Transcript: Children Chatting With Rashad Doucet and Jason Reeves

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by

Children Chatting: Discussion between Rashad Doucet and Jason Reeves, and Children Chatting members

DANIELLA: Hello, everyone. You're listening to Children Chatting with Authors. Today we're going to be joined by author and illustrator Rashad Doucet and author Jason Reeves of the book Pax Samson: The Cookout.

THERON: My name is Theron. Question is, was the book related to you or your family?

RASHAD: Oh! Yes. Both of our families, to some degree. But when I came up with the idea before me and Jason started working on it together, it was definitely based on people in my family. My uncles, my cousins, my grandma in particular. And Grandma and Grandpa Samson are directly related to my actual grandparents, moreso than the rest of the characters in the book. But yeah. So short answer, yes, Grandma Samson is like my grandma with superpowers. She's the reason why I draw comics and the reason why... She introduced me... She used to read me bedtime stories or superhero stuff, and always encouraged me to keep drawing when she was here. So I wanted to always turn her into a superhero because I wouldn't even be doing this if she wasn't there to get me started on this path. Always encouraging me, no matter the ups or the downs. Just always said, "You can do this." She never told me I couldn't. So I wanted to make her that character in the book. A lot.

THERON: Thank you.

JASON: No, I'm always keeping my nieces and nephews in mind when we're writing. And my son has me bopping around here like a young person. So I'm always watching him and trying to see like, what do kids do in these situations? So yeah, no, totally family-related. Because Pax has a huge family, a lot of different personalities. And we were definitely drawing from real life, especially for Pinnacle and Khimera. We're always observing our family members and putting their traits into those characters.

RASHAD: Uncle Magic is directly related on one of my uncles. Jason knows the stories of my uncle, but he is definitely this bear. My uncles... They were my great-uncles actually. But they were just such a big part of my childhood, and just always around and always got new adventures and stuff going on, eating and just coming in. So Uncle Magic is heavily based on two or three of my uncles merged together, but they were definitely a big part of growing up.

JASON: Dudes that just have a good time with life, whatever's going on.

Rashad: Whatever's going on, they're having a good time.

JASON: Very family-oriented. But we wanted to portray this huge generational family that kind of lifts each other up. Grandma is the head, and Mom and Dad and their sisters and brothers... This family is pulling everybody up into the family business, which is superheroing. And you don't get to see that in superhero books, superhero OGNs. So I was like, "Man, we're on to something here. This is going to be something cool." There's always been superhero teams, Justice League and Avengers and what have you, but as a family? They're all blood? I just thought there was something really cool about it.

RASHAD: Thank you, Theron. That was a good question.

THERON: Thanks.

JASON: Yeah, really good.

THERON: Thank you for the answers.

LAUREN: My name is Lauren, and I want to know how did you work together to create this book?

JASON: Good question, Lauren. So Rashad kind of conceived of the idea first. And I run a publishing company myself called 133art Publishing. And when we first got together... Well, first, got to run it back. Rashad and I have been best friends for years. We're both from Louisiana, and we met in a comic shop. The typical nerd love story. And we've been friends for like 20 years. So we've been kind of running parallel in our careers, from freelancers to professor, freelancer to publisher, blah, blah, blah. So we've always wanted to really work together on a project. So when Rashad conceived of Pax he was like, "Yo, really cool story. But I just want to get this particular story out of me." And I was like, "Whatever you do, I'll publish it. Let's go."

JASON: So we started kind of collaborating on Pax, and then we talked to a couple editors at different companies. We talked to Joe Illidge, and he kind of gave us an in at what was, before, Lion Forge. Now it's Lion Forge and Oni kind of combined. And once that kind of happened, then we decided to kind of become partners on Pax. So our process is Rashad comes up with his ideas, I come up with my ideas on the back end. And then we kind of full try and form up, to kind of figure out and edit it ourselves. It takes a few conversations to get a outline started. And then once we get an outline started, a couple more conversations. Then we get a script going, and we both script doctor each other. So he throws out ideas, I'll do some writing. He'll come over that and do some writing. And after a couple back-and-forths, then we send it to our editor and we're out.

RASHAD: And then we have to do it again with the editor [crosstalk 00:06:05]. But yeah, but that's it, that's the process, yeah.

LAUREN: When you have your conversations, do you do it over Zoom like this so you can share your screen and look over together? How do you have those conversations?

