Rachel Dukes hails from San Diego, California. A graduate from The Center for Cartoon Studies, she works as a cartoonist and illustrator and is the creator of the cat-centric webcomic Frankie Comics
The Wizard and the Potion of Dreams, Lion Forge (2019)
Frankie Comics #4, self-published (2018)
Mixtape Comics’ contributions to Milk & Honey, as seen in Milk & Honey Comic Anthology Issue 2 and Issue 3:
“Sleepy Kitty’d” as seen in issue 2 (in grayscale)
“Shopping” as seen in issue 2 (in grayscale)
“Bathtime II” as seen in issue 3
Interview Questions and Answers as seen in issue 3
M&H: It seems that your cat, Frankie has been a joy since the moment you met her. When did she become the purr-fect muse?
RD: Frankie was immediately a muse for doodles; even before she moved in with me and my spouse full-time and became my muse for comics. (She was originally a stray, living near our first apartment building before we took her in.) She would visit during the day and I would miss her on days when she wouldn’t visit. I would doodle about her. The first proto Frankie Comics was posted online on my now (defunct) journal comic Intentionally Left Blank sometime in April of 2009, a few days after we decided to keep her. It wasn’t until years later, in 2013 when I was a student at The Center for Cartoon Studies, that I started collecting strips solely about Frankie into their own series as Frankie Comics.
M&H: Your signature monochromatic blue color scheme is such a fun idea and always looks great. How did you develop your style?
RD: That was something I started with Frankie Comics. I wanted the strips to have colour online but I knew that I was likely to print the mini-comic collections in black and white, so I needed a colour scheme that would still read clearly in greyscale. I find working in full colour difficult so I figured a monochromatic palette would be the easiest solution for my needs. I tried
a few different colours in in the monochromatic palette and I liked the blue best, so I ran with it. (It also helps that Frankie has blue eyes!)
M&H: You’ve published several mini-comic collections, produced Frankie-themed merchandise like posters, t-shirts, and lapel pins. You even completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a Frankie plush toy! What advice do you have for creators attempting to take their characters to the next level like that?
RD: While I should stress the importance of readership and relatability, I don’t think there’s anything other than financing stopping anyone from creating merchandise of their characters the way I have with Frankie. Creating small runs of merchandise is surprisingly affordable and there’s nothing stopping you from throwing down $90 for 100 stickers or $250 for 100 enamel pins. If you don’t have the money to invest - or just want to test the waters before throwing down cash it’s really easy to set up a shop with print on demand services like Threadless or Society6. There is literally no financial investment: you can simply open a store, upload designs, choose your products, and wait for folks to place orders. The print on demand service fulfills and ships your orders as they come in and you get a cut of the sale price. Safe, simple, and profitable!
M&H: In addition to your self-published comics like Frankie, you’ve also created comics for Care Bears and Steven Universe (published by Lion Forge and Boom Studios respectively). What is it like working on popular franchises? How is it different than your creator-owned work?
RD: I would say the key difference between working on licensed properties and creator-owned properties is accountability. Working on Frankie I’m only accountable to myself and can make decisions quickly by myself. On licensed properties, I’m answering to an editor who’s answering to a senior editor who’s answering to the company who owns the property… so there’s several more rounds of approval a licensed comic has to go through before it can be sent to the printer and then into the world. Creatively the process is pretty much the same; there’s just a lot more waiting around between stages (thumbnails to pencils, pencils to inks, etc.) on licensed work.
M&H: As a new artist it can be hard to get yourself “out there” and try to turn yourself and your work into a brand. Besides networking, what do you think is the best way to market ones artwork?
RD: There’s no “best” way. With social media and algorithms ever changing, there’s nothing I can say in print that’ll be applicable in another 6 to 12 months.
But what I can say is: be accessible and publish/post work consistently. (Even if it’s only once a week or once a month it’s better to have a schedule readers can rely on.) I use the same social media handle (@mixtapecomics) across social media, with my website as mixtapecomics dot com. I also have Frankie Comics posted in several places for people to find it: FrankieComics.com, GoComics, Tapastic, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook. Make it easy for people to find and enjoy your work. Honestly, success in comics is a bit of a smokescreen: its fleeting and rarely profitable even with the most professional of marketing. The most important thing, as a creator, is to just draw a bunch of comics. Draw about things you love. Don’t wait till you feel "good enough.” You'll get "good enough”, as you go. The comics community is full of beautiful people. Help your friends and be kind, they’ll do the same in return.