Hey Fangirls! A couple weeks back I was lucky enough to go to Special Edition: NYC and meet some absolutely lovely independent creators. I think independent creators are some of the most amazing and inspiring people on the planet. They make what they love, and to me, that’s beautiful. Two of the individuals I met at SE:NYC were David Phillips and Sarah Braly. Let me tell you, Fangirls, these folks really know how to catch an eye. In a sea of grey and blue tables, their’s was neon green. It was littered in lovely yet despicable cupcakes, and had some really intriguing comics on top. So when my friends were looking for back issues that I wasn’t concerned with, I sneaked off to the High Fructose Zombies table.
Good golly miss Molly, I am so happy I visited their table. I am awful at talking to people, especially at first and in person. At conventions I tend to run from people who shout at me or push me to buy their art (I’m broke, yo). So I like to hover at the back of the crowd to hear stories and decide what to do next. Fangirls, these people are so nice I could scream. First of all, they put no pressure on me whatsoever. Second, they gave me the full pitch (which is amazing, can we all just listen to Mr. Phillips tell stories all day? Cool), and didn’t scream at me to pay attention to them. They gave me their attention and were beyond friendly. So if you’re unsure after reading how great their comic is (I’m getting to that), check out Issue 1 simply because these are the nicest creatures on the planet.
So the comic. The pitch had me hooked; candy bar turns people into zombies and a rad chica beheads said zombies with a giant lollipop? I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. If I just typed “SO GOOD” over and over, it wouldn’t express how much I loved this first comic. Clea, the main character, is very pro-organic food because her father was killed in a candy accident, but is stuck in a town that is run by Yumzy, a candy company. When a new candy bar, the Snakatak turns some patrons into flesh hungry zombies, she gets her slay on. She gives herself an undercut, and goes home.
I got the next 3 issues and ate them up. One of her old teachers lost his wife to Yumzy, and knows something is up with the candy, and is doing research to bring them down. When Yumzyland opens, all hell breaks loose, and there end up being zombies everywhere. Fangirls, I don’t want to go too deeply into details because this is just so damn good that you need to go read it yourself.
I asked some questions of Sarah Braly & David Phillips, the creators, and was lucky enough for them to respond. So here’s the rad answers they gave!
What type(s) of education did you get?
Sarah – I was trained as an industrial designer, which means a focus on product and spacial design, as well as design theory. I studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
David – I studied theater in undergrad at Santa Clara University, worked as an actor in LA for almost a decade, and then moved to NYC to attend NYU’s Tisch school for my Masters. Specifically, I studied at ITP (Interactive Telecommunications Program), a program that merges technology and art.
What made you want to make comics/be a comic artist?
Sarah – I was a late comer to comics, not really having been exposed to them as a child. In college I wandered into a comic book shop, picked up “Chanel Zero” Brian Wood, read it, and just knew comics were for me. I started using comic book paneling and styling for my Industrial Design presentations, using the comic narrative format to describe how my products worked. And I was hooked.
David – Wanting to be a comic book artist is for many like the childhood dream of wanting to be a vet, something that most kids think would be awesome, but that you grow out of as you age. That’s what happened to me, but some shadow of that dream always lingered in the back of my mind. But it was always too daunting to do a comic on my own, and I hand’t found the right partner, until I finally did in Sarah.
Where did the idea for Clea and the High Fructose Zombies come from?
The beginnings of the idea first manifested while we were hiking, and just throwing around concepts to pass the time. Sarah is a zombie enthusiast to put it lightly, and had always wanted to do a zombie story, so that was a jumping off point of sorts. We are also both very into current events and geopolitical issues, so we knew that if we were to create a comic, we would want it to touch on at least one issue. Monsanto and big agra were very much in the media at that time, as well as the take over by high fructose corn syrup. So at some point we reached a cross over between zombies and high fructose corn syrup. While we knew we wanted to hit on this issue, we didn’t want to hit out audience over the head with MESSAGE, and so the story evolved into the surrealist horror comedy it is today.
The idea fully cemented into a comic the week before out wedding in July. In the pre-wedding mode of “getting shit done” Sarah decided it was time to make the comic, so we jumped off the deep end, bought a small press booth at NYCC in October, and started the comic, from
outline to completion, three days after our wedding. We launched the first issue at NYCC 2012!
What do you find to be the biggest struggles as an independent creative team?
Time. There is never enough time. As an independent creator you’re not making any money off of your work to start, which means you need to be making money elsewhere to pour into the project. For the last two years there has been no such thing as “after work” time or weekends. We work ALL the time. It’s been great, but it definitely takes over your life.
This is one of those experiences where the positive definitely outweighs the negative. We love making this comic. We love going to comic cons with it and meeting new people. One of our favorite moments is when we get people to laugh during our pitch. Creating work that sees the light of day and is experienced by a community is truly rewarding.
Who is you biggest influence?
Sarah – Tim Burton’s Batman and Robin. There is just something about the visuals of that film that have lingered with me as an influence. Additionally I would include “Six String Samurai”, “Tank Girl”, and most recently “Chew” as major stylistic influences.
David – Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore – the big names.
Do you have any creating rituals?
Sarah – I like to be surrounded by my work and inspiration. This has lead to a house with walls artistically covered so that we are never truly removed from the creative process.
David – Coffee.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?
Deadlines. Other than constraints, deadlines are one of the most important parts of the creative process. It is so easy to get caught up, constantly tweaking, improving, making your work better, to the point that you never actually finish it. Especially when it comes to comic books, which are a huge undertaking, having that hard end date helps you continuously move forward. Nothing will ever be perfect and it is ok to sometime say, “it’s good enough”. You’ll learn more and improve faster if you just plow forward.
Do you have plans for other summer conventions?
Our next Comic Con will be NYCC in October, where we will be moving from our usual spot in small press to the Cultyard. Not only will we have the graphic novel of High Fructose Zombies, but an assortment of custom HFZ collectible figurines, as well as collectible figurines from other series.
So Fangirls. I have a job for you. Go order or download the first issue of High Fructose Zombies. If you’re a Starkid fan, who has checked out Quicksand Jack and enjoy it, you will enjoy Braly’s style. Its lovely in either black and white or color. The downloads I have are in full color (it pops so damn well), but the first issue I have is black and white, and still feels amazing. Go forth and read, Fangirls.
Website (where you can download the issues!)
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