This article may be full of dark imagery and language, including violence, gore, and sexuality. NSFW to the extreme! You have been warned!
K.M. Claude & R.E. Hellinger are two queer horror creatives from down south. Claude does pretty art while Roan does pretty prose. I’m being snide though. Both are amazing at their chosen crafts. They share similar ethos of exploring the beauty in the grotesque, taboo, and problematically queer. They are not your fluffy YA queers. Oh, no, no, no. Claude and Roan come straight out of a John Waters movie, nasty and full of outrageous kinks that would make the moral police of the church and Tumblr shake their fists with fury. And they don’t give a fuck.
With such strong similarities of aesthetic, it would only make sense this abominable couple make a zine together. I’ve already reviewed Guillozine on the site. Believe when I say that if you’re queer and looking for horror that appeals to you, it’s the absolute cream of the crop. I recently interviewed Claude and Roan to pick apart their brains, hear from the terrible gay duo themselves about how they came up with their many horrid ideas, and what motivates them to create such horrendous crimes against decency.
Ben: Welcome to the interview, guys!
Roan: Thank you.
B: The zine was a fresh of breath air because we really don’t have enough stuff like it out there, at all, in terms of indie comics and zines that are willing to go to these kind of places. Like, if I want that kind of content, I usually have to go to books from really underground horror writers who get even less attention than you two do. So, to see all that nastiness in a comic zine warms my little heart so much.
R: Yaaaay! Thank you.
B: I guess we should get started. Please, tell me about yourselves, about who you are, who your influences are, and what compels you both to make art?
R: I’m R.E. Hellinger. I’m a southern-existing horror writer, agender, human-ish being. I’m not an insect person though. I’d say my strongest influences have actually been…I know the zine’s been pretty wild. Wet wild and full of blood and guts! But one of my strongest influences is Shirley Jackson. Like, her books like Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived In The Castle.
B: I’m reading that right now!
R: How are you liking it?
B: I love it! I love how mean-spirited it is.
R: It’s so twisted, but isn’t it beautifully written?
B: It is!
R: Anyway, I’ll also watch any horror film if it looks promising, but I can’t really pinpoint any other people that have influenced me. I remember liking one of the Texas Chainsaw movies just because the guy who directed the cinematography was used to directing music videos, so every fucking shot was something he wanted people to look at. I was like “Aha! This is gorgeous and disgusting!” That and like Oscar Wilde, and even Lovecraft, though he was a racist old bat, were influential. I just want to take things that are marginalized and misunderstood and scary, and even if they drive people away, that they have power. Like, I like to take things on the fringe and give them power and show the reader that “Yes, this thing is beautiful and horrible and full power and it’s awesome!” I just like it. I just think it’s neat! See, I just introduced myself as funny and now Claude is going to introduce himself as professional!
Claude: (laughs) No I’m not!
R: Yes you are!
B: Claude, totally you are. Speak in the most monotone voice you can make. You know be all business and shit.
C: I can’t do that because I literally will start laughing!
R: Possum mode activate!
C: Okay, okay. I’m K.M. Claude. I go by Claude on most places online, obviously. Otherwise it would be a mouthful. I’m mainly a horror comic artist. I build myself as an erotic horror artist or queer erotic horror, queer horror, whatever label I can use depending on where I’m at so I can market myself. As for influences, I feel like I always end up pointing to shock rock. I always liked that you have musicians like Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson or…God, like the Cradle of Filth “Nymphetamine” that got me into metal. These people that had this music got up on stage and, like, act big. Even Screamin’ Jay Hawkins with “I Put A Spell On You” getting up and singing these crazy songs with these crazy theatrics, doing all this crazy stuff, and having fun with it, and not giving a shit. I always liked that and I always liked doing that kind of horror. So, that’s why I point to them.
Ben: Hey, I mean, after listening to Cannibal Corpse for a while, I just wanted to write stories where people get chopped up. But then you, like, you read Edgar Allan Poe or Shirley Jackson and realize you can do that but be artsy about it.
R: All that happened after I listened to Slipknot was that I wanted to write about cornfields.
Ben: (laughs) Well, now that we know a little bit about you two, what lead to the creation of Guillozine? (What was it about illustrations, comics, and prose that made it seem like the type of zine you wanted to put out?
C: I think it was your idea, Roan.
R: Was it? That doesn’t seem right.
C: I feel like I was bitching about something, right…
R: And I was probably like “Just make a zine”.
