You Thought Your School Was Scary? – Zombie Outlaw Review/Brian Apodaca Interview

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“Matt Naismith and Will Simers thought they had this College thing figured out. One trip into the depths of Irvine State University’s library has them rethinking everything!! Witness as they unearth the Tomb of the ZOMBIE OUTLAW!!!”

I have known about the comic Zombie Outlaw for some time, but after meeting its writer, Brian Apodaca, at Long Beach Comic Con this last November, I felt the time was well past due to check it out.  So, what did I think?

The first thing that jumped out at me was artist Benny Jordan’s unique and whimsical style. Zombie Outlaw doesn’t look anything like your typical zombie comic, and Benny’s art really sets the quirky tone of the series right from the get go.

I read issues 1 and 2 in one sitting, and while the first issue was definitely a little rough around the edges here and there, by issue two many of those wrinkles had been ironed out.

The first issue sets the scene and introduces us to the main players, starting out at the fictitious Irvine State University where socially awkward student Matt Naismith is trying unsuccessfully to romance sexy co-ed K.T. Delaney. Matt decides he needs some help wooing his sweetheart, so he turns to Will Simers, ISU’s resident ladies man, and Matt’s Resident Advisor for advice. He agrees, but only if Matt helps him with a quest to find an ancient relic deep beneath the University. And that is where we find the Zombie Outlaw.

The second issue continues the story, and fleshes out the legend of the Outlaw, along with bringing us Tad, our major threat. With its clever recap page, one doesn’t even necessarily need to read the first issue. The small amount of problems I had with the first issue’s script were mainly with the pacing, and by issue two Brian’s script is much tighter. Issue two shows improvement all around.

Zombie Outlaw is a horror comic at its heart, with some very funny moments interspersed between the action and gore. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised, and am looking forward to more, especially more of the Outlaw Legend. Brian and Benny have quite a few good ideas worth exploring, and I’m excited to see where this story goes.

I had the chance to chat with Brian recently, about Zombie Outlaw, self-publishing, crowdfunding, and more.

CoverHow long have you and Benny known each other, and how long have you been working together?

Benny and I have known each other since High School, and we started working on the concepts for ZOMBIE OUTLAW about 4-5 years ago, before really getting serious on it in the past 3 years.

How did the idea for Zombie Outlaw first come about?

ZOMBIE OUTLAW had its genesis at a Comic-Con several years back, when we were sharing a room, and we began bouncing ideas around. Ah, the glory days!! We were actually able to procure Comic-Con passes relatively easy back then, as well as a prime hotel location at the Embassy Suites!! Ah, yeah – so as to your question – Benny and I knew we wanted to work together, and I had the inklings of an idea for a Zombie Cowboy comic, and after discussing it with Ben, several ideas began to unfold, and the script was written and revised as we went along.

What or who have been your biggest influences/inspirations on your writing, and for creating Zombie Outlaw?

For myself, I’ve enjoyed the series Freaks and Geeks and another series from Judd Apatow – Undeclared. I would say that influenced some of my choices. Benny brought a good chunk of that Sam Raimi Evil Dead feel to the book, and we both have been influenced by ridiculous ZOMBIE fare such as the classic Night of the Creeps.

25Benny’s lighthearted style sets Zombie Outlaw apart from other zombie/horror comics. Was this a conscious decision, or just his natural style?

In the first issue, it was more of Benny’s natural style coming through. After the first issue, when we had a chance to look at what worked and what didn’t, we made more of a conscious decision to focus on some of the more ridiculous and hokey aspects of the book, and really embrace that, while still trying to tell a story that progressed and had some internal logic to it, despite the inanity. Benny’s style sharpened and evolved for that 2nd issue, but the lighthearted style became more of a conscious decision for both of us as we went along.

So far there have been two issues of Zombie Outlaw, with a third on its way. There is plenty of mystery involved already, and a lot of different directions in which the story could go. How far down the line do you have stories planned?

We’ve done a good amount of talking through the general outline for the story, but there are still many decisions and tweaks to the story made on the fly. We’ve changed things as we’ve gone on to fit what we felt “worked,” so its not as if anything is locked in stone. But we do have an idea for where the story is going, and I’m looking forward to our progress on the third issue, and starting to flesh out some of the back stories of different characters. Ben’s art for the third issue is really going to blow people away – I’m really excited for people to see some of what he’s working on!!!

RichardGarciaYou’ve done this all through pretty DIY means, self-publishing, setting up at conventions, contacting websites and blogs, and no small amount of self-promotion. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in getting Zombie Outlaw into the reader’s hands, and is there anything you’d do differently if you had it all to do over again?

It’s definitely been a learning process. I’m not sure I would do too much differently, other than accelerating the process of getting it in front of more people. We’ve been promoting it heavily on Facebook and Twitter, and with our own website, but there’s always more that can be done. It has been enjoyable to find different outlets for exposure and I’m always reminding myself that there are different venues to explore, and not to get complacent. Many people have commented that the series would be a really cool choice for an animated series, and might fit well on something like Adult Swim, and I don’t disagree! To do it over again, I think Benny and I would want to make the first issue sharper, but hopefully with the second and third issues, we’re showing enough improvement and hooking people with different things, so that we can grow the audience.

Crowdfunding is all the rage these days, and many creators have found success through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Have you ever thought of going that route with Zombie Outlaw?

We’re definitely interested in looking into a Kickstarter-type thing, but we feel like we really want to grow the audience before we get into that.   Once our fanbase is sufficient to support a solid Kickstarter for another issue or special project or trade paperback, we’d be really excited to explore that!! Also, we’re exploring getting the book on Comixology, so hopefully there will be news on that front soon.

What’s next for you, Benny, and Zombie Outlaw?

Benny and I will be at WonderCon in Anaheim, California on April 18th-20th of this year at the small press section. We’ll have copies of issues #1-2, as well as some posters and preview art for issue #3, and some variant posters by different comic artists with their spin on the Zombie Outlaw characters!! Also, we’ll have T-shirts and some other swag!!  Stop by our booth if you hit up WonderCon!!!

Where can our readers pick up a copy of Zombie Outlaw?

The best place, currently, is still at conventions, where we’ve been selling the book and making new fans. We’ve been doing WonderCon in Anaheim for the past 3 years, and we did Long Beach Comic Expo this past year, which was great!! Also, as mentioned above, we’re awaiting approval for issue #1 on Comixology, so hopefully you’ll be able to buy the book in a digital format soon. Other than that, people can contact me directly for hard copies of the book on Twitter (drop me a line at @Capn_Midnight), and there are also some physical copies available at Orbital Comics in London, for anyone from the UK who might be reading this!!

ALSO: Check us out online – http://www.zombieoutlaw.com and http://www.facebook.com/zombieoutlawcomic

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