When it comes to choosing a career, some guys have all the luck... er, talent rather. Take Andrew Barr for instance, an illustrator and comic artist whose well-endowed, exotic babes and gruesome beasties have graced everything from zombie "how-to" guides to CD covers for horror-rock group Calabrese.So Andrew, boobs and blood, huh? Not a bad way to make a living, wouldn't you say?
Sexy chicks and nasty monsters are nothing new to the art world, but Andrew still manages to put his own spin on every new piece of work. His passion for comics has lead him on a twisted series of self-initiated and collaborative experiments that have resulted in one of the most diverse concepts I've heard in some time: Beach Blanket Bloodbath. In order to learn more about BBB we had Andrew swing my the clubhouse for a routine brain pilfering and he revealed some interesting tidbits. Let's get started...
I suppose there’s worse ways to make a living.
Have you always been interested in things that go bump in the night?
Yeah, I think I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for monsters and stuff. My parents say the first movie they took me to as a child was JAWS at a drive-in. I was nine months old and cried through most of it, but its still a horror flick that I was in attendance of so that counts... right?
What were some of your Saturday morning cartoons growing up?
I have vague memories of watching Tarzan cartoons and Battle of the Planets. I also remember digging Thunndarr the Barbarian (although I remember laughing a lot at the strange backward walk cycle they used a lot). Of course there was also Hanna Barbara's Godzilla cartoon, but for me Saturdays meant Super-Host on Channel 43 WUAB. Three Stooges shorts and horror flicks what could possibly be better than that? Nothing that’s what.
You are the original creator behind Beach Blanket Bloodbath which first began as an ambitious community comic jam over on DeviantArt. Can you give us a little background on what the story is about?
Actually Beach Blanket Bloodbath started before the community comic jam. Way back in my college days at Sheridan College where I was in the Illustration program some pals and I had what was commonly known as the pass around sketch book where we were all drawing a jam comic that slowly became a strangely coherent story we called Shaolin Time Fist.
Once school was over a couple of us continued drawing comics on our own, real small run comics. I was doing one called Something-a-Go-Go, but I kept remembering how much fun we had doing Time Fist so since a couple of us were now working together in the real world in the graphics department at a newspaper I thought it would be fun to try and get a new jam comic going again. We’d do a page or two in between assignments or after our work day was done, but since there was only four of us working on it and we all had our own comics and illustration careers going on at the same time it kinda slowly lost momentum. Since I was on DeviantArt at time I figured I’d open it up to an international level to see what would happen.
As for who or what the story is about... um, Megan Lanchestershire, a character from my Something-a-Go-Go book, and Victoria Phibes, a character I made up for Beach Blanket Bloodbath, fight monsters and encounter weird stuff. There was something in there about the Acula Council, an organization of vampires lead by Dracula and Blacula who are also its only members since they were the only vampires I could think of with ”acula” in the name (though I might eventually include actor Scott Bakula since that’s pretty close in spelling). Their scheme involves blocking out the sun and using underwater nazi zombies to capture Megan for some nefarious purpose. Eventually evil female masked wrestlers, serial killers, robot Taura Satanas, zombies, Andy Warhol Frankenstein, and a biker gang of werewolves in space were introduced.
That's quite a story! You recently made the decision to end the DevianArt side of the project in favor of a more traditional approach. What promoted the decision to switch gears after almost 4 years?
It just seemed to run out of gas and was so extremely complex and out of control I didn’t know what else to do with it. But like all hideous monsters it seems to refuse to die. As soon as I announced the death of the project someone says they want to do another page! I hope people do continue to add to that version of it since it really has taken on a weird life of its own.
With the change you are now working with Jimmy Calabrese on a new version of Beach Blanket Bloodbath. How did that partnership come about?
I’ve done a lot of work for Jimmy for his horror–rock–band™ Calabrese, album art, t-shirts, gig posters, etc. When I found out he was also writing some flash fiction and short stories I thought it might be fun to see if he wanted to collaborate on my weird little comic thing. Since I’ve never really worked with an actual writer on any of my previous Something-a-Go-Go books I thought it would be an interesting experiment. Turns out its a lot of fun to work with him.
