symbols are only there to make you feel a certain way. It's not that there's necessarily a direct meaning to the way I put the lines down inside that little white circle. In that sense, the only really important thing is that it all looked natural, it all looked like something that, if you've been reading Green Lantern for years, it may evoke something that you've already seen.

NRAMA: Since you're all about "love," we'll save that for last. What can you tell us about the Red Lantern symbol of hate?

EVS: With the Red Lantern symbol, I poked around a little bit for different symbols in the DC Universe, and I loved the Manhunters from Geoff's first story arc on Green Lantern, so I took the little lines from their chest, and I put the little circle in between them. That doesn't actually have any big meaning behind it or anything. But I liked the way it looked. It looked mean. It looked dark. So thus is became the Red Lantern symbol.

NRAMA: How about the Orange Lantern symbol, which we're seeing in the current story arc. Is that a little fat guy?

EVS: [laughs] It's a self-portrait! No. Well, yes. But let's talk first about the Indigo Lantern symbol.

NRAMA: The Indigo Symbol has a circle with arrows.

EVS: Right. And they're pointing outward from the top and bottom. So it ends up making a lantern shape, but the little triangular shapes point outward, so it's a giving kind of suggestion.

So with the Orange Lanterns, which are obviously going to be the opposite of the Indigo Lanterns, I just kind of reversed that so that the arrows were pointing inward, and then I broke it a little bit so it would kind of suggest a person. You know, a singular kind of "me." It's all about "me" – an individual rather than something more universal. And that's where that symbol came from. It's no accident that it looks like a little devil. It's intentional. [laughs]

NRAMA: I think we've talked pretty extensively before about the Sinestro Corps symbol. It's based somewhat on the Parallax symbol, right? Since Parallax is the entity for fear, it comes from the Parallax costume.

EVS: Sure. The original design for Parallax created by Darryl Banks inspired that Sinestro Corps symbol. I was just trying to lift the motif from something that already existed and that we were familiar with. It's a very loose, sketchy symbol pulled off the Parallax design.

NRAMA: And the opposite of that symbol of fear is the symbol for hope. Is that why the symbols for those two look somewhat similar?

EVS: Yeah. The idea was to invert that Sinestro Corps symbol to create the opposite. Hope. I tried to have them all be the opposite of their counterpart on the other end of the spectrum.

A lot of people have said since that the Blue Lantern symbol kind of looks like one of the power batteries in profile, which I hadn't realized but I see it now. It looks great. I'm probably most happy with the blue and yellow symbols because I think they're really neat.

Again, these symbols don't necessarily mean anything. These symbols have existed for countless, countless, billions of years ago since the creation of emotion. So, for example, when fear was devised and fear was created and Parallax was born, that symbol was created by the very first beings to know what fear was. It was drawn on cave walls. I mean, you can go back to Green Lantern: Rebirth and see very primitive creatures drawing very primitive Parallax shapes on cave walls. It's always existed. They are as old as human emotion itself.

NRAMA: So we need to finish with the symbol for love, which is based on the Star Sapphires, right?

EVS: Yeah. I'm not exactly thrilled with that one because it is so dissimilar to everything else. I guess I probably would have liked to have gone and done some sort of reversal of the Red Lantern symbol. But my attitude was, and the rule book I set up for myself was that, wherever something already existed, use that. And so, since the Star Sapphires already had this kind of star shape associated with them, the answer was just to poke a hole in it like a doughnut and call it the Violet Lantern symbol. To me, it looks like the odd man out. But it doesn't matter because it's natural. It's organic. It was there to begin with.

NRAMA: What about the Black Lantern symbol? Was that your creation?

EVS: Well, it was my decision to use it. But that's the symbol that Black Hand uses on his uniform – his newly designed uniform. So the credit would go to either Geoff Johns or Peter Tomasi or somebody. I really like his new costume design, but I didn't design that. I was assigned to design a Black Lantern symbol, and I thought, why? Let's just use this and keep everything consistent. And everyone agreed.

Check back tomorrow when we talk more with Van Sciver about his designs for the various lanterns, including the Black Lanterns who will debut in this summer's Blackest Night.

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