Arthur Suydam Empire of the Dead

Per Matt
What happens when the Godfather of Zombies joins forces with the Zombie King?

Filmmaker George Romero collaborated with artist Arthur Suydam to create the latest Marvel Comics title, Empire of the Dead. Mr. Suydam is no stranger to the undead, being classically trained to sculpt and draw the dead and having previously crafted iconic covers to both Marvel Zombies and The Walking Dead, he seems to be a natural fit.

Not long ago at MegaCon, I got a quick interview with him to discuss working with Romero, delving into Empire’s upcoming storyline and inserting Zombies into every-day New York life.

Can you tell me how you got involved with Empire of the Dead?
– “I did Marvel Zombies. I’m classically trained. I went to a recreation of the school of Michelangelo. Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael recreated the school based on his notes from the 15th and 16th century. So, the school was all about anatomy and figure drawing. I had to do a lot of work with cadavers. The medical physicians had them during the day and we had to do autopsies on the cadavers in the evening. I had to sculpt them, paint them and draw them. At the time, I was watching nothing but horror movies and drawing horror stories for DC Comics. Put all that together and this is where the Zombie thing comes from.”

“I thought the only good Zombie movie that had come out, for many, many years, was Night of the Living Dead. I’m a big fan of that first movie by George Romero. So, Marvel got the great idea to put the Godfather of Zombies (Romero) and the Zombie King (Suydam) together on a project: Empire of the Dead. I’m actually doing the variant covers for the series.”

Can you tell me a little about the storyline?
– “It’s a Zombie outbreak with vampires and Zombies competing over the food source in New York City.”

Is this a limited series?
– “I think it’s a 15-part series and it goes in a series of three five-parters.”

Is there any possibility of extending the story past 15 issues?
– “I’m not in touch with the storyline. I have no input on that. I’m just the art guy.”

Empire of the Dead

Are you basing your covers on any pre-existing material?
– “They’re all depictions of typical New York life, with a Zombie spin on it. So, it’s a classical Zombie spin on typical life. For instance, the first issue was a picture of a big apple. Zombies and vampires have taken a bite out of it, so blood’s dripping out. The second one was a kid in Central Park buying a hotdog from a Zombie hotdog vendor. The third one is a bunch of people riding the subway to work and there happens to be a Zombie standing there. It looks like he’s going to work. In New York, everyone gives you your space, so they give the Zombie his space, as well. He’s just another New Yorker.”

Generally, how long does it take you to complete a cover?
– “It depends. The portraits go the fastest. The more characters that are on them, they go the slowest. It depends how many characters there are. It runs anywhere from within two or three weeks on the short end, to about four months on a really difficult landscape picture with a lot of characters. I work in everything except acrylics, so that’s oil paintings and a lot of gouache paintings, as well. I use multimedia in everything. Ink is the underpainting, color pencils and oil pastels on top… that kind of ting. Whatever works.”

What other projects do you have coming out?
– “I’m still working on that one right now. I’m working on Army of Darkness right now, as well. It’s a new series. I’m already four covers into that one. The books have been coming out. Then I’m working on a bunch of collections of my own works, that I drew and wrote myself. The Adventures of Cholly and Flytrap comes out in about two months. That’s roughly a 225-page hardcover book. I wrote it and did all the interiors, as well as the covers.”

“Following that, the complete Mudwogs is coming out. That’s all my hand-painted multimedia watercolor work. That’ll be probably be out sometime next year. The Art of the Barbarian collection is coming out — that’s my complete collection — and then there’s three tabletop art books coming out, with all my Zombie paintings in them.”

For More Information:
Arthur Suydam’s Website