EXCLUSIVE: Daniel Acuña talks "Eternals"

When CBR News last spoke with Daniel Acuña back in January, the Marvel Comics-exclusive artist was excited about a project he couldn't yet talk about. Today we can reveal Acuña's next assignment is to bring to life the new ongoing "Eternals" series first announced at Comic-Con International in 2007. Written by Daniel and Charles Knauf and set to launch in June, the new Eternals series is the first ongoing version of the title since Jack Kirby's original. CBR News spoke with Acuña about his work on "Eternals" and got an exclusive first look at his artwork for the title.

For Acuña, "Eternals" is a dream assignment because of the multitude of fantastic story elements creator Jack Kirby built into the characters. "Open a Jack Kirby 'Eternals' book, any page, and you find characters, environments, monsters, submerged cities, giants, everything! And then he tells you a story full of potential," Daniel Acuña told CBR News. "The character Karkas, for example, is a monster that is forced to fight, but he's a pacifist and a philosopher! It's so genial only Kirby could have thought of that, and at that time. It's incredible to see the amount of characters he plays with. This is much more than superheroes. It's sci-fi, it's mythology. It talks about the origins of the human race--a little bit of everything, big time!"

Working on "Eternals" means not only following in the footsteps of Jack Kirby, but artist John Romita Jr., who along with writer Neil Gaiman recently brought to life Kirby's creations in an acclaimed seven-issue miniseries now available in hardcover as "Eternals by Neil Gaiman."

"I think Romita, Jr. gave it the strength and 'Bam! In your face!' qualities the 'King' gave [his] book, and mixed quite well with Gaiman's more mature script," Acuña said. "The work of these two comic book legends coming before mine? It helps not to let my guard down and keeps me on my feet while I work."

For "Eternals," Acuña is making subtle changes to his signature artistic style in an attempt to find the perfect approach to the series. "I truly feel more security and freedom in my work than ever before," he said. "Still, I keep evolving and looking for a definitive style for this series, a very different way than how you do things here in Europe, usually. Here, you have no time to prepare so much in advance or to go for a more radical change in style. So you have to do it while working as well as making the tone and the characters your own at the same time.

"What interested me the most was to be able to draw Ikaris with his classic suit. Romita did a great job, please don't misunderstand me, more modern and with simpler lines. I think he also made him look more superhero and less a warrior. Now I'm drawing him with his classic suit, but with very little changes. With Makkari, I've kept his suit (I love that design!) and recovered the classic helmet, and for me, he's become one of the most spectacular characters to draw. The rest are basically the same, but in my style, adding some details--more than a design labor, what I've done is to study what has been done in the past and pick this or that for my style and for the series. I don't want to get far from what the readers already know."

Acuña has taken special care to emphasize the majestic qualities of The Eternals in his artwork. "I try to transmit that 'highness' they must have," he said. "They are the Olympic gods, better and bigger than us, and that's why I want to show that elegance, strength and dignity. For me, there are two kinds of superheroes; the classics from the '40s, and the superheroes of the '60s, with their 'common man' worries. I see these Eternals and draw them as if they were born in the '40s."

Acuña has enjoyed bringing to life the fluid and multi-faceted scripts of his "Eternals" collaborators, writers Daniel and Charles Knauf. "I am very happy with the scripts, because the locations, environments, everything, keeps flowing, moving and changing, that makes you enjoy drawing different things," the artist remarked. "For example, we have a Soviet Union kind of military march and an American church in the south. I'm very happy because I think I can do good work with these kinds of things because I can enjoy them a lot, and of course, the emotional conflicts of the characters (and there are a lot), makes me work to be as expressive as I can-- to show a multitude of expressions, facial and body language. And I hope I'm doing it at least fine!"

Traditionally, a number of people are tasked with creating artwork: penciller, inker, and colorist. With "Eternals," Acuña is a one-man art department. "I have around 45 days per issue," Acuña said. "First, I read the script and start looking for all the references I may need, and I go to bed thinking and imagining some scenes, how they would work, how would I draw them. This I do almost every night when I go to bed; technical things, how can I solve that fight, etc. It's the time of the day when I can think of more things, really. The bad part is that sometimes I think so much I can't sleep! The layouts take me about a week, then pencils in about two more, inks more or less the same, and the rest is for colors."

Acuña finds being the sole visual voice on "Eternals" to be highly enjoyable and advantageous. "I control the pencils, inks and colors. There's panels that don't need too much work in pencils, and much more in color, but if somebody else did the coloring, I would have to tighten the pencils much more to be sure the colorists sees what I want to do, and same with the inker," he explained. "It's also difficult to find teams of penciller, inker and colorist that get a synergy so good it looks perfect, but again, in my case, I see all the process in my mind when I design a page, so it would be too difficult to do it any other way.

"In fact, being able to do all the work, the graphic part, allows me to show, my way, all the mystic, epic, and mysterious elements, and scope this comic-book should have; through things like the environment, the mood, working with lights and contrasts. But I try to depict all those details, being in Olympia, or in a Middle East country. When I draw something, I have already imagined it finished, and in color--and that makes me slow down a bit before starting to draw."

Acuña is having a great time working on all the aspects of "The Eternals," but the artist admits there's one character he's having a little trouble depicting. "That would be Sersi," he laughed. "But it's always a challenge for me to draw a beautiful girl that doesn't have an eye higher than the other!

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