JASON: No, it's the phone.

RASHAD: Yeah. It's just the phone.

JASON: It's just phone calls. Usually, I do a few miles in the park, in the morning, just to kind of get my morning exercise before work. So I'll call him up. And if he's available on a non-school day, or whatever, we'll just hash it out during that time, for a couple hours. And if we do that three to five times a week, we can get done with a script pretty fast. Yeah. Back and forth, really, like best friends do. I mean, we don't have to do it on Zoom because we talk on the phone all the time anyway. So we're doing that anyway. One of our things has always been kind of coming up with comic stories, right? Even before we were professionals, we would just be like, "Wouldn't it be cool if this happened in this story?" So it's just an extension of our friendship.

RASHAD: A big part of our process, and coming up with ideas, is watching the stories and reading the stories we like. And we like every genre there is, so going over that. And then going back and forth with each other about, "Oh, hey, wouldn't it have been cool if we did this version... if they did this in a story?" It's like we've self-taught each other storytelling, I feel like, over the years, from just having these conversations about what work and doesn't work in a story, and why is this this way? And answering these questions from other people's stories helped us really easy transition into writing our own stories together.

JASON: It's our own little book club.

RASHAD: Yeah. With two people in it. Two people in our book club.

THERON: This isn't really about the book, but how did you guys start writing and painting [crosstalk 00:08:13]? I don't-

RASHAD: It's okay. You're good. You're good, Theron. Me, it was... Going back to my grandma, she was making me draw to keep quiet in church. So I was a chatterbox, and I had all these ideas, apparently. And so my grandma would have me just draw it out. She was like, "Well, just draw it out." And as I got older, she'd give me, every Friday... I would look forward to these Fridays at the end of the school week because every Friday she'd give me a new notebook. She'd give me a pack of crayons. And she was like, "Just take the weekend and just draw all that stuff you were telling me. Just write it..." Because I used to write before I drew. I'd draw characters, but before I started drawing characters, I used to write all these things down. I would just write stories down in paragraph form and just write all these ideas out.

RASHAD: And she was like, "Well, you should just do that." Like, "You just take the whole weekend, fill this notebook up, and just draw all the characters you can." And I just got into the rhythm of doing that. And I was always nervous about drawing comics, but as I got older and I got into high school, I started leaning more to drawing in comics. By the time I met Jason, right after high school, college time, I was already into drawing comics. But it took a while. At first, I was too scared. So I would just draw... I'd write it, and then I would draw the characters. And then eventually I got into doing the panels and the boxes and all that. It took a while for me to feel comfortable doing that. Before, it was just writing and drawing whatever I could.

JASON: Yeah. For me, as long as I can remember, I've been infatuated with superheroes. And just the idea that somebody can swoop down and save you, at a time of peril or hardship or whatever, just has always been fascinating to me. So I can remember being as young as three years old and sitting at the table, doodling Superman. I loved... The colors of superheroes too is just... I love the whole vibe of it. So as I got older, in class, when we were in third grade, we would do challenges. And every kid that could draw or that wanted to draw, we would take our favorite movies or comic books or TV shows, like cartoon shows, and we would make a comic out of that. And we would have rivals.

JASON: There was this one guy, Michael, who was the best artist. And then I would challenge him to a draw-off. It would be a five-page comic or something like that. And as I got into high school, I think I finally decided, as a teenager, I want to draw comics for a living. And I didn't know how I was going to get there. But I would buy comics from the shop, and I would just pore over them. And then I would write my own stories, and I'd have notebooks filled with comics and characters and stuff like that. So I just kept doing it.

JASON: And once I moved from New Orleans to Portland, after Hurricane Katrina, I met an illustrator who... He didn't do comics, but he was an illustrator who did that freelance, for a living. And I'm a visual learner and a hands-on learner, so sort of being his apprentice really taught me how to manage the business part of it. And I applied it to comics, moving forward, and I created 133art and produced my own stuff. So it's been a long journey. But I started at the kitchen table, sitting next to my mom. She's on the phone, and I'm just drawing.

RASHAD: Draw on the walls. I used to draw on the walls and get in trouble. "Don't draw on the walls." And that's why she gave me notebooks.

JASON: Always get a notebook.

LAUREN: Why did you feature certain gods in your story, like Odin and then Yemoja, who gave Grandma Samson her powers? Why did you feature those certain gods?

