I first met cartoonist extraordinaire M. Rasheed on the online forum Blacksuperhero.com in the autumn of 2005. He quickly distinguished himself amongst all of the fantastic artists that frequented the message board with his amazing quality and output. The dude literally can draw anything and fast. On BSH, he entertains by creating stories using caricatures of the members and their creations. I sat down and chatted with him recently.
First question, who are you and where are you from?
I am Muhammad Rasheed, a cartoonist originally from Detroit, Michigan now living in Raleigh, North Carolina. I sign my work “M. Rasheed” and use that when I deal with the public.
I publish cartoon books through my company Second Sight Graphix.
Monsters 101, the graphic novel series scheduled to end at 10 titles this year, is my flagship book.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
When I was in my late teens. I had always drawn cartoons/illustrations, but for whatever reason, never really considered it something I would be able to do as a real life profession when I “grew up.” My siblings and I were home-schooled during my high school years, and I got my GED at 18. I went to the local community college and art schools and saw the major for “Illustrator” and that was the very first time I thought, “Hey! I should be an artist!”
You went to the Joe Kubert School. Tell us a little bit about that experience?
Well, after I got my BFA in Illustration at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, having had instructors that teased us with cartooning assignments (I considered it teasing), I applied for the Kubert School a few weeks after I graduated because I didn’t feel… like I learned what I really needed to get from my college experience. I had a few teachers who literally hated cartoons, and were contemptuous about my work and the style I was attempting to develop… it left a real bad taste in my mouth.
I figured I could reverse all of that negativity by attending an actual cartoon illustration school.
The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. functioned like a cartooning bootcamp. We had 10 classes per semester, two each work day, with assigns due every single day. You had to really be on your game to stay caught up and not get left behind and forced to drop out or fail. It was very intense.
It also felt very much like coming home. lol
All my teachers were working cartoonists in the field, from old school Silver age veterans of comic book illustration, to a Disney studio artist on hiatus from his Blockbuster Film work…
…it was a great experience for an aspiring cartoonist.
And they taught us every aspect of cartooning relevant at the time. They also turned us into drawing machines. Kubert school attendees are famous for getting work done.
After you graduated from the Kubert School, what was your next steps toward developing Second Sight Graphix?
Oh, I didn’t develop Second Sight Graphix right away. Even though I had spent my childhood and teens creating my own books under my own li’l kid company, the college experience pushed that entrepreneurial spirit away from my conscious mind, and when I got out of school I felt I should submit portfolios to companies so I could work for them… the way I’d been taught.
So I did commercial art for local companies and “worked on my portfolio.”
It wasn’t until I was well into the first 14 chapters of Monsters 101 did I seriously consider the idea of my own company.
Did you ever want to work for the Big companies?
Until then I was just doing contract work until I could get a good job. Sure, because that was the Holy Grail in school. That’s what we were all supposed to want as a career end-goal. So I ate that up, too. Absolutely. And then I got over it. lol
When I held in my hands my own book… my masterwork… and began to resent the idea of using up all my time to work on someone’s properties, or worse, give over creative control of my masterwork to some publisher, my boyhood entrepreneurial spirit began to resurface.
I’ve heard that tale before, so how long did it take you to realize that the Big guys weren’t for you and you wanted to do it your own way?
lol About 14 chapters. lol
It took a couple of years for the complete switch in mentally to take.
You say that you had all 14 chapters on Monsters 101 plotted out, when did you decided to go ahead and self publish?
No, I had the first 14 chapters completed. Inked on bristol board. Books One & Two, and the first two chapters of Book Three.
My decision to self-publish was only about a year old when I met you. Nah, more like a little over two years… Yes.
Wow, you are prolific. Did you always intend to self publish or were you looking for someone to publish?
I started off trying to get one of the creator-friendly publishers to do it for me… Dark Horse, Top Shelf, etc. But they all said (I talked about this in my How-to) that they thought it was very good, but not what they were looking for. Then I got married, moved to NC, and decided to do it myself.
We’ve been talking about Monsters 101, give us a little background on the series. What’s it all about?
Monsters 101 is an action-adventure series, with elements of classic horror and fantasy, featuring the tale of a former school bully turned monster and his partner, his former favorite nerd victim turned sorcerer. The tale is told in ten 152 page graphic novels, with the point of the series to transform a bully and a nerd into responsible heroes. Along the way they encounter child-eating monsters, ferocious super beings, demonic spirits, alien races, and all kinds of other stuff designed to challenge them and make the tale as exciting as I can.
What I find exciting about your work is that you’re a one man army who creates every aspect of Monsters 101, from creating to writing to drawing to publishing. What are your general thoughts on indie publishing?
I think the aspect that I like most about it is that it does tend to reflect the purest beauty of cartooning, which to me is the one-man-show aspect. That’s how I began all of this as a child, after-all. That’s what appeals to me… it’s just me, my pen-n-ink, my paper, and my imagination.
The independent publishing movement as a whole is pretty vast to me. I’ve been studying aspects of it at a time over the years and always find something different and interesting to try out almost every month.
I only recently discovered Dave Sim, and started reading the background on all of that history of comic book self-publishing. At first i thought Jeff Smith of Bone fame was the king… as an example.
As a Black creator/cartoonist, have you had any difficulty in the indie comic scene?
All of my difficulties have involved trying to juggle my solitary cartooning lifestyle with being a new husband and father. The side effect was making me not as prolific as I was used to being. This is the year I finally figured it all out.
Now I get to really create some difficulties in the indie scene. hahahaha
I’m looking forward to it.
Is there any advice that you could give to other creators looking to self publish?
I would tell them to get a body of work behind them as soon as possible. It definitely helped me with the credibility aspect out the gate, even though I wasn’t a ”name” yet. And that sort of thing is vital in the direct market as well; retailers NEED to know that you can produce, and get books to them when you say you will, before they will give you any money. So setting up some kind of regular art production schedule where you can reliably put finished pages behind you, is the difference between making it and being shamed off the playing field.
Sound advice. Lastly, where can fans find Monsters 101 and/or contact you?
I’ll be revising/updating my how-to shortly, too, so they don’t have to worry. I carry my advice with me. lol
They can do both on my website at www.mrasheed.com
Well, thanks for your time and an interesting interview.
Thank you for a very, very good interview! I now forgive you for scaring me earlier.