Feb 22 2015
On Day 22 of BlackComicsMonth.com we’re going to give you an interview with BOOM! Studios artist, Skuds McKinley. Skuds Mckinley is a professional comic book artist and illustrator based in Philadelphia. His first self published comic work, I’ll Take You To The Moon &; Leave You There Vol.1, was met with fantastic reviews and quickly sold out of print. In 2013, Mckinley also released Book Face (with illustrator Dan Elisii) and Rumble Moon Vol. 1. He has designed merchandise and album covers for heavy metal and punk bands alike and works with some of the influential hip hop artists in his mind. Rafael Berrios from AgentsofGeek chops it up with Skuds for BlackComicsMonth.
I read your interview with Previews and you’re four years into your career as an artist. In the short four years you’ve been an artist, you’ve already had several comics published and you’re only 25 years old! How was your transition into art as a career and what hurdles did you have to overcome?
Art has been a complete lifestyle change. I’ve lost friends and gained new ones, I’ve lost money and gained fans and love. It’s a hard lifestyle where you’re constantly looking for your voice and your looking for fame and money. Stability. I’ve been very lucky with my endeavor. People seem to dig what I do, but I try not to let that get to me. It’s weird having people see my growth instead of coming in already knowing my skill and craft.
Of all your published works [I’ll Take You to the Moon & Leave You There, Book Face, Rumble Moon] including the recent miniseries Plunder, which are you most proud of or attached?
I love my self published work because it was the building blocks to getting better. Ultimately I am proud of Plunder because it’s the newest and I feel confident with the way I’m heading as an artist. I’m learning so much while working on Plunder.
I enjoyed Plunder #1 and look forward to what happens in the rest of the series. You definitely have an eye for gore. How did you and writer Swifty Lang come together for this project? What has it been like to work with BOOM! Studios/Archaia?
Swifty and I met online through a mutual friend. We’ve actually only met once, but the friendship grew very quickly. We share a lot of the same interests and naturally spawned the idea for Plunder. We didn’t rush into just making something, we got to know each other. We’re business partners as well as friends. Working for a publisher is cool. It’s great to only worry about penciling and inking rather than worry about distribution, getting press and all the other headaches involved with publishing.
How much of your input went into creating the world of Plunder? Was the aesthetic of the book a collaboration or completely imagined by you or Swifty?
Swifty and I came up with everything you see and read. We collaborate by not stepping on each others toes and being very open and honest with each other. Suggestions are made and if we feel it will enhance the story, we do it.
What do you personally want to achieve with Plunder?
By the end of the mini series I’d like to be a better artist and have something I’m proud of that leads to more work. I’d also like to show that two normal dudes can make a rad horror book that doesn’t go for cheap shots yet not taking ourselves to seriously.
Referencing your Previews interview once more…
“…I don’t want to be known as a black comic artist first, I just want people to see my work and not think of color. This has been one industry where I have not faced inequalities because of my skin color. While there is a lack of black creators in the industry, there are a lot of us that are working hard and made it here because of dedication and sacrifices, not because we’re black. “
What exactly do you feel holds back black creators from breaking into mainstream comics or just comics in general?
Speaking from personal experience, I haven’t faced any racism. I mean I’ve gotten weird looks and felt out of place a few times. It’s weird to be the only black guy at an event or anywhere. I’ve been there a lot, but I don’t think there’s a group of racist editors denying us work. It’s all up to chance, I guess. Maybe I got my gig because I’m black, I don’t know. It’s something I just never think about. I’m more confused by the lack of black characters in comics that aren’t stereotypes. To me art is about art, it transcends human insecurities like race and gender.
Being a predominantly white industry, what is your perspective/advice to elicit more diversity among creators in mainstream comics?
I’d say be willing to take more chances, play around with characters of all color and gender. Marvel seems to be doing that well and having fun. I just don’t get why it’s still a problem to have characters of color running the show. Everything has to be white to sell. It’s odd man. People aren’t afraid of change, they want new stuff so mix up the formula a bit.
If you were presented the opportunity to draw a series for Marvel and/or DC Comics, which characters would be your dream choices and why? Would you redesign any of them?
I really want to work on BPRD, Im not really into the super hero stuff, but I like the demon, the Eternals, Shazam, Batman Beyond, Daredevil and Hawkman. I’d really like to take a crack at Hawkman. Yeah, I’d bust out a mean looking redesign for Hawkman.
We’re coming to a close, but I want to ask you some of the bigger questions. What do you ultimately want to accomplish as an artist, and how would you like to impact the comics industry?
My ambitions were geared towards stardom and fame, but now they’re geared towards learning and becoming a better artist. I want to have an exciting output, like Kanye West. You never know what you’re going to get from him next but it’s gonna be awesome. I’d like to have my work become a beast of its own so I wont have to do much talking. So if I could achieve art that comes before the artist that would be great.
Are you currently available for commission requests and will you be at any conventions this year?
I’m usually available for commissions. It really depends on the piece. Some people hit me for the strangest request…but yeah just shoot me an email. As far as conventions go, I’ll try to make the rounds. I’m not really into big crowds of people, especially ones that are in costume. Conventions kinda blow cause no one cares about the artist or the comics. I don’t care about celebrities, I wanna see the dollar Kirby bins.
Rafael Berrios is a New York native, and former Nintendo and Google lackey, trying to make a positive impact in the geek community. When not dealing with “norm” life, he spends his time reading comics, writing, watching movies and TV shows, gaming, and contributes to websites, podcasts and geek communities whenever the chance presents itself. Most of his work can be found on AgentsofGeek, both as an article contributor and editor focused on the comics books section. He also contributes to the social media presence of TalkingComicBooks, a positive progressive comic community. Follow Rafael on twitter: @Dregantz.