I met a couple of the B & G crew at Jet City Comic Con, in my home town of Tacoma Washington, and instantly decided I needed to talk with some of the Pacific Northwest’s finest comic creators. Blood and Gourd is a wonderfully written and expertly created horror book.
Ian: For those that don’t know, what is Blood and Gourd about?
JENZ: It’s the day before Halloween out at the local pumpkin farm. A family curse, a corporate buy-out, and hundreds of years of pumpkin abuse culminate into a supernatural bloodbath!
DH: Blood & Gourd is an all new horror story about killer pumpkins, alchemy, super-science, and not waiting around for someone else to do it.
Ian: I see a lot of classic horror style in Blood and Gourd, are there any specific influences from classic horror films or books?
DH: For me, the original Alien Trilogy had a lot to do with how the story unfolds. Mainly, I love the xenomorph as a creature with a unique life cycle and different variations. I hope that Ellen Ripley and Kitty Henderson also have a lot in common. Works like Tales from the Crypt & Fright Night also gave me lessons in keeping the story fun and entertaining.
JENZ: Blood & Gourd is a mash-up of all my favorite horror comics and films super concentrated into a satirical take on contemporary culture. Watching Creepshow at a young age opened my eyes to EC Comics, Eerie, and countless other subversive publications that scoffed at the complacency and arrogance of American exceptionalism. While hiding away in the suburbs, a spiritual crisis began to take shape. Commercialism and industrial-scale consumerism slowly rotted away at what made us individuals. I think that the ‘70s and ‘80s, especially, captured that sentiment through creature-features like Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Creeps and The Return of the Living Dead. Reanimator, Suspiria, Halloween 3, An American Werewolf in London, Texas Chainsaw Massacre; we really wanted to strike that balance of compelling, character driven narrative, true horror and comedy. Thanks to a solid team, I think we’ve achieved some of that.
Ian: I completely agree with the fact that you have a solid team and you have achieved an amazing book.
Ian: Where did the inspiration and idea for Blood and Gourd come from?
DH: The inspiration is and always has been to create something new that people will enjoy. Jenz and I started this project as a reaction to all those re-boots, re-hashes, and half-assed attempts by big budget creators. We wanted to stop complaining and start creating. We also just like making my each other laugh.
Ian: Are any of the characters based on real life people, if so who and why?
JENZ: Whether it’s deliberate or not, I’d say there’s a real-life equivalency to most of them. I’ll pace around like a madman trying to get into the mind of even the most disposable characters. If they’ve only got a panel or two before a pumpkin inhales their face, they at least deserve a proper send-off. Often this comes from things I’ve said, or DH has said, things you hear on the bus, things written on restroom walls… I think it helps add a little more depth.
DH: When you write a story about killer pumpkins, you need humans in there that people can find believable. Some of the characters are straight up comic book versions of our supporters. We look at Olympia and the Pacific Northwest as one of our characters too. We plan to really let the Pacific NW shine as the series continues.
Ian: What is your writing process like? Do you have any silly traditions or OCD ticks you must adhere to?
DH: Our motto is wilder, wilder, faster, faster. Writing sessions are based on having as much fun as we possibly can. When Jenz and I get together, there are lots of serious discussions about how this and that might work- then we try to make sure all of that is totally invisible so that our readers can sit back and enjoy the show. My office space is littered with Blood & Gourd notes, drafts, ideas, and what-have-you. Creating is about letting the imagination run wild and then doing the work to make that wild dream comprehensible to others.
JENZ: I’m a very visual person. Most of my ideas strike me out of nowhere. My wife knows that look in my eyes, all too well! I’m off on another planet. So I need a daily routine to sit down and do the actual writing. Once I get in the zone, I’m good to go. I do my best writing in the morning, and unless I’m having a brainstorming session with DH, I have to be able to walk around, talk to myself, and act out the scenes. If my Chihuahua could talk, he’d tell everyone I’m a lunatic. We have a shortlist of good friends and collaborators who also review what we come up with. They let us know what’s good and what sucks. They deserve a lot of recognition.
Ian: Do you have any specific creative influences; a person, place, or thing?
