KILLER-GRAPHICS #8: Interview With Illustrator Jeff Zornow (PT 2/2)

Welcome to another fun filled installment of everyone’s favorite (almost) weekly horror column, Killer-Graphics! Hopefully everyone had a good weekend, and if you are reading this I can only assume that you didn’t die in some horrible freak Beer-Pong accident. Last week we brought you the first half of our 2 part interview with renowned horror illustrator Jeff Zornow. In that interview we discussed Jeff’s career up until this point, and we even touched on some of his upcoming projects. That was kind of mean for us to tease you like that, so in order to rectify that we give you the second half of our interview that delivers all the information we could possible give you without being sued. (Hey, we even threw in a fancy exclusive illustration) So what are you waiting for?! Make the dang jump! Don’t make me tell you twice!

THEoDEAD:”As a comic book artist you have worked with a lot of great writers, but it seems like Stefan Hutchinson is the yin to your yang so to speak. You two have worked together numerous times, but most recently with “Day Of The Dead: Desertion”. How did you first get involved with working with Stefan? It seems like your work compliments eachother so much, why is that?

Jeff Zornow:”I first ran into Stef, while he was wrapping production on the Halloween: 25 years of Terror documentary. I was answering an ad looking for Michael Myers/Halloween artwork. I got hired for the documentary to do some production art (this project earned me a spot on imdb). After that Stef and I stayed in contact and dreamed up a WICKED horror project titled “VOICES”, which we hope to be getting out sometime this year. Jump ahead a few years and Stef and I TRIED to get together for Halloween: NIGHTDANCE, and some of the Halloween comics fans may not now this bit of trivia, BUT Stef and I TRIED to convince Devils Due that I would be a BETTER choice of an artist for Nightdance than Tim Seeley. (This of course means NO OFFENSE to Tim, he’s a friend of mine!) And I KNEW DDP was not going to hand their First Halloween project to me ( a total stranger to them) as opposed to Tim who was their #1 artist. Anyway I DID even create some sample Halloween art for Nightdance that was never published. Well everything worked out for us and the following Halloween comic’s projects….sort of…

We Worked on HALLOWEEN: 30 years of Terror one-shot, and HALLOWEEN:THE FIRST DEATH OF LAURIE STRODE miniseries. And Then DDP essentially started screwing everybody over. And the fans are STILL waiting for the last issue of FDOLS#3!

But this year Stef, Barry Keating and I got together to do DAY OF THE DEAD: DESERTION for the Day of the Dead Blu-ray release from Arrow Video! And what I fun project that was! It came out splendid, and I think k Desertion proves that HALLOWEEN comics success was not a fluke. Stef is a brilliant writer in his own right, but he is better at treating franchise material than any other writer I know of. I think if New-Line and Wildstorm were putting out their horror line still, I could see Stef and I making a legendary run on FRIDAY THE 13th.


A Particularly Gruesome 2 Page Spread From “DAY OF THE DEAD: DESERTION”

As far as our work complementing each other, I think that has a lot to do with us both essentially having similar visions of the final product. We understand usually where each other is coming from. And we are both hardcore Horror nerds! So that always helps! And thanks to the overwhelming success of DAY OF THE DEAD: Desertion, there will be MORE projects for Stef, Barry and I , involving some MORE cult clas-sick Horror Blu-Rays/comic projects coming from Arrow Video! And though I won’t clue you in as to what’s coming, I’ll say that in MY opinion, the upcoming titles are even COOLER than Day of the Dead!”

THEoDEAD:”Haha “a sea of Zornow”. Am I the only one who finds that to be a very scary scenario? Kidding aside, you have become sort of the most well known horror artist out there, and as you said most people know Jeff Zornow “the t-shirt artist”, but I think that quite possibly (at least to me anyway) your best work as an artist was your most recent book, “DAY OF THE DEAD DESERTION”. (A book which I reviewed, and awarded 4.5/5 Skulls) I know you touched on it just now, and I LOVE that you and Stefan will be allowed to explore more of these stories, but I’m curious as to what it took for you to bring such a horror icon as “Bub” to life? I spoke with Stefan about this very subject when we interviewed him a few months back on the project, and he said that the most important part of these projects when dealing with popular characters is to treat them with respect. How do you two detail such rich stories into the lives of these characters so seamlessly?

