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Friday, September 4, 2009

Featured Artist: Billy Tackett

September will be the month of several firsts at Zombies & Toys! The first first is we are having a theme this month. The focus throughout the month will be art featuring and inspired by zombies. We will have features and interviews with different artists sharing with us their thoughts on zombies and, of course, some images of their work. We will also be offering for the first time two separate contests supporting our theme. Don't forget, we are giving away a copy of Zombies For Zombies thanks to Source Books and author, David P Murphy.

Our second contest brings me to the introduction of our first featured artist this month, Billy Tackett. Thanks to Billy, we will be giving one lucky reader an autographed print of his Zombie Sam painting! This is without a doubt one of the most unique items we have had the pleasure of offering readers. For your chance to own this wonderful print, email me at with "Art" as the subject. Include your name and address as well as the name of the classic movie Billy recently gave the zombie treatment. (hint: it can be found in his "color" gallery)

Hailing from rural Kentucky, artist Billy Tackett freelanced for twelve years before earning international recognition as an accomplished artist. His work has graced the covers of over 200 published book covers and his signature piece, Zombie Sam, has given birth to the Dead White & Blue series whose fan base is growing daily. Billy keeps busy by attending over twenty events each year in addition to launching a clothing line featuring his work. We can also expect to see a book later this year, For the Love of Monsters, followed by his first graphic novel. Did I mention that he doesn’t sleep?

Since we are all mostly familiar with Zombie Sam, I’ll start there. Billy created the image for the now defunct comic book, Fleshrot, and had no idea at the time Sam would become so popular. “A couple years later when I picked up oil painting, I thought it would make a cool color piece. He’s one of my first paintings.” Zombie Sam was created for Billy’s first convention show where he was also asked if his image was available on a shirt. “That got me into the graphic tee business and now I offer seven different designs.”

“The positive response from Sam prompted me to paint Fannie the Flesheater (Rosie the Riveter) as a companion piece. She begat Sgt. Rot and he in turn begat the main characters in a graphic novel I am writing, Dead White & Blue Comics. My career owes a lot to Zombie Sam who was one of those ideas that just sort of popped into my head one day.” Sam wasn’t Billy’s first zombie creation. Growing up “as an artist and metalhead” in the 80s, Billy was influenced in part by Eddie, Iron Maiden’s zombie mascot.

That first trio of zombie images were all based off of old war posters and moving towards other American icons “was the next logical step” for Billy leading to the zombification of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis. “Most of my recent Dead White & Blue pieces have been media related, movies, and music. So I think I’m going to do some historic pieces in the near future. I have a long list on my refrigerator of candidates for the Zombificator. As ideas come to me I’ll write them down and then mark them off once they’re complete.”

Zombificator? “The Zombificator will be a part of my site where I offer zombie portraits at a very reasonable price. I began holding costume contests at some of the conventions I attend where if you come dressed as Sam, Fannie, or Sgt. Rot you could win a portrait of you as a zombie. The response has been so good that I figured I would offer the portraits to everyone. There’s a few other zombie portrait artists out there so I want to make sure I am offering something no one else is. Unfortunately, I maintain my site myself so this part is still under construction until I get some of these commission pieces completed.”

Billy’s first introduction to zombies was from the old movie magazines of the early 70s. “The one I read most often was Monsters of the Movies. Seeing the old stills of movies like I Walked With A Zombie, White Zombie, King of the Zombies, etc. Of course, these were the old-school voodoo zombies.” But it was one movie in particular that clicked with Billy. “The one production that got me into [zombies] was Return of the Living Dead. Until that time the vampire had been my monster of choice. I guess ROTLD showed me zombies as outcasts or misfits which was how I felt during my teenage years, whereas vampires were more suave and sophisticated which I was not.”

But what if you were bitten by a zombie? Kill you or walk away? “Shoot me. All zombie lore points to the fact that zombies are instinctual. The loss of humanity would be a great loss. I think that’s why vampires still hold a place in my heart. Even though they are monsters preying on the human race they are still conscious and retain the ability to create if they choose. Unless vampires turn out to be rotting ghouls like the old-world legends. In that case, count me out!”

Do yourselves a favor and check out It’s well-organized and provides plenty of links and information. You can order prints and shirts as well as link to Billy’s MySpace and Facebook pages. Also keep an eye on t-shirt printer, World of Strange, as they will be offering some of Billy’s images that will not be available anywhere else.

Billy’s art book, For the Love of Monsters, is also getting ready for publication. It will feature much of his art, some well-known and some not so much, in addition to concept sketches and photos. “It will be a mini biography and will include some stories behind the art as well as goofy stuff like my thoughts on giant eyeballs as movie monsters and album covers that had an impact on me.”


  1. Covington Zombie CrawlSeptember 6, 2009 at 11:03 AM

    Billy will be the guest of honor at Greater Cincinnati's Zombie Crawl this October. Check out the promo video here:

  2. Covington Zombie CrawlSeptember 6, 2009 at 11:04 AM

    Whoa, sorry. Wrong link. Try this one for the promo video:


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