Lanterns of Indigo: Rags Morales on the Indigo Tribe

Rags Morales on the Indigo Tribe

As DC's Blackest Night event goes into full force this month, the various color lanterns of the emotional spectrum have all been revealed but one: the compassion-driven lanterns of Indigo.

Geoff Johns told Newsarama in March that the lanterns of compassion "are actually called the Indigo Tribe," and "they're not what everyone expects." Newsarama also talked in detail with Ethan Van Sciver in April about his design of the compassion-fueled Indigo Tribe, whom he called "the opposite, obviously, of the Orange Lanterns" that devote themselves to greed.

But readers have seen very few glimpses of the mysterious lanterns and their leader, Indigo, outside a page in Blackest Night #0 filled with the word "unknown."

In a six-page story in Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps by Johns and artist Rags Morales, readers will get more clues about the Indigo Tribe. As Morales first revealed to Newsarama in April, the artist was asked to participate in Blackest Night as early as last September last year, and now comes word that his work on the series will flesh out the previously unknown Indigo Tribe.

Morales, who's best known for his work on Identity Crisis with writer Brad Meltzer and more recently, Nightwing with Peter Tomasi, said he was hoping the gig on Tales of the Corps would help him get back into the "mix of things" at DC, and that looks like it's happening. Beginning later this year, Morales will launch a new comic with writer Brian Azzarello called First Wave, focusing on pulp heroes like Doc Savage and the Spirit.

In the first of a two-part interview with the artist, Newsarama talked to Morales about his work on Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps and what elements he contributed to the development of the mysterious Indigo Tribe.

Newsarama: Last time we talked, you weren't sure what story you were doing for the Tales of the Corps mini-series. When you did find out, what did you think of the project, and what can you tell us about it?

Rags Morales: Initially, I wasn't sure what story I would be doing. Obviously, I knew enough about the storyline and what was happening. And I knew Geoff and Peter Tomasi, who I've had success with on Nightwing, were going to be doing the writing. But I wasn't sure what I'd be drawing.

So I was talking to Geoff, and he said there are certain Lanterns that have been developed by certain artists, like how Ethan Van Sciver is identified with the Sinestro Corps. So with me, I was given one that wasn't completely fleshed out, and that's the Indigo Tribe, the compassion lanterns.

NRAMA: Why do you think you're well suited to flesh out the Indigo Tribe characters?

RM: I think that, with this particular group of lanterns, I feel like it's something I can represent well because visually, I have an ability to draw emotions and make heroic people more human and natural. But there are also things I do that are more gritty and to the point. And I do handle things that are more tribal well, like with my work on Turok back in the day and of course, even with some of the things I did with Hawkman.

The Indigo Tribe characters are so aloof that I really had to play up on subtleties. A lot of people think when I talk about drawing emotions, it's all about facial expression. That's a piece of it. But the way they stand and their hand gestures and body language have a lot to do with it too. Body language is key to it.

NRAMA: Can you give an example of what you mean?

RM: Well, something as small as the grace of a hand can make a difference in the way a character is perceived. And I'll pull from references to find the right details to flesh out the characters. People might pick up on that in this story. There's a scene in Lord of the Rings where Gandalf is showing that he's the white wizard and no longer Gandalf the Grey. And as he reveals himself in the movie, he does this little thing with his staff, and the way he places his hand and that little gesture says a lot. And I used that particular graceful hand with the Indigo Tribe, with a very emotional face, but the graceful hand as it grasps the staff and passing it over to one side of her. That kind of thing resonates. So it's more than just the emotion in the face. It's also about body language and those little things that we recognize, those movements that ring true.

NRAMA: Was this experience exciting to you as an artist? Getting to work on a group of lanterns that hadn't been developed?

RM: Yeah. Nobody knows much about them. And in our six-page story, you're going to see what they're about, and you're going to find out that they're actually pretty damn powerful. But the Indigo Tribe will still be a mystery, and you'll only get to observe them through someone else and see their impressions of them because they speak differently. So even being able to see and know what they're able to do, it's still going to be a little bit of a mystery. They're pretty wild. I really enjoyed working on them, and while this might make me sound like a little bit of a control freak, so be it, but I liked having some ability to control the look of the characters and the story.

NRAMA: Were you given the designs that existed?

RM: Oh, yeah, they were already designed. I didn't design them. I just added my little touches to it. For instance, all the other lanterns have these well-defined and beautifully done logos on their uniforms that are very clean and manufactured looking. But the Indigo Tribe are going to have a look of brush and paint; there's nothing clean about the look of those logos.

And Indigo's a hottie! I tell ya.

NRAMA: Indigo, the leader of the Indigo Tribe? We saw a glimpse of her in Blackest Night #0.

RM: Yep. And that page from that comic is all I had to riff from. That and a few character sketches. One of the things I did, because the opening panel is just a shot of those staffs they carry, and initially I was trying to do what they did. And I thought, man, it looks like march of the corn cobs to me. So to get a unique perspective on it, I wanted to wrap my head around what these staffs are. They're other-worldly, obviously. But what are they? So I looked around a little and pulled out some pictures of poppy seed pods, and I thought those would be something I could recognize. So the staffs are like these walking lanterns on a stick that have the form of poppy seed pods. And inside of that is where you have, like, those little images of the logo, like when lanterns power up and their logos pop out from their chest? Theirs come from their pods.

NRAMA: But even though they're still a mystery at the end of the story, we get a lot of information in this story?

RM: Oh yeah. I mean, it's only six pages, but it gives you and awful lot of information. But the catch is that it's not all explained. That's what makes you want to keep reading and finding out more.

I tell you, I think people will really enjoy the Indigo Tribe. I think they're going to be popular. I love how I was at a convention and there were all these Red Lantern T-shirts and a few Black Lanterns and of course Green Lanterns and Yellow Lanterns, and even a few Orange ones. But I only saw one Indigo. Only one Indigo Tribe T-shirt. And I thought, that's cool. If I'm going to be in this horse race, I want to be the horse on the end that sneaks up on you. That's the way the Indigo Tribe is going to sneak up on people.

It's the same way with what Brian Azzarello and I are going to be doing with First Wave. It's going to sneak up on people. When you get into it and see what we're doing, it's going to be like a smack on the back of the head because you won't see it coming.

Check back tomorrow as we talk more with Rags Morales about his work on First Wave.

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