Jeff Zornow:””Sort of the most well known horror artist out there” Ok, Theo, you really need to re-word that! Hahaha. I can’t say by any means that I’m the most well known horror artist out there by any stretch of the imagination. I’m pretty sure Bernie Wrightson, Mike Mignola, Guy Davis, and artists like them are all infinitely more popular than I am especially in name recognition alone.. Though I WILL challenge that I’ll bet you see more of MY art on T-shirts out there on the street than all three combined.

Welllllll Theo, if you had done some minor digging into my body of work, you would find that this is the SECOND time I’ve illustrated a DAY OF THE DEAD comic project. The first was with Writer Mark Kidwell, and Dead Dog comics’ rendition of DAY OF THE DEAD: THE RISING OF BUB. This story was more of a sequel, than prequel. Unfortunately Dead Dog folded before we could finish the 3 issue miniseries. ( seems to be a horrible curse I have with miniseries). So I was already very familiar with the DOTD universe and rendering Bub when DOTD: Desertion came into being.

I’ll agree with Stef in that you do indeed need to treat any long standing fictional character with respect. And when dealing with a franchise, it can become more challenging because you have to play by the rules and established lore, but still tell something NEW but not TOO DIFFERENT. If you tell something TOO DIFFERENT, then you will invariably piss off the old school fans, as well as confused new fans who had built up expectations. With “DOTD: Desertion” Stef and Barry were able to come up with an angle that was still VERY ROMERO, but didn’t focus on zombie action as much as the terrible adventure our human heroes go through during the zombie apocalypse, which was interesting, and worked extremely well. And it seems the fans really dig it too! the Blu ray has been selling well I was told just this morning, and because of that, we now have at least 3 other comic/blu-ray tie-ins coming from Arrow Video! Same creative team Barry, Keating, Stef Hutchinson, and myself.

However we ARE going to get a colorist so I can spend more time just drawing the books. It’s always a special joy to be able to color my own work in comics, it doesn’t happen often, but it’s a great opportunity to show everyone how I see my work colored. Traditionally colorists seem to not treat me well. I’ve only dealt with a handful of colorists who have seemed to know how to treat my work. Definitely my favorite of these is Kerian Oates. That guy makes me drool when he colors my stuff!”

THEoDEAD:” I actually read “The Rising Of Bub”, sir. ;) You underestimate me. Haha So obviously you and Stefan have a knack for delivering for the diehards of these franchises, so are there any particular characters or universes you’d like to work on particularly? Me and Stefan discussed it a bit in our interview that he’d like to work on “The Burning”, so I’m curious as to which ones you’d like to do.

Jeff Zornow:”Forget “The Burning” as awesome as that movie is, and one of my favs, “The Cropsy Maniac” is an old American folktale or urban legend, one which you could do some great stuff with, and probably be more successful with than attaching ” the Burning” title to it. I had musings of working on my own version of The Cropsy Maniac myself.

As far as working on my nerdy “dream projects”, through T-shirts I’ve already touched on almost all of them. But in comics, well I’ll just give a quick rundown….

Friday the 13th- I am a total dork for the first four chapters. So a comic that kept with the same original atmosphere as 1-the final chapter, I would die to draw that! Now I KNOW Friday the 13th has been done to “death in comics. I’m just saying I would have fun doing a book with the original Friday tone. The first Mini Wildstorm put out was pretty fantastic!

“The Call of Cthulhu” – My favorite thing in the world is giant monsters, especially one that intend to destroy human civilization….and this is the SCARIEST giant monster story ever written. I have been dreaming of adapting this as a graphic novel someday, in my own way.

GODZILLA – This will never happen, but I would love to pay tribute to my all -time favorite fictional character with a bad ass Kaiju-riffic Graphic novel.

Fulci’s “The Beyond”, “City of the Living Dead”, “House By The Cemetery”- Any of these PLEASE! I was close to a “House By The Cemetery” project once but it never happened.

“GORE SHRIEK”– This comic has had such an enormous impact on my life. To be able to resurrect that anthology from the grave, that would be fun! However I am tired of “retro” horror anthologies that just fall flat of their original runs. So Gore Shriek is probably better left for dead.


An Exclusive Sneak Preview Of The Upcoming ‘MOON LAKE’

That’s probably it for Nerdy things in pop culture I’d like to work on in comics. I have a much greater desire to do my own creator owned projects. I’ve been fortunate enough to do a nice handful of books and short stories that I’ve been able to write and illustrate myself. I have a plethora of stories, Mini Series, and graphic novels that I have plotted out. I’m always trying to come up with ideas for stories, that’s something I’ve been doing as a small child.