C: Yeah, probably. ‘Cause when I start bitching about something, I know I won’t shut the fuck up about it.
R: Then I jump in and we roll with it!
C: Haha, yeah.
R: Claude has a lot of strengths. I mean he designed the whole booklet and did the layout for it. Claude has all these technical and branding and marketing abilities, even though he’ll swear up and down he doesn’t have them. He has some know-hows, so he brings that to the table. And he brings his luscious art to the table. And I bring in some writing to the table! He encouraged me to draw because I used to draw a lot when I was younger and I just haven’t in a while. We both have strengths that we bring to the table, and it’s almost a natural marriage of those things and having it in a scene is a lot easier than maybe in another format because in a zine people just expect the unexpected. It’s independent publishing, and a lot of times when it’s out there it’s just handmade. So, it just seemed like it melded well together. But I think part of the reason why we wanted to do this was to be able to create without worrying about finding homes for our creations. We wanted to make our own home for our creations, so Two Dead Queers is a culmination of that.
B: Nice. So you answered already one of my other questions: What made a zine seem so desirable. As you said, it’s independent, and a lot of people tend to think of zines as containing the unexpected. They are really one of the last things that can be handmade, to have that, I guess, reputation of being handcrafted. Even if it’s online, people get this idea of zines as made by hand or someone is just stapling the pages themselves. Or just somehow making the copies in their bedroom somehow.
R: I also feel like when you’re making a zine it’s like “Oh, whatever the fuck I’m putting my feelings here.” And when you’re selling it, and people are buying it, it’s them realizing “This is going to be someone’s thoughts on the subject unfiltered. And I am buying this and understanding this more.” And it’s wild! It can be anything!
C: Going off that: even though that’s like the emotional part of it, like the feeling feelings part of it, I mean it’s true. People pick up this stuff and are like “Oh, I guess this is gonna be more raw or unfiltered.” Although I guess one could make the argument that now zines have this new identity of being anything. Like “here’s this fanzine I did!” And it’s just a bunch of images, but like at a zine fest, there’s this expectation that you can pick this up and it can be anything. But even in, I guess, a not practical but logistical standard, zines…Like if you think of a book, there is a certain image in your head. If you look at a comic book, there is a certain image in your head. They tend not to come together, except for a children’s book. And no one is going to hire someone like me to draw a children’s book anytime soon.
R: I would!
C: Well, that’s one person.
B: I would too, Claude.
C: Thaaaanks. Anyway, you have a certain image of these different sectors, and they don’t come together a lot. While if you say, “Oh, it’s a zine”, you could probably get away with a picture of a dog turd. Just put it in there and the reader will be like “Oh, okay. I didn’t expect that, but it’s there.” And since it’s a zine you can have random things in it. Like “Oh, here’s a comic. Here’s a story. Here’s some art.” And you look at it and except it ‘cause it’s a zine. Where as if it were a novel, people you would be like “Why’s there pictures?”
R: And if it were a comic you would say, “Why are there stories? And no speech bubbles!” Well, I think there’s like one.
B: I think it’s all sound effects, actually.
R: Well, there’s that headless guy saying “fuck me.”
B: That’s true! Guillozine has a very unique marketing tactic. You have the online version up for free, while there is a print version you can purchase on Amazon. What were the logistics of using that tactic?
R: In part, we wanna do conventions down the road. So, having physical copies will come in handy.
C: We wanted to make something free. Just create whatever we wanted. Let’s be honest, a lot of what’s in there, especially art wise, would not be allowed on a lot of hosts. 100%. At least the host that we use because FreeHost has rules, but if you put it together in a download, no one gives a shit. So, you have to actively seek it out, and if you bitch, well, you put your hand in the alligator trap and you thought there would be no problem. So, the free thing is to be like we just wanna make something and not be censored. So, fuck it. We made it. Here you go. Also, it’s because we want people to pay attention to us. “Hey, look at this thing we made.” For the physical copies we sell it as close to the cost it took to make it as possible. Amazon has rules, like “it must cost this bare minimum for us to make money, too.” So we said, “All right, we want us to put $5.38 for it? $5.38 it is.” Bam! Because I know I like physical copies, I know a lot of people who like physical copies, and we want to be able to go to conventions.
