Stephen Lindsay seems to have done just about everything a creative individual could do. He first gained recognition for writing the comic “Jesus Hates Zombies”, writing several more comic books, has been painting artwork that has been featured across the city, and has recently started a photography business. We met up with him to pick his brain about all of the different mediums he has worked with and what he plans to do next.
How did Jesus Hates Zombies get as popular as it did?
Dumb luck and a catchy title. I started off working on a straight zombie drama, this was when unbeknownst to me The Walking Dead comic was starting to get popular. I was working on comic and my friend told me to check out The Walking Dead. I started to read it and it blew my mind, I couldn’t do a straight zombie comic better than that. I still wanted to do something with zombies, at the time they weren’t big everything was vampire.
I tried to figure out what I haven’t seen, and I figured out I haven’t seen too many comedies with zombies in them. The title just popped into my head (eight years of catholic school will do that to you) so that’s when I started.
As far as it getting popular, I basically found out the more you whore yourself out online the more people pay attention to you. If I was quietly doing this comic no one would have known.
Once I got the first anthology put together then I found a publisher but left for Diamond Comics, which is the comic book distributor to be with. It is like a monopoly, if you don’t get with them you don’t get with anyone. This was before online comic books began to hit and independent artist could get out there.
I got into Diamond, and they featured the book. Surprisingly enough shops started ordering it, Barnes and Noble even started ordering it. I went into the mall and was blown away to see my book on the shelves, it was madness.
Did you not know where the books were being shipped to? Weren’t you getting royalty checks from the sales?
Oh you don’t make shit from making a comic. You don’t make a damn thing because of diamond, they take such a big percentage, then the publishers take the printing cost. So as a creator you are like “at least people are reading it: which is why so many comic creators jump to trying to sell there product to Hollywood. If you get a development deal or an option then you can actually make some money.
How did you get all of the artists to contribute to the first issue?
I was just dumb enough and just egotistical enough to contact all of these artists and ask them to help me work on this comic. I didn’t know shit about how to create comics at the time.
It is impossible when nobody knows who you are to get an artist to work on a full comic with no pay. I couldn’t afford to pay an artist, there pay rates are crazy, totally understandable but out of my budget. I figured if I wrote five page stories and do an anthology maybe I get can get a couple artists to do five page stories.
There was seventeen stories and fifteen artists, they were all five to seven pages each. Honestly I didn’t even know if I had a story or just a one note joke. I didn’t know if I could really expand this concept as a writer to create seventeen stories. I don’t know if I necessarily succeeded. Because I think I just stretched the joke out for a long time, but it was a really fun challenge. Until the anthology got legs I didn’t even try to make it a full story.
You are an artist as well; you didn’t want to do the artwork as well as the writing?
No, I am a hack artist at best. I fuck around. With all of my endeavors it’s the same thing; I am too stupid to be scare to put myself out there. Whether its good or not its like “Hey ! Look what I did!” with the assumption that people are going to give a shit, a lot of times they don’t, but sometimes they do. With comics I am such a fan of actual illustrators and their talent and what they bring to it that I never wanted to try and draw it myself.
Was that the first thing you wrote?
Jesus Hates Zombies was my very first comic I ever did, like I said dumb luck.
So everything you have gotten published since then kind of sprang from that.
Right, just kind of riding the coattails of the first published work (laughs). This is the opportunity that Jesus Hates Zombies gave me. The first publisher who wanted to publish Jesus Hates Zombies, had his funding fall through so I went with another guy. Once the comic hit the first publisher came back and asked me what else I had. He said he didn’t care what it was he would publish anything.
At the time I had been fooling around with this story called Massive Awesome about a six foot tall piece of bacon and his partner Pickle who thinks he is a zombie but he is not. It was the most ridiculous thing ever and I was like “Well I got this…” and he took it.
That was my kitchen sink book, I put every weird thing I could think of into it. In my mind if you were going to buy that there was a six foot tall piece of bacon who walks and talks and used to work for the government, I could do whatever I wanted with this book;. There is a guy called Toaster Hands Tony, an ex mafia guy with toasters for hands who shoots toast at people, a Scottish luchador, everything I could think of that didn’t have a place in any other stories got thrown into Massive Awesome.
I even picked the most obnoxious name for it: Massive Awesome.
Pitching that story to people at conventions is always a blast, but I guess coming from the guy who wrote Jesus Hates Zombies, no one is that surprised.
What’s your favorite story you have written?
Warrior of Dhaurk is a special one because I wrote it with my son. I never got to finish Devil’s Trail because the publisher I was with went under, that was one of my favorite stories. I am a huge Stephen King fan and I love the Dark Tower series, Devil’s Trail was going to be my Dark Tower. It was going to be awesome and huge and epic, and then it shit the bed.
Are you thinking about Hollywood?
Jesus Hates Zombies did get optioned for a live action movie, but it is just such a slow process.
How did you get into writing?
I have been a writer my whole life, ever since I was a kid. When I was in grammar school the teacher had us write a story based on a picture. She gave me a black and white picture on a guy working on a car so I wrote a story about a mechanic and his life. That was the first thing I ever created were someone went “Wow that’s really good” and I loved that feeling. I got to go up in front of the class and read it, she called my parents to tell them how good it was. I was like I could deal with this, this is cool shit. So I have been writing ever since.
I originally wanted to write screen plays which are even harder to break into. I spent three solid years making short film after short film and got totally burnt out by it. You never have the money to do the thing s you want to do. I was using mini tapes, even though those are cheap, they still get expensive. Local actors try their best and do some great stuff, but its never the level you see in your head. I could never get what was in my head out properly that’s when I started writing a novel and I got back into comics. I just kept writing from there.
So you consider yourself more of a writer than an artist?
I consider myself a story teller, so everything I do kind of falls into that. I have creative A.D.D. so every time I start to do something I want to do something new and different that I haven’t done before.
I went from writing, to falling in love with street art but being too old and fat to actually go out and do it. I knew id be the guy to get go out and get caught the first night out.
From there I had to do some photography for my job, and I instantly wanted to learn how to do photography that wasn’t shitty and I would enjoy. Totally fell in love with photography once I started doing it. I really got into photography because I was doing body painting for another photographer and I didn’t like how my body paint job was coming out in the shots, so I just wanted to do it myself.
Are you ever going to return to some of the stories that kind of fell through?
When I think about it I get really tired (laughs). I know how much work goes into them and what it would take to get them going again. I don’t want to lose momentum with the stuff I have now. I will get back to those stories eventually because of my creative ADD, but at the moment there not going anywhere.
How long have you been doing photography?
I have been doing photography seriously for about a year.
What is the next step in your career?
I want to keep doing photography. Though I am getting the itch to start writing again. I really want to start a podcast but I don’t have any of the equipment for it. I want to do comedy as well but I can’t bring myself to do it. There is something about standing up on stage that is just so different from having a piece of art on display. You don’t have to stand next to the painting and get instant feedback.
How does a photo session go? Do the models approach you for an idea or do you have a idea before they walk in?
I let the models initiate what they want first. I want to find out if they have a shoot that they wanted to do that no other photographers would do, I love those. If not I initiate what the shoot will be.
I always want to take it in a darker direction that what they are used to. Most of them have only done what I call “Gap Shoots” they all very sterile and plain. White walls or like down by the creek shots. I want to mix it up.