There is something new on the horizon of comics and that would be the new universe spinning out of AHR Visions! I recently had the privilege of speaking with the founder, Abdul H. Rashid, as he lays out what we have to look forward to in the coming months!
Comic Attack: Many of us first saw your work in the New-Gen series but for those unfamiliar with you and your work can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Abdul Rashid: I’m a native of Flint, Mi. I currently live in NE Ohio, in the Cleveland area. I started drawing/painting at the age of two, before I was really walking. Jump forward years later…I was doing a lot of freelancing gigs for a while. Much of my attention was via word of mouth and I appreciated that. I was eventually reached out to by the Matonti Brother, who helm the NEW-GEN project and I’ve been working on the development of that for a little while now. In that time, I’ve work on other various IP’s (intellectual properties) and eventually saw a need in the industry that needed to be addressed…thus leading me to start the studio. I’m an overall artist. I develop fine art shows featuring my paintings; I’ll be doing some sculptures in the future and looking to get back into other various art disciplines I’m versed in to make me fill more complete as a practitioner.
CA: You have a very detailed and expressive style when it comes to your characters. Who have been some of your artistic influences over the years?
AR: There are a number of artist in different disciplines of visual story-telling that have influenced the level of detail I think needed to express a characters emotion and convey a message. In the comic arena: Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, David Finch, and Marc Silvestri. In film: Antotne Fuqua, Ridley Scott, George Lucas, Spike Lee and Christopher Nolan. Why do you ask? Each of these creators of visual story-telling pull a level of passion, conviction, happiness, rage, whatever the story calls for in projecting a message to the audience in a manner that (rather drawn or filmed) makes it “real” for that period of time. I love the level of investment that is created between the characters and the audience, so that there is a genuine concern for that character’s well-being or demise. That is the direction I strive for in my visual displays, and the reason behind the level of detail. I want to REALLY capture the audience with every image in every title.
CA: What drove you to start AHR Visions instead of just taking your characters to one of the independent publishers?
AR: I’ve always known that I wanted to do something on my own and under my own banner. I’ve seen examples over the years of artists taking it upon themselves to create a home for their own IP’s to flourish. But really, it was seeing what the late Dwayne McDuffie and his team of creative minds did developing MILESTONE Comics and also the rise of IMAGE Comics in the early 90’s that made me want to do the same. I also wanted to see titles that gave a hero for everyone to find a connection with. And not just have a character created as a gimmick, but to present diverse characters that could be on the same level as the iconic heroes and villains established in the industry. I also wanted to create an ensemble of characters that Hollywood could pull from to move on the development for new franchise platforms for actors of color in the industry. I feel that every spectrum of racial identification needs to be represented better, while not dwelling so much on that aspect of the character at the same time. I have a number of objectives in approaching this effort in this manner…but that would take up the entire interview. (LOL)
CA: You guys have several titles slated to come out from AHR Visions in the future. Which ones can we look forward to seeing first?
AR: Look forward to seeing THE 8, SKORN and BLACK ROSE introduced to the public first. They will be our FIRST WAVE of titles that will set the stage for the superhero category of the studio. Each will present a different and unique presentation on what the “superhero’s” objectives are and how to go about accomplishing them. As I’ll be say on a regular…IT WILL BE FUN!
CA: Will any of these titles interconnect or will each one function within its own world independently?
AR: There’s fun in having characters from different titles cross paths on occasion. Nothing wrong with a little in-family fighting from time to time. Fans tend to like having the question of “Who would win in a fight?” answered. There will definitely be some great cross-over events in the titles!
CA: One thing I did notice was that you have stories taking place in Ohio and Connecticut instead of the big name cities like New York and L.A. Was this a conscious effort or did it just evolve as the story grew?
AR: All the selections for where the stories will take place were deliberate. I felt that the smaller/mid-ranged cities in the country were just as able to support epic story-telling as the larger settings. Not to say that some of the stories will not visit New York, LA and other major stages. To be honest, a couple of the stories have a global element to them. Sometimes, the most intriguing stories can manifest from the least likely places. It was important to project that message in every facet of our stories. Many would believe that the biggest character in a story is the city where the action takes place. Setting is a pivotal variable. So it’s very much thought out…and expanded further as needed to accommodate the expansion of the action.
CA: Will all of the titles coming out be ongoing tales or will some have a definitive ending spread out through a certain number of volumes?
AR: There are a couple of titles that will have a definite beginning and ending. Some titles that just need a finite approach. I think that adds to the level of mythos for some stories. I also think that some stories can be pulled farther than they need to be…eventually taking away from what made it enjoyable in the first place.
CA: Now, are the creative teams chosen for the titles already or will you be handling most of the writing/art duties on each one?
AR: Right now, in the early stages of the studio/titles, I am doing the writing, pencil and inks. It’s actually pretty fun to develop each of the story-lines – that are SO different from the other – and seeing them coming to life. I’m very fortunate to have an AMAZING colorist in, Visual Director/Studio Partner, Alexander Cutri. His eye for visual detail and f/x application are incredible and add so much life to my work. He and I see the studio projects as cinema ready properties already…so we treat them as such. Often he knows what I’m looking to project without me going in grand detail. He sees that I want to present a movie experience in my pages…and it translates brilliantly. Ultimately, we look to reach out to new, fresh talent seeking to contribute to these new titles and able to project the expected level of quality work that’s mandatory and that the readers deserve to see. This is something we look to start doing going into the coming year.
