An Interview With David Rubin on The Rise of Aurora West

On September 30th the next exciting chapter of the Battling Boy series launches. That's right The Rise of Aurora West from Paul Pope, JT Petty and artist extraordinaire David Rubin will be available for all to read. If you've checked out the site then you already know that I've reviewed the book and absolutely loved it (review here). But that wasn't good enough! We needed to talk to someone behind the magic and that someone is David Rubin. Get comfy as we dig into Aurora West with the man who brought her to life with his amazing illustrations.

Aurora-ForSampler-hires_Page_1-9.23.14DUSTIN CABEAL: I think a lot of people who were fans of Battling Boy are going to want to know how you ended up working on The Rise of Aurora West?

DAVID RUBIN: In the middle of 2013 one Saturday, I woke up and found in my inbox an e-mail from Paul who asked me if I want to collaborate with him in his new graphic novel based on the Battling Boy universe. This was before BB had even come out. I knew the book because of some of Paul’s interviews that I had read and for the few pages I had found on the Internet. It sounded great, but I couldn’t know HOW great it would be!

Saturday morning, my first coffee of the day, Paul’s email…this weekend rocked!!

DUSTIN: In The Rise of Aurora West you essentially end up illustrating and creating some pretty important pieces to the universe, that must have been pretty cool?

DAVID: Yeah, there is no doubt! I’m very grateful with Paul and First Second for trusting me and giving me this great opportunity as well as the big responsibility of creating Haggard West’s face, a lot of new monsters, characters and places of Arcopolis, Aurora’s fight suit, Aurora’s mother….

Paul gave me some art direction guidelines and a lot of retro sci-fi examples (Flash Gordon’s TV series, some old horror and adventure films, and a lot of photographs of this style).

There was a short but intense pre-production phase, but I felt totally free while I worked on the pages, which was comfortable for me and made the work so easy.

DUSTIN: With Battling Boy releasing just last year, did that change the process of how you worked on Aurora’s story at all or did Paul Pope already have the details laid out?

The-Rise-of-Aurora-West-9.23.14DAVID: No, we had everything clear about Aurora’s series and we were following the plan.

But at the same time it was an organic process; I mean, I used in AW some stuff that Paul created for BB’s books, and Paul used some of my AW stuff in BB2. There was great feedback between us.

DUSTIN: What was your approach to the artwork? There’s definitely a bit of influence from Pope’s style, but what did you want to be different or the same?

DAVID: It’s true that Paul’s work was one of my influences in my early work.  But at the same time we share a lot of things: we like the same kind of music, the same films and the same comics; we both love Jack Kirby's work, JC Forest, Guido Crepax, Go Nagai, Toth or Tezuka . . . all of these influences are important for both of us in our respective styles and works.

The most helpful guide for my work in Aurora West was the work of Duncan Fegredo in the Hellboy series.

Duncan is a great artist, and his style in Hellboy is close to Mike Mignola’s; his style reminds us of Mignola’s style, giving  the Hellboy series continuity and stylistic coherence.  But if you put side by side two volumes of Hellboy, one by Fegredo and one by Mignola, you can see a lot of differences between both styles of drawing the same universe, and you can see that Fegredo is drawing in his own way.

I have tried to make the same in Aurora West; some parts of my work remind Paul’s work and other are 100% Rubín style, and the mix of both gives new and different results, I think.

Aurora-ForSampler-hires_Page_2-9.23.14And in the narrative, in the storytelling, the differences are bigger; Paul’s storytelling is on a Cosmic-Pop-Kirby-Crepax-Nagai way and mine is on Darker-Cartoon-Romita-Peellaert-Tezuka way.

His Haggard West is “Adam Strange meet Doc Savage,” mine is “’70-‘80’s Batman.”

DUSTIN: And where there any other artistic influences?

DAVID: Music. Music is important for me when I work. When I worked on The Rise of Aurora West, I listened especially to Grinderman, a terrific band by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. And The Editors, and Bowie…

And everything you could think about pop culture, from Jackson Pollock to early Disney films.

DUSTIN: Does black & white change the approach to the visual storytelling?

DAVID: Yes, I’m not drawing the pencils the same way if the final work is in B&W or in full color.

And it’s the same with the storytelling.

My last books published in Europe (Beowulf and The Hero 1&2) were in color, and I like to work with color.  But when I started to work on The Rise of Aurora West, and I knew that it would be published in B&W and in a small size, it was a big restart for me.  I had to draw in a different way, more complex, but at the same time clearer than in my other books.

Aurora-ForSampler-hires_Page_3-9.23.14DUSTIN: Was there a particular character that you enjoyed illustrating? Maybe aside from Aurora who seems like an obvious choice?

DAVID: Yeah, Aurora is the big deal, but I love working on other characters like Mrs. Grately – she’s a powerful character! – Haggard – I loved to draw the movement in space of Haggard, – and, overall; the monsters.

Drawing monsters is one of the best things that could happen to a cartoonist, and this book is full of monsters!!

DUSTIN: With Haggard West’s… well, his West Cave, are there any references that readers should keep an eye out for?

DAVID: Ha, ha…yes, There are some “easter eggs” about it in the book, stay tuned!!

DUSTIN: What audience do you think The Rise of Aurora West will reach?

DAVID: I think that is an all-ages book.

It works fine for a younger audience, but I think that the adults will also enjoy Aurora & Battling Boy’s series.

If you like the good superhero comics, the good stories, the solid  characters, and the adventure, then this is your book!!!

Wow, well I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did. A huge, huge thank you to David Rubin for taking the time to talk with me about The Rise of Aurora West, and for First Second for making that happen. Be sure to pick up the book on September 30th and if you haven't read Battling Boy that's okay, you don't need to have read that to enjoy Aurora but really you should read both!