Interview with Alex Ahad creative director and creator of the Skullgirls IP
On Game Art HQ i try to interview Hobbyists, Professional Artists, and Popular Cosplay Models. Today i got the chance to talk a bit with Alex Ahad, the creator of the upcoming 2d Fighting Game “Skullgirls” which gets released for PSN and XBLive this week about himself, his roles in the process of creating the game, characters and their Influences and of course about Skullgirls and Fan-Art
Hello Alex, can you introduce yourself a bit and tell our readers a bit about your career in the visual art industry?
Hello~ my name is Alex Ahad. I’m the creative director for Skullgirls and the creator of the Skullgirls IP. I’ve been drawing since grade school, heavily influenced by the cartoons, games, and anime that I grew up watching and playing. I got more serious about art around highschool, taking more fundamental classes. I also joined a local group of artists called BAAU (Bay Area Artists Unite). It was pretty cool to meet up with other artists that had similar interests. Some of my best friends today stem from joining that group. I went to UCLA to study Design Media Art (graphic design, basically) for undergrad. I enrolled in the Animation department for graduate school.
While I was at UCLA, I began collecting the concepts for the Skullgirls characters. I was inspired by seeing doujin games at the time, like EFZ and Melty Blood. I wanted to try collecting characters for a hypothetical roster. Most of them were stray designs that I’d just make for fun, but they were similar enough that they could belong in the same world. It was during my time at UCLA that some friends of mine involved in the fighting game community introduced me to Mike Z. He had a fighting game engine, but no art for it. At the time, Mike was still at Pandemic, which was right next to the UCLA campus. He was too busy with work to be able to focus on Skullgirls, and I went up north to work at Gaia Online. The founders of Gaia Online are people I knew from BAAU. When Pandemic was shut down, Mike had more time to work on Skullgirls.
I’d work on the art side during my free time, with the help of some contractors. We pitched the game to various companies, and eventually teamed up with Reverge. They had an established company and were more familiar with the business aspects of pitching games to publishers. When it looked like things were gaining traction, I left Gaia Online. There was also a short period of time when I did some contract work for Playdom. I’ve also done freelance jobs for WayForward and illustrations for some books and a few comics for anthologies, such as Lava Punch.
You are on Deviantart since over 6 years now, what are your thoughts about the site and how it changed over the years? Was DA helpful for your career at a point?
I think it’s an interesting site. It’s pretty useful for meeting other artists and getting one’s art out in a public space for people to see. I also would use Live Journal to post art, but it seemed like Deviant Art would get more traffic in comparison. I don’t use that many features of Deviant Art though, so I guess it’s about the same to me otherwise.
How came you and Autumn Games together for the Skullgirls Project?
Mike and I teamed up with Reverge to pitch the game to several publishers. Autumn was one of them.
Can you describe it a bit what your part in the Project is exactly?
I’m in charge of the pre-production materials, defining the character model sheets. I also do a lot of the initial official art (such as the action portraits usually used for promotion purposes). I lead the brainstorming for moves, as well as participating in the process.
I oversee the animators and clean up artists to make sure they follow the style and intended direction. Sometimes I animate some of the moves, or at least draw some of the main key frames. I figure out the main direction of the stories and look over the characters script to make sure its consistent with their personality and motivations.
I guess you played a lot fighting games by yourself, with which other fighter would you compare the Skullgirls characters mostly?
Well, obviously Mike is the more experienced fighter between the two of us, but I have always been a fan of fighting games from an art / animation / character perspective. I remember one time when we were talking to Arc, they mentioned that there are two types of fighting game fans: the more competitive types and the more character-centric ones. I’m certainly part of the latter group.
As for influences on my end and fighting games I enjoyed- I’ve always really liked the Darkstalkers series, as well Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. During college, I was into Guilty Gear and I was fascinated by the existence of doujin games. In regards to the character style, I’d say some combination of those 3 titles were the biggest influence. Of course, in regards to the engine and play style, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a big factor.
Would you like to work on Skullgirls 2 if the first game is going to be a success (not that anyone would doubt its success!) or would you prefer working on another new game?
I would like to continue Skullgirls if possible. There are plenty of things I wanted to do and planned to do for the future that we were not able to fit in the game. There are other genres and other ideas I’d like to work on in the future though, but I feel like Skullgirls is not quite complete yet.
Among the many character sketches and ideas you have posted on the internet, how many of them are intended for Skullgirls? And would you be willing to bring characters intended for other projects over into Skullgirls canon by popular demand?
Some are intended for Skullgirls. I don’t remember everything I wrote on LiveJournal, but usually if I said it’s for Skullgirls or put in a Skullgirls section, it’d be a potential character.
However, there are a lot of non-Skullgirls characters, and the answer about bringing them into the Skullgirls canon would mostly be no. I can’t put all of my eggs into one basket, hehe.
Parasoul and Ms Fortune Concept Sketches from 2007
Is Marin intended to be a Skullgirls character?
Ah, this question. I’m glad you asked. Marin is not a Skullgirls character.
What were some of the inspirations for Double’s design? Video game bosses? Horror movies? Lovecraft? H.R Giger?
Double’s design… I guess in addition to drawing girls, I enjoy drawing monster characters. I especially like drawing teeth and eyes. The inspiration came from a mix of horror movies, manga, and anime that have similar elements. For example, I’ve always enjoyed the Apostle designs and aesthetic of the Godhand from Berserk (which probably had influences from Giger as well). Lovecraft is also a huge element, but I suppose his influence spread into other works from which I had gained inspiration from anyway.
On Deviantart and now Game Art HQ.Com too, you can see tons of fan art, including Skullgirls fan art as well, what do you think about them in general?
I love seeing all of the Skullgirls fanart. It’s really fascinating and flattering to see people interested in the characters and world. Seeing fan support is a huge motivation. Also, since I have had some international influences in my style and character designs, it’s pretty satisfying to see fanart from overseas.
What are your favourite artists?
Some of my favorite artists include George Kamitani, Hiroyuki Imaishi, Nishimura Kinu, Bruce Timm, Shane Glines, Mike Mignola, and Bill Presing. I have many influences and favorite artists, also including Tim Burton and Foo Swee Chin. There are many others I like… too many to count. But those are some of the ones I tend to cite when asked this question.
Thats all, thanks a lot for the Interview Alex, i look forward to see and play Skullgirls when it gets released on PSN and XBLive. A new fighting game or series is very welcome..its time to see some new characters and settings than Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Soul Calibur and a few more again and again. Good Luck and much Success!!
You can read and see more about Skullgirls at the official website
You can see more of Alex works on his gallery at Deviantart
Thanks everyone for reading, my name is GBK and this is Game ART HQ.Com the site by a fighting game fan who loves game related art.
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