JENZ: I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dan O’Bannon, H. P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, silver-age Marvel Comics, and my grandmother giving me Gnomes by Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet on my 4th birthday. I think the gnome is my spirit animal.
DH: One of the first things that led me to believe that I could actually co-write with Jenz was a mutual adoration for John Waters. Writing is usually solipsistic-so it takes a special working relationship to stick with a project this long. For that reason, and many others, Jenz is also a person to add to that list for me.
Ian: Is it possible that we will see Blood and Gourd in another medium like TV or movies?
DH: That is the 12.5 million dollar question. We’d love to see the series done right in that medium.
JENZ: We’ve discussed it with a few indie filmmakers, but I think it’s important that we expand on the mythology a bit more. Let it do its comic thing for a while. I would love to do a limited episode series on Adult Swim. We’d love working with people who are awesome enough to put shows like Venture Brothers and Rick and Morty on the air!
Ian: Venture Brothers and Rick and Morty are some of the best shows on TV as far as I’m concerned! The idea of Blood and Gourd being made with that quality sounds pretty amazing to me.
Ian: have you had any training as a writer or are you just naturally talented?
DH: I’ve had lots of formal training, and despite that I still write. Writing, like any art, is more craft and hard work than talent. The things I’ve found most important to producing good stories are: connecting with literature and the arts, curiosity, and the work-ethic to actually produce.
JENZ: I’ve been writing for half my life, but I’ve been telling stories as long as I can remember. My first comic book was Theum the Woodchuck Elf when I was around 7 or 8. I’d still be writing whether it paid the bills or not. Oh wait, it still doesn’t!
Ian: Do you try to get any deeper meaning into your story or do you just aim to entertain?
JENZ: I think a good story sweeps you away and that the deeper parts of it are felt on a visceral level. If people walk away more entertained than enlightened, I’m perfectly fine with that. If we can plant a seed or two about income inequality, corporate media, and commercialism, that’s pretty cool, too.
DH: You’ve gotta do both. A hollow but entertaining story is likely to get boring. An overly serious tale with no attention to entertaining the reader may as well be a rambling list of things the writer wanted to say. The craft of story-telling is about appearing to effortlessly do both. If people want to read into it, there is enough there for it to happen. If people want to have a good time and eat popcorn, they can do that too.
Ian: as you started to write Blood and Gourd how important was it to balance dialog with visual storytelling?
DH: The writing with Blood & Gourd has evolved with the project. It started as a film script, so visuals were always part of the process. As we get finished pages together, we make sure that the dialog flows with what the reader can see. It is like orchestrating a musical piece; the dialog are the lyrics and the visuals are the other pieces in the band. You’ve all gotta be in tune.
JENZ: Collaboration means a lot to me. I like to be involved in the storyboarding and art direction, and not all comic book artists like working that way. At the same time, you want to allow artists to be artists. It’s probably the most challenging part of the process, but when you get it right incredible things can happen.
Ian: Let’s talk a little bit about Dead Peasant; is it a production company, a publishing company, both?
DH: We own and operate the company together. So, it is whatever we need it to be. That’s the cool thing about being truly independent. The company follows the art, not the other way around.
JENZ: When I was a kid, I noticed how most of my favorite comics, movies, and television shows were coming out of New York and L.A. That’s pretty far removed from my hometown of Shelton, WA! We really want to motivate local people to make their own art and tell their own stories. As Dead Peasant continues to grow, we hope to publish and produce other artists and writers who might not have the opportunity (or the time), otherwise.
Ian: I respect that so much and I commend you guys for trying to get the Pacific Northwest involved and successful. We need more creators willing to help others and encourage creation.
Ian: Does Dead Peasant have plans for anything other than Blood and Gourd?
DH: Oh yes. Tons. We are starting to gather momentum for a Horror Anthology. We also have many more exciting tales to tell; some sci-fi, some horror, and some genre-bending stuff. Blood & Gourd is our prime product right now, and our attention to detail demands that we focus solely on it for a while longer.
Ian: Your crew is rather large, at least larger than some indie book creator crews, how did you come about meeting?