R: Being able to give it away as cheap or free as possible is a way to import it, especially when you’re in a queer space. Like to make things affordable and accessible because you’re essentially selling to people just like you. And I feel like it’s good to never keep anyone from accessing content that maybe they’re really into but don’t have the money. What so very often happens is that I’ll see comments on Claude’s stuff and it’ll be like “Oh, when I get money I’ll buy your stuff.” Which is nice but, like, it’s no good knowing that. If it’s free then people can just take it and not ever mention “If I could I would, but I can’t.” And maybe they’ll leave a review or something nice because you gave it for free.
C: And, like, just going off that, to be 100% honest, like, I love money! I really like money. They say don’t get into comics for money, which is true, and I don’t know how I’m still here. There’s obviously something that matters if I’m still in it because I have a lot of good reasons to not do this anymore. But there’s something to be said about what is essentially free advertising. It’s free real estate as the saying goes. I mean, you’re basically saying “Look, we made this. And you can have it for free!” Also, having our own site, people get a copy and maybe be like “Oh, cool. I want to get to know these people more. Oh, hey, they have stuff I can buy!” In a sense, if you want to get an audience, then this is free advertising. It’s hard to get people to be like “hey, buy my stuff in my little vanity project that only appeals to this super, super, super niche.”
R: And I think a lot of the people–I don’t want to shoebox anyone that downloads the zine–interested in Guillozine are our age or younger, and the majority of them are queer. I’m just saying, people that are millennials and queer often don’t have the money to access all the things that we want. Making some for free, yeah you can look it in a cynical way that it’s free advertising, but I like to think it’s a love letter. “We love horror, we’re queer, and this is our space too. Here you go! Let’s see what we can make together.”
C: I have a right to be disgusting here too, motherfucker.
B: It’s great that you mentioned that, especially as a niche, because…Well, Claude you and I have had this discussion but queer art that’s making mainstream success it’s not the kind of stuff you and Roan write. It’s aimed to YA sensibilities, or at least a type of YA that’s inspired by children’s cartoons like Pixar and Steven Universe.
R: Is it…boring that you’re trying to say? Very…slice of life?
B: If anyone in this room says “you people”, I’m leaving.
C: *wheezes with laughter*
B: I guess what I’m saying is that it appeals to what is considered by pop culture as kid friendly. It’s not something that’s going to get you into too much hot water except for homophobes who hate the idea of queer anything no matter how non-sexual it is. It’s accessible and easy to market to a wider audience. It’s a type of queer art that has become popular in animation and YA comics, so I think it has set the standard for queer art in pop culture. While queer artists such as yourselves, dark and grotesque, messy and problematic, haven’t. Certainly, there are exceptions like John Waters, but I don’t think a lot of people pay attention to him anymore except his speeches and books. It seems you guys want to feel in that niche, that queer erotic horror that is, in my opinion, what horror should be. Very messy and dealing with a lot of fucked up shit.
R: And the fun thing about horror is…like I used to be scared of everything as a kid. But as I got older, I would do little things to get over it like standing alone in the dark. I started to like being alone at night, and just like facing it. Then I got into horror and I wore the color black a whole lot, and it’s just the way I’ve always been far before I figured out I was queer. So like to give away my love of horror because it’s problematic and paired with being queer is just out of the question.
C: I think you’re right about the idea that, like not to be Lady Gaga but to be Lady Gaga, you’re born that way. I mean, I can think back to being like five and watching the cartoon version of Beetlejuice. I lived on that, I wanted to be Beetlejuice, and I still say that a lot. I also remember saying things like “When I grow breasts, I’m gonna cut them off, put them in formaldehyde, and hang them on a mantelpiece.” I didn’t have a mantelpiece and I probably shouldn’t have known what formaldehyde is as a five year old (laughs). But as I said I always liked horror things and creepy things. Some might say I’m an edgelord, but like it’s not try-hard. This is just how it is.
R: But it’s easy for us. Like, when I was three I was afraid of skeletons. We (my family) had a Halloween decoration that was a plastic 6-foot tall skeleton that was flat. In the off season I took him and put him in my baby buggy–because I was a girl in my parents eyes–and I ran around the house within the buggy going “wee-woo-wee-woo he’s died and I have to get him to the hospital!” My parents thought it was hysterical! Then my mom let me dress up as a mummy. It’s just something I did! I was a spooky little creep.
B: So, it sounds like you guys knew what kind of niche you wanted to fill. I can’t think of anyone else in Western comics that wants to fill in that niche, so you might as well be pioneers.
