Ask the Artist: Dave Acosta

One of the things that's most exciting to me about launching Copper Bottle is the opportunity it provides to partner with amazing artists while ensuring they co-own the work we make together. 

That together is a key word. Comics are made by writers and artists working collaboratively! But while writers get interviewed about comics all the time, artists rarely get their brains picked the same way. We're gonna change that here! 

In our "Ask The Artist" series, pop culture writer Dave Richards will sit down with the brilliant atists working on Copper Bottle comics, digging into their influences, processes, and journeys.

Up first: the incredible Dave Acosta, my collaborator on DRAGON and TERRORWAR!

Ask the Artist: TERRORWAR’s Dave Acosta

by Dave Richards

Comics is the perfect medium for genre fiction. That's because the hours an artist spends at their drawing table can bring to life hardbitten detectives, two-fisted pulp heroes, sword-and-sorcery heroines, horror hostesses, and medieval soldiers in ways film directors can only dream of. They're also a chance for artists and writers to forge deep collaborations that allow them to take their tales to a whole other level. Artist Dave Acosta has made a name for himself doing just that with partnerships and projects that have allowed him to bring to life a variety of fantastic fictional worlds.

His latest collaborator is writer Saladin Ahmed. In their upcoming Kickstarter backed graphic novel, DRAGON, Acosta and Ahmed put a new medieval spin on a classic horror tale, and in their upcoming Copper Bottle series, TERRORWAR, the duo bring to life a dystopian sci-fi world where a normal guy must face down a mysterious, monstrous, and predatory force. I spoke briefly with Acosta about both of these projects and his past work and influences.

Your past work suggests a passion for pulp adventure characters. What is it about proto-superheroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow, and sword-and-sorcery style adventurers like Red Sonja that make them so appealing to draw?

DA:I have shifted between licensed pulp characters, such as The Shadow, or Doc Savage, and independent horror projects, such as TWELVE DEVILS DANCING and DRAGON, for years. But more important than characters, are the writers attached to the project. I’ve worked with David Avallone on the majority of the licensed stuff for the last 7 years or so. We have a great short hand and similar tastes.

It's also clear you have a lot of fun drawing characters like Elvira who combine horror and humor; two qualities that can go great together with the right balance. Is it hard for you to mix horror and humor?

I love mixing humor and horror. They compliment each other, compositionally. Jokes can land better if you build lots of tension first. I am a huge horror fan and my favorite film is EVIL DEAD 2, which uses comedy to great effect. When Bruce Campbell uses A FAREWELL TO ARMS to trap his severed, possessed hand under a pail - that’s my kind of stuff.

DRAGON, your first collaboration with Saladin, looks at the legend of Dracula from a different point of view. So, it feels like a natural fit for you given your love of horror. What did you enjoy most about Saladin's script for the book?

What I loved most about DRAGON was how Saladin took a centuries old story and set it from a perspective we aren’t used to seeing. We’ve seen the euro-centric vampire tale a million times. But just east of Wallachia, lies Istanbul, a gateway between East and West. We often forget how much trade routes connected the medieval world. So DRAGON lets us see things through the eyes of an elite soldier for the Ottoman Empire, and how he reacts when confronted with this horror. It was super exciting to draw something like this, which I had never seen before.

With TERRORWAR, you and Saladin are building a sci-fi, dystopian, future world from scratch.  What elements of the project are you most excited about?

Before I was a horror fanatic, I was obsessed with sci-fi. There was so much great science fiction when I was growing up in the 80s. <i>TerrorWar</i> is a chance for me to get into Syd Mead mode. It’s so fun to design future tech and architecture, and then of course, put a layer of dystopic grime over it.

DRAGON was so heavily researched to make it grounded in a certain historical place and time, that half your day can be spent gathering reference. But the sci-fi setting really allows your mind to wander. You don’t have to worry about how or why any of it works, it just does! Very freeing.

Finally, as an artist, what's your sense of TERRORWAR’s protagonist, Muhammad Cho? Which elements of his character did you really want to capture and bring forward in your depictions?

The interesting thing about Muhammad Cho, is that he’s not a big strong hero. He’s not exceptional. Not a prophesied hero, last of an alien race, or eccentric billionaire. He’s a scrappy, regular guy who has a knack for his job - which happens to be fighting off the physical embodiment of other people’s nightmares.

I hope this interview helps get you guys hyped for TERRORWAR, coming this fall. Subscribe to Copper Bottle to keep up with everything we publish!