Terrance Zdunich (“THE MOLTING”, “REPO THE GENETIC OPERA”) may be best known to fans for his portrayal of the Grave Robber in the instant cult classic “REPO THE GENETIC OPERA” of which he helped to create. The man can do it all, from singing, to acting, to writing and illustrating his original comic title “THE MOLTING”, Zdunich is a rare talent the likes of which you seldom see these days. Recently we had the extreme privilege sitting down with Terrance about his Indy comic book title as well as “REPO”, cockroaches, little girls with red pigtails and a psychotic streak, and yes, even ‘the other REPO’. The full interview after the jump.
TD: Well first off thanks again for your time, Terrance. Before we go into “THE MOLTING” why don’t you go ahead and give readers a quick introduction of yourself and your contributions to the genre for those who might not be familiar with your work?
TZ: Thanks for having me. I’ve been a fan of the macabre for as long as I can remember, and I was just a kid when I became hooked on horror films. It started when my parents took me to this cheesy wax museum and forbade me from entering the “scary” section: a gallery that featured wax icons of horror. I of course snuck away from my folks and into the monster maze, which had an entire Exorcist wing. It was a replica of Regan MacNeil’s bedroom, replete with furniture animatronics and blowing curtains. When I saw the wax effigy of Regan covered in blood and puke, I was both terrified and mesmerized. It was this experience—combined with the wicked transformation sequence in An American Werewolf in London—that made me want to tell stories, and, more specifically, dark stories. And…that’s what I do.
TD:Of course most probably know you as being the creator of “REPO: THE
GENTIC OPERA” and not as a comic book writer/illustrator yet, but how long have you been into doing your own comics? Is “THE MOLTING” your first foray into the genre?
TZ: Yes, The Molting is my first venture into the world of comics, but I’ve always enjoyed drawing and earned a B.F.A. in illustration from Otis College of Art & Design. I’ve also worked as a professional illustrator, specializing in storyboards for over a decade, and the comic book-type drawings in REPO! are my handiwork. I love drawing and storytelling, so comics seemed a natural medium.
TD: Obviously ‘THE MOLTING’ is a story that is very different than most offerings into the genre in that it sort of forgoes huge action sequences for a more methodical approach to the human condition. Where did you get the inspiration behind the series?
TZ: The idea first appeared when I was a kid. I grew up in a city neighboring Disneyland, home of “The Happiest Place on Earth”. As a teenager, I remember thinking it odd that the world’s “Happiest” kingdom was planted smack-dab in the middle of a slum, a neighborhood that was scary to be in at night. It was this paradox that inspired the story and setting of The Molting.
TD: One of the things that attracted me the most to “THE MOLTING” was that it is a completely independent effort. Can you let readers into what the creative process for such an endeavor as this is? It has to be a lot of work to pull double time as writer and illustrator.
TZ: Yeah, it’s a ton of work. The hardest part is balancing the creative aspect (writing and drawing) with the business aspect (manufacturing and distribution). If I was collaborating with a mainstream publisher on The Molting, I suppose that some of the business load would be lightened, but that load would probably be replaced with time-spent finding and pleasing said publisher. In other words, creating art is always difficult, so I’d rather spend my time producing a finished product, and then seek help releasing the entire book as a graphic novel. This is not unlike how many independent films find distribution. Thankfully, due to the loyal fanbase that REPO! has amassed, I’m able to direct-market the first printing of The Molting to people who are already following my work as an artist. These sales are helping to finance the production costs of each subsequent issue: like with REPO!, it’s the fans that are keeping The Molting alive. So, thank you all for your continued support! If you’re not a fan of REPO!, I invite you to check out The Molting. It’s a very different beast than REPO! (for one, The Molting has no singing!) and its pages are full of the dark, twisted stuff that fans of horror love.
TD: For those who haven’t read an issue of ‘THE MOLTING’ yet, what is the story about?
TZ: The Molting is the portrait of an American family…so, almost by definition, the family is dysfunctional. The Pryzkinds, like the families of cockroaches that infest the walls of their home, have to adapt to survive in what is a hostile world. The title The Molting is in reference to this adaptability. Cockroaches are great at this: when they get too big for their shells, they bust out and form newer, better armor. They molt, as do the human characters in the story. In essence, The Molting is a twisted retelling of the American Dream that features Disneyland, cholos, cavemen, and roaches…lots and lots of roaches.
