My girlfriend discovered this comic book at Midtown Comics in Manhattan, shining like a beacon touched by the light shining off baby Jesus’s forehead up there in Heaven. Jesus Hates Zombies, created by the prolific and mohawked Stephen Linsday, has since gone onto become one of the best books in my collection, just hands-down the best example of fun indie comic books that embraces not only the DIY ethic of independent comics, but also the spirit of what they should be about in my opinion, awesome ideas brought to life.
Despite being a thoroughly busy dude, Stephen is nothing but approachable and friendly and was nice enough to give me a bit of his time to answer some questions about his personal life, eating habits, his love of ComicSpace.com, and how many kills he really has notched on his belt.
–Introduce yourself and your work.
My name is Stephen Lindsay. I’m a creator/writer/letterer hailing from Rochester, NY. I’m the creator of the Alterna Comics book Jesus Hates Zombies.
–What specifically brought about the idea for Jesus Hates Zombies? You’ve mentioned a Catholic school upbringing, were you a big horror/zombie fan too?
I’ve always been more of a fan of written horror than filmed gore-fests. They just never really did it for me. But I’ve always loved the work of guys like Stephen King, Richard Matheson and Lovecraft. That’s where my horror sensibility comes from. But I’d say I’m even more influenced by comedy, specifically masters like Mel Brooks. There’s fearlessness to comedy done correctly that I really love. And it’s that fearlessness that I strike for in my work.
Add that to my years locked in Catholic school, wearing a robe and hanging with priests, and the picture of where Jesus Hates Zombies comes from becomes pretty clear…
–Had you ever really worked in comics before in art or writing, or were you coming to it as a fan first?
I came into this as a fan. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but never for comics before. For the longest time I wanted to be a screenwriter. I spent a few years writing, producing, directing and editing independent films before making the jump to comics. Comics really afford a storyteller the freedom to let the story dictate the action—not a budget.
–How did you get hooked up with Alterna Comics?
I found Alterna on ComicSpace. One of the first artists I connected with online (Jeff McComsey) was having his book American Terror published through Alterna, so I asked if he could mention Jesus Hates Zombies to them. Peter Simeti (the owner of Alterna) and I started talking and we hit it off. He was, understandably, reluctant at first to publish JHZ because he didn’t know how it would go. But something in him told him to give it a shot, and I’ll always be grateful to him for it!
–How has the general reaction to Jesus Hates Zombies been?
It’s been pretty astounding! This silly little B-Movie idea that I never thought would sell 50 copies has kind of exploded. And there hasn’t even been any outrage! Granted, the comic-reading public is pretty damn open-minded, but I thought I would at least get some angry online haters.
I think part of the appeal is that the book isn’t mean spirited. It would have been easy to just let the book be a one-note joke against Catholicism and organized religion in general. But that’s not the route I wanted to take. I really wanted to challenge myself and see if I could take this goofy premise that made me chuckle and try to turn it into a viable story that would be both interesting and entertaining for people!
–You’ve been very outspoken in how ComicSpace.com helped you out in bringing JHZ to life. How’d that come to be?
Without ComicSpace, I don’t think JHZ would have ever happened. When I decided I wanted to make comics, I had no idea how to go about finding artists. Luckily I found ComicSpace, which at the time was just teeming with hungry writers and artists looking to make a mark on this business. I really hit it at the right time. It boomed shortly after I joined, and the amount of talent around there was astounding.
So I just started befriending everyone I could and networking online like a madman. I knew that getting an artist to draw an entire graphic novel with no guaranteed pay would be tough, but I figured that talking people into drawing 5 pages may not be so bad—and it worked! I hooked up with artists from all over the world through ComicSpace, and they in turn made JHZ a reality.
–It’s sort of nerdy to think of it this way but JHZ and Comicspace is an example of open-source comic creation. Do you ever think of it that way?
Absolutely!! It’s a testament to all of the good things the internet is capable of being! When used for good instead of evil, the internet really does bring people together. I now have friends all over the world because of this freakin’ book. And none of it would have been possible without all of these people being as nerdy as me trolling the internet!
