“As funny as a barrel of butts!”—A Q&A with Jayel Draco

evolution orcs zombies mr. guy jayel draco
Mr. Guy creator, writer, illustrator and publisher, Jayel Draco's zombified bio pic

Jayel Draco is the weird genius behind Mr. Guy: Zombie Hunter. We figured you might want to take a tour through his bizarre mind and a trip down memory lane with him so you could understand just what a demented ride you’re truly in for when you read his creation. Behold! A Q&A between our friend DeusNova42 and Jayel Draco!

Can you tell us a bit about Mr. Guy, as a narrative and as a character?

Sure! Strap in! Please keep all arms and legs inside the vehicle. So, Mr. Guy is a horror comedy, more specifically zombie-apocalypse lampoon. Less specifically, it doesn’t adhere to spoofing one particular zombie apocalypse trope over another. In fact, it satirizes everything it comes across. Our eponymous hero, Mr. Guy, is a half-D&D-style goblin, living in a modern world with a high-fantasy history. Humans, elves, orcs, goblins, etc. have all advanced to the point of a modern, Earth-like civilization.

They were all having a fine day when, out of nowhere, the zombie apocalypse showed up—like it does. If you’re anything like me, your first question when you read that is, “Okay, which version of the zombie apocalypse? Are we talking Revelations, ancient curse, natural virus, alien retrovirus, radioactivity, what?”

Well, yes. In Mr. Guy’s efforts to save himself throughout the book, he must explore all of those possibilities and more. He’s not in it to save us all, per se, but that may just become part of saving himself.   

What inspired you to write Mr. Guy, and how long was the process?

As a teenager back in the nineteen hundreds—the mid-nineties to be precise—I had a deep love for all things pop culture, but was especially tickled by zombies. I loved thinking about how I might endeavor to survive in a zombie-apocalypse scenario. Which always brought me back to the question of which zombie-apocalypse scenario. I also loved high fantasy, and loved the idea of a goblin main character, which is something you don’t really see much of.

At some point it just clicked: Modern-world zombie apocalypse + high-fantasy ! But again, which zombie apocalypse? in playing with various versions, it hit me: Why not all of them?

How has Mr. Guy changed throughout all the time that you have been working on it?

Mr. Guy Zombie Hunter Act 1 sample art
Image from “Arc 1: Stoopid Vermin” by Jayel Draco.

Like a good pickle, Mr. Guy has had a long time to ferment. Between the time when Mr. Guy first appeared in a tiny corner of my oversized, duct-tape-covered, sticker-coated sketchbook as a freshman in high school and now, I have learned a thing or two about storytelling, character development, world-building, etc. I’ve also gotten a bit better at drawing in those two and a half decades. But that stuff is par for the course.

A huge difference that become a part of Mr. Guy’s narrative is the concept of making it an art-thology. The term art-thology is something we’ve coined to describe one continuing narrative, wherein each chapter is illustrated by a different artist, giving it a self-contained episodic feel with a symphony of styles. 

What makes Mr. Guy different from your other narratives?

Mr. Guy is as funny as a barrel of butts. As a satire, the story has a bit more freedom than most of the projects I work on. Children of Gaia (COG), for example is very serious, structured world building, where each new element presents new parameters for the addition of any subsequent elements. While PACK and Tracy Queen are both a bit more noir and err closer to the side of zaney than COG, they both exist in the same version of Earth in what we call the Oneshiverse. So they both have to work within each other’s narrative confines.

Mr. Guy, on the other hand, operates in a lower dimension, one step closer to the source. He can express a vague awareness of the narrative he’s in and break the fourth wall with meta and self-referential humor. The narrative is an exploration of pop culture tropes, and the main character, our beloved reluctant hero Mr. Guy, is allowed to join us on that exploration, with at least some vague sense of awareness about those tropes and his own weird role in playing with them.

How did you make Mr. Guy so unique whilst exploring existing stories and narratives within the comic?

I took the gourmet approach. I think of a story like a meal. An accomplished chef does not need to invent their own ingredients. Like anyone else, they select from a variety of preexisting ingredients. An accomplished chef, however, can play ingredients off of one another in a delicious and unique medley. Mostly it’s about timing, how and when which ingredients are added will change how they play together. Unexpected accents can make a dish exciting, but too many can create a cacophonous sludge. I want you to laugh with me while we share this meal that I made for both of us to enjoy together. I tried to keep that in mind while creating Mr. Guy.