RASHAD: Well, the goal was to try to... We wanted some familiarity with certain things. And the Norse gods are always around and we have a lot of familiarity with them. And we wanted to represent that in a way, that way. And at the same time we wanted to give a spotlight to African deities that don't always get that kind of attention in Western culture. So I thought it was nice. So we dug up Yemoja because it fit with Grandma really well. I feel like their connection, that this Mother Earth goddess kind of thing, is very much what Grandma is. And I thought it would be the perfect person to give you power because we see so many sort of male figures getting their view by the male figures, as well. And I thought it'd be nice to have a female figure, also, just make sure, are getting viewed by another leader of...

RASHAD: The rest of these, we kind just kind of hodge-podge and made up. But those particular, we wanted to make sure that they represented things that you were familiar with and then things that not. And also wanted to make Odin the bad guy because I like making... I like Viking stuff too, but also wanted to punch Odin in the face because I thought it'd be cool. But other than that, that's kind of where we were going with that.

JASON: Yeah. Representation is one of our goals. Earlier, I was talking about having the family representation that hasn't been really done. But also in terms of different characters, Yemoja kind of represents African and minority deities that we don't get to see. So I mean, how cool is it to explore a new universe of deity, a new universe of God. So that was the impetus behind that. We were like, "Man, we have an opportunity to explore the vastness of human mythology, so why just pigeonhole it?"

LAUREN: So I love Pax. When you have your readers reading your book, what do you want them to get out of Pax Samson and just his character traits? Even how brave he was, to apologize to Grandma Samson later in the story. That takes courage. So when you have your readers reading your work, what do you hope they get out of it? Especially from Pax Samson himself.

RASHAD: With Pax, it was a goal of making a little kid hero who... He's not there yet. And that's what I want the kids to relate to. I mean, we have a lot of action heroes that we see all the time, like the Avengers, the big mainstream guys. And they're pretty much into it. They even cap, get some powers, you got it. And Pax is more on that line of like, he's not sure, even though his family's really good at it. But I didn't want to make him not good at things. So he's still very good at his cooking skills. And he's learned a lot about how to relate to people through cooking skills, right? And he grew up with his family this way, so he's taking a lot of information in. And I wanted kids to know that you may not always be, at first, the best at something. Even though you're good at one other thing, you want to be good at this other thing.

RASHAD: And Pax is going, "First of all, I want to be good at this other thing too. And should I..." I mean, even when you're an adult, you're like, "What should I focus on?" And I wanted Pax to kind of go through that journey of like, well, you can do both. You can get better at the other thing, right? You just keep working hard. You get up after you fall. You get up, you try again. You try again. Pax is... early on, you see him like this. He falls, he gets up. He gets scared. He goes through all those emotions because he's not there yet. Came so natural for some of the rest of the members in his family, like his cousins and things, and his sister. But for him, it took a little work on that end.

RASHAD: But at the same time, the skills he learned for being not always as good as the rest, or being not as powerful as them or as skilled as them, is going to help him be the thing that they need in that world, to help... Those other skills you learn when you're doing what you know how to do, you can bring a fresh take to the superhero world, in their case. And what Grandma doesn't see, as great as Grandma is at what she does and been doing it for so long, Pax is going to give a slightly different perspective. So when they clash like that, it's because Pax's still figuring out how to do that perspective properly. He's still trying to figure out how he can go his own way without overstepping or being wrong about it.

RASHAD: And he's learning that, as he learns, he's going to be the thing that... the next step. Grandma's looking for that. She says, in the first book, "I'm looking to get out of this game." And so Pax is inadvertently going to be the step. Not her sons. It's her grandkid, in this case, who's going to lead everybody with his nature of learning how to communicate, and love in his own way because he's a loving dude. We wanted a dude who was loving. I wanted a dude who just wasn't a perfect action hero yet. I didn't want that for him, at the beginning. I wanted to avoid... as much as I like doing it, I wanted to avoid-

JASON: Yeah, he's totally not fully formed at all. And I mean, he's a kid, so he doesn't have to be, right? His circumstances hadn't, before the conflict in the story, caused him... he didn't have to be fully formed, as a superhero or whatever. And I feel like he's kind of highlighting the path less traveled, in a sense. His cooking informs how he's going to be a superhero, right? The best thing he can do informs the thing that he might not be so great at. But also, like Rashad said, the things that you learned because you weren't the best, a lot of times help you be the best at that very thing. In a different way, though.

