Like his Hawkeye colleague Matt Fraction (whom we also interviewed recently), artist David Aja recently won two Eisners at the San Diego Comic Con, one for Best Cover Artist and one for Best Single Issue (Hawkeye #11, “Pizza is My Business”). That’s two more, by the way, to add to his two wins from last year for Best Cover Artist (again) and Best Artist. Wow!
In addition to doing most of the issues for Hawkeye in its so-far two year run, Aja has also served as the regular artist for The Immortal Iron Fist as well as individual issues of Daredevil, Captain America and Thor.
Also like Fraction, he is super busy but was gracious enough to take some time to chat with PopMythology. For our money, his smooth, iconographic style is one of the best and most interesting in comics today, so we were excited to speak with him.
PM: Do you base your style on any other artists? Whose work influences you the most?
DA: I do not think so. I mean, if each time I start drawing I would have to think on what or who I base my style I would never end. And actually, do I have an style? I don’t know. But do I have influences? Of course, we all are but a bunch of influences in the end. Since we are born we receive visual information bombs every second: comics, films, paintings, illustrations, TV, life… and on and on. All that info is in my head and actually makes me be what I am, not just as a comic author but as a person. I suppose the important thing is to assimilate all that information and be able to use it in a proper way. An alien told that to me. Or maybe it was a magpie. But I keep on learning new things every day.
DA: Well, I suppose Hawkeye, if just because it’s the one I’m doing now and you know how we artists are: we will see nothing but fails and crap on everything we have done before. That probably includes the last issue, ho-ho. We are our own worst critics somehow.
PM: For the Pizza Dog issue of Hawkeye, was it difficult to draw a story from a dog’s point of view? How did you decide what information was relevant to a dog?
DA: I think it was difficult in the beginning to find a visual way to show all those other senses a dog uses to interpret reality other than sight. I thought it could be a funny challenge as comics usually show reality by our sense of vision (panels) and hearing words (balloons). Once I found the way with all those infinite 2D tools we have such as pictograms, blueprints, signs… the rest was easier.
Both Matt and I decided what information was relevant, I think. Matt and I talk a lot on each issue, I cannot really tell most of the times who came with what idea, or if an idea gave the other a clue to another idea, or the idea of the idea of an idea… well, I think you know where I’m going. We decided to sign with “By” instead of “Writer-Artist” for that reason. It’s a very collaborative work.
But well, I think we will never know if we were right or wrong with that issue, or at least till we learn how to communicate with dogs and they are able to read a comic.
PM: For the sign language issue, #19, was it difficult to portray a moving visual language?
DA: Well, it was for sure, but it’s like with every other issue. I mean, body language and characters’ actions are there in any comic you will read. That’s part of our job, I suppose: to translate to a graphic, bidimensional medium perception of the world out there that moves and sounds and smells.
In this particular case, Matt passed me tons of videos with the proper signs for each word/sentence. I decided going with sign language in a very design way, mostly looking like an instruction manual, all of the same size and with no facial expression (although I know they are important in sign language) – just to make them look like some kind of typography, as if they were the balloons.
I swear that each time I take one of these visual risks—like in issue #6, the pizza dog issue, the crosswords thingy, this ASL [American Sign Language] one—I always think I’m screwing it up and nobody is going to get what I’m doing. You know, self confidence.
One kinda test I always do to know if I’m doing things more or less fine is reading all the sequences I’ve done with no dialogues and see if it works. You cannot obviously get all the little details with no words, but if pictures cannot tell you what it’s going on, what characters do, feel or say more or less, you’re doing something wrong (well, yes, there’s some cheating there as I already know what each issue is about but you get me).
PM: How many designs for a character do you usually go through before deciding on the final one?
DA: It really depends, I cannot tell. Sometimes I’m fine with the first one with slight variations, other ones takes me more time. But it’s true that in any case characters usually get their own personality. And again we came back here with the collaboration with Matt. I can draw some detail on a character, that gives him a clue for writing dialogue that gives me a clue for using a certain body expression and on and on.
PM: Do you have any plans to work on any other titles besides Hawkeye in the future? Are you talking to Marvel or other publishers about any specific titles?
DA: I still have to do two more issues of Hawkeye. After them, I obviously would have to work on something else as, well, like most people in this world I need to work for a living, heh. But we will see, I want to focus on Hawkeye for now. I still have to produce around 50 pages.
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