Ethan Van Sciver is one-half of one of Comic-Con International’s most buzzed-about announcements, but the superstar artist seems just as happy to sit and sketch. Surrounded by a steady stream of fans and admirers – and just a few yards away from the constantly mobbed food court – Van Sciver found time to talk with Comic Book Resources about “The Flash: Rebirth” (revealed at yesterday’s DC Nation panel) in which he’ll be reteaming with his “Green Lantern: Rebirth” writer Geoff Johns to once again revive the fortunes of a core DC character. Van Sciver explained that the book is already shaping up to be the highlight of his career, while also singing the praises of fan feedback, discussing his new sketchbook’s DC/Marvel mash-ups, and revealing one of the little-known perks of being a big-name comic artist.
How long has “The Flash: Rebirth” been in the works, Ethan?
Well, a few months ago, Geoff Johns called me up and said, “Ethan, we’ve got a situation. We’ve just been given the green light to bring back Barry Allen,” and I said, “Oh. My. God!” He said, “The problem is that if you do ‘Flash: Rebirth,’ you’re probably not gonna be able to be as involved in ‘Green Lantern: Blackest Night’ as you were before.” And I said “Ummm…I wanna do ‘Flash:Rebirth!'” I mean, it’s my dream project! The idea of finally bringing back Barry Allen after 22 years of death? We’ve all wanted to do it. If we’d asked to bring back Barry Allen a year ago we would have been laughed at and told ‘No.’ It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me in comics, getting to do this. No exaggeration. This is the reason why I got into comics in the first place. I’ve been working on it now about two months. It’s six issues, and should come out somewhere between January and March. We’re looking at February now, but it could change. We don’t want to definitely pin anything down. What’s important to me is that I have a certain amount of work in the can before the first issue ships, so that if we do run into lateness at some point, it will be at the end of the story and the lateness won’t be too bad. I want to put my heart and soul into this. I want it to be the Flash book that’s on every Flash fan’s – and every Spider-Man fan’s – bookshelf. It’s that important to me, it’s that important to Geoff Johns, and we are going to rock it.
It seems like you and Geoff are now the DCU’s “Rebirth” specialists. What is it about your dynamic that makes these things come so naturally to you?
You know what? I think the two of us, whenever we’re given a project, really don’t feel any tight, constricting boundaries about what we can and can’t do – nor do we try to live up to something that another creative team has done before. We both sit down and see the potential in the character, the property that we’re working on, get very very excited, talk about the possibilities, and never really say no to each other about it. We just keep an open mind and just do the Green Lantern or Flash book that we would desperately want to read. That’s why it works so well together. And I understand him. I read his scripts and I get them. I know where he’s going. I see the themes, I detect the themes in his writing and bring them out in my artwork as best I can, and treat his scripts with the utmost respect – the respect they deserve.
It seems like your work together has tried to strike a balance where it’s not continuity porn, nor is it tearing everything up and starting from scratch – if you’re an old fan of the character there will be things that will excite you, while if you’re new to the character, here’s a reason to get excited about him in the first place. Do you consciously think about that mix of familiarity and freshness?
Well, we’re very fortunate that with both Green Lantern and Flash, there are very few elements of it that need to go. With Green Lantern, there was Guy Gardner’s Vuldarian Warrior powers, where we were like “Okay, we have to address this and immediately get rid of it in the first issue, because we don’t want it.” Flash, fortunately – we love Barry, we love Wally, we love Bart, we love Jay, we love Max Mercury, we love Jesse Quick, we love Johnny Quick, we love all of them. We’re so excited about the idea of getting a chance to go in there and do it as we see fit. DC doesn’t seem to place too many restrictions and limitations on this. I think Geoff and I have earned a level of trust where they’re just going to trust us to do what’s best for the property right now. And Flash is just so cool. I mean, he’s so cool! There are so many things about the character visually that I’ve always thought should be there that have never really been drawn before. I can’t say what yet, I want to wait, but you’ll see it and you’ll go, “Oh my God, this doesn’t look like any Flash comic I’ve seen before, but it makes sense. It works.” You’ll see.
Here in San Diego you’re also selling a book called “Manifesto.” What’s the scoop?
“Manifesto” is the name of my new sketchbook. This year it’s 50 percent larger and contains even more strange drawings. I have to admit, because I really had time to prepare this sketchbook, I like it a lot better than last year’s. It contains a lot of really weird fantasy ideas – Marvel and DC amalgamations. Like Spider-Lantern and the Yellow Goblin, y’know, if Spider-Man got a Green Lantern ring and Green Goblin got a Sinestro Corps ring. Stuff like that is so fun to draw, so fun to draw! And it’s all in this book.
Obviously you’re mid-sketch as we speak. Do you enjoy the process of coming to cons and sketching and signing?
I’m not sure. It could either be really really stressful and I’m sort of ignoring the pain, or it could be really fun. Right now I’m drawing Green Arrow, and drawing Green Arrow is a lot of fun. And drawing Green Arrow while a lot of fans come around and say, “Oh, look, cool! It’s Ethan Van Sciver drawing Green Arrow!” makes it that much more fun.
So you enjoy that instant face-to-face feedback you can get at conventions?
Oh, that’s the reason to come to these things, it really is. Meeting the fans makes it so much better. I’d rather do it here. How about I just do all my pages at conventions from now on? How about working on a book and having people looking over my shoulder and saying “Wow, that’s really cool”? I may draw better after that.
How different is sketching from working on your actual comics?
It’s a lot different, because I like to be loose [with sketches], and maybe the sketches that I do are more apt to contain errors that I wouldn’t want to see in print. At home I can really, really be careful and think through the drawing process a lot more, and gather some photo reference if I need help with something. Here there’s no opportunity to do that, so it’s rough and raw and fun. It’s just rock and roll. In a way I prefer it. I think some of the drawings turn out better than stuff that gets published, occasionally.
Do you have characters that you wish people would ask you to draw more often – or less often?
Honestly, I don’t need to draw Hal Jordan anymore. [Laughs] A confession! I mean, I appreciate it, but I’ve drawn Hal Jordan so many times that I wouldn’t need to do it again. If nobody asked me again, I would be fine. I would like to draw more Batman villains. All of them are cool. I’d like to draw the Joker more, I’d like to draw Clayface and Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Two-Face. I like to draw villains. I’ve always liked to draw villains.
What else do you like about being at a convention?
[Sarcastically] The food, without a doubt. I like the nachos and the stale hot dogs. I am literally two seconds away from a filthy, stale, $8 hot dog at any moment, and that comes from being a big superstar in comics. That’s how I got this real estate.
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