DH: Short answer: The internet. Long Answer: we wanted a comic book with a production value that would allow it to sit next to any other comic book on the market. That meant working with talented people from every aspect of creation.
Ian: Comics are a unique medium where writers and artists have to really be in sync with each other; what do you do to stay in tune with each other?
DH: We stay very involved throughout the process. For whatever reason, many writers seem to be left out of the process of visual creation, and that is a silly strategy. Mutual accountability and attention to detail makes the final product really sing. Right now, credit here has to go to Jenz. He is doing a ton of great work as the de-facto creative director of the series.
JENZ: Watching ‘what happens next’ is part of the agony and ecstasy of working with new artists. If the art’s brilliant, we’re more than happy to take a risk. I think that there’s a dangerous focus on control these days. You have to rope-swing over the void a little bit. It’s okay to disagree, get your feelings hurt, and be called out on why it needs to be a particular way. You just have to stay professional and not be a dick about it.
Ian: You had a successful Kickstarter run and a second one coming soon, what are some secrets to a successful crowdfunding campaign?
DH: Crowdfunding is a full time job, treat it like one.
JENZ: It’s an emotional marathon. Unless you’re already famous, nobody knows who the hell you are, so your product better stand out. Send press releases to everyone you can think of, have your campaign inspected and perfected (weeks, maybe even months) before launch. Basically, it’s your existence until it ends, and the only person that cares if it stays relevant and in the public’s eye, is you! And here’s the paradox… if it fails, you have to separate your own personal value from the project failing. DH and I failed our first Kickstarter and it was demoralizing, but somehow we picked up the pieces of our decimated egos and succeeded a second time.
Ian: When is the new Kickstarter for issue 2 of Blood and Gourd scheduled for release?
DH: If you mean when is issue #2 coming out, we aren’t giving release dates any more. We are working on it right now, and it will be released when it is good and done. We put the quality of the final product above everything else. In print, you don’t have a second chance to get it right.
Ian: Any advice for people wanting to break into comics?
DH: Don’t wait for permission. Don’t follow advice. Don’t settle. Recently, Jenz and I came up with a company slogan: Create what creates you.
JENZ: If you can see yourself doing it no matter what, then do it. Just be prepared to keep doing it until there’s nothing left. Countless times, we’ve wanted to quit. When contemplating the time, energy, and money that’s been swallowed up into this project; it’s incomprehensible. That being said: here we are. Will the Peace Corps come after me if I say it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love?
Ian: What are your thoughts on print vs digital?
JENZ: Plenty of pros and cons for both.
DH: Do what you want. I need something I can hold in my hands, roll up in my pocket, and something that I could read when the world falls apart.
Ian: I have been asking this question for a while and I have firmly decided that both are the way to go; I feel reaching out to as many platforms as possible is the smartest way to go.
Ian: How do you feel about sites like Comixology, Indy Planet, and Drive Thru Comics?
JENZ: They serve a purpose and can sometimes provide additional exposure. As long as they offer a fair rate to the company producing the actual books, I’m all for it. If they think they’re entitled to half or more for just putting the comic on a webpage, well… that’s a problem. Making a quality comic costs a lot of money, and taking half or more of the sales can make the cost of production impossible to sustain for an indie company.
Ian: Do you plan on getting Blood and Gourd on sites like these?
JENZ: If the Stemheads want it, so shall it be done!
DH: Unfortunately, it may eventually be a necessity for the survival of the series. The publishing ecosystem is dominated by a few massive vegetative species that threaten to coat the creative world in a grey uniform mold. Fuck that and fuck them. For now, if you want a digital copy, email us. We’ll find a way to get you one.
Ian: Issue 2 of Blood and Gourd is on the way, are there any other things you’re working on or are you solely focused on issue 2 of Blood and Gourd?
DH: Lots of other things are in the early stages of production. Right now, this series is where most of the elbow-grease is going.
Ian: Where can fans get a hold of Blood and Gourd?
Ian: Where can fans get a hold of you and other Blood and Gourd creators?
We love interacting folk on all the social media sites. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.