If you’re into horror, illustration, and comics chances are you’ve seen the work of Bryan Baugh. Bryan is the creator of the popular Wulf & Batsy comic series and one of my personal favorite horror genre artists. His artwork is full of gruesome monsters, skimpy damsels in distress and awesome lighting effects in his coloring. Once you’ve read this go check out Bryan’s Website and Deviant Art Portfolio and pick up a copy of his Wulf & Batsy Comics.
Blood Sprayer: Lets start by walking us through the creation process of one of your comics. Walk us through from the brainstorming process to the final print.
Bryan Baugh: It always starts with a weird concept. Just an unusual type of horror scene or situation that I want to draw. I let that idea cook in my brain for a few months while I work on other things. Eventually another idea comes along, that fits with the first idea. This keeps happening until all these little ideas sort of blend together into one big thing. Remember how The Blob kept consuming livestock and people and growing bigger and bigger? It’s kind of like that. Eventually I’ve got this weird, amorphous blob in my imagination that is composed of all these different weird ideas that I happen to be fixated on. So at that point I start writing… sculpting this amorphous blob into a story that includes all these ideas but works as one piece. Then I will start drawing little sketches on 2″x3″ post-it notes, representing what the comic book pages could look like. I usually work in small chunks of pages – sketching one scene at a time. I am not one of those “sketch out the entire comic before you start drawing final pages” kinda guys. I just focus on 4 to 6 pages at a time. Once I’m satisfied with the page sketches for a given scene, I transfer the sketches to 11″x17″ Bristol Boards, and start drawing the final comic pages. I keep my pencils really loose, I mean, almost stick figures. I don’t like to layout my pencils too tight or too clean, because then there’s no fun to be had when I ink it. I just lay it down really simple with the pencils, just to make sure the composition works and all the elements are well-arranged. But I try to save as much of the actual drawing as I can, for the inking stage. When I ink my pages, I use brushes for my main drawing tool, and dip-pens for fine details. I also love to draw with white-out pens, when I need to create white on black. Anyway when the ink is dry, I go back to the written story and start sketching the next scene. The process repeats itself scene-by-scene until the whole book is done. I also scan chunks of pages into the computer as I go along, and do all my lettering on Photoshop. That’s pretty much all there is to it.
BS: You do a lot a single illustration pieces and fan art as well as comics. Do you like doing one better than the other and why?
BB: Drawing a single illustration gives you a quick burst of fun and satisfaction very quickly. But then, there is something even more satisfying about writing a long story, drawing several pages, and ending up with this complete work that you can then sit down and read. Obviously it takes a lot longer to reach that satisfying feeling with a comic or graphic novel project. But when you get to the end the satisfaction runs much deeper. So I enjoy both for different reasons.
BS: Do you have a favorite piece of work you’ve done? If so, how is it sentimental to you compared to other your other pieces.
BB: The Wulf and Batsy comics are probably the works I have the most fun creating and which I am the most proud of. They are the most challenging, and certainly require the most work. These projects are much more sentimental to me than my single-page illustrations, because when you spend months, or even years, thinking about characters, developing their personalities and life experiences, they start to feel like real people that you know. You get attached to them. So – Wulf and Batsy – the characters themselves and the stories I have created with them – are very near and dear to my heart.
BS: Who are some of your favorite artist in the horror art genre?
BB: Graham Ingles. Jack Davis. Bernie Wrightson. Basil Wolverton. Alfredo Alcala. Richard Sala. Mike Ploog. Gene Colan. Lee Brown Coye. And – not really a horror artist, but another big influence that I feel I must mention: Jordi Bernet.
BS: Despite the brutality depicted in some your work, there’s a certain whimsical nature and brighter colors in a lot of your work. Has this always been your style? and how did you come up with such a unique style of illustration.
BB: To be honest I never “came up with” any style on purpose. I just draw the way I draw and color the way I color. And my artwork turns out, the way it turns out. Like all artists, I have my influences of course. I will say that my idea of “good drawing” is mostly influenced by old horror comic books, and classic black and white ink illustration. My color sense, which usually consists of heavy black shadows combined with areas of intense color, is inspired by the films of Italian movie directors like Mario Bava and Dario Argento. I love the way those Italian film directors used light and shadow and color. So I do try to imitate that look.
BS: What all types of artwork have you done in the past?
BB: Well, aside from horror illustration and comic books, I also work in the television animation industry. I have been doing that as my day job since 1999. TV animation can be a tough job sometimes – it definitely has its difficult, tedious aspects. But it is a great way for an artist to make a comfortable living for doing nothing but drawing silly pictures all day long. Another reason I like this job is because working in animation is probably the best art school you could imagine for learning the art of visual storytelling. Animation has a very strict system of rules but if you apply those rules to other mediums – like comic books, for example – it will make your storytelling much clearer, more interesting, and more dynamic. So one thing helps another. I have also done children’s book illustration, but don’t see myself doing much more of that. It was fun but didn’t pay very well.
BS: Are you looking to try any new avenues in the future?
