Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston have captivated readers and critics alike with their Eisner Award-winning, creator owned superhero saga Black Hammer, which follows the forgotten champions of Spiral City long after the age of heroes has passed. This week, Dark Horse Comics expands the universe of Black Hammer with Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion of Evil, written by Lemire and illustrated by artist David Rubín. The four issue mini-series reveals the secret origins of the Black Hammer’s greatest villains.
Rubín took some time to discuss Sherlock Frankenstein, his influences and collaborating with Jeff Lemire.
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FOG!: I first saw your work in The Rise of Aurora West and have since bought all of your work. How did you discover comics and when did you decide that you wanted to make them?
David Rubín: My life has always been linked to comics books; I learned to read with comics, and I always loved to write and draw my own comics. I think that I made my first comic when I was only four or five years old.
Who or what would you consider the biggest influences on your work?
Too many. I always try to merge different influences to find new ways for my work and style. Sometimes consciously, sometimes not.
In the comics medium, I love the work of John Romita Jr., Paul Pope, Frank Miller, Javier Olivares, Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko, Osamu Tezuka, Jean Giraud, Mezieres, Go Nagai, Guido Crepax, Hugo Pratt, Shingeru Mizuki, and, of course, Jack Kirby. They all are some of my favorite creators.
Music, film, photography, graphic design, and illustration are also other artistic mediums that I love and that have a strong influence on my work.
I loved Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion of Evil, How did you end up working with Jeff Lemire?
My editor on my comic series Ether, Daniel Chabon, who is also the editor of Black Hammer, asked me if I would like to do a couple of fill-in issues for Black Hammer, and of course I said yes, because I love the Black Hammer series, and I am a big fan of all the work by Jeff for many years.
When I finished working on those two issues, Daniel asked me if I wanted to draw four more before I restarted my work on Ether, that is the genesis of Sherlock Frankenstein.
There are some tremendous layouts, most of them focusing on Lucy Weber, the daughter of The Black Hammer. How much of this was dictated in the script and how much freedom do you have with the storytelling?
Jeff is a great artist and writer. He knows how to write for an artist because he is one.
His scripts have so many visuals, but, at the same time, he gives you breathing room. When Jeff specifically needs some type of specific grid on the page, or some narrative technique, he tells you directly in the script.
Some parts of the storytelling are directly from Jeff’s scripts, and other ones are 100% mine. No matter who has contributed to this or that idea, the important thing is that the final page, the work that arrives to the reader, is a mixture of the talent and the energy of the two artists behind the page; one writes and another draws, but we work like a single creator for the reader.
You also got to show a number of costumed characters. Were there any designs that you were particularly proud of?
I love the old-school heroes and villains, and there are a bunch of them I did, so I enjoyed creating their looks.
But I think that my favourites are the new Cthu-Lou, Cthu-Louise, and the old-school heroes team “The Freedom Fighters”.
Although much of your work is mythic and larger than life, you haven’t done a lot of superheroes, but when you do, it’s amazing. Is that an area of interest?
Yeah, I grew up reading superhero comics and I loved them.
One of my graphic novels The Hero which was published as two volumes published by Dark Horse few years ago–is a love letter to superhero genre, and a tribute to Jack Kirby, my favorite artist, and, for me, the true father of the modern superheroes.
So yes, it’s a big area of interest for me.
What do you have coming up?
Right now I’m working on the second arc of my creator-owned series with Matt Kindt called Ether, and on Rumble with John Arcudi.
But I do want to work again with Jeff Lemire in a near future. The six issues that we did in the Black Hammer Universe so far are some of the best experiences that I have had in my years working in comics.
What are you currently geeking out over?
Drawing two series at the same time leaves not much free time for geeking, but, well…I just finished watching The Leftovers a few days ago and I really loved it, maybe the best and most intelligent and emotional tv series that I have ever seen.
I just read two recent comic series that I love too: Extremity by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer, Sun Bakery by Corey Lewis, and the new Doom Patrol by Gerard Way and Nick Derrington.
Sherlock Frankenstein & The Legion of Evil #1 (of 4) arrives in stores October 18th.