–If you had a chance to redo with just a single artist for the whole thing, or at least a single artist doing bigger arcs/blocks of the story, would you? Or do you like the way it came out with the different art styles, not to mention also always throwing some pinups in there also.
I wouldn’t change that first Anthology for the world. For the time it took to make that book a reality, every day was like Christmas! I would open my email and I would have pages coming in from all over the world, each with a distinct art style that really brought he book to life. I made it a point not to give anyone direction on their visual interpretation of Jesus because I really loved seeing how all of the artists represented him. It was really amazing.
–You do a lot of the work yourself, not just in terms of writing but also promotion. How important do you think DIY ethics are in comics these days, especially creator-owned properties like yours?
I think this is the area of comics that I’m most outspoken about. I’ve run across far too many creators out there who have this false sense of entitlement to them. They think that, just because they created a book, the world should come to THEM to find it. That’s completely backwards.
The job of a creator only STARTS when the book is finished. This is a hard business to make it in. I know, because I still haven’t! But I’m out there hustling every damn day making sure people know my work exists! And I do that on top of working my full-time day job and making sure that I spend time with my wife and kids. It’s grueling, but I do it because I love it. And if you don’t love it, then don’t even bother.
A lot of creators simply try to sit back and wait for their book to be ‘discovered’, and then they get pissed when it doesn’t. I’m not built that way. I feel like I have to EARN the PRIVILEGE of someone reading my book. And if I don’t earn it, it’s my own damn fault! And if I do earn it, then I have an obligation to that person to be as accessible as possible so I can build a relationship with them. If I do that, then they’re going to buy my next book, as well as recommend it to their friends. So I’m constantly online talking with people and putting myself out there. If you’re not willing to make comics as much a part of your life as breathing is, then I don’t see how you’ll ever make it.
–When’s the next Jesus Hates Zombies volume coming out?
Volume 3 of Jesus Hates Zombies featuring Lincoln Hates Werewolves will be in the September Previews with a December release. I’ve been calling it the “Empire Strikes Back” of the JHZ saga because it’s, by far, the darkest chapter of the series.
–Now JHZ isn’t your only comic book, what else are you working on?
Oh wow… so many projects! That’s another of my comics philosophies – you’ve got to constantly produce to keep yourself in front of people or they’re going to forget you.
So I’m always working on different projects to keep myself out there and to show my range as a writer. I’ve got a superhero comedy I’m working on called Being Super with artist Fabricio Bohrer, 2 webcomics about low-level super villains – Nurse Shark with artist Peter DeLuca and The Frightful Fetus with artist Jim McMunn, a 70s street gangs/werewolves/vampires webcomic called Saints & Warlords with artist Mark Slater, an 1800s vampire story called Necessary Horrors with artist Kurt Belcher, a detective comedy called The Slightly Askew Adventures of Inspector Ham & Eggs with artist Lauren Monardo as well as several projects being developed to submit to Zuda!
from “Necessary Horrors”, art by Michael DiPascale
And let’s not forget that we’ll be starting work on the 4th and final volume of Jesus Hates Zombies featuring Lincoln Hates Werewolves soon, as well as a brand new Jesus Hates Zombies series that’s a prequel of sorts set in the Old West.
–Is that going to be similar to the process that brought JHZ to life? Or is it more conventional, w/a single artist?
These are all single artist books and stories. With the success (on an indie level) of JHZ, a lot more doors have opened up as far as artists willing to commit to longer projects. It’s great because it allows me to really collaborate with them to develop the stories more fully and bring their visual side of the storytelling into the fold right from the beginning!
–Thanks for talking with me, man. Anything you wanna pimp or proclaim from the hills?
Thanks for taking the time, brother! As you can tell, I love talking about this shit. Comics are an amazing medium that continue to evolve and push the envelope. There’s so much brilliant work out there from all corners of the industry, and I hope people continue to explore and find all the great things we comic creators have to offer!