I met Rachel "Ronnie" Freire at the recent Heroes Convention in Charlotte, NC on Father's Day Weekend. It was her first convention appearance anywhere as a guest. She is a 21 year old artist whose book, FCHS will be published by AdHouse Books later this year, although a 2009 "Free Comic Book Day" issue was released in May as an advance promotional item (see photo of Rachel & Vito Delsante; above, left).
She produced two wonderful illustrations for the Heroes charity art auction that got alot of attention and fetched a nice bit of change for the fund, and she was so personable that she made a great impression on folks who attended the con. Thankfully, Rachel also agreed to answer a few questions for ye Catacombs editor, so away we go:
Q) Your profile in the Heroes Con program book mentioned that you had worked at Jim Hanley’s Universe in NYC. How long did you work there and what did you do?
I'd been a customer at Hanley's all throughout high school. It's a great store and after high school I slummed around for a year. But after that, I needed a job and I figured my favorite comic book store was a good place to start. I got lucky because they were hiring, and that was around 2007, so it's been a couple of years. It's more or less a regular retail job, just with comics! I manned the register, fixed the shelves, etc. But I was always drawing and sketching during down time and that's what got my manager, Vito Delsante's, attention to my artwork.
Q) The two pieces that you contributed to the charity art auction were really lovely and I heard lots of favorable comments about them. Who are your "artistic" muses in the comics industry or otherwise?
I think my favorite artist might be Dan DeCarlo. I've been reading Archie books all my life and I guess I've got a special place in my heart for him. But a very close second (if not equal) is Alex Toth. With his simple but effectively realistic style, he's just so good! Others high up on my list are Jordi Bernet, the Hernandez Bros, Frank Thorne, Bob Oksner, Hugo Pratt, Frank Robbins... while I'm drawing I'll always look to one of these greats for inspiration.
Q) Tell me about your book, FCHS and its characters. Who is the target audience, age range or demographic for this project?
FCHS is a comic that's going to be out sometime in October by AdHouse. Vito Delsante is writing and I'm handling the art. The story centers mostly around Hector Smith as it's main protagonist but Vito does a good job of giving all the characters equal development. Hector's in high school, he's in love with a girl, on the football team... It's been described as Archie meets 90210. Vito has mushed the light-hearted puns and gags from Archie with the relationships and situations in shows like 90210 without being cheesy. It'll probably appeal more to adults, specifically those that were teens in the 80's and 90's but I'm sure everyone can relate. Though if you're 15 or younger, wait a couple of years, ha ha!
Q) What is it like working for AdHouse Books, the publisher of FCHS?
AdHouse has been just great! Chris Pitzer has been patient and understanding, especially since it's my first book. We stumbled once or twice, mostly me with deadlines, but it looks like smooth sailing from now on. Though I don't want to jinx it, knock on wood! And since it is AdHouse, I know the book is going to look really nice.
Q) Vito Delsante is your cohort on the title. How did you meet up with him?
Well, Vito happens to be a manager at Hanley's. And like I mentioned before, I used to doodle on scraps of paper here and there. He eventually saw my sketchbook and thought my art style suited this idea he'd had for a webcomic on chemsetcomics.com. So I was drawing 3 panels a week for that (I remember thinking that was hard). Vito printed the web content into mini comics for last year's MoCCA, and Chris Pitzer saw it, and one thing led to another... then all of a sudden I had 120 pages to draw! I'll never complain about a couple of panels again.
Q) What are your goals in the comic book industry?
I'd like to draw a little bit of everything! For instance, I love cheesy old romance comics. So I'd like to try my hand at modern romance stories But also I'd love to draw up a space opera. Not to mention those old Hot Wheels and Hot Rod comics. And if I ever got the opportunity to work on the Legion of Super Heroes, or something like that, I'd jump at it! Maybe some dark horror where I could experiment with gray-tones. I don't want to be tied down to one art style and I definitely don't want to be tied to one genre!
Q) What types of "tools" do your use to produce your artwork?
I've been using a blue-line pencil lately, since everything I've been drawing was going to get scanned eventually. And I've been using brush pens and prisma color inking markers. And a giant box of color markers, and a really long ruler. I'd like to try an actual brush, and maybe even a quill eventually, but those'll take practice.
Q) What is it like for someone new breaking into the world of comics during an economic downturn? Do you think the reading public is positively responding to FCHS?
I hope so! I know what it's like to be on a weekly budget for comics, so while I hope the response to the first book is great enough to warrant a second, it's more important to me that people just really enjoy the book, even if they had to borrow it from a friend. BUT, the book is going to be 120 pages digest size, so it'll only be $9.95, which is pretty pocket-friendly.
Q) What types of comics do you read or what titles/characters are personal favorites?
Well, I still buy the Archie digests every week, but I also just recently bought Remake by Lamar Abrams (also out buy AdHouse, actually) The Mourning Star vol 2 by Kazimir Strzepek, the latest Invincible and Walking Dead (both by Robert Kirkmen), Moomin vol 4, Mary Perkins on Stage vol 5, Gotham City Sirens, Batwoman in Detective comics, Deadpool, Invaders Classics. I guess I'm all over the place with what I read, too!
Q) What do you do to chill out or decompress? Favorite comfort food?
After being couped up all day drawing I like to take a walk to 711 for some junk food, or pick up some Chinese take-out. Or if I'm feeling lazy I'll stretch my legs on the couch and watch some good ol' TV.
We will probably see more of this talented young lady's work down the road, so I encourage everyone to seek out FCHS and give it a shot. Thanks for taking the time to do this interview "Ronnie" and good luck with your career. Q) Will we see you at Heroes Con next year?
Thanks again, Chuck. I'll definitely see you next year at Heroes!