Billy Tackett – Zombie Artist Extraordinaire

The ZSC command met Billy Tackett Zombification SpecialistTM through his Zombie Sam pic. At the time, we didn’t know who created the wonderfully decrepit looking Sam, but we knew good Zombie art when we saw it. Since then, we had a chance to check out Billy’s site and impressed is an understatement for how we feel about his wicked talent. We interviewed Billy to learn more about him and to share him with the crew – ’cause he is someone worth getting to know.

ZSC: A lot of your artwork is centered around the undead. Would you consider yourself a zombie sympathizer?

BT: I don’t like the term “sympathizer”. I have been creating zombies and other undead creatures since the mid 70s. The oldest drawing I have is of a vampire from around ’77 or ’78 which would have put me around 7 years old so zombie sympathizer would be an understatement! I mean my career is based on these guys. I wouldn’t dare think of biting the hand that feeds me regardless of how rotten and decrepit it is. The “World’s Foremost Zombification SpecialistTM” has to be pro-zombie.

ZSC: What inspired your “Dead White & Blue” series?

BT: That’s an idea that just kind of evolved and is still evolving. I did the black & white Zombie Sam for a publication back in ’04 or ’05. A year or so later I created the color version. The response from those two pieces were pretty over-whelming so I added Fannie the Flesheater (Rosie the Riveter). And then Sgt. Rot. At some point while working on these pieces I got the idea to zombify other images and since I was already working on American icons I thought that would be a nice series. Combining my patriotism with zombies was perfect.

Keep in mind that I was doing all this four or five years ago which was way before the “zombie mash-up craze” that’s going on now. People were a little unsure how to take what I was doing at first glance. And now it has evolved to include the graphic novel which will be out later this year and possibly some other cool projects that I won’t mention because I don’t want to jinx myself.

ZSC: You’ve tackled some pretty famous faces and turned them into zombies. Who do you think made the most ideal zombie?

BT: That’s tough. I think the best ones are the most unexpected ones. My Breakfast Is Tiffany is probably the best example of that. Several people have done their own versions now so it’s pretty common but when I first did it people were taken aback a little. The imagery coupled with the title is a great combo.

ZSC: Monsters seem to have a large part in your life. Which monster do you feel you have the most in common with?

BT: When I was younger I connected with vampires but as I get older I seem to gravitate towards Frankenstein’s Monster more and more. I grew up in rural Kentucky and I was always into horror and heavy metal music. You know, with the long hair and the black t-shirts and such. So I had always been stereotyped by those that didn’t really know me as being scary. And now I find that when people find out I’m a horror artist the same stereotypes are applied. “Anyone that can imagine such bloody and scary images ain’t right in the head!” But as most of us in the horror industry know that’s not always the case.

Even with all the strangeness that goes along with my chosen career path we lead a pretty normal life. It’s probably more normal than the lives of most “normal” people! So the parallels between myself and Frankenstein’s misunderstood creation can be pretty close. Except for the torches and pitchforks…

ZSC: Who do you think will be Zombiefied next by your pencil (or brush)?

BT: Right now I’m finishing up a zombified Tyler-Davidson Fountain which is a Cincinnati landmark. I have a list that’s as long as my arm and I don’t think too far ahead but my very next piece will be Happy Days’ Fonzie. After that, who knows?

ZSC: A loved one has been made into a monster (ravenous vampire, zombie, werewolf…) would you be able to “put them down” in order to ensure they do not harm others?

BT: I’m not sure “putting them down” would be an option. What if ‘monsterism’ is the next stage in natural evolution? Do we have the right to interfere with mother nature? Wouldn’t the killing off of werewolves, vampires or zombies be akin to genocide? Or at least the extermination of a species? Conservation should be the keyword. We live in a world filled with endangered species lists. I’m not sure we can justify killing off a creature just because it wants to eat us.

ZSC: You have a wide ranger of products for your work in addition to your comic books: T-Shirt designs, logos, book and magazine layouts and design, tattoo’s, ads, web sites, signage, movie poster, murals, and photo restoration. Which is your favorite type of project to work on and why?

BT: I prefer just plain old oil painting regardless of subject matter. Everything else is a nice change but oil painting is a medium that if I’m away from it too long I start to miss it. And then I start to think about it a lot. It’s an addiction.

ZSC: In the event of a zombiepocalypse what weapon would you choose to fight off the undead?

BT: Who said anything about fighting them off?

Be sure to check out Billy’s site, although in his Bio he issues the following warning: Avoid visiting if you suffer from heart problems, weak stomach,fear of the dark or a shortness of a sense of humor.