Making Things Marvelous: Acuña Talks Marvel Gigs

Daniel Acuña burst onto the American comics scene in 2006 with his distinctive covers for DC Comics titles like "JLA" and "Outsiders." The Spanish artist went onto provide interior art for DC books "Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters" and the "The Flash." Fans can look for Acuña's star to rise higher in 2008, as the now Marvel-exclusive artist turns his talents towards the House of Ideas' stable of characters. CBR News spoke with Acuña about his work.

Acuña's deal with Marvel came as surprise to many people, himself included. "My plan was to stay at DC doing 'The Flash' series because I was loving it, and DC and I were, in principle, interested in staying together," Daniel Acuña told CBR News. "I didn't see any reasons to make a change. But Marvel started to show a great interest in my work; they showed me they would value me as a great asset for their company, and every day that passed, they kept showing it. Then they offered me a project that was a dream for me, and that I couldn't reject."

This project won't be the first time Acuña has worked for Marvel. He created covers to books like issue #1 of the 2006 "Doc Samson" miniseries, and almost provided the interior art for a "Supreme Power" spin-off miniseries. "It never happened," Acuña said. "I believe the project wouldn't have been so good with me as artist, mostly because it was very, very dramatic and even more, because it had a lot of violence I wasn't comfortable with. And anyway, if I'd done it, I would have just penciled it, so I have to say I am actually glad it didn't work out. It was the best for Marvel and for me! And I still could do some great covers for Marvel before signing with DC, and with the same editor I'm working again with now -- talk about a come back, Mr. [Mark] Paniccia!"

Now that's he turned his full artistic attention to the Marvel Universe, Acuña has a list of favorite characters he can't wait to draw. "I wouldn't want to die without drawing Spider-Man. Also, Nova or Captain Marvel," Acuña said. "But sometimes, my problem is that I tend to like the older versions of some characters, like Power Man, much more than the current ones. It would be very special for me to draw some of those characters; because they were the ones I liked more when I was a kid. Oh, and of course, I would kill to [draw] Spider-Woman!"

What Acuña finds artistically appealing about all of Marvel's characters is their humanity. "It makes them a very, very interesting material to work with. They are less iconic than DC's characters, for example, and in a lot of ways, more human," Acuña remarked. "This is a great motivational factor, because you can work more in showing their humanity without being afraid of loosing their 'godlike' aspects.

"Also, these are the characters I grew up reading, much more than DC's (Marvel was much better published here [in Spain], and with a lot more series than DC when I was a kid)," Acuña continued. "So my emotional connection with them is certainly bigger! Put that together with my personal interest in reflecting every character's emotions, so that readers never feel they are seeing people merely 'posing for the camera', and that's it. The Marvel characters are very solid creations (Kirby, Ditko, Stan Lee -- do I need to say anything else?), not stereotypes, certainly helps that goal!"

Unlike the paragons of physical perfection Acuña had been drawing at DC, some of Marvel's more popular characters are brutish, ugly and even monstrous in appearance. The artist is particularly excited to bring those characters to life. "I'd love to draw the Hulk or the Thing. They are a big challenge, indeed," Acuña stated. "To make them believable in a realistic context and environment so the readers 'feel' them as something that could be a part of our reality. nBut these are the kind of challenges I look forward to, the ones I love in my work. I grew up reading [Richard] Corben, after all. He's the god I pray to every month so he gives me strength to finish every issue on time."

Acuña's wish to draw the Hulk was granted when Marvel assigned him to provide an alternate cover for issue #1 of the new Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness "Hulk" series (featuring the new red Hulk) which is on sale now. "When I started the cover, my intention was to portray that classical Hulk, the one that feels savage and beastly, but that at the same time always looks silly and lost. I also had to be true to Loeb's and McGuinness's version of the character for this new series, full of rage and energy. I hope I managed to include a little bit of both on the final cover!"

In addition to providing alternate covers to "Hulk" and next week's "Incredible Herc" #113, Acuña has been hard at work on the interiors for a new Marvel title. "I've been working on the new project for almost two months," Acuña remarked. "The first cover and the first issue are done, and I have to say I'm very happy with it. I think I can say for sure that this is quite possibly the best work I've ever done. I hope people agree with me when they read it! I take care of everything from pencils to inks to colors. And that is because, for me, these things can't be separated. I've spent too much time doing things that way already and my style has been developing that way. And I gotta be honest, it's the only way the penciler, the inker and colorist can get together well enough."

Acuña has become famous for his unique and lush style of penciling, coloring and inking, which comes as somewhat of a shock to the artist. "It surprises me when people say I have a very distinctive style (I love it, though). I don't know about that, but I try every single day to do things as personal as I can," Acuña remarked. "It's been a lot of time since I learned if you have a very realistic style it's easy to get boring or unexpressive, like bad photography. That's what I don't want to do. I want to avoid making things visually boring. That's why I don't have any problems in turning to classic cartoonists and animation for inspiration or example, as geniuses of how to obtain maximum expressivity with the maximum simplicity."

For his new, as yet unannounced series, Acuña has tweaked his style slightly. "Until now, I think I have used a more 'pop' style, something closer to the classic superhero comic books feel, but in this new series the environment that surrounds the characters will have a more important role than the colorful poppy tones. Or at least that's what I hope, but things finish rolling as they want to."

Acuña is best known in the American market for his depiction of superheroes and enjoys drawing them, but one of his most famous European works was the series "Claus & Simon," a miniseries noted for its humor. "I think the world superheroes live in is now more serious than ever, and I think some times, too serious," Acuña said. "'Claus & Simon' is not so much of a comedy. The story had plenty of drama and 'serious' stuff, but it's true that my style was closer to humorous than dramatic. I also think it's easier to make the characters likable to the reader that way. I would like to do a story with humor, perhaps something in the vein of Giffen and DeMatteis's 'Justice League.'"

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