Supervised by Frankie: The Comics of Rachel Dukes [Hire This Woman]
Hire This Woman is a recurring feature on ComicsAlliance that shines a spotlight on female comics creators, whether they're relative newcomers or experienced pros who are ready to break out. In an overwhelmingly male business, we want to draw your attention to these creators --- and to raise their profile with editors and industry gatekeepers.
Rachel Dukes is a cartoonist who has a diverse body of work, including contributions to the Subcultures and Beyond anthologies and a Steven Universe comic, as well as her own self-published Frankie Comics about her cat. Dukes has her first graphic novel, Let Me Walk You Home, coming out through Abrams in the fall.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Rachel Dukes: Because I mostly create self-published comics (that I've written/drawn myself) I don't think of the steps as different forms. Penciling is definitely my favorite part of the process, though.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally?
RD: I work mostly by hand but I'll do pencils clean up and colors digitally. Usually I'll pencil by hand on sketchbook paper, scan those, do digital clean up on my pencils (nudge art around, fix anything that's awkward), then reprint my edited pencils on Bristol, ink by hand, scan again, and then color digitally. It's a bit of a round-about process (editing and reprinting the pencils) but inking on Bristol ensures the overall quality will be as clean as I like.
CA: What’s your background/training?
RD: I've been drawing comics since I was a teenager, my undergrad was in animation and media arts, and I have my MFA from The Center for Cartoon Studies.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past, and what are you currently working on?
RD: Last fall, I drew a nine-page story, written by Ion O'Clast, for the Ninth Art Press Subcultures anthology. I drew an 11-page comic, written by Gabby Reed, for the upcoming Beyond anthology, a six-page story in the upcoming Steven Universe: Greg Universe Special #1, written by Liz Prince, out at the end of this month, and a 12-page story, written by Jonathan Baylis, in the upcoming So... Buttons collection, out at TCAF.
I also have an upcoming collection on my ongoing series Frankie Comics, which will be out at Comic Con International and am working on my first graphic novel, Let Me Walk You Home, which will be coming out from Abrams this fall, I think for New York Comic Con.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to create a 20-page issue?
RD: It depends on the density of the artwork (are there crowd scenes in every panel? Just talking heads?) and the editorial involvement in the process. If I'm working straight through (pencils, inks, and colours) from a script all on my own, I can finish it between 12 and 18 days. If I'm sending in files for each step of the process for approval (and waiting a week each time for approval inbetween steps), it'll take that much longer.
CA: What is your dream project?
RD: Right now, I'd love to be able to work on the Frankie Comics collection full-time (which is about another 50-100 pages worth of content). I have a longer autobio project I'd like to spend some time on after that, talking about gender representation and perception. Other than my personal projects, I'd love to do more work on licensed youth-targeted properties like Steven Universe and Lumberjanes. Has anyone started an official Gravity Falls comics yet? I'd love to work on that. If anyone ever wanted to do another Supernatural or X-Files mini-series I'd be all about that too.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
RD: I'm super inspired by all the creators working on their own properties right now: Bee and Puppycat by Natasha Allegri, Teen Dog by Jake Lawrence, Help Us Great Warrior by Madeleine Flores... the fact that these talented folk are finally getting some well-deserved recognition after years of hard work (and doing so by creating their own stories) is so inspiring. Other hard-working indie creators... Folks like Mike King (Please Keep Warm), Jon Chad (Leo Geo), Alec Longstreth (Basewood), Liz Prince (Tomboy), and Liz Suburbia (Sacred Heart) who are consistently working away at new content and mini-comics keep me pumped about comics and creating new things.
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you, either growing up or as an adult?
RD: I was super into Sailor Moon and Strangers in Paradise as a young teenager. I revisited Strangers in Paradise a lot growing up. I loved My Brain Hurts (by Liz Baillie) and Nothing Nice to Say (by Mitch Clem) in my mid-late teens. Liz Suburbia was an influence (I started reading her comics as a teenager as well, back when she was doing a webcomic called Hey Suburbia), Craig Thompson (Blankets), Brandon Graham (Multiple Warheads)...
I grew up alongside so many cartoonists on Livejournal in the late 90's early 00's and was consuming so many comics, it's hard to name just a few.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
RD: I need a pretty mellow space to be able to focus while I work, but I do get lonely working in isolation right now. Ideally, I'd love an open sunlit space where I could work in the same room as several other cartoonist buds. We could quietly listen to music or podcasts together while we work and drink coffee or tea. My cat Frankie would supervise.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
RD: I work on so many different projects/themes, it's hard for me to talk about my work as a whole. I suppose mostly that there's more Frankie Comics coming soon. I'll probably be posting new strips online regularly starting in June. I'm also doing a Frankie Comics Kickstarter next month to finance issue #4 and a run on plush Frankie dolls. I'll be at CatCon LA in June and Comic Con International this July in San Diego and I want everyone to stop by for high fives.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
If there's a woman who you think should be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.