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Under the Flesh is a new zombie comic book with a twist. Find out what makes this zombie apocalypse different and the team behind it. First up, the artist of Under the Flesh, J.L. Giles-Rivera.
What is your comic book Under the Flesh about?
JL Giles: It´s basically a post-apocalyptic survival story that mixes animalistic zombies, horror, and sci-fi elements. An unknown pathogen strikes all major military bases around the world, turning males into savage cannibals. This outbreak happens at the same moment our protagonist, Ruben Lobos, is undergoing a military experiment meant to turn him into a super soldier. That procedure gives him some kind of immunity to the virus, and allows him to escape. He manages to contact and save his girlfriend, and eventually they find a safe haven; a place where they´ll meet the rest of the cast which is made up mostly of surviving women. Ruben has yet to discover the full potential of his new abilities, but he´ll soon find out.
What are your favorite zombie-related movies, TV shows and comics?
Giles: When I was a kid, it wasn´t easy to watch any kind of horror films. But I had a friend that owned the VHS of the behind the scenes Making Michael Jackson´s Thriller. That had a huge impact on me!
Zombie movies… Romero´s Dawn of the Dead has to be my favorite one. I love the way the shopping mall creates that magical false sense of security in the characters. The way consumerism is so engrained in our psyches, even in the darkest moments. In Under The Flesh we have a similar situation happening inside a library.
Zombie comics…The Walking Dead has to be one of my favorite comics ever.
How is you series different from your average zombie comic?
Apart from the fact that the virus only infects males, I´d say the main difference is that from the first pages we know for sure that the virus outbreak was premeditated. The reasons behind it will play a major role in the story´s development. Gilbert Deltres, the writer, always had this premise clear, and we already know exactly why it happened. So eventually the cause will be known, and the impact of that discovery will be dramatic!
Also the zombies, whom we call “fleshers”, aren´t the typical irrational dumb zombies. These guys act more like predators, small packs that hunt together. They are not undead. Too much life and energy I´d say! And not every attack involves them trying to eat you. Some have an augmented… “lustful instinct”, let´s say. So they can be menacing in different ways, especially when women are around.
What other comic books have you done the artwork for and what are you currently working on besides Under the Flesh?
Giles: I´ve worked on Transformers comics for a Hasbro toyline, Lego Ninjago, Jurassic Strike Force 5, and Grimm Fairy Tales. I also did three comics for an Australian publisher that creates educational comics about social issues. Right now I´m working on a long graphic novel by Jennifer Zhang with lots of martial arts and colorful characters in the vein of Street Fighter.
What inspired you to become an artist and what inspiration words can you share with aspiring comic book artists?
Giles: I always loved to draw since I was very young. Since first grade I would draw robots and spaceships all the time. In my teen years I started collecting comic books. At that time Todd Mcfarlane was drawing Amazing Spider-Man… and it was just the coolest thing. He instantly became my idol. I remember he was the first artist that had me realizing “hey, not all artists draw the same!” It made me conscious of the fact that each artist has an individual style. Before they all kinda looked the same. (Ignorant me…) And so I got to look at other artists with a different set of eyes.
Finding those personal traits, analyzing them, comparing… it became a passion. At age 14 I already knew I wanted to be a comic book artist. Then in my late teens I kinda left it to the side, studied Fine Arts, got into painting, and many years later I came back to comics. I truly missed them. And here I am trying to find my spot! 😉
I don´t know if this is gonna sound inspiring, but I prefer to speak some truth than to sell a romantic dream… To aspiring comic book artists I´d say that drawing well is not enough. You have to be prepared to draw 12-14 hours daily, earning a very low salary that could be below minimum wage. At least before you get your foot in one of the big publishers. This is not a hobby. It’s a vocation. So even if you love to draw, and you do it really good, if you can´t spend that amount of hours at the drawing table (or Wacom digitizer), and sacrifice weekends, Playstation hours, watching TV, etc… then you aren´t prepared to be a pro comic book artist.
You also have to act like a professional and meet your deadlines. Always accept criticism, even if you don´t like it. And if you have an editor, remember he is your boss. He has the final word, not you.
Some people ask, “What should I do to draw comics?” And that´s the easy question, because the answer is more or less: “Draw like crazy until your fingers bleed!” haha Instead, ask the difficult question: “What should I stop doing to draw comics?” And that´s a question only you can answer. I don´t like telling anyone what to do, so just ask yourself what are you willing to sacrifice, and what are you willing to stop doing in order to draw more and more and more, and polish your talent to the maximum. That´s the key!
When does the Kickstarter for your comic book begin?
Giles: The campaign starts on Sunday, July 6. But we´ve been preparing for a long time, doing some pre-campaign too.
What can people get for pledging Under the Flesh on Kickstarter?
Giles: First, and most important, they get the satisfaction of knowing they are helping independent creators produce a professional book outside the margins of the mainstream market. It gives the fans the opportunity to prove to the world that an alternative is possible! Crowdfunding gives us that chance. It is a true revolution, and it´s only starting.
But of course, we wanna give people material rewards too, cuz they deserve them. So they will be able to get the first issue of Under The Flesh, in both digital and print….Also exclusive content, prints, variant covers, a cool Black and White edition of the book, a look inside the art process, conceptual sketches, thumbnails, scripts, and other gifts. You can also get your likeness featured as a recurring character, a zombie flesher or even a mutilated corpse! Isn´t that cool?! We are also offering the possibility for people to advertise their businesses logo inside our story, as an abandoned storefront/car, etc..
