Scott Kolins: Rogues Rewind

A comics interview article by: Keith Dallas
After re-joining DC Comics at the end of summer 2007, artist Scott Kolins worked on Countdown, Superman/Batman Annual #2 and Brave and the Bold before tackling the project that brought him back to DC Comics in the first place: a new collaboration with his old Flash colleague Geoff Johns titled Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge, the final issue of which arrived in stores a few weeks ago.
Below, Kolins provides his thoughts about his return to the Flash Rogues as well as his upcoming work on January's Faces of Evil: Grundy one shot.

The "sliver" covers to Rogues' Revenge #1-3

Keith Dallas: Now that the final issue of Rogues' Revenge has been published, can you sum up your feelings about the project? How satisfied are you with the final product?

Scott Kolins: I'm very proud of Rogues' Revenge. I think it's a truly great book end to our Flash series before. I could have kept drawing those guys for a year or more! What a great time!
But nothing lasts forever. And Geoff and I have lots of plans to keep working together, so that helps.

Dallas: Have you two discussed working on specific future projects?

Kolins: Yes and no. We've mentioned several characters and books but they are all in a category of "See what works for DC." See what they respond to.

Dallas: Understood. In our May Rogues Revenge prelude interview you stated that your favorite moments to draw in this series were the Rogues' entrance at the beginning of issue #1 as well Iris Allen sensing her husband's return. And other favorite moments you'd like to add to that?

Rogue splash pages from Rogues' Revenge #2 & #3

Kolins: Cold’s fight with his dad was really fun. I really like the splash of the Rogues killing Kid Zoom. I've spent many years appreciating and studying Jack Kirby's art and storytelling, and I really had a great time learning and appreciating Carmine Infantino's art and storytelling while on The Flash. The "Kill Kid Zoom" splash was an attempt to design a page like Infantino might. Seemed like an appropriate moment to try that. Oh, and of course drawing Barry at the end was really cool. These three books were jam-packed with goodies.

Captain Cold confronts his "dear old man" in these pages from Rogues' Revenge #2

Dallas: Definitely. Conversely, was there anything you found tough to draw?

Kolins: Actually, that splash of Iris in issue #1 worked out great, but drawing it was tough. I kept trying different angles. Geoff actually asked for it to be over her shoulder showing the storm. But I really felt like we had to see her face. And the page of Piper in issue #1 – at his abandoned parents home. I searched for the music in there. It's Beethoven – and the title had something to do with "crazy" I think. Anyway, putting that into the page wasn't easy. I also thought it was funny to put the same line of music for all those panels again and again. Like he's playing one melody over and over again. Like a crazy guy. That and working on the Piper music notes at the end of #3 was fun and tough. It occurred to me as I was writing it down that it shouldn't be ordinary music. I made the timing impossible and made all sorts of impossible notes. I figure he's got to be able to play impossible notes to do those impossible things. Yes, I'm a bit crazy too.

Dallas: I must confess that I wasn't even scrutinizing the musical notes when I read the issues. I'll have to go back and look at that again.
A recurring visual detail that I did notice though occurred whenever Mirror Master got hit, punched or kicked. You always presented it as if a mirror was being smashed. I thought that was very appropriate.

Kolins: Yeah, I try. I kept trying to draw extra Mirror Masters in the group shots - I like that aspect about Mirror Master: you never know if you're talking to the real one - but they never seemed to fit right. Next time.

Dallas: Let me mention one last visual that particularly interested me: on one page in issue #3 Zoom battled the Rogues in super-speed zig-zag fashion. It just seemed so reminiscent of some of the old Flash covers of the Barry Allen volume. Is this an intentional homage?

Page from Rogues' Revenge #3 followed by the covers to Flash #244 (1976) and Flash #300 (1981)

Kolins: Very much, yes. Geoff indicated several examples of Flash pages and covers that worked that same way and how he wanted that Zoom attack to go. I like doing those homages if it fits the flow and isn't just a rip off. Like the Countdown #5 cover I did that was an homage to the Kamandi #1 cover – with the Statue of Liberty. Kirby's was daytime and mine was nighttime – and on fire!

Dallas: Right!
Now during your Marvel Comics tenure you described to me how you've influenced the stories you were working on, particularly on series like Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Marvel Team-Up. Clearly, you are not an "art robot" who just draws what the writer tells you to draw. If there's a part of the story that doesn't make sense to you or that you feel could be strengthened, you discuss it with your collaborators. Anything like that happen with Rogues' Revenge? In other words, how much influence did you have on the story?

Kolins: Well, I don't want to sound like I know everything or that I can write better than others. It's mostly that comics are a fast medium. My deadlines are tight, and I know that writers have to work quickly as well. Everyone on the team should be involved with making the best book possible. My name goes on the book, and we all get the fame or blame if it isn’t the best. I don’t want to be judged independently: "the writing was this and the art was this." It's one book. We all worked hard on it. And I get "caught" with mistakes too. I've had people shaking left hands when we all shake right handed. Now, Geoff likes to work very tightly with his artists and has always been very open to sharing ideas and asking for input. I really enjoy working with Geoff. More often than not, it was Geoff calling up with a couple different thoughts on what was going to happen or when and he'd asked what I thought. Sometimes I'd be able to help out and sometimes I'd just cheer him along or maybe make some comment that would spur him into something else he liked. Then it's just a matter of the visuals playing out to the script's descriptions. My only quibble with Geoff is that I LOVE his dialogue so much I always want to add more panels to give each piece of dialogue its own moment. That didn't happen as much with Rogues, but I used to do it a lot back in the Flash.

