When writer (and friend) Chris Dahlen approached me about illustrating his zombie story, I had only one word for him–BRAINS!
Actually, I don't remember what I said. I was hesitant at first because I illustrate books for children–a horror comic seemed like it could be a a bad career move. I read the story and it wasn't what I feared. It was gruesome, yes – we're talking zombies after all– but it wasn't ultra-violent. I knew the final art would never appear in my official portfolio, but I could see blogging about it one day. Also, graphic novels are very popular in children's publishing and I wanted to give it a try. Well, try is not really accurate – I grew up on Marvel comics and drew my own comics in high school, college and beyond. I wanted to show the world (and show myself) that I could still tell a story in panels.
I quickly remembered that making comics is HARD. It was a real
challenge to break down the story into the three pages I was allotted. Pacing is key – the story had to be evenly distributed over the three pages and the page breaks shouldn't feel haphazard. I sketched dozens of possible layouts looking for a solution that made sense.
A typical children's book project requires me to think in terms of single- and double-
page spreads. For this comic, I had to treat EACH panel like a spread–and each panel/spread had to relate to the others on the page (and to the page as a whole). It took a lot longer than I expected to wrap my head around the project. Eventually I found a way to put the puzzle pieces together.
The final product took on a life and spirit that was somewhat unexpected. Chris wrote a darkly funny story inspired by his experience with unruly (albeit darling) children. I found something profoundly sad about the story and that's reflected in my illustrations. I typically work from a completed manuscript and don't meet the author; I enjoyed the working with Chris, discussing the story and the themes it was evoking (intentionally and unintentionally).
"My Lil Zombie" appears in the anthology "ZombieBomb! The Feed" published by Terminal Press. The ZombieBomb series is the BRAIN(S!)-child of Adam Miller and Rich Woodall, who wrangle the writers and artists, edit and design the 64-page comic and also contribute artwork. It's an impressive feat and they have a cool property on their hands. Congrats, guys! The first printing of "ZombieBomb! The Feed" is already sold out but there will be a second run coming soon. I hope to take part in a comic convention to promote the book at some point – stay tuned!