Artist August: Rahsan Ekedal [interview]

Rahsan Ekedal is the artist of one of my personal favorite books, “Echoes”, and the current Image series “Think Tank”. He was kind enough to participate in our month long tribute to artists by answering some questions about his previous and current projects.

For those who are unfamiliar, what is Echoes about?

Rahsan Ekedal: Echoes is the story of Brian Cohn, a young man with schizophrenia, a condition which he has well under control after years of therapy and a daily regimen of medication. He has a loving wife and a baby on the way. His father, who has the same mental health issues as Brian, is dying in a hospital bed, in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Moments before dying, Brian’s dad mutters some cryptic and terrifying words about dead girls and an old house. Brian finds the house and also finds a box of horrific trophies. Was his dad really a prolific serial killer? Was he or his father hallucinating? Then another girl turns up dead and Brian starts to doubt his sanity. Is he a killer like his father or is someone trying to set him up?

How did you get involved with the project? Did you contribute much to the story, or was it handed to you in finished form?

RE: Josh approached me when Echoes was in it’s very early stages. He’d been developing the concept for while, but it was a pitch at that point. I did some concept artwork at that point that is pretty funny to see because the characters weren’t formed yet – I think we put it in the back of the hardcover. Anyway, the ideas and the core story were all there, but once Top Cow agreed to publish the book, Josh really refined the details and started scripting the issues. Everything really came spilling out of his brain – I think he was excited to write this book. His scripts came in fast and they were always brilliant. I think the influence I had was more after issue #1, because Josh responded to my artwork on that and adjusted a few things here and there. For instance, the time-hopping double page spread that kicks off issue #1 worked out so well that Josh wanted to start every issue that way, hence the signature 3-page sequence that starts every issue.

In the collected edition’s bonus material, Fialkov praised your montage scene in the first issue. Can you share the creative process involved in bringing it to the page?

RE: Well in the script for issue #1 Josh basically said “look, I’m really sorry but I’m going to ask you to draw a 24-panel double spread that is composed of four different timelines”. And I was like “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but that actually sounds REALLY FUN”. And of course, because I AM a bit obsessive, I actually ended up expanding it to 33 panels, just because I thought it would look better. For that first one, Josh had given me license to arrange the timelines however I wanted, so I actually had to create a chart of each beat and work out a sort of rhythm for the whole thing. Somewhere there’s a thumbnail full of little squares and numbers.

Did you have any particular influences for this book?

RE: Noir and classic black & white horror films. Hitchcock, certainly. Definitely real life experiences, too, and a desire to tell a good, smart story about mental health issues, something important to both of us. If you mean art – I think I was inspired partly by some of the classic ink illustrators, like Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, etc. It’s hard to say, I never know how to answer this question! I have a lot of influences, ranging from film to comics to fine art.

The art had a very cinematic feel to it. Has there been any effort to get Echoes adapted to the screen?

RE: Certainly, there are efforts underway at this moment, but Hollywood is fickle and I honestly have no idea if it’ll happen or not. Supposedly it is in an early stage of development right now, but I’m very far out of the loop and couldn’t tell you much more than that.

Looking back on the series, is there anything you wish you’d done differently? Something you wanted to include, or something you wish you’d left out?

RE: Not so much something left out, but I of course wish I could redraw many things and make it look better. I’m never satisfied with my illustrations, and I always want to go back and fix them, but I can’t and have to just let it be. It’s part of comics – you have a limited time frame to do your best, and then you have to let each page go and try not to think about it again!

Did the sales and reception of the series live up to your expectations?

RE: The reception far exceeded any expectation I ever had. It’s been a year since the hardcover came out, and almost two years since I finished drawing it, and I still get people rushing up to me at conventions to tell me how much they love Echoes. Plus we got all of these Harvey nominations, four this year, right? Sales – well, the single issues didn’t do so well, despite the first issue selling out. I think the hardcover keeps selling through word of mouth, though. It’s one of those books that seems to keep growing.

After the series was collected into a hardcover, you made available a signed set of all five issues for a discounted price. What was the inspiration for that? Were the sets a hit, and did you regret it when you actually had to sign them all?

RE: Ha! Well, I was not happy to sign all of those, but not for the reason you’d think. I had actually injured my right wrist drawing Echoes, because I was working such long hours and inking so much detail. I actually saw a doctor for it. So, I wasn’t sure I could even sign the books at all. So my loving wife (girlfriend at the time) made a schedule for me to sign a small stack each day until they were done. I suffered for your signed comics, people!

In the final issue, Fialkov hinted at a possible sequel. Have there been any developments in that direction?

RE: If the hardcover continues to sell, you never know.

Your newest book, Think Tank, hit the shelves earlier this month. What’s it about?

RE: Think Tank is a science thriller set at a military think tank. It’s about Dr. David Loren – a child prodigy and slacker genius who was recruited to design weapons for DARPA at age 15. Now that he’s grown up, David’s decided he doesn’t want to build weapons anymore and wants to get the hell out. But the sociopathic USAF general who controls his life has… other ideas. It’s fun, fast-paced, and full of cool science, courtesy of the writer, Matt Hawkins, who probably should have been a scientist instead of a comic book publisher!

How far along on it are you now?

RE: I’m just finishing issue #3, and issue #1 just came out. We recently have been upped to at least a 10-issue run instead of the original 4-issue mini.

What is your favorite part of this new project?

RE: Drawing awesome speculative technology. I designed a self-guided robotic, airborne sniper rifle in issue #1. Insect-sized drone nerve weapons in issue #3. Those are some examples. Plus cool characters and a lot of humor. It’s a really fun book – and it’s fun to read, everyone’s been loving it. I hope everyone jumps on board, we’re having a blast.

Aside from Echoes and Think Tank, what other work have you done?

RE: I worked a bit at Dark Horse – Solomon Kane, Creepy, a mini called The Cleaners. Couple other random things for Top Cow. I worked at Boom! Studios for a while at the beginning of my career, drawing Warhammer comics. I drew a short for Vertigo/DC last year. I’ve been around!

Do you have any comics you’d like to recommend?

RE: Check out Josh’s book I, Vampire at DC, it’s definitely worth your time.

Is there anything I didn’t ask about you’d like to share?

RE: Anyone interested can keep up with what I’m doing at and on my twitter feed @RahsanEkedal. I’m always happy to chat about books and whatever else on twitter.

About The AuthorDrew BradleyDrew Bradley is a long time comic reader whose contributions to Multiversity include the Minding MIND MGMT, Small Press Spotlight columns, and the discontinued Tradewaiter. He also tackles projects like Lettering Week and Variant Coverage. Feel free to email him about these things, or any other comic related topic.

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