It´s very important to build a momentum early on. To get tons of energy on the project from the very first moment. So backers that pledge during the first three days (July 6-8) will get a limited art print signed and hand-numbered by us.
Next I will be asking the writer of Under the Flesh, Gilbert Deltres, some questions.
Why did you decide to write a comic book about zombies in particular?
Gilbert Deltres: As a diehard zombie fan I always wanted to write a zombie story of my own, but calling Under The Flesh another zombie story is a gross understatement. Clearly the undead inspiration resides within the work, but there’s many explicative elements underlying the scope of the UTF narrative that tie into things that never satisfied me as a fan of the genre.
Under The Flesh is my way of paying homage to the genre, tackling the plot devices that plague it, while also adding a fresh twist to make it my own, which is why the pathogen only infects males in the savage way that it does. This allows me to focus on the women of UTF, allowing me to write powerful female characters. Trust me, there is a very specific reasoning behind the male-specific virus, and it’s the heart and soul layered within Under The Flesh. The zombie genre ain’t dead yet. No pun intended.
What are your favorite zombie-related movies, TV shows and comics?
Deltres: Oddly enough, aside from the obvious zombie horror movies that impacted me greatly as a child who shouldn’t of been watching horror movies to begin with, Shinji Mikami’s Resident Evil for the original Playstation, was a major inspiration for me growing up. Yup, so video game zombies too affected me greatly. Some of my favorite zombie movies are Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Lucio Fulci’s Zombi, Boyle’s 28 Days Later, and of course Shaun of the Dead, to name a few. The Hellions are in fact inspired by Romero’s bikers that trashed the mall in Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead’s military presence touched on many aspects, which I felt would benefit from having a protagonist soldier in UTF.
What kind of zombie buff would I be if I didn’t mention Kirkman? No doubt Kirkman’s Walking Dead is one of my favorite zombie comics. He does an excellent job of creating characters you care about, and that inspired me to handle the UTF character development carefully. Briane Keene’s The Last Zombie is also a clever piece of work. As far as zombie TV Shows, Walking Dead is of course an obvious choice, although I feel the series tends to be trudging through quicksand at times in terms of progression, but I love how they individualized itself in a way from the source material. Daryl, Shane, and Merle are my favorite characters in the show. Other of my choice zombie TV shows of note are BBC’s Survivors, Dead Set, and Into the Flesh.
What inspired you to become a writer and what inspiration words can you share with aspiring comic book writers?
Deltres: I always wanted to shoot films. I’m a very visual person. In fact, as a child I always wanted to be an actor. Those creative juices inside me made me want to create my own stories. Tell my own tales. Being disappointed by how certain stories unfolded through literary and visual mediums, manifested in me the desire to share my voice. Why be subjected to everyone else’s stories while at least not contributing a story of my own, and thus the epiphany. I started to write.
I began with screenplays, a manuscript, and ended back at my first passion: comics. The pinnacle medium for visual storytelling, in my opinion. If a picture’s worth a thousand words, imagine the bliss behind the plethora of panels within comic book covers. The freedom you get with writing comics is astounding, yet phenomenal. Working with a talented artist is the best way to see your own world come to life. The best gift from then, is to share it with others!
My advice to aspiring comic book writers: START DOING! Nobody will ever know what’s inside your head unless you flesh it out and make it tangible with art. If you don’t have money, get a job. You’re going to school full-time, then get one part time. Don’t expect an artist to work for free for your dream. Be the reason why they love their craft in the form of unique stories. Trust me, you can get an artist to meet half-way most of the time, but you need to be willing to do most of the work, which is mainly showing a mutual respect by offering some funds and being professional.
How would you describe your writing style?
Deltres: I guess the best way to describe my writing style is “realistic.” Not sure if that’s too vague. In essence, I’m just trying to get to know my characters. In fact, the more I get to know them, they write for me, taking me places I wouldn’t expect to be because they are conveying their emotions through my writing. Sometimes I’ll jot something down, and then I’ll be like “Ruben wouldn’t say that, or Dinah why did you do that, or Jewel, man you’re scary.” The characters, like actors, become engaged in the narrative and take life, and I write what they tell me.
Are there any other projects you have worked on in the past or are working on in the future?
Deltres: I have two other past projects that I’m working on with JL beside Under The Flesh. As far as the future is concerned, I’m working with Daniel Bradford (creator of KING! and artist of IDW’s Zombies vs Robots) on Nightcross, which is something like fusion between Blade and Constantine, to a degree. Very dark. It involves a demon-hunting homicide detective whose body is inhabited by an angel.
Then there’s Obsidian, on which I’m working with Nicolas Selma (artist of Dark Horse’s S.H.O.O.T. First and Tomb Raider), and it’s about a biracial engineering freshman who fuses with a celestial stone. It’s truly unique, and something that flips the superhero genre on its head.
Lastly, there’s Hell Walks, and Tsubasa Yozora of World War Hack is the collaborating artist. Essentially, Hell Walks is set during The Rapture, and it’s about a banished archangel seeking redemption after single-handedly sparking Armageddon.