Dallas: We discussed in our previous interview how you and Geoff Johns originally conceived Rogues Revenge in 2007 but had to recalibrate it (if that's the appropriate term) in order to make it into a proper Final Crisis tie-in (e.g. Rogues' Revenge was reduced from a six issue mini-series to three issues, and Libra and the Secret Society became more central to the story). Back in May though you asserted that despite these changes the essential Rogues story that you and Geoff wanted to tell remained the same. You told me, "Nothing was lost or sacrificed." In light of that I've got some questions. Here goes:
Before Rogues' Revenge got connected to Final Crisis, was it the plan all along to have the Rogues kill Inertia?

Kolins: Yes, that was the whole point of the story. Revenge on Inertia - who became Kid Zoom. Here's a good example of our collaboration: Geoff had the idea for Inertia to wear the Kid Flash costume. I didn't know it was connected to Libra – which was brilliant, but anyway – when he told me about using the Kid Flash costume I drew that splash of Kid Zoom, tweaking the costume to be pointy and evil like Zoom's. I called him Kid Zoom, and Geoff liked that.

Dallas: Was it the plan all along to have Zoom (Hunter Zolomon) lose his powers?

Kolins: No, I don't think so. Kid Zoom was going to defeat him somehow, so the final battle was just with the Rogues. In fact, Geoff called me while writing the last issue and bounced a few ideas off me about ways to defeat Zoom. I liked the "depower" thing the best. I can't believe so many have commented that it sucks for Zoom to "go away." Who said that was the end of Zoom???

Dallas: Was it the plan all along to end the series with that Barry Allen splash page (tying Rogues Revenge to Flash: Rebirth)?

Kolins: Yes. Geoff said that we'd end with a shot of Barry. That was awesome!

Dallas: Finally, considering Johns' writing trends, I expected to see more than one corpse by the close of Rogues' Revenge (state's evidence: Infinite Crisis, "Sinestro Corps War"). So was it the plan all along to NOT have any of the other Rogues die?

Kolins: Yes. We talked about it, and I thought it might be fun to broach that, but Geoff was adamant – NO Rogues would die here. But we did kill lots of other people, didn't we? Cold's dad, the "new" Rogues, and Weather Wizard's kid. Bye bye. This was a villain story so it seemed like the right angle to take.

Dallas: Yeah, shame on Geoff for killing off his childhood friend like that. [Editor's Note: Weather Wizard's son was named after one of Geoff Johns' friends, who also happens to be an administrator of his website.]
Your responses compels me to ask what Rogue you would have killed off. Imagine that Geoff and [editor] Joey Cavalieri gave you the green light to deep-six one of the featured Rogues of the mini-series. Who'd you pick?

Kolins: Well, we killed the kid as another example of making sure everyone knew full well that Inertia was a really bad bad-guy who had to die. No gray area there. As far as killing a Rogue, it was never anything close to a "real" death. Just a sensational death that would be easily rectified later. Something for fun. Add some spice. Assuming it worked well for the story and not some random violence I'd have to pick Cold. If you're going to do something, do it big or why bother?

Dallas: True. Any desire on your part to tell more stories involving the Rogues? Any interest in pitching a Rogues on-going, perhaps with you as its writer/artist?

Kolins:Hell yes, I want to draw more Rogues stories! I don't know about pitching ideas. I really only think of working on the Rogues with Geoff. I can't imagine it without him.

The "character" covers to Rogues' Revenge #1-3

Dallas: So next on your docket is the Faces of Evil: Grundy one-shot, coming out in January. Can you describe how this assignment came about, particularly how you became the co-writer of the issue and not just the artist?

Kolins: We were at a DC dinner at San Diego. Geoff and I were sitting next to each other reveling in our Rogues craziness. I had just finished issue #2, I think. Anyway, we got to talking about what's next, and I said I wanted to do a monster book. Geoff suggested Solomon Grundy. I LOVE Grundy, and Geoff told me about an idea he had. Everyone got excited and Geoff, knowing that I really wanted to write and draw, suggested that I write and draw it. Considering Geoff's schedule, I'm glad he agreed to co-write it. It's been lots of fun. I'm about halfway through drawing the Grundy one-shot.

Dallas: Wait a minute. Let's back up here. You LOVE Grundy? I can't remember anyone telling me that. Explain your crush on The Man Who Was Born on a Monday.

Kolins: I love monsters, and Grundy's a GREAT monster. Same reason Grodd is my favorite Flash villain. They can just tear it up! Someone asked for a random monster sketch at a convention months ago – this was way before this book ever came up, and I drew a Grundy that was my favorite of the Con! I think I also did a Bizarro that was cool at that Con. I just love monsters!

Dallas: As you know, Grundy is a DC Comics character who's been around since the Golden Age, but James Robinson probably fleshed him out the most during his 1990s Starman series. Is your take on Grundy influenced by Robinson's work on the character or are you taking the character in a new direction?

Kolins: Influenced certainly. Geoff and I are both big Robinson fans. And in those Starman issues he did open the doors on what to think about with Grundy. But Geoff's idea is a very different take. Not just a "new" Grundy in personality, we get into where Grundy came from and how that brings out a whole new story angle – on top of the big bad monster!

Dallas: I'm looking forward to reading it!
Is it your hope that your future DC Comics' assignments will involve you not just as an artist but as a writer as well?

Kolins: Well, I love working with Geoff – first and foremost. But sure, if the project is something that I think I can create that way. I'd love to write and draw more books. I can draw pretty much any book, but I don't think I can write a whole lot of different stuff. Yet. We'll see. My mainstream comics goal is still to get on one book for a good multi-year stint. That plays to my strengths as a storyteller.

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