BB: Hmmm… I am pretty happy with what I’m doing now – and would just like to do more of it – but on a larger scale. I would like to work on more horror comic books for bigger, better-known publishers. I’d also like to do production design art for horror movies – which might sound far-fetched but I’ve had a few brushes with that and would like to do more of it. And someday, when I’m a bit older and tired of the rat-race, maybe I’d like to settle down in some quiet suburban city and become an instructor at an art college or something. Who knows?
BS: I understand your comics are a hobby of yours for now. Would you consider illustrating for a living to be your “Dream Job”? Walk us through your perfect ideal day in the office.
BB: If I could make a living just writing and drawing my graphic novels, if that was my full-time job, and it paid well enough for me to live comfortably, that would be a dream come true.
BS: Do you have a specific character(s) you like to draw the most? and why?
BB: Monsters have always been my favorite types of characters to draw. Especially Werewolves, because they’re just ferocious as hell. Vampires, because the male vampires can look scary and corpsic, and the female vampires can be sexy. Zombies are the best characters to draw because they can look like anything, from a zoned-out weirdo with greenish skin and blank eyes – to a rotted, decomposed skeleton – or any form of decomposition in between. You can get very creative when drawing zombies.
BS: What would you consider you greatest achievement thus far?
BB: Figuring out a way to make a comfortable living doing art, instead of having to do a real job.
BS: What can followers of your work expect for 2010?
BB: I am currently working on a new animated television project which is top secret at the moment… I am contractually obligated to keep my mouth shut about it. But the studio is planning to start promoting it this summer… I think there may be a panel presentation about it at the San Diego Comic Con in July. So it will probably all be revealed then. The actual show will be on TV in the late fall or early winter, I believe.
BS: In following your work it’s evident you’re a very talented artist. Do you have any other hidden talents you can share with us?
BB: I am actually a pretty good swimmer. But unless you are the Creature From the Black Lagoon that doesn’t have very much to do with horror.
BS: Okay, now lets talk a little about horror in general… What got you started in this genre and what’s kept you doing it for so long?
BB: When I was a really young kid – I’m talking four or five years old, I started seeing all the old black and white Universal Monster movies on TV. My dad would watch them and I’d watch with him. My dad was very good about making sure I understood the difference between fantasy and reality. The whole time we’d be sitting there watching these old monster movies he would be explaining the special effects to me. He’d say, “You know, Frankenstein is just a guy wearing special make up. But King Kong – they had to create him with a model.” He explained stop-motion animation to me, as the trick that made King Kong move. He told me how they would take a different piece of film with a tiny image of a person on it and super-impose that next to the King Kong model to make it look like King Kong was a giant. Then we would watch The Wolf Man and he would explain the basic way the transformation scenes were done, with lap-dissolve photography. So because all this was explained to me, even as a little kid, I was never afraid of monsters – but rather, fascinated with them, as magic tricks. My dad even took me to see Alien when it came out. I think that was either 1978 or 1979 – so I would have been in the first or second grade. And I always think it’s funny now, when I hear people describe Alien as one of the scariest films of the 1970’s. But even that didn’t scare me because before we went to see it my dad told me, “You will love this monster. It is just a guy in a rubber suit, but it’s the most realistic monster I’ve ever seen.” So again – I wasn’t afraid – I was just fascinated to see a new monster movie and very interested to see how real this rubber suit would look. And of course I loved it. Alien was way more realistic than Godzilla!! Haha. Whenever I think back on these memories it actually makes me feel surprised that I didn’t pursue a career in special effects. But I loved to draw and that’s all I wanted to do. It wasn’t much later, probably around the age of 8 or 9, that I discovered comic books, and that was it. Comics were a medium of entertainment where you could tell monster stories and develop the monsters visually, at the same time. You could be the writer and the special effects artist! You could be the author of the whole thing. From that point on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up.
BS: Remakes… Wave of the future or crime of passion? What’s your stance?
BB: Well, I would always prefer to see people make new horror movies, tell new stories, instead of just remaking all these old movies I’ve already seen. But there’s no denying that some of the recent remakes have been worthwhile. There have been some I liked and others I didn’t. But I try to take them as they come and watch each one with an open mind. There are a lot of modern horror fans who hate every horror remake just because it is a remake. But that is not really fair. It is important to remember that in the 1960’s horror fans were up in arms about Hammer Studios in England doing their remakes of the Universal classics, like Dracula and Frankenstein and The Mummy. People back then whined and complained that you can’t remake those classic films, as if it was some kind of blasphemy. But today, all of us 21st century horror fans love Christopher Lee as Dracula just as much as we love Bela Lugosi as Dracula, and we pretty much regard the Hammer Horror Films as classics, right alongside the Universal originals. The exact same thing is happening today with the remakes of 1980’s slasher films. You hear modern horror fans grousing about the remakes of Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But the reality is, in another forty years, future horror fans will probably accept these remakes just as comfortably as they accept the original versions. The point is, when it comes to remakes, a lot of time must pass before you can put them into perspective and judge them fairly. That said, I have found a lot of the recent remakes to be pretty enjoyable. I liked the 2010 version of The WolfMan. He’s my favorite monster by far and I was very nervous about how that would turn out but I think they handled the character very well. When I first heard about Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead I was really annoyed. My opinion was – “Now there is a movie that does not need to be remade…” But the final product was surprisingly smart and powerful. I thought the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th had a lot of good scenes. I also enjoyed the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but that one seemed like less of a remake, and more like just another sequel if you ask me.
