By Cameron Hatheway
September 30th marks the release of The Rise of Aurora West from First Second Books, the prequel to Paul Pope's Eisner award-winning Battling Boy. One of the things I noted in my review of the prequel was artist David Rubín's fantastic illustrations of both characters and action sequences. Rubín was nice enough to agree to an exclusive interview to mark the release of the highly anticipated graphic novel next week.
Cameron Hatheway: How did you first become involved with The Rise of Aurora West? When Paul Pope got in touch with you, were you excited or a little scared?
David Rubín: Well, it was a great surprise for me. Paul and I had worked together in few illustrations some years ago, but at that moment I couldn't imagine that someday Paul would call me to collaborate with him in a big project as Aurora West is. It's a great present for an artist to draw an amazing story like this in a new and unexplored universe like Battling Boy's world. I wasn't scared by this dare; quite the opposite! I was very excited as a raging bull with this! I couldn't wait to draw this universe and these characters!
CH: When did you first know you wanted to be an artist? Who were some of your influences when you first started illustrating?
DR: I've liked to draw since I was a child. I always remembered drawing and reading comic books almost all the time. Regarding my professional career, I have worked on comic books and illustrations since I was 19 years old–I'm now 36. At the beginning and even now in the present, my influences are authors like Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, Osamu Tezuka, Akira Toriyama, Guy Peellaert, JC Forest, Blutch, José Muñoz, Teddy Kristiansen, and some Spanish cartoonist like Javier Olivares, Santiago Sequeiros, Max [Francesc Capdevila], and Miguel A. Robledo. I have always been interested in mixing the different ways of understanding comic art. I mean, I like to blend superheroes with manga as well as with European BD styles, all in the same container.
CH: While drawing Aurora West, were there any characters or scenes in particular that you really enjoyed bringing to life?
DR: I really enjoyed the first apparition of Medula, the monster witch. It's a funny and frenetic action sequence, in the way of 60s or 70s Batman & Robin comic books. Another of my favorites is the bridge sequence: a short, intimate and powerful part of the book where Aurora and Haggard try to save an old man who wants to commit suicide. And, of course, the long final sequence that is full of action, drama and it has frenetic narrative rhythm.
CH: Are you already hard at work on the second Aurora West companion series? What do you plan on bringing to the second volume that you didn't get a chance to in the first?
DR: I think that I have grown professionally with the first volume of Aurora West; I try to learn and improve my work in each one of my books for giving the best of myself in the next one. I had thousands of pages published before my work on Aurora's series, but I feel that with Aurora West I have gone one step beyond. I have finished about 80 pages of the second volume at this moment and I can ensure that everything is bigger than in the first one: there is more drama, mystery, action and lot of surprises!
CH: Your adaptation of Beowulf with Santiago García looks phenomenal. For those of us who will be reading it for the first time later this year when the English translation is released, what kind of research went into the setting, characters, and monsters?
DR: For Santiago and me, Beowulf is bigger than real life; it's primitive and savage. We tried to be as faithful as possible to the original story of Beowulf, a tale about evil, power, violence, blood and semen; our creatures aren't human resembling monsters. They are purely evil creatures, without a human being's feelings. They are darker, monumental, and scary forms of life made by the ancestral fear of men. Finally, our Beowulf is a story about the quest for glory, about the great need of humans to be remembered forever.
CH: Does music influence your style at all? What are some of the bands/genres/podcasts you listen to while at the drawing board?
DR: Definitely yes, music inspires me. I like rock and pop music bands like Eels, The Pixies, The Smiths, David Bowie, Beck, Serge Gainsbourg or my favorite musician of all, Nick Cave. I love Nick Cave's songs—his works with The Bad Seeds or Grinderman plays very often while I'm working on my studio. He's the best!
CH: Who are some artists/creators us Western comic readers should keep an eye on down the line? What are some of the comics you're currently reading (if you have time for such a luxury)?
DR: Just now I'm reading some interesting books of Jesse Moynihan (Forming volume 2), Michael Deforge (Ant Colony), a great and courageous graphic novel about the painter Diego Velázquez called Las Meninas, by Santiago García and Javier Olivares, Culto Charles by José Ja Ja Ja, Magnus Robot Fighter by Russ Manning, some of Frederik Peeters' stuff and the amazing online comic series The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martín. Really, I don't know how I find time to read all of these books!
The Rise of Aurora West will be available to purchase September 30th. Special thanks to Rubín for taking time out of his busy schedule and Gina Gagliano for helping put this together.