CA: As the development of the titles took place what area have you and your team focused on to make sure that everything was of the utmost quality?
AR: Story!!! I can’t stress that enough. It was very, very important to both me and the other studio officers to having very strong and rich content for each and every storyline in the titles (current and future arcs). The visual side will be covered, no problem. But I have never been a fan of a strong visual and terrible story. That’s a very disappointing combination. We respect the intellect of our audience…and it would be insulting to put just anything in front of them. So the stories (AND the art) will be set to a high bar. We want to capture our audiences will a “total package” for a long-lasting relationship. No flash in the pan stuff here.
CA: One very noticeable aspect about some of your titles is that you have minority characters and even titles with female leads. Though this is great to see, was there any trepidation on your part since books starring female leads and minority characters usually don’t do so well?
AR: I’m actually not really worried about them not being successful…as I am confident they will all be. I think when you force-feed a level of diversity down the throats of an audience…that can turn them away from giving the character(s) a “real chance” of explaining who and what they are about. When a character is presented from the starts as a “certain way”, then goes about the progression of the story without revisiting that obvious variable over and over again…the audience is more excepting. All my titles are presenting a variety of diverse elements and not excluding any specific demographics from the first issues. The intention is to present a “real world” fact in a “fantasy setting”. People love make-believe…but they also want to know that they are welcomed to share in that activity with characters they can relate to. I feel a natural acceptance of these characters and titles will take. That will open the avenue for success.
CA: The characters in the various titles range from new twists on classic monsters to super powered beings and even some science fiction thrown in as well. Was there one of these genres that was more fun to play in or challenged you the most as they developed?
AR: The “superhero” title was the most challenging. The reason being is that much of the “super-powered” concept has been presented in a manner in one form or another. So my effort was to try to integrate that element into characters that had every level of “human” imperfection and show how that has played out in their everyday interactions. That’s an idea that has been touched on in projects like “HEROES” and “HANCOCK”…but I wanted to make it so that you encountered individuals that embraced their powers, were comfortable with them, and understood their roles to the fullest…BUT, they have their own personality traits that made them flawed. Some of my heroes are “boy-scouts” while others are “jerks”. People will learn quickly why to despise the bad-guys. The goal is to really make characters individuals will enjoy. That’s the biggest challenge no matter what genre you’re working in.
CA: It looks like AHR Visions isn’t just content with just putting out comics but expanding into other media areas as well. What can you tell us about expanding your brand and where you’re looking at going?
AR: Our entire catalog is internet-based. So we want to get as much to as many people in the fastest manner possible. With that said, the digital comics are our main platform. Upon the release of three to four issues of the flag-ship titles and the release of the second wave of titles, we are focused on an aggressive animation campaign to position for the production of some very interesting translations of our titles in that media. The animation vehicle will serve as a filler tool, of sorts. Prequels and projects that explain events that were not entirely explained in detail in the actual comics will be presented. We will also be going into video gaming options and eventually feature film efforts. The overall initiative is a focused branding venture for the studio across all avenues.
CA: What is it that you think will set AHR Visions apart from the other comic companies out there today?
AR: We are coming to the public…for the public. We announce from the start that we are representing EVERYONE reflecting the community! That is an significant factor and mission for the studio. I think when people see that kind of genuine efforts being made, they will see the difference between our brand and other studios.
CA: With the amount of work involved in running AHR Visions and putting out solid titles for the fans to enjoy does this mean that we won’t be seeing your work in any future New-Gen titles?
AR: I’ve actually just wrapped up the NEW-GEN prequel story NEW DAWN, which is the origin story for one of the central characters of the title. But, I will continue to be involved in the NEW-GEN franchise as I’m needed. I enjoy contributing to the project and the creators behind the title are good people. Naturally, I am going to be getting more focused on my own titles coming out of AHRV and projects that we are collaborating with. But, again, I will definitely be available to insure the further development of that title and brand.
CA: Which of your current titles has been your favorite to work on and is there anything else we should be on the lookout for from AHR Visions?
AR: Out of the upcoming titles…I have a big soft spot for “THE 8”. This is the proverbial flagship superhero title from the studio. I love a good-ole clash of super-powered heroes and villains, and this title will present all of that in a massive way. I am excited for SKORN and Black Rose as they round out our “big three” initial titles. ReBirth is the first of the sci-fi line of books that will spearhead that category of titles. I am also very much looking forward to collaborative titles such as Dion Floyd’s IMMORTAL KISS reboot…which is going to be really exciting and a couple of celebrity back properties that will be announced very soon. Overall, AHR Visions, LLC is looking to make an impression in major ways and I want the fans to enjoy and have a good time getting to know this new community of characters entering the comic book fray. I want the people to prepare for a fun ride together!!! And…LEAVE NO DOUBT!!!
I would like to thank Abdul Rashid for taking the time to talk with us and for more news on upcoming projects go to AHR Visions immediately!