Barbra J. Dillon, Fanboy Comics Managing Editor: Congratulations on the recent release of Autopsy: Feast for a Funeral #1! For our readers who may be unfamiliar with the title, how would you describe its story?
VB: Well, there’s this bottom-feeder uncle that shows up at his brother’s house, because he came across some weird things he “picked up” on the road, and he doesn’t know what to think because strange things are happening, and he claims he can now see the dead. It’s Halloween, so when the brothers leave to go bar-hopping, the kid living at home takes the stuff to his girlfriend’s house and calls up his friend to say he has some party favors. When the kids play around with the uncle’s junk (a radio, a Ouija board, and an ancient book of spells), they set free paranormal spirits that haunt a house in a nearby cornfield. The spirits were surgeons when they were alive. They were also cannibals. So, out of this cornfield come these ghosts that abduct some of the kids and drag them back into the haunted house. And then, these bikers come along, and they’re pissed off that someone’s partying in their private spot. Yeah. The perfect storm for mass carnage. Things get bloody real quickly. Insert evil laugh.
BD: The comic is officially licensed by the death metal band Autopsy. Did you know initially that you wanted to work with the band, and how did you work towards the creative partnership on the series?
VB: I never had ambitions to work with Autopsy, even though I have several of their albums in my music collection (I can’t believe I’m still saying “albums.”), but I have always gravitated towards comics that were done for rock bands (the old Revisionary Press stuff, the '70s Marvel KISS comic, Chaos! Comics Cryptic Writings of Megadeth, etc.). What happened was a publicist I knew over at Fresno Media got to talking with me one day, and I said I’d jump at the chance to do something similar to those old rock n’ roll comics. I had just finished interviewing Anthrax for an article, and that’s how we got to talking about comics (the whole Judge Dredd tie-in). He asked me if I could do a book if he lined up Autopsy for me. (The band had just reformed and were releasing All Tomorrow’s Funerals.) I laughed and said, yeah, as if he could pull off such a thing. The next thing I knew, I was talking to lead singer/drummer Chris Reifert from the band, and Chris said that a comic based on Autopsy’s music sounded like a good idea to him. So, I said my favorite album cover from the band was Severed Survival, and how I thought the cover itself could be turned into a story. That was it. I sat down that weekend, looked at that cover, and let my imagination go crazy. My wife kept her distance.
BD: Where did you derive inspiration for the book’s characters?
VB: The main character, the one in the Freddy Krueger outfit, was modeled after Johnny Depp. Bill was modeled after Bill Murray. Nicole was the girl next door that would never date me. Heather was the girl in school that would never date me. Charlie is modeled after Charlie Sheen. Kim is modeled after Kim Kardashian. Bug is modeled after Rob Zombie. And, the surgeons are right off the cover to Severed Survival. Other characters like the uncle, the father, Bug’s posse, Kim’s mom, they were disposables, so I pretty much told my artist, Mats Engesten, to do what he wanted.
BD: How would you describe your creative process of working with artist Mats Engesten?
VB: That is what makes our work relationship so great. I’m a very Type “A” personality. A control freak. So, when I sit down to storyboard, I actually go through dozens and dozens of images I’ve collected over the years. I have over 600 discs full of images and video clips. And, I’ll scour through images, looking for the perfect “scene.” I think like a director, and I choose the image I want to show. I send Mats the image, and I say, “I want it to look like this, dude.” And then, he bangs out his interpretation. And, I have to say, 9 times out of 10, he hits the nail on the head. Little, if any, editing is ever necessary. The man is beautiful. I’m very lucky to be working with him.
BD: The day prior to the comic’s release, Autopsy released their latest album, Tourniquets, Hacksaws, and Graves. Do you feel that the album and the comic complement one another, or are they meant to be enjoyed separately?
VB: Oh, they’re meant to be enjoyed separately. Two different beasts. But, I guess you could read the comic and listen to the album at the same time. That would be cool. The comic was actually first developed in 2012, when Autopsy released their prior compilation, All Tomorrow’s Funerals. We got together backstage at Maryland Deathfest and signed our pact in blood before they did their set on opening night. The printed version of the comic hit the streets later that year on Halloween, October 31, 2012.
BD: Do you foresee Autopsy being an ongoing series, and what do you have in store for readers in Issue #2?
VB: Well, there’s no plans to do a sequel. This book is actually a one-shot. But, singer/drummer Chris Reifert had mentioned the band would be up for doing something that tied into their album Mental Funeral. That one is the fan-favorite, so it would be the first option to entertain, if the guys want to do another book. We’ll see.
BD: Besides Autopsy (and your work as the Editor of PREVIEWSworld), are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you are able to share with our readers?
VB: Yeah, I’ve actually been working on a couple projects this year. I’ve collected adult comics all my life, and I always said that if I could do adult comics, I would do them MY WAY. And now, I am. If you’re familiar with Joe Casey’s Sex or Howard Chaykin’s Black Kiss 2, then you’ll get the picture. Those guys gave me a “Get Out of Jail Free” card and didn’t know it. So, what I have in production now are an erotic sci-fi horror comic and an erotic crime/noir comic. The crime title features a VERY famous lady who did adult films back in the ‘80s, and we’re hooking up with another famous adult star at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con to get things rolling.
She and I crossed paths earlier this year on Facebook, and, before I knew it, the idea I had been kicking around for a while was something I mentioned to her online, and she responded with “Let’s do it!”
We’re both fans of Bettie Page, and when I explained that this book would be unconventional like Bettie’s 1950s fetish photos with Irving Klaw, she was hooked. She wouldn’t let it go. So, we’re doing it. And, I’m really excited about it, because no one is doing a book like this today. And, I would know, given my day job. So, I’m really stoked, because it’s a different direction from my Autopsy comic, or my previous licensed comic for Dying Fetus (Supreme Violence). Given the people I’m working with now, I’m very confident that we’ll be able to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign by the end of this year.
BD: This being Fanboy Comics, would you care to geek out with us about your own favorite comics and graphic novels?
VB: Well, as I’ve said from day one in The PREVIEWS Party Podcasts I do with Jason Enright, my reading time is limited, because I’m married with children. Being a daddy and a husband is a full-time job. But, when I do get to read, I love reading the horror that’s coming out of Avatar Press. That’s my real passion. I love Crossed and Extinction Parade (stoked EP it’s going to be a TV series). I also love Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead (been collecting it, like Crossed, since issue #1). I also devour Fatale. I read Saga (naturally). Oh, and I’m really into what JMS is doing with Ten Grand. Good stuff, man.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell Fanboy Comics' readers who would like to learn more about the band Autopsy, and the comic?
VB: Well, the band is pretty much considered to be the cornerstone of death metal. So, if you’re into extreme music, you HAVE to listen to their stuff. Want to know what it feels like walking through a graveyard on Halloween night? Listen to Autopsy. I owe these guys a lot, because of what they did for metal, and for what they did for E-Comix. They’re all heart. I’m honored to have worked with them and flattered to call them “friends.” Check them out on their “Autopsy (Official)” Facebook page for all the latest band news and merchandise. And, as far as the Autopsy comic goes, I put everything I had into this book, because I wanted readers to know what it was like to see a nightmare when they’re still conscious. So, bottom line, it’s a self-contained TV episode wrapped up in fifteen minutes. And, the layout for Feast for a Funeral is the E-Comix model moving forward: big panels, big art, and larger text that makes it easy on the eyes when you’re reading comics on a phone or tablet. We’re making comics for the next generation of readers.