Super Zombies #1, cover by Mel RubiWe’ve spoken with Marc Guggenheim and Vince Gonzales , writers on the upcoming Dynamite miniseries Super Zombies and gotten some background on how the project got rolling in the first place; and we’ve also spoken with Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci and Joe Rybandt about launching a new comic book world, for all intents and purposes; and now, we sit down for a conversation with Super Zombies artist Mel Rubi, who had to design dozens and dozens of new characters for the project, as well as draw the issues.
Newsarama: Mel, moving from primarily fantasy with Red Sonja to something like Super Zombies seems like it must have been something of a jarring change - or was it? Did it take time to adapt and adjust to the more"hard-edge" world in which Marc and Vince are telling their story?
Mel Rubi: I did have to make some adjustment from a single character to team books. Especially with so many new characters being introduce it has taken me some time to feel them. And as a result, I’m not able to produce the pages fast enough as I would like them to be. But it really doesn’t come as a surprise for I’ve worked on a few team books from the past with similar cases. I simply look at it as challenge for a greater reward.
NRAMA: You've clearly got a lot of characters to deal with here, so let's start at the top - the major characters - what did Marc and Vince give you to go on?
Solid Citizen and othersMR: All hats off to Vince and Marc! Truly, these guys are the perfect writers to work with. They were able to provide me all the references that I need along with bios, back stories and history of each character. I couldn’t have asked for more.
NRAMA: Let's start with Neuron - what had to be in there for him, design-wise?
MR: Basically, he’s the main character. He’s not a superhero, but a brilliant man who’s been infected with KHR disease. Again, from the writer’s description, it wasn’t that difficult to come up with Neuron’s design. If you can picture Barack Obama and a combination of Dr. Frankenstein who just got into a fight with a hair clipper then you have , Neuron.
NRAMA: From there, who was the character that you had to spend the most time on?
MR: I’d have to say, Nano. It did not take too much time to do his costume, but those little particles that surround him took time to draw.
NRAMA: From a broad point of view, you had to create (based on Marc and
Vince's descriptions) 40 super-powered characters. How do you do that, without stepping on toes and getting too "similar" with designs?
MR: As a designer, you can never really avoid this problem. Even if you think you’ve created something different, someone will always find the similarity of your work from another.
NRAMA: Were there ever any instances where you did get too close to another character with your designs and had to step it back a little, or did everything flow pretty freely?
MR: Most of the time, it flowed freely.
NRAMA: In comics today, we see all kinds of design elements from very functional boots, straps, leather and buckles say of John Cassaday, to the minimalist style of a leotard and belt, with the rest left up to the reader. Where would you say your style fits in when designing and drawing costumes?
MR: I don’t exactly know where my style fits in. I get my influences from Frank Frazetta or John Buscema and even down to Jim Lee. I guess that’s really up to the readers to decide where they want to place my art.
NRAMA: Fair enough. When you would design a character, you thinking from the start of having to draw the "costume" from all angles in movement, etc, or were you designing to look good, and realize later that, perhaps, all the bells and whistles you'd put on the costume didn't make it something you could draw quickly, page after page on a deadline?
MR: That’s a good question. Honestly, I’ve come across this problem before working on the costumes. With so many of them to design, I had to make sure that I didn’t overdo it. An example of this would be, Trilogy. She has the ability to multiply and it’s a nightmare having to keep drawing her over and over in a single panel. So I thought of giving her a sleeveless trench coat and a long hair to cover her most of the time. Enough to where we can still view her cool costume inside.
NRAMA: If you were telling someone how do design a new character, where
would you tell them to start? What's the key?
NeuronMR: First you must know the history and the power of the character. From there think two characters that would be similar to this individual then combine their costume and see what you come up with. That’s the key!
NRAMA: What kind of timeline did you have for all the designwork? Was it
something you enjoyed?
MR: I’ve mixed the past, present and future when designing the character costumes and yes I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
NRAMA: The story of the miniseries itself - a battered world, super-powered beings committing atrocities. A world barely hanging on. Was that your kind of thing to draw?
MR: It’s not that I like to draw super being committing murders or killing and etc, but this is a comic book and the artist have unlimited powers to illustrate however he or she wants. For this book to feel real, sometimes I need to set my mind into that mode of violence in order to get into the mood of the character. But I’m not a violent man. I’m just having fun with the book.
NRAMA: Obviously, Dynamite is hoping this will prove to be successful enough to lead to successive series. Are you on for the long haul?
MR: Hmm.. I really can’t say. It all depends how the readers are going to respond to the art. I feel my strength is in a single character titles rather than team books. But I’m open to almost any projects that Dynamite hands me and for this I’d like to be on for the long haul with them.