The comic book REX, ZOMBIE KILLER follows a pack of animals -- including a gorilla with a baseball bat -- as they try to survive the zombie apocalypse. Below, artist DaFu Yu, the co-creator of REX, ZOMBIE KILLER, talks about his art process on the new miniseries from publisher Big Dog Ink, hitting stores in October.
Your art style in REX, ZOMBIE KILLER is very detailed, particularly the backgrounds. How long does it take you to produce a finished page?
DAFU: For REX, I'm both penciling and inking so it usually takes me between two to three days to complete a page. I put in about 12 hours of drawing per day, give or take. To keep things fresh and interesting for me, I work on several consecutive pages at once. I never draw a page from start to finish, I bounce around pages.
Can you talk about your approach to producing the art for REX, ZOMBIE KILLER? Are you working digitally or with old-school pencil and ink?
DAFU: Once I receive the script from writer Rob Anderson, I read it through once to see if I have any questions. Then, as I read through it a second time, I start laying out the panels in stick figures onto the script itself. Next, I take the stick figure layouts and flesh them out into thumbnails for Rob to approve. Although for the REX miniseries I decided to skip the thumbnail stage and do a loose pencil layout onto the actual 11x17 bristol board for Rob. This saves me some precious time.
As far as tools, I use 2H or HB lead pencils and I ink with Sakura micron pens and brush pens to fill in dark areas. So I am old-school when it comes to pencils and inks.
You've changed up your style slightly from the REX, ZOMBIE KILLER ONE-SHOT from last year, especially on the gorillas. How did you approach drawing the animals in the new miniseries? Are you drawing from your head? Or from some sort of reference?
When the REX ONE-SHOT debuted last year, we received favorable reviews but I also received a lot of constructive criticism. One common criticism was my rendering of the gorillas appeared a bit too human-like. Here’s something you might not notice in the book from last year -- Kenji the gorilla was standing and running sometimes like a human. It wasn’t until Rob pointed it out to me that I remembered that gorillas are normally on all fours! That’s why toward the end of the ONE-SHOT they were more gorilla-like, and why they are even more accurate in the new miniseries.
Honestly, it was my first time drawing gorillas and I didn’t understand their anatomical structure or mannerisms last year. So for the REX miniseries I actually did some more research and even bought some to-scale animal figures to help me. The gorillas are now more naturalistic looking in the miniseries.
Who do you consider your artistic influences?
DAFU: Wow, there’s so many, where do I begin? I grew up reading and collecting comics in the late 80s and early 90s, so I was heavily influenced by the Image artists, especially Jim Lee. Then in the mid-90s with the influx of Manga into American comics, I was influenced by Joe Madureira which led me to Masamune Shirow’s GHOST IN THE SHELL. Manga, in general, just helped me add energy into my comics and improved my facial expressions. And there’s so many more, such as David Finch, Art Adams, Frank Cho, Alex Ross...the list just continues to grow.
Who is your favorite character to draw and why?
DAFU: It’s definitely Kenji. What artist wouldn’t want to draw a gorilla with a baseball bat smashing zombies!? Or two big gorillas going to war?
But as I get deeper into the world of REX, ZOMBIE KILLER, I also have become fond of drawing Buttercup the Corgi mix dog. She’s just so bubbly and optimistic in a zombie-infested world. She gives everyone hope when there seems to be none, and she's part of why I'm happy to return to the world of Rex and his pack!
DAFU YU's artwork has appeared in titles such as GRIMM FAIRY TALES, and the WONDERLAND ANNUAL from Zenescope, GREAT ZOMBIES IN HISTORY from McFarland Press, and SHATTERED: THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMICS ANTHOLOGY (SECRET IDENTITIES) collection, available in bookstores from The New Press.
REX, ZOMBIE KILLER #1 is available for pre-order right now at your Local Comic Shop. It's listed in the August Diamond PREVIEWS catalog (Order number AUG131097) under publisher Big Dog Ink.