Mostly stuff about monsters destroying all of humanity. I hate us.

Right Now I’m looking to put together a collection of my short stories for my own anthology, titled THE GRAVE OF SCREAMING DEATH vol.1, It would be an exclusive book, I’d sell at conventions, and on my eventual new website.

It will have to be a black and white book due to printing costs, but hopefully this shouldn’t deter fans of my work.”

THEoDEAD:”Speaking of “VOICES”, Stefan mentioned that this would be the next major comic book project for the two of you in our interview together, and he teased that the title would allow you to really show off on the gore element. What else can you tell us about the title?

Jeff Zornow:”DO YOU HEAR VOICES???

Dutch scientific findings suggest 1 in 25 people regularly hear voices in their head.

I can tell you that the next 3 projects I’m doing with Stef will be the previously mentioned Arrow Video comic tie-ins. what I can tell you about VOICES, is that its a story Stef showed to me when we first worked together on the Halloween 25 years of terror documentary. Since then he and I had re-worked it, and when we get it out there I hope it will be something groundbreaking for us both. It’s really a horribly freakish story, actually a very nihilistic one, which is what turned me on to it in the first place. And well, you know our work, you and the horror community have seen what Stef and I can do with Michael Myers and BUB, (and soon some other clas-sick horror movie favorites!) But VOICES will be a chance for Stef and me to scare you all with something of our own.”

THEoDEAD:” I’m glad that “Desertion” worked out so well for you two, because as I stated earlier it was fantastic. With that said can you give any details on what fans can expect out of the new Arrow titles? Are you already working on them or are these going to be a lot further down the road?

Jeff Zornow:”We are already working on them as I write this…..

THEoDEAD:”For the fans that have been keeping up with Fright-Rags on Facebook we have gotten some early glimpses as the newest Jeff Zornow piece for the site with “Street Trash”. The shirt looks great, and it really feels like you’re truly up your game with every new tee. Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done so far? If so what?

Jeff Zornow:”Thanks, Street Trash was a nice piece to do not only because I love the movie, but its practically a School of Visual Arts student film! Almost everyone in the crew were SVA students at the time, so it’s cool be part of the Alma Mater!


Jeff’s Newest Fright-Rags Masterpiece: ‘STREET TRASH’!

One shirt that has not received any sneak peeks was the shirt I did after Street Trash….Ben and I agreed it is the DARKEST and most MORBID Fright-Rags shirt to date. I’m quite proud of that one.

I don’t have a favorite Fright-Rags shirt, though some are special to me for different reasons. I’ve Got my Cake! Cuz it was the first, and still sells well, Zombie vs. Shark, because it was SUCH a frantic process to create it, in the end I inked the severed zombie hand in the sharks mouth wrong, So he has two left hands! Both Ben and I missed this after hours of staring at it… it was caught before the shirt went to print, and I offered to fix it, but Ben said ” Fulci wouldn’t have fixed it!” so I couldn’t argue with that awesome logic! And yeah that shirt is still a hit!

Frankenhooker, and the Peter Vincent Fright Night TV guide ad(cuz those were both my ideas!).

And the next 3-4 Fright-Rags shirts I’m planning on designing are all my ideas as well (and I think they are almost all monster flicks). Unless they come out horrible and Ben vetoes them! Hahaha but I don’t think that’s ever happened yet!”


Two Of Jeff’s Fright-Rags Designs: “FRANKEN-HOOKER” And “FRIGHT NIGHT”

THEoDEAD:” Before we let you go, is there anything that you would like to say to your fans that have stuck with you over the years, or the people that have just discovered your work?

Jeff Zornow:”I appreciate any fan of my work, both old and new! It warms the worms in my heart to see that my work is being collected, followed, and admired. Without their undead support it would be much harder to hide all the corpses.

Though any fan of my work should only really need to know this…

” WHAT THE MOON BRINGS…

….AND WHAT THE NIGHT LEAVES BEHIND…..

…ARE THE REASONS WHY….

ZORNOW MUST BE DESTROYED!”

We would like to thank Jeff for all of his time in answering our questions and doing this interview. Special thanks also goes out to Kristy Jett over at Fright-Rags for making it all happen. For those of you who would like to keep up with Jeff and his work you can check out his official FaceBook page, and Jeff will also be supporting Fright-Rags at the upcoming Monster Mania Conventions! Also, be sure to keep things locked here at Graphic Content as we continue to bring you more news, interviews, reviews, and contests.