Photo by Tim Moxley (tmox)
Portraits by Tim Moxley (tmox)
Artwork courtesy of Dave Cook
Posted Mar 26, 2009
As the sport of roller derby continues to seep into the national consciousness, along with it comes the emergence of heralded derby poster artists. Dave Cook is one these artists. An art school graduate, Cook found his way into derby almost by accident a few years ago with the Atlanta Rollergirls. Since then he’s created numerous posters, logos, and graphics for the league. A collection of his derby artwork is featured in the book Roller Derby Art: Women, Wheels, and Wicked Fun. Aside from his derby stuff, Cook is also known for drawing subjects on the opposite ends of the spectrum: gory horror images and cute puppy dogs for baby clothes. A very prolific and highly talented artist, Cook is very friendly, approachable, and humble. We recently had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his art, life, and thoughts on derby.
What is your background in art, and how did you get to where you are today?
I read comics growing up and copied all the greats of the ‘70s like Neal Adams, Romita, Kirby. When going out shopping with my mom she would promise/bribe me with comic books. If I was good, I was awarded three comics: two “good” (Archie or Gold Key) and one “bad” (Batman or Spiderman). I was fascinated with the action and amazing art. Neal Adams was and still is the real deal! I went to college at PRATT Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y. and majored in Illustration. My first job out of school was an in-house gig as a marker comp artist for the agency that did all the ABSOLUT Vodka ads. I drew that frickin’ bottle so much I was able to recite all the copy on the front of the bottle. Great and crazy times on Madison Avenue in the ‘80s.
Then we came to Georgia and my wife, Suzanne, and I opened up a graphic design studio, DS Cook Design, that we had for 15 or so years. We had clients ranging from The Atlanta Symphony to the Atlanta Motor Speedway and everything in between. We worked almost 24/7. When my daughter was born we kinda stepped back from the frantic pace. I published a Horror comic book called Splatter Comix. That was a lot of fun and people really liked it but it wasn’t going to support a family so I went out and got a job at Carter’s Baby Clothes. All along this time I was doing a lot of monster work and through that work for Netherworld Haunted House here in Atlanta and some tattoo work I hooked up with the Atlanta Rollergirls.
How would you describe your style?
It’s interesting. I’ve been kind of searching for a style to call my own. When I first started working with The ARG as full time designer they were having different designers and illustrators do their posters, so I wanted to keep that look going. So I would do different techniques and art styles for each month's poster you could still see that it was me -- but each one was very different. I also do that in my day job each project will have a different look while at the same time still be my style.
I guess my core style would definitely be a bit on the whimsical, comic booky style. Sometimes it can go kind sketchy and sometimes very tight almost to a retro feel of Dan DeCarlo and Archie comics. Whatever fits the piece. It can be gross and scary or naughty and sexy but it still has a glint of fun to it; almost like the subject and the viewer are in on the joke. I don’t like to take myself too seriously. There is a print that I did of a nasty puss spewing zombie chopping some dudes head off with blood all over, nasty stuff, and to bring back -- he has painted on the wall “Used Heads.” I live for that! I think Bernie Wrightson does that really well, and all the amazing the EC artists were masters at gruesome with a flash of humor. Jack Davis is the master at that. I bow down to Mr. Davis, I am not worthy.
You draw monsters, derby girls, and puppy dogs. What are your favorite subjects to draw?
Grrrrls and Monsters! Which is really weird because growing up I was a very scaredy kind of kid - I hated scary movies and monsters and such. I remember being terrified of Horror films that were shown on TV. One in particular I remember was the Trilogy Of Terror TV movie starring Karen Black. That little devil doll scared the crap out of me. I have vivid memories of that one. But then during the '80s I went to every slasher film there was -- Friday the 13th, Halloween, My Bloody Valentine, I loved them, could not get enough of them!
Also at the same time I really could not for the life of me draw women. Just was not very good at it. Now I can’t draw them enough. I’m even starting to do one panel gag cartoons with full figured girls being chased around the office by her boss like the stuff in “Humorama” back in the heyday of Men’s magazines.
Who are some of your influences?
Dan DeCarlo, Jaime Hernandez, Berni Wrightson, Jack Davis and all the EC artists, Neal Adams, John Byrne…Gaaawd I loved his time on Iron Fist way back when I was a kid. There was about a three year period that all my people had the same gritting teeth mouth as John Byrne’s drawings…loved that stuff. Growing up, I was constantly exposed to every kind of art. My parents brought me to the museums, galleries, the theater, classical music concerts, you name it. They tried so hard to open me up to all sorts of culture. And now my claim to fame is as a roller derby artist. My mom is so proud; actually she loves the posters and shows them off to her friends.
How did you get involved with roller derby?
