So the time for San Diego Comic-Con is finally upon us and what better way to kick things off than with an interview with stellar comic/concept artist Dave Wilkins, one of the twisted minds behind not only Namco's imminent Splatterhouse franchise reboot but some of Marvel Comics hottest selling titles.Thanks so much for joining us, Dave. Let's start with an introduction, can you tell us a little about yourself?
A talented artist, driven by his own fanboy inclinations, Dave's work has quickly become the face of the new Splatterhouse game. With every new magazine cover or promotional event that Namco releases in anticipation for the game (due out in October) you can be sure that Dave has concocted some outrageously bloody massacre for fans to admire. He's also a pretty darn, nice fella to boot as he took some time to subject himself to one of Strange Kid's infamous Q&A sessions here at the clubhouse and even dropped us a bone with a Comic-Con exclusive. What a charming fellow!
To learn more about Dave and see even more of his insanely gruesome artwork, be sure to visit his blog and hit up his DeviantArt account.
Hey man thanks for having me!! I’ve been in the gaming industry for about 14 years and the comics and film industry for about 6; basically I’m living the fanboy dream. I’ve been really very fortunate. I get to earn a living drawing monsters and superheroes!
How would you describe your style?
Burly or "Aggro-Style," it’s always big and/or destructive with something or someone getting pummeled to hell... or blowing up. It’s what I like to draw, it makes me laugh to see how silly and over the top I can go with it. I really struggle when it’s subtle or worse... cute. I grew up in the 80’s; The Terminator, Rambo, Friday the 13th, Scarface, and all the Sho Kosugi ninja flicks a 12 year old could handle... or at least sneak into.
Are there any artists in particular that have influenced you?
Oh absolutely. Frank Miller, Simon Bisley, Richard Corben, and Bengus just off the top... the list is endless. Everyday I’ll get sent a link to some amazing guy in Italy who’s astonishing or stumble onto an old master painter that I’ve never heard of that’s now my new hero. I’ve always been attracted to artists that put their own spin on the standard stuff. The challenge is to find your own voice in all of it and just do that.
How did you first become involved with the development of the new Splatterhouse?
Another comic buddy of mine, Roger Robinson was already on board with the game and knew they were looking for another concept artist that liked drawing monsters and super gross stuff. I sent my stuff and I was in!
What do you think is the appeal of violence in video games such as Splatterhouse, Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto and MadWorld?
The escapism honestly. We’ve all been picked on, been bullied, gotten dumped, cut off in traffic, or pissed off at work. Any one of us would like to casually make someone else’s head explode with just our mind— Scanners style; that’s where games and movies like this come into play.
What was it like to have the opportunity to re-envision such cult classic characters as Rick and Biggy Man?
Rick was a challenge for sure. We’ve all seen the hulking monster result but it’s the everyman, the average Joe, that was the tough part. Few of us can identify with the action hero type, but the guy that’s just glad to be hanging with his girl no parents or crappy job– just a guy making his way in the world. We’ve all been there and dialing into the everyman was tough.
Biggy was way easier; I had seen tons of drawings and redesigns and none of them worked- not because they were bad, but because they weren’t Biggy. I have never understood why people have to “make it better.” Things are iconic and memorable for a reason; it’s because they nailed it the first time. Take the Joker from Batman, we all know him; the green hair and a purple suit, then someone comes along and “makes it better” by giving him red hair and putting him in a black leather jacket. Could it be cool? Sure, but it’s still not the Joker. When it was my turn at Biggy, I just drew the original guy, using the old sprite as reference in my own way.
What kind of research went into the designs for the characters and environments in this new game?
Late 70's and 80's horror films, film posters, EERIE and CREEPY Magazine and tons of Metal music. I mean we all love Reanimator, Nightmare on Elm Street, Return of the Living Dead and of course the Evil Dead movies. I think it would have been much easier to simply take a bunch of photos, photo textures and go straight up modern period, but I think it loses a little something that way. We want to nail spirit of that great stuff.
I've noticed a patten of exploding or decapitated heads in your promo art for Splatterhouse, is that a personal touch or does dismemberment play a large role in the game?
Absolutely! Lets face it, Rick is a monster; ripping limbs, crushing heads, and snapping bones are all part of who he is.
What were some of your favorite video games to play growing up?
Street Fighter, Darkstalkers, Dragon's Lair, Bad Dudes, Double Dragon and I loved Contra and Metal Slug.
You've also illustrated several comic book covers for Marvel Comics,the most recent being Blade and FrankenCastle. Does your process for designing covers differ from game development art?
Yeah, I have to switch gears a bit. With Splatterhouse we have a whole world and pillars of the games we adhere to. "Does this fit in the world we've created? Yes or No?" It's much easier because we've had time to develop and live in that world.
With the covers, it's kinda like a shotgun blast; it's all over the place. It's usually the first time I've ever drawn the character and it's actually harder if I like the guy. You want to do him justice and do your version -your look on the guy- but there's no time. He’s fighting five guys brand new to the universe, so there's little to no connection or real point of reference and it’s all on one cover in a dynamic pose... and it's Thursday and needed by Tuesday so kiss your weekend goodbye! It's a faster pace and it's really a draftsman's game. Guys that can really draw bang it out no sweat. I'm a slow poke... but I'm getting faster at it.
Why do you think comic books often make such horrible video games?
I think they suffer from the same problems as movies do, people don't really know the source material. They get a stack of the latest trades and think that's all there is to know about the character(s) and that they can "make it better."
Okay, time for the kill switch... what's the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
I was about 4 and my Great Grandmother had a lot of live stock on her farm. When no one was looking I snuck in to play with the bull she had. I reached up and grabbed the ring in his nose and went for a ride! I always thought it was a BS story I was told about how nutty I was when I was young; until I met the field hand with a wicked scar that ran the from the back of his neck to the middle of his head for saving my butt. Yeah, I know, I owe that guy a beer (or 10)!
And now, here it is... the never-before-seen Splatterhouse poster for Comic-Con 2010! This artwork will be made available nowhere else except at the event...
(Click image to enlarge)