Four Color Beast: The Comic Book Work of Rob Zombie

Written by Jess Peacock
(Note: Reposted from Famous Monsters of Filmland)

Few people within the entertainment industry have so successfully mastered and effectively entertained the masses across multiple forms of media as Rob Zombie. From his outrageously popular albums with White Zombie and as a solo artist, to his directorial efforts on movies such as The Devil’s Rejects and his Halloween remake (the highest grossing Halloween installment in history), to the animated feature film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, Zombie has emerged as a prototype of the culturally savvy post-modern Renaissance Man.

In addition to his well-documented exploits in music and cinema, Zombie has additionally carved out a thriving niche in the aggressive world of comic books. Since 2003’s Spookshow International title, the man known by millions as the Superbeast has maintained a steady presence in the four-color format. “I started collecting comics in the early 70’s,” he explains. “I remember the first book I ever bought was a Fantastic Four. Growing up, my comic tastes were pretty limited to either Marvel or DC. It seemed like there were only about ten titles, so it wasn’t hard to collect everything.”

Along with a sturdy diet of comics, this period of Zombie’s adolescence was also profoundly influenced by another publication: Famous Monsters of Filmland. “Famous Monsters was a part of that weird time period I remember as a kid during the late 60s monster boom,” he recalls. “But there wasn’t that much to be had for a typical kid. It seems absurd now because everything is everywhere, but I remember convincing our parents to drive us somewhere so we could buy Famous Monsters because that’s all there was. And looking through them and thinking wow, check out all these movies that we’ll never see!”

“Famous Monsters of that time felt like a cool club,” Zombie continues. “It wasn’t judgmental, because everyone reading it loved monsters.”

Bolstered by his devotion to comics and monsters, Zombie’s unique path through life was essentially assured. Before embracing superstardom, he worked as an art director for a porn magazine and as a production assistant for the television series Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, ultimately rocketing to national prominence with his band White Zombie. The success of his music career opened numerous creative doors that the tireless entertainer had been hoping to explore.

In 2003, Zombie and writer Steve Niles pooled their talents to form CREEP Entertainment International, a collective steeped in both men’s love of comics and all things horrific. “It is a rare moment when you can find someone to collaborate with,” remarks Zombie. “We did a couple of books together. The Nail was my idea, and we did another one, Bigfoot, which was his idea. And we each had one more thing but we didn’t get to go any further.” The venture at the time was intended to encompass movies and music, including a rumored Lords of Salem comic that would feature an album to be released in conjunction with the book. “For whatever reason we only did the two books. It was fun. We’re still friends and nothing ended for bad reasons. I had movies and he was busy with other comics.”

“I don’t feel like I’m up to speed enough because I don’t really have time to read the books anymore,” Zombie says in regard to the current comic book scene. With a packed schedule of writing and recording albums, touring, publicity appearances, and writing and directing movies, it’s a miracle the horror rocker has time for any side projects at all. Fortunately, the storyteller in Zombie had something to say, and Image Comics gave him the forum to express himself with the recently released Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock?

“The inspiration came from living in Hollywood and from people I know,” Zombie explains of the eight-issue comic which reveals the fickle nature of celebrity through the story of Leon Stokes and his alter ego, the television horror host Baron Von Shock. “I don’t want to mention their names, but there are several people I’m friends with that are sort of that type of personality. They did a movie role 25 years ago and that’s their entire identity. One friend in particular…if a studio remade his movie and didn’t ask him to be in it he’d be so crushed, he would be destroyed.”

Unleashed on May 26, issue 1 of Baron Von Shock stunned the industry, and Zombie, by selling out in less than a week. “It took me by surprise, because you never know what to expect,” he says. “It’s not like playing a show and sensing what people are feeling. You just do the comic and it goes out into this vacuum. But the feedback has been amazing!”

More realistic in tone, Baron Von Shock eschews the signature creeps and beasties of Zombie’s previous comics work such as Spookshow International, Bigfoot, and The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, for a more dramatic, and surprisingly cinematic, storyline. “I kind of saw it as a movie,” he explains. “Baron Von Shock was something I had sitting around for a long, long time. And I hate when a project hangs in limbo. That’s why I thought I’d turn it into a comic, then a graphic novel, then you have something concrete that makes it getting turned into a movie that much easier.”

“With something like Superbeasto which was just every kid’s idea of what Scooby-Doo could be if it were filthy, there wasn’t a master plan,” he continues. “I would literally make it up as I went along. With Baron Von Shock I actually wrote the whole thing as a finished script from start to finish so it actually made sense. It’s more real life stuff, so there’s no cheap ways out of it.”
“The great thing about the people I’m working with on Shock,” Zombie adds, “Is that I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. My comics are a way of getting things out of my system, but it’s really hard to find people you can work with. We had one person who started the book and bowed out after a couple of pages. Some can’t draw nudity and some don’t like the language.”

With the release and success of Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock? (“It’s the classic Hollywood story”), Rob Zombie has once again proven that his appeal as a multimedia horror auteur has far from waned. With regard to potential future plans in comics, Zombie is open, yet noncommittal. “There are a few ideas I have partially written that, again, if I can find a good artist that gets it, I want to do. So I’m just looking for the right person.”