Artist Chris Burnham on the fine line between action and parody, keeping things a secret in the social media age, and more.
A few months ago, artist Chris Burnham did his part in helping to accomplish the impossible when Die!Die!Die! was released to the shock of comic book fans around the world. Written by Robert Kirman and Scott M Gimple, the violent book from Image Comics quickly lived up to promises it made. AiPT! spoke with Burnham about Die!Die!Die!.
How would you describe Die!Die!Die! in three sentences?
Burnham: I wouldn’t use complete sentences. I’d just shout “Yuckster assassins! Murder brothers! International intrigue! Good jokes! Bad jokes! Walking Dead! Batman Inc! Septuagenarians!” at the top of my lungs.
In today’s “leak first, ask questions later” culture, it’s impossible to announce an idea without half the world already knowing. How were you able to release a comic book without anyone knowing?
Burnham: Robert, Scott, Nathan, Rus, and I are pretty good at keeping secrets! A skeleton staff at Image and Diamond were aware of the plan from the beginning, and the idea was so exciting and novel that they all worked hard to keep it a secret. I doubt anyone without Robert’s clout could pull something like this off, but I’d love to see them try! The secret release made a pretty big surprise so I have a feeling that other people will get the urge to try some bonkers ideas.
Thanks to your artwork, Die!Die!Die! certainly lives up to its “blood-soaked” promise, but your art also has an almost cartoony look to it. Who were the major influences on your style?
Burnham: My list of influences is constantly growing. It’s got a solid John Buscema base with manga-esque dynamics and detailing inspired by the Moebius/Darrow/Quitely school. It’s easier for me to sell a character’s emotions by going a little cartoony and exaggerated with the facial expressions. For that sort of thing I’m always thinking about Erik Larsen and Bill Watterson.
AiPT!: Die!Die!Die! never hides the fact that is intended for mature audiences. The book is as ultraviolent as it the first issue says. Have you ever started to draw a scene and thought, “Okay, now that’s too violent?”
Burnham: Nothing is leaping to mind. Most of the time I’m worried that I haven’t made it violent enough! As a matter of fact, in the hardcover edition of Officer Downe (which came out a few years after the one-shot), I went back and ADDED one of my favorite gross-out gags of all time! A ninja slices a pregnant lady in half, and out shoots her fetus, which is ALSO cut in half! Hahahah! I’m the father of two little boys now so I’m not sure I’ve got it in me to draw that gag now. But I’m VERY glad I did it while I had the chance! It’s great!
With over-the-top violence, there’s a fine line between engaging action and parody. You successfully walk that line to give Die!Die!Die! a look that never comes off as parody. How did you manage this?
Burnham: Well, thanks! I guess I try to add just enough visual irreverence so that the book isn’t weighed down by the horror of what’s happening. Except for the parts where we really want to weigh it down? Hell, I dunno.
Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from Die!Die!Die!?
Burnham: More murders and more jokes!
Aside from surprise releases, do you have any upcoming projects?
Burnham: I’m doing covers for Burnouts at Image and Night Moves at IDW. Other than that I’m just hard at work on more Die!Die!Die!.