I live just outside of Denver, Colorado, with my wife, Hannah, daughter, Emma, and cat, Halfsies. I have been working in the comics industry for over ten years, producing titles including Dracula (Graphic Horror), The Picture of Dorian Gray (Graphic Horror), Journey Into Her Story, Heaven Forbid, Maiden Voyage, The Tempest (Graphic Shakespeare), and my newest book, My Gal, the Zombie. I have been a guest artist at the Charles M. Schulz Museum, Buffalo Bill Museum, Denver Art Museum, Cartoon Art Museum, and a variety of art galleries. My art has been featured by Scum of the Earth Church, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Comic Book Classroom, Antarctic Press, and musical groups such as the Misfits, Our Corpse Destroyed, HairBall8 Records, Five Iron Frenzy, and a variety of others. My absolute favorite film has been The Bride of Frankenstein since I was around ten years old and I always have General Mills Monster Cereals at home, even out of season!
Back a few months ago I met Mr Dan Conner, artist, graphic novelist and all around good guy, he gave me the opportunity to check out his work My Gal The Zombie, with news that it would be going to print in the near future. I can't lie I've never been that comic book gal, but I am always looking to try new things and I do want to check out more of them, so I jumped at the opportunity. Dans offering immediately put me on point as it was something completely unexpected. MGTZ is this sweet, fun, family friendly horror comic based on a young gals life as a newly transformed Zombie, her frenemy London, her guy who loves her regardless, and along the journey she makes a few new friends!
I began reading it and was really in love with the bright colors, throwback style, and simple yet meaningful storylines. Its stuff that everyone can relate to, and it engaged my daughter endlessly. Even today as I put together the layout for this piece she looks at pictures of Chelsea (the lead in MGTZ) and tells her brother that "This is my friend the zombie, Chelsea!" She adores her! So anyway I knew as soon as I finished that if Dan Conner was interested I wanted to get him as a featured artist, because his is a voice we don't really get too much of in the horror industry, a talented man of faith who isn't ashamed to admit what he is and has found a way to balance his beliefs within an industry that you would think wouldn't be too forgiving of such a thing.
Dont get me wrong though Dan Conner isn't a man who Preaches through his art, he is a talented artist who does what he loves within a guideline that he is comfortable with, and it works! Hes a well known artist in his home state of Colorado, and his popularity just keeps growing! He has ten publications under his belt, with an 11th coming soon, and has done numerous artistic jobs within the music industry working with The Misfits, HairBall8 Records and Wonder. He's an interesting as he is talented, and I hope you enjoy getting to know the man behind My Gal The Zombie as much as I did.
With My Gal The Zombie graphic novel debuting soon for those who havent had the pleasure of seeing or reading her before can you tell us a bit about who she is?
Yep! MGTZ is about a young woman, Chelsea, who is turned into a zombie. I had actually done three graphic novels with her and her friends before doing this zombie version. After all that, I wanted a change of pace. I did one story with her as a zombie. It went well, so I’ve kept going!
Where Did the idea for Chelsea come from I read a bit about it being an off shoot from something with Heaven Forbid?
That’s right. She was one of the favorite characters in Heaven Forbid proper and ultimately became the lead of that series. It was natural to extend these characters into the MGTZ horror comedy context. I’d used them in other settings a couple of times. I like their personalities and how they interact with each other in various environments. Were I to set up a new cast of characters, they’d essentially be forms of the same ones. I preferred to stick with characters I knew and liked as opposed to making new ones.
If im not mistaken My Gal The Zombie is your 11th publication in the comic genre, ranging in style and content, so I have to ask which was the most difficult, and which is your personal favorite?
You’re correct. It’s essentially my tenth graphic novel, but I did a fair amount of work on Pirates vs. Ninjas: It Takes a Pillage, although that was not “my” series. I think that Journey Into Her Story was the most difficult because I took so long on it. I had just had the first Heaven Forbid book published, which was mostly a narrative composed of individual comic strips. I decided that I wanted to write a full book length story. I guess I followed all the steps you’re supposed to for that book. I plotted, scripted, and sketched the entire book before I drew the first page. A year into it, I found that what I had would be better served as two books, which is why Heaven Forbid vol. 2 was released before Journey, which was published almost 3 years after I started working on it. That’s longer than it took me to get my Bachelor’s degree! I’m still very proud of it, but oddly enough, it was overshadowed by MGTZ, which is also my personal favorite. It melds all of these things I like so much and pays homage to older forms of comics and film.
