Flash Facts: getting up to speed with 'Flash' artist Scott Kolins

DC Comics may not be ruling the Diamond Comics Distributors pre-order comic books charts, but their comic book series are beginning to garner more and more attention. From the consistent popularity of "JSA" to the rising heat on "Legion," DC is making waves with their comic books and this is no more apparent than with "Flash." Chronicling the adventures of Wally West, the third man to bear the mantle of the Flash and similarly endowed with powers of super speed, "Flash" has been reinvigorated with the writing talents of Geoff Johns and art skills of Scott Kolins.Whether it be from fans, longtime or new, or critics, "Flash" is a bonafide hit.

"It's very flattering and very rewarding considering how much love and sweat we put into this book," Kolins told CBR News regarding the critical acclaim surrounding "Flash." "No one can pay you to love your work - and Geoff, Doug [Hazlewood, inker], James [Sinclair, colorist] and I LOVE making comics. We've tried a bunch of new things for this book and so far we've been happy with the outcome - including the readers' reaction."

Kolins also doesn't mind the fact that Johns is getting a lot of the spotlight and attention, partly due to his high profile work on "Hawkman" and "JSA," citing his respect for the scribe as the reason he is happy to see Johns' hard work being rewarded. "Geoff deserves every bit of attention he gets," says Kolins, who is one of Johns' biggest fans. "I get my kudos and that's fine. Actually - I kid with Geoff about me working on his lowest selling title. We don't care that much. We just want to have fun making what we think are good comics. But it is nice that Geoff's heat can help us get some attention. What I am really glad to see is James getting acclaim for his work. James is working his butt off making this book sing. And let's not forget Doug. He has been a saving grace for this book. My backgrounds usually kill my inkers after a few months. Tons of work. More than you can ever get 'paid' for. Doug puts in lots of overtime - with fantastic results!"

[The Flash]Kolins' enthusiasm for the book is mirrored by his genuine passion for the title character and his supporting cast, from wife Linda to his current foes de jour, The Rogues. "Wally is, to me, a very no nonsense guy - so I think his book should reflect this," explains Kolins regarding his definition of Flash. "I think that's why the cop connection Geoff's replanted in the book really works. There is right and wrong and there are penalties for wrong. Truthfully, I wasn't that excited about the cops at first but then when I started drawing them they came alive for me. Geoff writes such great dialogue - you can't help but feel you understand these people. Chyre and the rest have become a part of this book - almost as much as Linda! And all of this brings together a string supporting cast - something the book has really been lacking. We've brought in his 'work' friends in the cop characters and we've brought in Iris and Josh and also played with Piper in Flash's personal side. His family. But the real structural thing we've done is given Wally a formidable rogues cast. Every hero is measured by who or what he/she overcomes. I think that's been our best feature in the book. I don't think his Rogues have ever felt better. There are really dangerous now. And certainly not predictable. Some are killers. Some are not. Some are young and wild - some are older and cool."

The experience of being involved with "Flash" is one that Kolins admits he wasn't expecting, but is now fully embracing. "It's great. Although sometimes, it does feel a little weird - only because I never saw myself as a 'Flash' artist per se. But that seems like how my career has gone. My first big stuff at Marvel was Spidey - and although I think he's also an amazing character, I never really saw myself as a 'Spider-Man' artist either. Working with Geoff really 'makes' the book for me and these characters just rock!! For me, the Gorilla Grodd issue a little while back can't be beat although I'm very proud of everything we've done. I love our new villains like Tarpit and Peekaboo and I had a great time relearning how awesome Weather Wizard is. Plus sometimes it's the little things. Even adding Cyborg to the cast gives me goose bumps." With a friendly laugh, Kolins adds, "I'm an big, old Wolfman/Perez Titans fan."

[The Thing #1]It might occur to one that perhaps it is easy for an artist like Kolins to illustrate "Flash" every month - his work is acclaimed, fans love his style and he can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of critics. But all this praise only makes Kolins want to raise his own personal standards and create even more vivid imagery, something that can be quite a challenge. "The hardest thing is to keep pushing myself to come up with something cooler than last month and yet get it out with enough speed as to be monthly. After doing 19 issues in a row (not counting the 'Flash Secret Files #3'), it gets rough trying to not repeat yourself. That's really why I chose to do the 'Thing' mini-series with Geoff. I wanted to do something as different as I could within the mainstream - and we both love the Thing! However, the easiest aspect of 'Flash' is coming up with more story ideas. Geoff and I are on the phone all the time. My wife thinks we're crazy. We've had to cap ourselves - because we've already got top-notch stories for more than next 2 years!"

Budding artists, take note: not only does Kolins deliver high quality art on a monthly basis, he is becoming renowned for his ability to be greatly ahead of his work schedule! In this day and age of late artists and series with more than one "regular" penciller, Kolins has a refreshingly honest and responsible view of his "secret" to being such an efficient worker. "Secret? It's no secret. Work. Stop looking at this or reading that. Stop talking on the phone or thinking about 'what if's.' Produce. Cut out the distractions. Put the video game down. It's just a matter of Physics right? Less time elsewhere means more time on the page. Oh and trying to save for a new house was a pretty good motivation too."

[The Trickster]But if you thought that the Kolins/Johns era of "Flash" had been exciting thus far, Kolins says that the "Crossfire" storyline that starts in "Flash #184," will blow away the expectations of readers. "We're including everything and the Kitchen sink! We've got citywide calamity - no scratch that - we've got cities-wide calamity! Flash is really in trouble and it's not just the Rogues looking to knock him off. Someone else has claims on Wally! It's like a game of rugby and the Flash is the ball. And assuming Wally survives all that he's going to be faced with some real Grodd trouble in Iron Heights. And well, by #200, let's just say the Rogue of Rogues will have his day."

If that hasn't whet your appetite, Kolins offers up teasers regarding what people should expect to see aesthetically in "Flash." "Ok, here's a funny little thing I'll let you in on. One of the things I try and do with each page I draw - is to somehow orchestrate the panels (with there size, shape, and placement on the page) to be unique to the piece of story they contain. So that just by the arrangement of panels (with out the pictures inside) someone could almost perceive the moments on any given page. Like, Ok you start with a big Flash running figure/panel. Then Geoff writes something about him looking off panel at someone. Should that last panel be an inset (completely inside the previous panel) or should it touch the previous panel? Overlap? a little or a lot? Should it be on the same tier or on the next row? Sound crazy? Well, it probably is. But it helps me have fun with each page Geoff gives me. It's like looking at notes of music. Thinking about phrases and how the notes go together and then spend time on each note. Do you believe I go through this on every page and still get the book done each month? Sometimes it's a mystery."

As Kolins heads back to the drawing board, he does offer one more bit of good news for "Flash" fans when he says, "Well, I can share a new tid-bit. I'm the new cover guy with Flash #188. How's that?"

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