TD: Oh yea, lots of bugs. There is quite the fixation on cockroaches with the story, why is that? Were they something growing up that always interested you or did you just sort of have the general idea and run from there?
TZ: I’ve always liked bugs, especially cockroaches, because they are such survivalists. Initially, I conceived of the roaches in The Molting to act as creepy background elements in the Pryzkind home, but, after researching the fascinating behaviors of these wall-dwellers, I decided to make them into main characters.
TD: : Do you view the comparison of humans to insects as a metaphor or something much more literal?
TZ: A little from roach column A, and a little from roach column B.
TD: There is a lot more going on in “THE MOLTING” than just bugs and metaphors though. What about “GUILTY SUSIE”?
TZ: Guilty Susie, the protagonist in chapter one of The Molting, becomes the antagonist in the chapters that follow. This is a perfect example of The Molting’s distortion of the American dream: when Susie is introduced, she’s an innocent twelve-year-old girl who the audience is meant to root for, but, through a series of unfortunate events, Susie’s innocence is lost and she becomes a sort of evil queen in the world of The Molting. As an adult, Susie rules over the Pryzkind’s dysfunctional household. The moral of the story: just ‘cause the little girl’s got cute red pigtails and bangs does not mean that she won’t blow your head off if you cross her.
TD: Back onto “REPO” for a moment, we have heard a lot of rumors about a sequel or maybe even a spin-off comic to the film. Can you shine any light or dispel the rumors floating around?
TZ: REPO!’s co-creator, Darren Smith, and I have ideas for additional stories within the world of REPO!, but, at the moment, no studio has come to us with a serious proposition to fund a sequel. REPO!’s director, Darren Lynn Bousman, has expressed interest in directing serial REPO! webisodes, which could be really exciting, potentially groundbreaking, and more affordable than shooting an entire film. The hard reality is that it costs lots of money to make a movie like REPO!, so until our studio sees REPO! as a profitable enterprise, I doubt we’ll see much movement in the sequel department. That said, if REPO!’s cult fanbase continues to grow, anything is possible, and I imagine we’ll see the world of REPO! expand into other mediums as well, like comic books and action figures.
TD: I have to ask since we are on the eve of the release for “REPO-MEN” as we speak now, what is your opinion of the film? (if you can speak about it) Earlier this week Darren stated that seeing the film actually HELPS the opera, do you see that being the case?
TZ: I think Repo Men’s existence, with its plot and marketing campaign similarities, has unintentionally shinned a spotlight on REPO! The Genetic Opera. As you can imagine, I’ve been bombarded with questions about “that other repo movie” since Universal dropped the Repo Men trailer back in December. My response is always the same: if someone brings up Repo Men, tell ‘em to check out REPO! Opera. I posted this blog with my detailed thoughts on the matter, if you want to know more: http://www.terrancezdunich.com/blog/?p=2804
TD: If all goes well with “THE MOLTING” do you think you might continue the series after the initial run ends in some way?
TZ: Perhaps. At the moment, however, it’s all consuming just trying to get to the end of this four hundred and fifty page monster. On a good day, I can draw and ink one page…so you do the math! That said, I think that the world and characters of The Molting are rich enough to support ongoing storylines. If I haven’t blown my brains out by then, ask me this question in a year and a half when this twelve-part story arc is completed. In the meantime, you can check out the first three installments of The Molting at www.TheMoltingComic.com. For those of you who are already following the series, issue four should be available mid-May. Thanks for your continued support.
TD: Do you have any other projects coming up in the near future?
TZ: Yes, I have some exciting things on the horizon. For one: I’m working on a music project with REPO!’s soundtrack producer, Joseph Bishara. The vibe of this project is very much in keeping with the wacky cabaret theatrics of the ten-minute operas that eventually grew into REPO! The Genetic Opera. Joe and I plan to tour the act, so stay tuned. Also: I’m preparing to film an online artist’s tutorial of my process creating The Molting. It will be a sort of Bob Ross-meets-Ted Bundy affair, so you won’t want to miss it. To stay updated on what I’m up to, visit my blog: http://www.TerranceZdunich.com/blog.
Everyone here at Bloody-Disgusting would like to thank Terrance for taking his time to sit down with us and answer our questions. To purchase a copy of “THE MOLTING” please visit Terrance’s Official Website and support the title. “REPO THE GENETIC OPERA” is also available in stores everywhere now.