A few weeks ago, the SCAD HoneyDripper team interviewed SCAD sequential art professor, Rashad Ahmad Doucet about his time working in the comics industry.
Interview conducted by editor of SCAD HoneyDripper, Lauren Rogers.
What drew you into comics? Has it always been your passion?
My grandma made me start drawing and writing my ideas down to keep me quiet in church is where it all began lol. But in my defense all the bedtime stories she wrote me were about superheroes, like the Hulk and Spiderman. She'd change the origins a bit too so my little mind could get it. so like Bruce Banner fell into a washing machine and emerged as the Hulk lol. She's gone now but I wouldn't be here without her encouragement.
What is your favorite project you’ve created/ had the opportunity to work on? That's a hard one. but currently it's a tie between my recently released graphic novel, Pax Samson and the upcoming book Art Cub with Hachette/Little Brown. Pax was co-written and created with my good friend Jason Reeves and features all the shonen manga/fantasy/ superhero/emotional drama stories that I love. Also it features the most powerful superhero in that world which is Grandma Samson! Pax's grandmother. Who's a tribute to my own one.
Art Club will have elements of my own real life mixed in, as the lead character Dale Donavan goes on a journey to discover he wants to the comics for a living despite so many saying a career in the arts is not a smart move.
What made you want to teach comics? I've been teaching in some capacity since I was about 14. My old youth pastor thought I had potential and had me teach Sunday school. And over time I kept returning it to it. In college I subbed in for my high school art class and started teaching the kids who liked comics after school. Which I returned to doing in grad school by teaching workshops here at Scad. So it was a natural fit to apply sometime later. The ultimate reason for me doing it though is because it merges two of my favorite things which is talking about comics and helping people.
Lol short answer is I teach cause I enjoy helping people find their path. The more I learn in my own art career the more I can share to students.
Do you have any comic recommendations?
Whew! that's a big one but here's a few (copied from another interview lol)
Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, Superman Smashes the Klan (DC Comics, 2019):"A comic based on a 1940s radio serial that responded to the rise of the KKK after WW2. The radio series played a huge role in discrediting the Klan in pop culture. The graphic novel adapts it from the perspective of an immigrant family meeting Superman and running into trouble with their new neighbors. It explores racial and cultural issues from different perspectives while still being a classic superhero tale." Kat Leyh, SnapDragon (First Second, 2020): "This graphic novel deals positively with issues kids are facing today. A child of mixed race growing up in a small town befriends the rumored local "witch" and discovers a good bit about herself, her family's past, and the world around her. The story has a great twist mid-way through." Ryan Parrot, Dan Mora (and multiple other artists) Go Go- Power Rangers from boom studios. the series wrapped up and relaunched but the 5 volumes or so are just great, in depth emotions with solid action lol. Mariko Tamaki, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (First Second Books, 2019): "A teenager wrestles with leaving her on-and-off unhealthy relationship with her girlfriend behind while realizing that she may not have been supportive enough for one of her best friends because of it. The artwork is atmospherically stunning with a limited color palette that really fits the story."
What is your biggest source of inspiration?
My love of action anime/superhero stuff mixed with shows with heavy drama like Little Fires Everywhere or Blue Valentine.
Visually, I'm inspired by a combo of Studio Trigger, Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai films, and superhero comic artists like Jorge Jimenez, and Dan Mora.
What are your favorite materials to use?
Clip Studio lol. That's it.
How do you break down your design process? What aspects do you focus on first? Outline/some writing first. Doing that guides the research/look of the visuals. I also tend to watch and read things that are of the same genre I'm creating to get inspired. Then it's a ton of sketching. not refining anything, like anatomy or costume details, until i try out a variety looks and poses. I only refine when it's time to draw the comic. I use this same process with thumbnails. Since I work digitally, I just tighten up my thumbnails, and don't worry about pencilling too much. But that works cause I handle all the art on my books. It wouldn't if I had an inker. However this process saves time and it's why I can create graphic novels while still teaching full time.
How do you manage burnout working in such a fast-paced industry? I give myself one day a week to rest. A week or so during school breaks. I also have a fairly loose but also tight schedule. Like i give myself 3-4 hours of work to do each day with clear goals. Like must get 3 pages done in this time (rough pages lol) So when I find myself lingering on one thing and time is running out I move on. Cause finishing is more important than perfection. Then at night I give myself an hour or so to play games/read/ watch anime lol.
How difficult was it to break into the industry? Do you have any advice for recent graduates? Honestly with the way SCAD is now and how varied the industry is, it's much easier but still gonna take some dedication. I think students wrestle with breaking in, (to some degree, not all cases) because they kind of fantasize how they think it will work and try to force it to happen the way they envision it, passing up varied opportunities along the way.
Yes you may want to just do storyboards but if those applications are getting negative results maybe also try using the other skills you've developed to get work. Students need to widen what they do more. Yes you have your targeted strengths, but it's also good to have secondary art skills/goals. Sometimes students are even better at that other thing than that thing they want to do but they pass it up because it didn't fit the vision.
So prepare a portfolio for your targeted goal but also prepare one for some of the other things you've done. So when that card company needs artists you don't send them comic pages but work that is in tune with what they do.
Comics/art careers are non stop. And that doesn't mean just doing homework or perfecting anatomy. It's being aware of the industry, and the people who work in them. So when they visit or you just see an opportunity you're informed about what you submit. Students tend to only look at what they like and I can't stress enough you need to expand beyond that.
Is there any advice you wish you could go back and tell yourself now that you have experience in the industry? Be adaptable. Do your best to readjust to a constantly changing industry. I started only wanting to draw Spider-Man or my own Image series but now I'm working on children's books, have done storyboards, character design, graphic design etc. And now have just gotten to writing and drawing my own books. It took time to get to that but I learned alot while doing so making those things all the more stronger.
Also if all doors, close do it yourself. Between webcomics, kickstarters, direct to fans streaming, etc. you can build your own empire if you're serioulsy dedicated to it. All that work will either keep you fed and/or lead to those companies you wanted to work with.