BS: Being horror fans we generally subject ourselves to things that make the average person cringe. What gets under your skin?
BB: I’m fearful of naming my personal fears. What if saying them out loud makes them come true? Okay I’ll tell you one. Potato Bugs. They are these hideous insects that basically look like ants but they are about as big as a grown man’s thumb, and they have a nauseating fleshy color that looks totally unnatural for any bug. I never saw these things growing up in Ohio but I’ve seen a few of them since I moved to California. Normally I am not really bothered by bugs or creepy crawlers. But these things are the most disgusting creatures ever. I can barely stand to look at them. I think they are from Hell.
BS: How much recognition do you get within the horror community?
BB: That’s a good question. I don’t know, to tell you the truth. Based on the public reaction to my personal website, the online sales of my Wulf and Batsy books, and my page on the Deviant Art website – I get the sense that there are a lot of people who follow my work through the Internet. But the Internet is an illusion, you know. The Internet plays to your ego and creates a false impression. If you put yourself out there enough, and if you are egotistical enough, the Internet can make anybody believe they are famous, and that their work is appreciated. But I don’t trust the Internet response, because for all the nice comments and praise I receive from people online, I feel like I am completely unknown to the comic book industry – where I most want to work. I am sure none of those publishers have any idea who I am. But then, on the other hand, I’ve received phone calls and emails out of the blue, from actors who have appeared in horror films or horror film directors who are interested in my artwork. I’ve become friends with Beverly Hartley who played Tina in Return of the Living Dead, and Paul Ehlers who played Madman Marz in the 1982 slasher film Madman. I also got an email once, from Tom Holland, who directed Fright Night, telling me how much he liked my Fright Night illustration. And Dave Parker, who directed The Dead Hate the Living and The Hills Run Red keeps telling me he hopes to work with me someday, when our schedules finally match up. So my artwork has attracted some interesting people, but the irony is – the folks who publish the horror comics that I would most love to draw, seem to have no interest in my work. Actually –Tim Seeley likes my stuff and I have done some work on Hack/Slash for him. But that seems to be the exception to the rule. Because, man, there are a lot of different zombie comics going on these days, and comics based on H.P. Lovecraft, and comic books based on old horror and sci-fi movies that I would love to draw. And I’ve submitted art to some of those companies but nothing has ever come out of it. So I have no idea where I stand in the horror community, or what my level of recognition is.
BS: In typical Blood Sprayer fashion I’d like to wrap things up with your all-time favorite horror movie and how it’s affected your artwork.
BB: I must name three films. Because I have never been able to decide which of these three is truly my favorite.
1.) Creepshow (directed by George Romero): I saw this movie when it first came out when I was ten years old. It was love at first sight. I could point out a million things I love about this movie. But most significantly – this movie played an important role in my horror education. It was the movie that first exposed me to Stephen King (who wrote it), and fired me up to start reading his novels, no matter how long they were. It was the movie that introduced me to George Romero (who directed it), though I knew about “Night of the Living Dead” before that, it was “Creepshow” that really got me addicted to his films. This was the film that taught me who Tom Savini was (because he made the monsters and did all the gore special effects), and made me start following his work. But most importantly of all, Creepshow was the movie that introduced me to Bernie Wrightson (who illustrated the comic book adaptation). Oh, I’d seen Wrightson’s work in the “Swamp Thing” and “House of Mystery” comics by that point, but the “Creepshow” comic book was the thing that made me memorize his name and start paying attention. Wrightson became my favorite artist, the guy I looked at and said, “THAT’S how I wanna draw when I grow up!” So aside from just being a perfect little horror movie, it also had enormous significance to me for these very personal reasons. Creepshow was the gateway drug that allowed my knowledge of modern horror to branch out and connect with other important horror movements that were going on in the 1980’s.
2.) Return of the Living Dead (directed by Dan O’Bannon): This film came out in 1985. I was in the seventh grade and saw it at the theater. I went in with average expectations. Based on the TV commercials, it looked like it should be a decent zombie movie. Instead, what I got was a horror paradise. Its incredible mix of genuine freaky scares, genuine good humor, exaggerated comic book style zombies, punk rockers, gory violence, shameless abundance of female nudity, great characters, memorable dialogue, excellent special effects, and true Midwestern American goofiness really, really hit me and charged my imagination into overdrive. Since then I have seen it many, many times and over the years my love for this movie has only increased.
3.) The Howling (directed by Joe Dante): I had seen The Wolf Man and was already in love with the concept of werewolves long before this – but when The Howling came out, in 1981, when I was 9 years old – that love was sealed into a lifelong commitment. This movie really sunk into my brain in a powerful way and is probably the reason I still feel compelled to draw a comic book with a werewolf main character, almost thirty years later. Rob Bottin is a genius and in my opinion he really created the ultimate, perfect werewolves here.
Artwork By Bryan Baugh