Your work features a lot of influences from cult movies, more specifically horror and sci-fi. What is it about these genre that appeals to you?
I’m not really sure. I’ve always been a fan of monster movies and old sci-fi, I think it has a lot to do with the implication that anything can happen. Even though a lot of horror and sci-fi can be pretty formulaic there is still the possibility that something unexpected can happen. Mainstream stuff seems to be really flat when you compare it to the genre stuff.
Horror comics seem to be experiencing a resurrection of sorts with a few titles seeing mainstream success in recent years such as Hack/Slash, The Veil, Marvel Zombies and pretty much anything by Steve Niles. Why do you think people are more interested in monsters now then say 5 years ago?
I don’t know if horror comics in general are having such a resurrection. I think its pretty much just zombies are what’s captured the general public’s attention. The success of things like Hack/Slash and the Steve Niles stuff can be attributed to recognition of good stuff, but pretty much everything else that’s popular seems to be because there’s zombies in it. I think someone needs to make something other than zombies cool again.
I remember first being introduced to your work thanks to the MONSTARS series you did that featured an assortment of highly stylized movie monsters. What was the concept behind that project and are there any future installments in the near future?
Ah, the Monstars. I thought I could use a bit of a drawing challenge and being as how I love monsters I thought it would be fun to draw as many movie monsters as I could think of without using reference and limiting myself to that rounded corner square shape as a base. There will definitely be more installments in the future.
I started working on a spin off that was going to be b-movie heroes, but once I finished Snake Pliskin (the first of the series) there was a weird problem with my computer and the file just disappeared, I took that as an omen and didn’t bother doing any more. But I think I can guarantee there will be more Monstars starting in August.
What's the artistic community like in Canada? Are there any Canadian artists whose work you really admire?
Hmm, tough question. I think it's pretty good. I tend to hang out with a smallish group of illustrators, most are fellow illustration classmates from Sheridan College. As for Canadian artists whose work I really admire, its hard to say. I tend to dig different things about different artists and hardly ever take the time to find out where they’re from for example I dig the artist Tom Bagely, who I didn’t know was Canadian until I worked with him on the album art for the second Calabrese album I worked on. Other than that I know I really like the work of my gang (Leigh Young, Mike Faille, Kagan Mcleod, Chip Zdarsky).
If you were trapped in a cabin deep within zombie-infested woods and had nothing but a VCR, some duct tape, Hitler's brain (in a jar) and a monkey's paw... what 5 films would you want to watch?
Well, I think I’d have to go with, 1) The Thing (1982) because its probably the greatest movie ever made. 2) Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the extended cut, its my favorite of the Apes flicks. 3) Repoman, I make it a point to watch it once a year so if I’m trapped in a cabin in zombie infested woods I probably wouldn’t have too many chances left to watch it and Repoman is probably one of the most quotable movies in the world of quotable movies. 4) Lost Skeleton of Cadavera, one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. 5) Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, I think that’s where most of my genre mashing interest came from.
Tar Man. Coolest zombie ever caught on film?
I’d say its between him, the Priest in City of the Living Dead who can make people puke their guts out (literally), the zombie who fights the shark in Zombie (or Zombi 2 depending on where you’re watching) or the flying zombie head from Zombi 3 (aka Zombie 2, again depending on where you’re watching).
What is the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
I don’t know. I don’t think I was that strange as a kid. I was reading Edgar Allan Poe in third grade and was a fan of classical music through out most of my childhood. You know typical kids stuff.
Shortly after our interview concluded, Andrew announced that he had completed the first character in his upcoming MONSTARS series 2... our very own Strange Kid! Sweet! Check out Strange Kid in all his awkward glory above and for more of Andrew's work be sure to visit him online at Something-a-Go-Go, DeviantArt, his personal art blog Notchordamnatchoz or at the official Beach Blanket Bloodbath blog (try saying that 3 times fast).