Back in 2006, I tagged along with my buddy Thom Trainer, who was promoting an event, and I ran into an old friend that I had not seen in a long time Robin Hensen aka “Knockin Robin” [from ARG]. We both said “Hey, what are you doing here.” She had just started with the Apocalypstix and mentioned that they were looking for a new logo and would I be interested in submitting an idea. Well, hell yeah! Mine was selected for the logo and then I was asked to do the championship poster for that year. From there I did five posters and then the next year I was asked to do all the season’s posters. As a matter of fact, I just redesigned the Stix logo this season.
What’s your favorite part about the sport?
The spectacle. I love the outfits and the fishnet and the crazy makeup. Did I mention I’m a huge KISS fan. A sport that does not take itself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong these women are real athletes just like any other. They are passionate about this crazy sport. They play hard during the bout and party hard afterwards. There’s no in between. I think some people come to the bouts thinking they will get something close to “wrastlin” but walk away blow away by the athleticism and all out blood and guts of the sport. I am truly amazed what these ladies do on derby night.
Can you skate?
I don’t skate, I skateboard though. Long board actually. No Ollies or skateparks for this old man. I just cruise on down the hill these days. I found a great board shop here in Atlanta -- Woody’s Halfpipe. Sure, they have all the cool street stuff that’s used today, but he also carries old school pig boards for shootin’ the pool and big ass long boards with fat soft wheels for carving down a long patch of asphalt. That makes me very happy.
Would you let your daughter grow up to be a rollergirl?
For sure. She’s not the most aggressive kid so I don’t know if she ever would. But it would be hard for me to watch. I have a hard time watching her barrel down the hill on a skateboard. I have fallen on pavement enough in my life and I know how it feels. So, yes, but I don’t know if I could watch, I’ve seen some of the bruises on these ladies.
What do you like to do when you’re not creating art?
That’s pretty much all I do. I’ve recently been going to life drawing sessions at Gaijin Studios and getting my hands dirty again. Breaking out the charcoal and newsprint pad. I tell my daughter that it’s like going to the gym for artists. It’s so good to be off the computer. And I go to drawing sessions at bars with burlesque dancers for models, like Dr. Sketchy’s over at the East Atlanta Icehouse. These are a lot of fun! I recommend it to anyone and everyone! Surrounded by really talented artists from around town from all walks of life -- kids still in school, old professionals, people who just love drawing on the side, they are all there. Great vibe! Drawing, beer, burlesque dancers…gotta love it.
What is it like to attend and appear at the various horror and comic conventions?
The people are great on both sides of the table. We’re all there because we all love these movies and the genre. Monsters, zombies and sexy girls being chased by misunderstood creatures. One thing I do is what I call Cadavitures. I do a caricature of the person as a zombie. It’s a lot like what you would get at a theme park but just a lot more blood and rotting flesh. They’re a lot of fun to do because I get to talk to the people I’m drawing and get to know them a little and also get a good feeling for what is going on (what I’m missing) in the convention. I started doing them in 2002 at the Horrorfind convention up in Maryland. Great convention.
Most people come to these things to meet their favorite actor I provide a little something different and something for couples too. I’d say 70% of the Cadavitures I do are of couples. Usually the woman is eating the dude’s brain or holding his severed head. I have one couple that comes back every year to a convention in Orlando, Spooky Empire, and try to request a portrait theme more disgusting and vile than the previous year. So far, they have eaten babies, the Pope and this year I did a drawing of them eating Jesus while he is still hanging on the cross. Good people.
What’s your favorite horror movie?
That’s a hard one. I’d have to say American Werewolf in London. Ground breaking effects, scary, gore, funny, a great soundtrack and I love Jenny Agutter. She is beautiful in this movie...well any movie. I loved her in Logan's Run too. Griffin Dunne was awesome as the walking meatloaf and David Naughton is great. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David at a couple of conventions -- super nice guy to talk to. Like my illustrations, I like a little humor with my monsters. Much like Shaun of the Dead -- which is a near perfect movie for me. It’s as hilarious as it is gory and plays around with the genre. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a favorite, and most recently the Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In. Love that movie. I’m reading the book now…very creeeepy.
What’s your deepest darkest secret?
During the day my secret is the sexy roller derby girls and blood oozing zombie art, and in the evening my secret is that I draw cute puppy dogs and dinosaurs for a baby clothes company. I like contradictions. Not so scandalous, I know. How about that I’ve seen Fall Out Boy three times in concert…once on the front row. My daughter is a huge fan and I am her bouncer.
Any future plans or final words?
The future looks pretty crazy these days. Who knows what’s around the corner. Right now the plan is just to keep doin’ good art and keep open to different opportunities that I may see. The Atlanta Rollergirls are still going strong in their fifth year, and it looks like it’s going to be a big year for them which is exciting to be a part of. I really appreciate all the work that the rollergirls have trusted me with and the creative freedom they allow me. It really is a dream gig. So all in all it looks to be a cool year. Bring it on.