When it comes to the most metal comic book ever, Black Metal by Rick Spears and Chuck BB wins it hands down, no questions asked. To illustrate something so metal, one must be more metal than Manowar, Black Sabbath, and Metallica combined. Thankfully, BB was on hand at the Long Beach Comic Expo this past weekend and was nice enough to sit down and answer a few of my not-so-metal questions.
Cameron Hatheway: I had the chance to gaze up on the Black Metal: Omnibvs before my mind was blown and my face melted. What's it like to finally hold such a metal collection in your hands? Was it a pleasant walk down memory lane?
Chuck BB: It feels great to have this giant brick of metal finally completed, so I'm super happy. Happy to have that done. Got to go back in and clean up some stuff that I wasn't totally happy with, but it's bigger, it doesn't fit in your pocket like the old ones, so that's the only downside. I'm really happy to have it all in one beast. Did you see the fancy black-on-black hardcover?
CH: Yeah! It reminded me a little of Spinal Tap; just pure black.
CBB: Doesn't work for marketing at any level, but it's fun.
CH: You can't find it in Previews, but you know.
CH: You and Spears definitely conquered that metal demographic. How much has metal influenced your life?
CBB: Metal is a pretty big part of my life, I consider myself a pretty big metalhead. Even by virtue of doing the comic, like I wanted to do a comic based on metal, and Rick and I came up with a way to do that. I got to work at Decibel Magazine doing a comic strip there, I listen to metal every day. It's not the only thing I listen to, but it's the thing I am the nerdiest about, more than comics or films. It's a day-to-day life and I'm dealing with it.
CBB: You know, that's the next goal. We're going to be like the Gorillaz, but we're going to hire a bunch of muscular men to stand in front of the screen, put corpse paint on and dance around. Can I play an instrument? Not in a real way. I have a pretty cool little MicroKorg synth, I don't know if that's good for some black metal stuff, probably not. Maybe they like intros. I can play a guitar well enough to play like a metal song. I could do their vocals pretty good, I can growl, so hey. One of these days, never say never. But probably say never.
CH: Do you read other metal comics? I was trying hard to think of what else could be considered 'metal' and the only thing that came to mind was Andy Belanger's Black Church. Do you check stuff out, or are you pretty content being the dominant force here?
CBB: I'm very content being the dominant force, let me tell you about that right now! [Laughter] No, I'm always on the lookout for stuff. I remember seeing those Hellboy stories, there was a Hellboy series where it was an anthology of short stories by different creators, and Evan Dorkin did one [Hellboy: Weird Tales, "Professional Help"] that was about black metal guys, I don't remember everything about it, but that I was the first time I ever saw that subgenre in comics and I was all "What the fuck! This guy did it before me?!" That was like a year or two before Black Metal I think. Anytime I see it, it's cool, I think you've got Andrew MacLean's Head Lopper which is not about metal necessarily, but if you put an Immortal song playing in the background, it would probably sync-up pretty well. I'm trying to think of more. There's not a lot, so anytime there is something I think I usually check it out.
CH: You just want to make sure it doesn't hold a black satanic candle to your own collections.
CBB: Exactly. We were trying to go for 666 pages for the book, but we only got to 464 [Laughter] It's a lot of goddamn pages, let me tell you!
CH: That would have been even more metal!
CBB: It would have been more metal, I just thought we'd fill it up the book with 100 black pages just to make up the difference. I also wanted to start a rumor too that Rick and I had squeezed our blood into the printing, into the ink, you know? So let's just go ahead and say that happened.
CH: And I heard that if you read the comic backwards, you get a hidden message, right?
CBB: If you read it backwards, you die.
CH: You die?!
CBB: Your face falls off—
CH: Oh man, is Oni Press liable for this?
CBB: It's kind of like that movie Face Off with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, but you don't get another face back on. It falls right off. So I recommend you don't do it if you like having a face. I've never seen it happen, so I don't know how detailed it gets. Maybe your skin falls off, and you still have a face? I dunno.
CBB: Oh, is it my oyster?
CH: It is your oyster, yes. I don't know if you got the memo, but it's your oyster.
CBB: I must be trapped in the shell then. [Laughter] I don't think my style is the oyster in comics land, I mean I can do anything I wanted to write myself, but as far as broader work or more mainstream work, I don't think that's as likely. I've done a little bit of stuff here and there. I did a story will Kelly Sue DeConnick for the Spider-Island series. I am kind of nerdy, I would like to work on a fun Marvel property or whatever; Rocket Raccoon, Power Pack. I would love to do that stuff if it was afforded to me, I don't know how. Next up I've got a couple things. I've been doing a strip at Decibel Magazine, "Stone Cold Lazy," which there are some plans afoot for that, I'm going to do a little something more with that. And I am working on a thing with Ivan Brandon called Deathface which is kinda like an Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque sort of action thing. Like Schwarzenegger on steroids and crack. It's really over-the-top eighties action sort of thing. Look for that at some point, I don't know when.
CH: You had a pretty unique situation getting into the industry, and have been thriving ever since. If Niles never did come across your art, what do you suppose you would be doing today?
CBB: I don't know, yeah, I did have a pretty easy in to professional comics. I just found his message board back in the day, and he was pulling artists off there, so I did luck out in that sense. I think maybe had it not gone down that way, maybe I wouldn't have known how possible, how short that wall is to get in, how thin the line between 'professional' and 'fan' really is. I was doing minicomics at the time, and I was trying to talk to publishers, which I didn't know anything about, I hadn't done any real serious comics work, so I'm not so sure how it would have gone. I probably would still be in the comics ghetto nonetheless.
CH: You'd just be a struggling artist. You'd just be one of those deviantArtists, telling others to check out your deviantArt page.
CBB: No not the site, I'd just be a deviant artist. I don't know what that really means, but yeah.
CH: I think you just made your own definition right there.
CH: Who would win in a fight, Dethklok, Frost Axe, or Dr. Rockso?
CBB: Well, depends on how much cocaine Dr. Rockso has had.
CH: He does a lot of C-C-C-C-COCAINE!
CBB: Right, so he can be a pretty coked-up hulk kind of thing. But I'm going to go with Frost Axe, of course! Team player, man. Those guys will die for stuff, for reals. Those Dethklok guys don't really die. Other people die, but Frost Axe is willing to die. Dethklok does have more songs, though. Frost Axe only has hypothetical songs. But they're more brutal, they are way more brutal, but they have a code of honor. They're like heroic, but still satanic.
CH: Has anyone ever likened your art style to floating like a butterfly, but stinging like a BB?
CBB: No one has ever told me that, but I like it. I do have a friend, his name is Greg Gun, and I wanted to start a band with him called "BB Gun," but we didn't. But still, you know what, I'm not dead just yet, still could happen. He's alive, so you never know.
CH: You could always do a comic of your band that never was, too. Like, "We were so good, we never had to play. Read our comic to learn all about it."
CBB: People are probably tired of me doing comics about music by now, so why don't I just do a comic about a cat with a sword? Maybe I will!
CH: There you go. The internet loves cats.
CBB: The internet loves cats, who doesn't love swords? Game of Thrones #1, cats are #2. Or #1, depends.