Why did you decide to make Mr. Guy a collaboration between artists rather than just illustrating it yourself?

teenage mutant ninja turtles eastman laird turtle soup cover
Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtle Soup

For a long time I did imagine that one day I would write and illustrate all of Mr. Guy. For the last few years, however, Oneshi Press has been putting out comics anthologies—we’re currently working on our 10th anthology for summer 2020. I really love the buffet of creativity that anthologies offer.

My first experience with the concept of a comics anthology was Eastman and Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtle Soup, put out by Mirage Studios in 1987. Young Jayel studied this collection, poring over every detail. “How is it possible that these turtles exist in 8 alternative realities?”…“Even though they’re done differently, they’re the same characters.”

That last concept eventually evolved into the realization that what’s true of a character is who they are, what’s fun about a character is how they are…and that how can be changed up and kept fresh. Of course, over the years, there have been countless takes on TMNT by various artists. And it all just adds to that yummy turtle soup. [Editorial note: Jayel does not eat turtles.]

Since Mr. Guy episodically switches from exploring one trope to another, it’s already broken down in such a way that each chapter is told in a different style. At some point it just clicked: Why not also show each chapter in a different style, too?  

How do you make sure that recurring characters and places within the comic are consistent from one artist’s arc to the next?

Well, forethought was important there, but for the sake of peace of mind, even that forethought must be tempered with acceptance. Certain things would progress from one arc to the next, such as the wear and tear on Mr. Guy’s clothing, scars and mutations he picks up along the way, a continuous shift in his demeanor, etc. For those sorts of details, I drew out a timeline of the character’s development, showing his becoming.

Mr. Guy Zombie Hunter Act 1 sample art
Image from Arc 2: A Damned Drink by Walter Ostlie.

There are a few examples where an arc will end in one location and the next arc will begin there. In those cases I did my best to have detailed descriptions in both arcs. Even though the descriptions may be redundant, it’s important that both artists are getting the same direction. Even still, there’s a degree of variation in how two artists may interpret a description. When continuity is vital, I would just design it ahead of time and send my designs to both artists. There was even a case where one artist drew a location before the other got to it, so I shared the work of the former with the latter.

And of course, as I said, acceptance. The beauty here is the chance to see how different artists envision these characters and scenarios, so we have to allow there to be differences. I believe micromanaging is antithetical to creativity. In my opinion, if you hire an artist, it should be because you’ve studied their work and trust their judgement.

What has been the most challenging part in the making of Mr. Guy and why?

Creatively, the biggest challenge has been curating which artists would be ideal for which arcs and then of course having to see if they’re available and interested. If they’re not, it’s having to find someone else who would work for it and is available and interested. In one instance, I had to find a replacement for who I had in mind for “Arc 3: Muskrat City.” I switched an artist from a later issue—Diana Camero, who was slated to work on Arc 9—and put her on Arc 3. Then I had to do the same thing with Walter Ostlie, who I originally had in mind for Arc 11, and moved him up onto Arc 2. In both these cases, I’m very happy about how that worked out for this first issue (Arcs 1-4). But future Jayel will have to figure out how to fill arcs 9 and 11 with artists who are right for them. Thankfully, Arc 4, which I wrote specifically with Jacey Chase in mind, remained in their capable hands. 

How many more installments of Mr. Guy can we expect?

Mr. Guy Zombie Hunter Act 1 sample art
Image from Arc 4: Resident Viral by Jacey Chase

As of right now, the plan is that Book 1 of Mr. Guy will be released in three issues, called Acts 1-3. Each act will be comprised of 4 arcs. Each arc is an 8-page chapter. So I have a total of 12 x 8-page arcs written out, each to be done by a different artist, and released in 3 bundles of 4.  So first, Act 1 will contain Arcs 1-4, then Act 2 will contain Arcs 5-8, and lastly Act 3 will have Arcs 9-12. Those will all be part of the Book 1 collection.

We’ve gotta stay sharp though, I’ve heard rumors that I might be planning a second book.

Click HERE to get your copy today!

Well, you heard it here first, folks. Jayel Draco is a madperson who loves turtle soup. And he’s also going to be helming a Kickstarter for Mr. Guy: Zombie Hunter – Act 1, To Save Himself

Mr. Guy: Zombie Hunter – Act 1: To Save Himself, written by Jayel Draco, features illustrations from an all-star lineup: Jayel Draco, Walter OstlieDiana Camero, and Jacey Chase. There’s also cover art from Sonne, letters from Cardinal Rae, and guest art from Sophia Murphy. In this 54-page graphic novel, you’ll be treated to a smorgasbord of visual stylings and a gut-busting deconstruction of your favorite classic zombie subgenres. It‘s one heckin’ heck of a ride!

Download Mr. Guy 1 FREE now!

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