JASON: His path of being a cook and learning how to be a chef, and being maybe not so aggressive as the other heroes, is actually teaching him how to be a better superhero. And that was a cool, interesting thing that Rashad came up with. I'm usually like, "Let's go, Captain America!" But Rashad was like, "Maybe this dude is not there yet. And it's okay to explore that." And I was like, "You know, you on to something. You on to something, guy." So yeah, I think because Pax is a less aggressive, a softer version, maybe he's better at bringing people together. And that might be more needed than just punching Odin in the face.


LAUREN: Do you think it was a generational...? Because Pax Samson's parents are so supportive, and they just go with the flow, with Pax. They don't force him into anything. But Grandma Samson and his aunt, they're like... Do you think it was a generational portrayal?

JASON: I think so. And I think it works like that in a lot of families where you have... if we're talking family businesses, you have maybe the grandparents who start the store or the restaurant or whatever. And because they started it, they know the business and they know how important it is to the family structure. And as you go down the line, there might be people who are less gung-ho about it. And then you get down to a third generation, and there's a choice. They talk a lot about farming communities, and farming families, where they lose the farm sometimes because that last generation has no interest in it. And sometimes it's because of the opposite way that the generations sort of interact with each other. And that's kind of what we're dealing with here in Pax is like, just because my grandparents decided that this is a thing we're good at, doesn't necessarily have to inform our future. It's a discussion, it's not a given.

RASHAD: Also, in particular, Dad and Mom, they came up in a time where they were kid heroes at one point. Especially Dad, he grew up with Grandma, and he knows the path that it is. So that's why they're so supportive because they know how hard it might be to make that decision, or they might not have had that opportunity. It was a different time. And Grandma needed that backup. So they might not have been able to make the decisions Pax made. That's why they were talking to him about keeping secret identities, or just keeping space away from it. But he thinks it's silly because he grew up in it. But it's because they've helped pave the way in their own way, so when it got to him, he could really make that choice.

RASHAD: He could have chose to never be a superhero. That wasn't something that had to happen. And they went through the things in their own way. I wish we could really get more into the parents. I have a whole thing from, especially Alphaman. But it's just that they are thinking about it. They went through it, and they know what they needed to hear when they were that age and going through what he was going through. And at least they've given him the option to make a choice about it, whereas they might not have had those options at the time.

LAUREN: Why did you give Pax Samson the power of telepathy and the [Psi 00:21:40] sword?

RASHAD: Telepathic powers, telekinesis powers, those just my favorite set of powers from me being an old X-Men fan. Jean Gray, pink energy, and there's an old cat named [Sawad 00:21:54], she had the energy swords, and telekinetic energy swords. And all that stuff comes from my love of '90s comics I read when I was a kid. Those power sets are cool because you move things with your mind. You do all these cool things with telekinesis and telepathy. And the telepathy part with Pax is more of him learning how to communicate in a way that might not be... He's not going to use telepathy to mind control. It's not really his thing. So it's more about seeing how he can empathetically relate to people with that telepathy.

RASHAD: He can take them to that realm and just talk to them about it. Or talk to animals, which he does, and learn that animal's story. And it's just like, "Oh, okay, this is how I can help this situation." Once again, it ties into his nature, whether he realizes it fully yet or not, that he can relate to people and help them in different ways. Maybe solve a problem that may not always need a action solution. So it will often lead to that because I want to draw that. But at the same time, this is one of those things where the telepathy kind of serves the story. And the sword is because I like '90s X-Men comics.

JASON: I think his telepathy and his telekinesis also sort of inform the job that he likes. Being able to infuse that empathy into your cooking, and ingredients floating around you. You don't have to go back and forth to the fridge and stuff like that. When Rashad was like, "This is what we're going to make him be able to do," I was like, "Oh, well, that works with him being a chef. That totally works." So man, he uses his abilities, and he's really good at making the best meal for you.

RASHAD: Definitely good at that. That is his skill. Yeah.

JASON: He's really intuitive about that. And like Rashad said, that's how he relates to people. So I think that's really cool. It worked out that his powers worked with his abilities, his skills.

THERON: Thank you.

JASON: Aw, you're welcome, buddy. Thank you for reading the book. Thank you.

MILES: Thanks for listening to the Children Chatting with Authors podcast.

[Music outro]

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by