*This interview is co-written by Kevin Sharp and Leonie O'Moore
Drew Rausch is the co-creator of Sullen Grey and My Blacks Don’t Match! (both with Jocelyn Gajeway), as well as Eldritch! (with Aaron Alexovich ). He’s also done work for IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and SLG.
First off, the basics…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Artist/Writer
Your home base: Southern California
Current project title(s) (either already released or upcoming):
Invader Zim (Oni Press)
My Blacks Don’t Match! Vol. 2
Kevin Sharp and Leonie O’Moore, Fanbase Press Contributors: We’ll start with the big question: Why comics? What attracts you to making comics specifically over other artforms?
Drew Rausch: The biggest attraction to making comics is the endless visual storytelling possibilities. With movies and TV shows, you have to worry about things like budgets and the limitations of reality, but with sequentials - the only limitation is your imagination.
KS: What’s an early memory where a comic book or comic strip left a real impression on you?
DR: I loved those old EC comics. If I was to go way back, I remember sitting on my grandfather’s lap watching the ‘67 Spider-Man cartoons, especially those later Ralph Bakshi episodes -- the real weird ones with the ol’ webhead fighting monsters and aliens -- and really being drawn to how weird they were. If memory serves me correctly, I used to doodle stuff on napkins. My grandfather had this habit of keeping napkins handy to help illustrate what medical ailments he had at the time to explain to my parents. He wasn’t an artist or anything, but there were always these crude scratches of organs and body horror junk scattered on his table.
KS: What’s the first comics piece you remember creating?
DR: My parents unearthed a plate from storage a few months ago that had a drawing of Superman, Aquaman, Spider-Man, and a skeleton painted on it. Does that count?
KS: Jumping to present day, tell us about your current studio setup.
DR: My drawing table and computer occupy a corner of a pretty spacious room in our house, which has been designated by a 12-foot drawing of Frankenstein by Jack Davis. The main wall is covered in bookcases filled with graphic novels, mostly horror. Lots of classic stuff – Tales from the Crypt, Eerie. I have one book that is filled with pre-Comics Code horror comics from the 1960s that I particularly look to for inspiration.
I have a bookcase that is completely dedicated to art and art history books. My wife's photography books also live there, which has helped me out in a pinch more than once. It has a Edgar Allen Poe as a vampire bust (Its eyes light up!) on top of it, along with another bust of a dapper bat whom I call Nevermore.
As for decor, I try to fill my work space with things that I can stare at to try and get that spooky creative spark. Lots of vintage Halloween stuff, Ben Cooper-style masks, Universal Monster figurines. I have some animation cells from the Groovie Goolies and Beetlejuice cartoon shows that hang by my computer. Everything is blacklit. There is also room for three cats. Specific room. Room that no other thing may occupy.
KS: Do you listen to music or TV while you work?
DR: I do mostly, but if I'm in a crunch, there is nothing better than the tension caused by blissful awkward silence to get the blood pumping. Most of the time, I'll put on an old B-movie or an anthology series. I can't tell you how many times I've watched The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Tales from the Darkside. If I'm writing or working out layouts, I'll put on a soundtrack. I have a lot of compilations that have just mood music. My favorite right now is “Halloween at High Noon,” which is a series of albums filled with creepy, drone-y, terror tracks.
KS: What are some of the tools/materials you play with?
DR: For the last five years or so, I've been mostly digital. I toggle between Photoshop CS5, Sketchbook Pro, and Manga Studio. They all have aspects that makes digital art feel a little more organic. For example, with my comic work, I like penciling in Sketchbook, inking in MS, and coloring in PS. It's a weird process that a more sane person would probably streamline, but sanity is for squares.
I do like to experiment with tactile materials if I have a gallery show. I like painting in acrylic and gouache, although I think I need a lot more practice to get to the level I want to be. My comfort zone, though, is black ink and a dark colored pencil. I really enjoy scrubbing that graphite into some toned paper. Make it real smudge-y. If I'm feeling fancy, I'll use a white paint pen to add some contrast.
KS: What techniques or tricks have you developed?
DR: I'm thankful to have learned a lot of different techniques from other artists, and I like to jam them in the ol' brain meats in hopes that my muscles will just instinctively call upon them when needed. One trick I have found to be extremely helpful is that, before drawing, I take a few minutes and draw freehand straight lines, then I fill those lines with freehand circles. Just gets things all warmed up, and I find that it loosens the whole process of drawing up.
KS: Has your style been influenced by any other artists or media?
DR: There's this moment that artists talk about - when a lightbulb goes off in your head and everything just clicks into place. For me, that moment was working on Eldritch! with Aaron Alexovich who is an animation character designer and comic artist. See, I've always been a cartoonist at — black, slightly dried up, occasionally beating — heart, but as long as I can remember, have been told that cartoonists are bad and working on this with Aaron helped push that mindset away.
When I was a kid, I loved horror comics and old Universal horror films. Then, I saw Ren & Stimpy and some Tim Burton movies which added to the mix - as I got older, you could imagine how crowded it got in my brain. It wasn't until recently that I've been able to make all those influence make sense with something that I could call "my style."
KS: How has your process changed over the years?
DR: I'm less concerned with making my art look cool and more focused on making sure it tells a clear story. Also, still trying to make my art look cool.
KS: Talk about the specific collaborative process [with Jocelyn Gajeway] for something like My Blacks Don’t Match!
DR: [We] do things a little more free form than what would be considered a traditional way of making comics. Since the story consists of a series of 2 to 5-page vignettes, we tend to map out the plot for each one which I use to make a rough design of the page(s). Then, once the plot points are nailed down, we'll go back and fine tune the dialogue, so that when we get to a more finished stage, I can match up the character's expressions. Not sure if this process makes things more difficult, but it seems to work for us and feels more organic.
KS: What’s a comic book/graphic novel by someone else that you look at with awe or admiration?
DR: Hands down, it has to be Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein adaptation. Bernie was a master at macabre, but that book -- the amount of detail that he put into illustrating Dr. Frankenstein's lab, for example -- that kind of craftsmanship is timeless. Mary Shelley would be proud. Also, probably slack-jawed.
KS: Finally, tell us a little about your most recent/upcoming project.
DR: Welp, I just finished up writing and drawing an issue of Invader ZIM that should be in stores by the end of March. Jocelyn and I will be going back to work on My Blacks Don’t Match! Vol. 2 and, hopefully, will be able to release a printed version later in 2019.
We’ll also be making appearances at conventions; Emerald City Comic Con, C2E2, Big Easy Con, Midsummer Scream, and Rose City Comic Con all have the ability to conjure up our corporeal forms to haunt their halls, and we’ll be breaking out the big, spooky noises! It’s always a smart idea to follow me on social medias to keep up -- we like to scare by the seat of our pants!
There’s also this Halloween Cowboy thing… but that’s a story for another day.