When and why did you decide to take My Gal The Zomie from strip, to graphic novel? And how long was it in the making?
One of my favorite sayings is, “Make the most of every opportunity.” That was specifically in my head when I drove to my first interview for a comics internship, with Antarctic Press, shortly after I turned 18. With that expression as a guiding force, I did one zombie illustration of Chelsea, which provoked a great response. So, I decided to do more- a full comic story. I put that in a mini comic at Denver Comic Con 2013. I sold out of those and kept doing new stories and issues. By the fall I realized I would soon have enough for a book. Oddly enough, the graphic novel comes out a year after the first mini comic was released.
I know you have a pretty cool special debut planned for My Gal The Zombie, but could you fill the readers in on the where and when of official release?
I’ll be debuting the book at Denver Comic Con 2014. But, the real story is that it technically debuts at the 3rd annual Mile High Comics pre-party, at their Jason St. Mega-Store, the biggest comic store. These events are really great. I’ll be among other guests such as Neal Adams, Lou Ferigno, and George Perez. The folks at Mile High Comics have been good to me for years and they continue to be.
What does the future hold for MGTZ & Chelsea? I know you've looked at a couple different live action projects for her character, anything in the works that you can expand on for us?
Assuredly. I always like to hold on to a few cards, but essentially, we can start filming as soon as the schedules of our team align. I’m hoping for this to soon happen after Denver Comic Con. We’ll be doing an “Elvira” horror hosting sort of thing, with Chelsea providing host segments to public domain classics. Stuff like Carnival of Souls and Nightmare Castle. A popular Denver cosplayer, Tara Piehl, will be starring as Chelsea. We already have Stay Sick Pictures on board and through them we will have quite good distribution of the product. They previously put out a documentary on psychobilly music, The Psychobilly Sickness. They’d actually been trying to find a way to re-release some of these older classic b-movies and this project seems to be a good fit.
You mentioned being a guest artist at the Schulz museum, and I have always been a fan like many can you tell us how that came about, and what that experience meant to you?
“Make the most of every opportunity,” right? I went to the Schulz museum where they have a drawing area. I drew a strip, knowing that they have guest artists from time to time, and showed it to one of their staff members. We kept in touch, scheduled the visit, and I had a great time. It really is a great museum. It was amazing! Everyone there was wonderful and exceedingly generous.
Readers may not realize but you and Schulz have something in common beyond comics, as he was, you are a man of faith in an industry. It would be easy to assume that makes you a bit of a stand out, has this made your journey as a professional in the industry more difficult?
It probably has. There is an entity who essentially refused to work with my main publisher, Lamp Post, due to the religious content found in many of our books, which they described as not being profitable financially. That’s fine. They know their business model and what works for them. I won’t name any names, but because of that, few of my comics have had the exposure they could have had, were their content different, or were I associated with a different publisher. Since that time, we have been told they will work with us, which leaves me very optimistic. If someone doesn’t want to associate with me or my work because I’m a Christian, then I guess we’re all at a loss. Thankfully, a book like My Gal, the Zombie doesn’t delve into religion or have anything which I anticipate would cause any problems. The purpose of that book is not to express theology. In fact, I think only two of my graphic novels even deal with theology.
In a genre that has grown to be so much more graphic and adult orientated over the years how do you personally balance your faith and your work?
I just draw what I know and what makes sense to me. I am a monster horror fan and have been for years. My favorite films were the Universal monster movies when none of the kids my age were watching those movies. One reason I like those movies so much is that they didn’t rely on explicit content to present a horror story. To me, horror is all about metaphor. Monsters are manifestations of the same sorts of things humans have struggled with throughout recorded history.