C: Exactly. It’s like something you said about queer media. Not to pick on Steven Universe again, but you have a lot of the YA queer market that’s palatable to a mainstream honest. The thing is though that I’m a horror artist. I call just about everything I do horror. Horror’s job is to grab you by the head, smash it against the dogshit of the world, and go “Here. No. You’re going to look at it. Fucking look at it!” And then you deal with how you feel about it. If you feel aroused, great. I’m happy for you. If you feel grossed out, then great. It’s horror, I hope you feel grossed out. Like, I want to hold your head there and like “No, no you’re going to look at it! You’re going to look at it the whole way through until it’s done!” I feel that is at odds with this new, marketable idea that “Oh, if you’re writing queer stuff, it has to be happy and fun and we can have these darker themes–like yes Steven Universe has darker themes and so does Gravity Falls but I don’t really care–yet you have to have this really nice cover that is palatable over it. It’s because it’s for kids, so there still has to be a happy ending attached to it (Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, I’m looking at you). You still have to make it palatable for a mainstream audience, and I don’t like working with constraints that much. I lived through those constraints. It was called Catholic school. I know those constraints, but I’m done with that. I want to be able to not have constraints. I want to be able to grab your head and push you and make you look if I want to.
R: I’m laughing at what you’re saying only because while you’re saying all this, I’m like “Oooh, it’s funny” because my approach is to like take the readers hand and like “You see this shit? Yes. It’s kinda fucked up. Oh, but you’ll like it by the end. I’ll make sure of it.” And by the end they’re like “Ooooh, I like these characters. And yeah it’s icky, but I’m kind of into it.” Nothing’s black and white. There has to be something gray or else you will die. You will be a weed on God’s yard, and you will be dead.
C: Would you say it’s fifty shades of gray?
R: There is more than that, my love! There is more than that.
B: Now that we’ve talked so much about the business end of Guillozine, let’s talk about the creative side. If I remember correctly, the essential theme of Guillozine is the fear of losing your head. You both tackled this subject literally. I mean, you can’t get more literal than a decapitated head fucking itself. Both of those drawings are great, by the way Claude. Keep at it. I mean, I never saw a decapitated body with so much sperm on its legs. It was actually pretty sexy.
C: (laughing) Thank you.
B: So, you guys tackled the theme literally and metaphorically. What made you want to go for that theme, aside from the fact you called the zine Guillozine? What else would it be about other than losing your head?
R: Weren’t we just joking around about names?
C: I think so because I know you came up with it.
R: I was like “Guillozine eeeeeey!” And that was about it.
C: But it worked, because it needed to be big enough so we could play around with it. With the second zine, we’re making sure we have a tighter theme that you can get away with a lot of shit with, but where conceivably it fits. Long as I can make it fit into a pun, and you know I love puns.
R: I think it’s just a fun word too. Maybe unconsciously all the political stuff seeped into my head subconsciously, and I wanted to knock some parts off. Actually, I was obsessed with guillotines back in high school. I used to draw images of them in the margins of my notebook. I even made a character who was a french crow that died by guillotine and haunted them sense, causing people to die the same way, and the last thing they would see before dying was an image of him. So…I guess why not? Also, fun fact–maybe it’s not related–I was attending this fundy mega church. They made a comment about “when you wear a cross around your neck, you’re wearing a device of torture. You wouldn’t wear a guillotine around your neck, would you?” And I said, “Fuck yeah I would!” But I digress.
C: Did they not wear crosses? I didn’t hear of that.
R: Oh, they did, but it was like “Wow, this is so radical of us! It’s messed up but it’s because of Christ’s love that we do this!”
C: What’s more radical than being like “Yeah, I’m wearing a dead body around my neck!”
R: Yeah, but like we didn’t have Jesus on it because it was…wrong, I guess?
B: “I’m wearing the device that killed my lord and savior! I’m hardcore, motherfucker!”
C: “Hey, hey. You know what we give children? What? Dead bodies on a cross!”
R: You have to understand the fundamentalist idea of a hardcore cross was two nails on it. You couldn’t do it with a third nail though.
C: You would if you loved Jesus.
B: Anywaaaay. As with everything you do, Claude, it’s sexy as hell. Even though technically–
R: *cheering in the background*
B: Even though technically it’s not supposed to be, but fuck it you make it. I also have to say, Roan, you also make these dead things sexy as hell even though they shouldn’t be. That was the first time I read anything to do with brother on brother incest that involved Lovecraftian murder mysteries. I was like, “Huh, this is actually pretty fucking hot.”
