The ZOMBIES of Billy Tackett

by on May.15, 2011, under NETHERWORLD Haunted House, Zombie Merchandise

Crawling out of rural Kentucky, Billy Tackett has often been referred to as “the
Creepiest Artist in America”. With a roster of over 200 book covers and
illustrations to his credit, he has become famous for his popular “Dead, White &
Blue” series of paintings – undead depictions of iconic images. Having captured
the attention of best-selling author Shane Moore – who dubbed him “Duco-Letum”
(Painter of Death) – Tackett became the official artist of his “Abyss Walker”

We invited Billy to chat with us regarding his career and interests, and tell us
a bit about what he has in store for the future.

How was the idea for the “Dead, White & Blue” series spawned?

Back in 2003 I was approached by a publication to do a one page illustration of
a zombie. I did the very first Zombie Sam drawing for that. It was black and
white ink piece. A few years later I decided to turn that drawing into a full
color oil painting. That painting became so popular that I decided to paint a
companion piece, Fannie the Flesheater. Things kinda snowballed from there.
The original intent was to just zombify iconic American images, but it is
growing to include pop culture icons of all sorts. Dead, White & Blue is now
synonymous with a zombie nation that has no borders.

The series spun off into a graphic novel – with enthusiasm for zombie
entertainment at an all-time high, how has public reaction to the project been?
Amazingly positive! It’s been kind of a slow process to get this project up
and running but there has been a large number of people waiting patiently since
the very beginning and anticipation continues to grow. I have a great team
working on it and am positive the final product will be well worth the wait.

You make a lot of convention appearances throughout the country. Is it important
to you to make yourself approachable for your fans? What is one of your more
memorable convention experiences?

Absolutely. I could tell you so many stories of big-name artists that have been
rude to fans. I don’t understand it! Without the fans we would just be sitting
around drawing stuff for our families. I mean here are folks that paid their
hard earned cash to get into the event and they are spending even more for your
art or merchandise when they could be spending it someplace else. It’s one of
the greatest compliments anyone could give me, the artist. And even if a fan
doesn’t buy something, for them to take the time to stop by the table and say
hello when there’s so much other stuff going on is great! I don’t mean to rant
but people that don’t treat their fans with respect are deplorable.

One of the best experiences was at a local concert/ mini-convention. The
headlining band was one that I used to listen to back in the 80s and it just so
happened that their merch booth was right beside ours. They turned out to be a
great bunch of guys and at one point the singer grabbed one of my cards and
asked me for my autograph. Here was a guy that looked up to as a celebrity
during my youth asking for my autograph! I’ll not soon forget that experience.

You offer ZOMBIFICATOR portraits – stylized zombie renderings of human creatures
from all stalks of life. Can you share a few of the more unusual requests you’ve
ever received? Any that you turned down, or is it pretty much “anything goes”
when it comes to bringing the undead to 2D life?

If it’s a commission pretty much anything goes. There are some places I will
probably draw the line but it must be way, way out there. When it comes to the
Dead White & Blue art I’m a little more selective. I only zombify images that
are iconic and have been around a number of years. I stay away from contemporary
images because I want the art I create to be relevant 10 or 20 years from now.
We know in this day and age icons come and go weekly and zombifying those would
be a waste of time.

Two unusual, for very different reasons, were Strawberry Shortcake and Skeletor.
Strawberry Shortcake was unusual because it was well, Strawberry Shortcake. And
I never figured out how to zombify Skeletor and if I have one more person say to me “You know who you should do? Jesus!”I
will strangle that person!

Outside of illustration and painting, what are some of your other creative

I’m trying my hand at writing with the graphic novel, of course.

How does the Tackett clan celebrate Halloween? Is your house the one that kids
flock to, or the one that bullies coax the weak of heart into approaching?

We never decorated our house but we always dressed up and gave out candy. I know
a lot of people seem to be let down when they hear that but for me every day is
Halloween. Whenever someone asks me why I do what I do I answer with “You know
the mindset everybody is in on Halloween? That’s my mindset the other 364 days
of the year”.

In recent years we are usually gone every weekend in October and the week days
are filled with commission work so I don’t have a lot of time for festivities.
But we always manage to squeeze a movie night or two in during the season!

Are you a fan of haunted attractions and funhouses? What are some of your
favorites, and can you tell us a few you’d like to visit?

I am. I have a lot of friends in the haunted attraction industry. I’m probably a
bigger fan of the behind the scenes magic. For me that’s where the fun really
is. A lot of haunted attractions only up during Halloween and like I said before
that is my busiest time so I don’t get to visit as many as I’d like to.

You are slated to appear at Dragon*Con in Atlanta this summer – Atlanta is home
to Netherworld Haunted House and a plethora of other horror-themed events and
attractions. Will you be taking advantage of your trip to explore some of these
venues, or will it strictly be a working visit to the con?

I hadn’t planned out that far yet but it is definitely a possibility. As you
know Dragon*Con is pretty much a mad house and finding any time for
extra-curricular activities is difficult (as if D*C wasn’t extra-curricular
enough!) But yes, we are always up for some local “culture” so to speak. It’s my
favorite part of doing conventions aside from the events themselves.

Can you share a few tidbits regarding any upcoming projects? What can fans look
for in the near future from the fertile soil of your grim imagination?

There’s always a new Dead White & Blue piece ‘o art just around the corner then
there’s the graphic novel we mentioned earlier. Some long terms projects are a
volume 2 to my art book/biography For the Love of Monsters. I’m also looking
into doing a couple of art books that could probably best be classified as
“bestiaries”. And there may be some more graphic novels in the future…

Okay, I have to ask the standard interview question: If you were transformed
into a haunted scarecrow, which would you prefer for your stuffing? Rotting
straw, buzzard feathers, or leftover candy corn from 2003?

Leftover candy. That’s the scariest! Because you know how when you leave it all
in the bag together for a while and all the flavors start mingling and after a
while everything you pick out tastes the same? I could also see a reaction of
all the chemicals being the catalyst for the animation of my scarecrow body!
There’s a movie in there somewhere…

Discover more about Billy Tackett and his artwork, as well as merchandise and
collectibles at

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