David Rubin is the artist hand-selected by Paul Pope to take the reigns of the art to the Battling Boy prequel to add a world to JT Petty and Paul Pope’s words. David Rubin’s art both compliments and rivals Paul Pope as the universe of Battling Boy expands into a completely different direction. I’m pleased to welcome David Rubin as the subject of the first interview on Destroy Comics.
Title Illustration by David Zissou
David Zissou: Who is David Rubin, the cartoonist?
David Rubin: I’m a cartoonist and illustrator born in Galicia, a region in the north of Spain.
I started my career publishing in several fanzines in Galicia, and then I started to publish in some comic magazines in Spain.
A few years ago, I published my early graphic novels “El Circo del desaliento”(Astiberri, 2005), “La tetería del oso malayo” (Astiberri, 2006) and “Cuaderno de Tormentas” (Planeta DeAgostini, 2008) and my work began to be published in other countries like France, Italy or Czech Republic.
At the same time that I did those books, I was working on some film animation productions, as director and art director.
In January of 2010, I left my work in the cinema and began working full time as a cartoonist.
Since then, I’ve made other books like “The Hero vol.01 and 02”; a graphic novel over 600 pages long about my personal vision of the myth of Heracles. It’s going to be published in the USA by Dark Horse next year.
(Pre-order The Hero)
And I also drew “Beowulf,” a savage and visceral version of the traditional English poem, in collaboration with the writer Santiago García. “Beowulf” will be published in English too, by Image Comics.
And then comes Aurora and…well….
Zissou: Who are your influences and how did they affect the direction you took with The Rise of Aurora West?
Rubin: I think that Jack Kirby and Frank Miller’s work are the most powerful influences in my work – and my favorite artists, too — but there are a lot of authors that have made their mark in my style, artist like Blutch, JC Forest, Peellaert, Guy Davis, Kazuo Koike, José Muñoz, John Romita Sr. & Jr., Alex Toth, David Mazzucchelli , Javier Olivares, Santiago Sequeiros, Osamu Tezuka, Go Nagai, Mizuki and, of course, Paul Pope.
(Blutch, Total Jazz.)
But I don’t only partake of comics influences. It’s important for me always consider other disciplines, disciplines like cinema, animation, short videos, music, literature, poetry or painting.
I’ve tried to combine everything in a “mix-tape style,” and the final result is my own style. It reminds me of a lot of things, but is something new at the same time.
This is the way I made The Rise of Aurora West and all my other books.
Zissou: What are “superhero comics” to you?
Rubin: My favorite superhero comic is “Daredevil: Born Again” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Well, it’s my favorite comic in all the world.
(A juxtaposed page of roof top running from Born Again and The Rise of Aurora West)
And I like old stuff like the Spiderman issues by John Romita Sr., Gil Kane, or Ross Andru, “Adam Strange” by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Carmine Infantino, and all the Kirby stuff – especially New Gods and Kamandi.
I really love the work of David Aja in “Hawkeye,” Javier Pulido on “The Hulk,” “FF” by Fraction and Allred, and everything that Marcos Martín makes.
(A page from Mike Allred’s FF and David Rubin’s designs for Medula’s Gang in Aurora West; parallels can be shown in how Allred and Rubin texture their monsters.)
And “Lone Wolf & Cub,” by Koike and Kojima. Well…it isn’t a superhero comic, but after “Born Again,” it’s my favorite comic of them all.
(A panel from Lone Wolf & Cub; the dynamic of a child and a single parent in a vicious world uncannily carries over into Rubin’s work on Aurora West. Daigorō is still dependent on his father as a baby, Haggard West won’t give Aurora her Jetpack.)
Zissou: A trend I noticed starting last year that I hope continues is the movement of well-respected cartoonists from high-profile books at Marvel and DC to projects at First Second that afford them the creative freedom in reaching an even wider audience. Specifically, I’ve seen this with Farel Dalrymple following Omega the Unknown with The Wrenchies, and Paul Pope taking Battling Boy to First Second after Batman Year 100. Having read The Rise of Aurora West with that in mind, the book feels like something between Batman Year 100 and Battling Boy in terms of your own unique brand of cartooning introduced to an American audience. What was it like collaborating on Aurora West with Paul Pope and JT Petty while maintaining authorship over the characters as well as working for an American publisher?
Rubin: Working for First Second is not the same as working for Marvel or DC.
The characters and the world where the story happens are both creations of Paul’s, not mine. But I have a lot of freedom to move in that world.
It’s a world full of concepts that I love, that I feel comfortable working on. I don’t feel like I’m only working for hire with Aurora West, I feel that this book is mine, too.
And dealing with First Second, Paul, JT, and everyone who’s involved in the creation of those books is fantastic — it’s very much like my dealings with the Spanish and European publishers that I’ve worked with before.
Zissou: As a Spanish cartoonist working on a series developed by an American cartoonist about something as culturally diverse as monsters, how did your personal history with monster stories, as well as drawing your own with Beowulf and other comics, direct how you designed your cast of monsters?
Rubin: I’ve liked monsters since I was a child. And in my country, Galicia, we have a huge ancient tradition of monsters, ghouls, and other weird creatures like wolfmen or phantoms – a lot like what happens in Scotland or in Japan with the yokai and traditional historical folktales.
My country is very different from the rest of Spain. We don’t have “Toreros” or “Sevillanas” and it rains a whole lot, but we have so many stories about monsters and phantoms instead. That works better for me!
I think that this is the origin of my fascination with monsters and other creatures of the night — and because I like to draw them so much.
Zissou: One of the definitive differences between the Aurora West book and Paul’s Battling Boy is the detective atmosphere that develops around the themes in Aurora’s past in her attempts to better understand her future where Battling Boy thrives on a privileged god-kid who doesn’t know what he’s doing. In drawing Aurora West, what do you think makes her character stand out compared to Battling Boy and other superheroes at other publishers?
Rubin: Appreciation of the detective atmosphere – that’s great!
I’m trying to make Aurora and Haggard’s adventures feel like Batman and Robin 60’s and 70’s adventures. Well…in confidence, I can tell you that I consider Aurora West books to be the best “Batman & Robin without Batman & Robin” story of the last few years.
And on the subject of the comparison between Aurora and Battling Boy; there are some similarities between Battling Boy and Aurora; both are learning to be heroes, both have a lot of doubts about themselves and their own different fates, and both are still kids.
But Battling Boy came from another realm full of gods and heroes, a world where everything is possible. He had a easy life until he came to Arcopolis, while Aurora grew up in a world with only one hero; her own father, in a city under siege, full of monsters and menace.
And that has made a big difference in the personalities of them both.
The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and the David Rubin is out now! There’s still time to participate in the Rise of Aurora West Fanart Contest too!