Matt Gardner and Rashad Doucet Interview
Interview conducted by James Ferguson
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: There aren't enough comics for kids out there and even less horror titles. Matt Gardner and Rashad Doucet have changed that a bit with the release of Alabaster Shadows from Oni Press. The all-ages title mixes classic action-adventure with some great horror elements, as a group of kids explore the mysteries in their small community and discover monsters and conspiracies abound. I had a chance to speak to the creative team about the project, what scared them as kids, and their favorite 1980s kids’ movies.
James Ferguson: What's the elevator pitch for Alabaster Shadows?
Rashad Doucet: I'm sure Matt has the best version of this, but I'd say it's Goonies meets Lovecraft.
Matt Gardner: “Kid-friendly Lovecraft”
JF: How much of yourselves are in Carter and his friends?
MG: I’d have to say there’s a bit of me in all of them. Carter’s curiosity, Dudley’s nervousness, Warren’s easily-frustrated nature and Harley’s stubbornness are all bits of myself. Dudley is admittedly the most like me at that age; I was pretty nervous and shy as a kid.
RD: When I was designing their looks and fleshing out how these looks would reflect their personalities from the script, I definitely borrowed bits and pieces from myself and people I know or met. When I was little, I definitely shared some traits with Dudley. My teen years I was more like Harley. Warren is me when I'm being a comics snob talking about superhero movies. Carter is when I get it together and do something right and [Laughs] Polly is me pretty much every time I head to the comics shop on Wednesdays or the toy section at any store.
JF: What was something that scared you as a kid?
MG: In the basement of the house I grew up in, we had an unfinished laundry room with a big freezer and a water heater. There was an orange indicator light on the freezer that cast a beam of light across the floor and the pilot light under the heater made it appear to flicker and jump across the room. For some reason that always creeped me out.
RD: Huge pools. [Laughs] I'm still not a fan of swimming in the ocean.
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JF: Alabaster Shadows reminds me a lot of those adventure movies from the 1980s like The Goonies. What are you favorite films of that era?
MG: The Goonies was one of my favorites as a kid, and was definitely in the forefront of my mind when I was developing Alabaster Shadows. I also really loved Gremlins and Ghostbusters, while not quite as overt, the influence of those is there as well.
RD: Sooooo many. But Monster Squad instantly comes to mind. Legend of Billie Jean (skews older than our book, but the adventure aspect is there), Berry Gordy's the Last Dragon, and Big Trouble in Little China. Also The Sandlot, which is an ‘80s movie trapped in the ‘90s.
JF: There are a number of great monsters that pop up throughout Alabaster Shadows. What was the design process like?
MG: It was a ton of fun. After seeing Rashad’s concept sketches he did after reading my pitch, I knew I could trust him to do his thing without much direction. For the most part I just wrote down the bare essentials of what would be needed and let him go wild with it.
RD: Pretty cool. Matt and our editor had some notes and I just ran it. The trick was incorporating Lovecraft beasties without too much existential horror, so I researched tons of different creatures both real and imagined and softened them in terms of how I drew the shapes. Less pointy things and more squishy/round things to hopefully invoke an "ewwww" response from kids when they read it and not a "mom I can't sleep tonight" response.
JF: What were your favorite monsters in the book?
MG: The shadow flies. I had initially pictured the monster as a more human shaped shadow, but Rashad took the germ of the idea and went a totally different direction with it. When I saw them, I was completely inspired and they fit into the story perfectly. Their design was really visually interesting and led to that awesome hallway sequence, which was a blast to write.
RD: Definitely the shadow flies. That sequence with them in the hallway was extremely fun to create.
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JF: Were there any creatures you wanted to include, but couldn't?
MG: Oh man, so many. We went through a couple designs for the big monster at the end and I loved every one of them. I’m tempted to go into detail, but then I’d give away too many future plans.
RD: There was this blue lion/lizard beast that I created for one of the promo images early on who ended up being too monstrous and large for the gym scene at the end. Glad we used that image for the announcement though.
JF: Alabaster Shadows was originally serialized digitally and then collected in a physical edition. How did you like that process?
RD: It was great. Glad Oni was cool with doing that. Definitely want to make sure every type of fan is catered too.
MG: That was neat; there was some talk of it at the beginning, but we weren’t sure going along whether that would happen. I'm glad it worked out as it did because I’m a huge fan of digital comics; considering how many comics I read, buying them digitally has done wonders for my closet space.
JF: The book leaves things open for further adventures. Do you have more planned?
RD: Oh yeah!!
MG: Yes, indeed. I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface and I can’t wait to dig in even deeper.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Matt Gardner and Rashad Doucet for taking the time to speak with us. Alabaster Shadows is available now at your local comic shop, online, or digitally. You can check out my full review of the book here.
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