Beyond that, and I’m so glad you asked, there are many connections between my faith and horror stories. I mean, honestly, I believe in a God who was killed on a cross and supernaturally rose from the grave. His followers wear crosses, a murder device, around their necks as a reminder. He said that if we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we’ll live forever. I do believe that is a metaphor, but I think that horror, when best used, is a metaphor. I think that demon possession and casting out demons is real. I’ve had people ask me to pray to cast demons out of them (I always encourage such folks to seek psychological help, too). Stuff like that is just normal for me. That’s the world I live in; I’m not an atheist. I believe in the supernatural. If you look at classic monsters, you can see the religious parallels. Frankenstein is directly about a man who wants to be God and the implications therein. Dracula has very religious aspects and shows the power of our faith over evil. Werewolves very much illustrate the struggle between our humanity and a more animalistic nature. And beyond all of that, we have centuries worth of hymns that sing about worshiping a Holy Ghost and being washed in blood. Growing up with things like that, it’s not much of a stretch to be a horror fan. Sadly, people don’t sing those songs as much anymore.
Speaking of ... You appear to be a bit of a dichotomy, when you look at some of your projects. So Im curious how do you reconcile working with bands that we all know and love like The Misfits with your internal belief system? Which looking from the outside seem like they would be such polar opposites of each other.
I am quite a dichotomy! I’m a big fan of the Misfits. I’m much more into their more recent records with monster songs than older ones which deal more with violence or darker themes. If you read and watch some recent interviews with Jerry Only, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. He’s been rather vocal about his personal beliefs, too. I am not saying that the Misfits, as an entity, embody those beliefs, but knowing where he is coming from, I’m definitely not seeing a polar opposite in this circumstance. To me, people are people. I want to collaborate with just about everyone I can. I’m not concerned about if they have the same worldview as me; that really puts me in a box. At the same time, you have to draw the line somewhere. If it’s symbolism and monster themed fun, I love it! If it’s demonic or occult, it’s definitely not my thing.
Which brings us back to My Gal The Zombie, I know you have a super cool soundtrack releasing to coincide with the novel, can you tell us a little about it and why you decided to pair MGTZ with this mix of Psychobilly bands?
I think that psychobilly lends to the retro vibe of My Gal, the Zombie. It’s an interesting genre which combines art from different eras- 1930’s movies, 1950’s style, 1970’s music. It sort of exists outside of time. I see MGTZ as very similar. It draws on older art and fashion styles, but they still have cell phones and DVDs. I thought about not including those current elements, but that lends to it existing outside of a set decade and allows me to tell stories utilizing contemporary products. I’d been talking and working with Ryan Davis at Hairball8 Records/Stay Sick Pictures for years about different projects. Honestly, for about nine years. He discussed wanting to do compilations with music in his catalog. I mentioned we could build one around MGTZ and how we could get other songs which fit thematically. I think all in all, only one artist I pursued didn’t make it on the record, but he was on tour in Europe at the time!
How has the comic industry changed since you first published?
It’s so weird that I can now look at over a decade of published experience in this industry. That’s quite a blessing, but it has been a long road. I’ve definitely seen technological advances. For example, when I started, lots of comics were backed up on CDs. That doesn’t really happen much anymore. The standards for comics seem to have changed a lot, too. Even then, there were books which could sell a good amount of copies which might not be considered professional looking today. I think the accessibilities of producing professional products has very much enhanced. I could draw, produce, and print my own comic in my home. I can print better looking comics off of my laser printer at home than you used to be able to only get by doing larger print runs.
Do you feel its changing for the better or worse, and why?
I don’t think it is better or worse, just different. Look at comic conventions. Thousands of people go to them, almost every weekend! You can drive down a city street and see an Iron Man billboard. When I think about that, I ask myself, “What world do I live in and how did I get here?” At the same time, many of the people going to the comic based movies or even conventions don’t read many comics.
With the last years work all leading up to this month now in place and set to go, what is next for you?
I hope, more of everything! I definitely will continue with MGTZ as long as I have the stories to tell and people to read them. There isn’t a set plan, but I would expect another book or two at least. Also, more products. Last year, we debuted the card cases, hot sauce, and eye shadow. This year, I have another hot sauce, buttons, and lip balm. If it works, I’ll keep going with it!
Is there anything we haven't touched on today that you would like to let the readers know? If so please feel free!
Just for people to follow my webcomic at www.crazygoodcomics.com and My Gal, the Zombie in general at www.mygalthezombie.com. The MGTZ graphic novel will be available for order on Amazon and many other sites by June 10. Also, my twitter handle is @crazygoodconner and go to my NEW fb page at www.facebook.com/mygalthezombie ! Thanks for asking such great questions- it's been fun!