B: I think that comes with the territory of horror. There’s always an underlying eroticism. Now, it can go either way, or it goes both ways: The eroticism in horror is the anxiety over what people might find sexually repulsive, or what they might be terrified to discover that they desire. That initial repulsion might just be afraid of them admitting it. Like, culturally, they know they’re supposed to not like it, but in reality find it very enticing. The Shape of Water tackles that. Like, usually the fish man is supposed to be ugly, but Eliza takes one look at it and thinks, “I want you inside me sooooo hard!” So, I guess the point I’m trying to get to is when you guys designed this book, how did you find eroticism such a key component to Guillozine? You can just say it’s sexy as fuck.
R: I think we just like both of our art moves toward that. I was influenced so hard by Oscar Wilde before I even knew I was queer. And like it took a long time before I realized I was reading a book about other queer people because I was so deep in fundy hell. The fact I’ve always tried to write deep relationships and connections, whether they’re sensual or not between characters, is just something I do naturally because I want it there. I desire them to have connections whether they’re bad or good. I just think that writing that is fun, and reading it is always fun. I don’t know. I just create what I want to see out there.
C: I think you’re right that our stuff just goes that way. Anything that I draw just naturally ends up going down that road. I’m sure if we both tried both of us could sit there and not do a horror that’s not hardcore, full frontal nudity, or like any other sexual thing that’s contextual. But I guarantee there would be some implicit subtextual meaning. It’s like…I think Hitchcock said film all your murder scenes like loves scenes and all your love scenes like murders, or something. The point is subconsciously you might end up crafting a scene that’s not sexual, but there’s framing that might make the reader go, “Wait, what?” I’d probably end up drawing it that way because I enjoy it that way. I find it fun. It’s my aesthetic.
R: At the risk of sounding too out there…
B: Be as out there as you want. That’s why I love your work!
R: No, I mean like emotionally. Human relationships…like each individual person is their own story. A lot of times, like, EVERYONE’s messy. EVERYONE’s some horror show cabinet walking around. And, even though we wouldn’t classify it as horror, connecting with another human being is essential. We don’t know what happens after this life, so making a connection with another person is as close as we’re going to get to having a purpose. I’m afraid I’m going to wander here because my brain is a little scrambled, but it’s so wonderful and strange and intangible you’ve got to write it in there, good or bad. Just human connections. There’s beauty in it even though I hate people (laughs). Being able to write things out like that…I don’t know. Maybe it helps to make sense of things. We just like to do what we do. Let’s just leave it at that.
B: I think you’re right about it though. Horror is always about making some kind of connection to someone or something, even it if goes bad. Like the final girl and the slasher, Dracula’s relationship with Mina Harker, Frankenstein and his monster, or even the various doomed Lovecraft narrators when they meet the cosmic shit monsters. Some might say horror isn’t a dramatic genre, but I would argue making connections with others is what drives the plot of all horror. It certainly drove your stories, Roan. Claude, I hope you don’t get jealous now. But I’m going to ask Roan questions about their stories. They are amazing stories!
R: Thank you. They are.
B: First off, let’s talk about the story with the girl who wants to really, really decapitate her molesty priest.
R: (laughs) So, I made a big mistake I only realized after the day we published the zine. I never let the reader know anything about the protagonist’s name or gender. He’s actually a guy named “Luci”. He’s very feminine looking though. I never let that be made clear though, which is fine because it’s just something I wanted to be in there. I hope to one day to write an entire novel about Luci and about that weird world.
B: Please do. I want to learn about that world.
R: Thank yoooou! I will. He’s just very hard to tackle.
B: Now that you mention it, with how much you’ve told me you hate your fundamentalist upbringing, do you think you brought that experience to your story? Not exactly the whole rapey priest thing, but just very antagonistic feelings toward that fundamentalist world? From you talk about it, it sounds very manipulative. Which it is. Fundamentalist circles are so incredibly controlling and manipulative, especially of the young. When you hear about the stories about molested children, it’s so obvious that’s part of its core.
R: Yeah. And I think my answer to that cycle of things is not just I’m angry about it. I very much am. I still live close to that megachurch where I attended for 14 years of my life and was literally called out as a black sheep and as a pariah and shunned for various reasons, all stupid reasons. My answer to that type of cycle is to systematically crush it (laughs). So that story, whenever it’s fleshed out, will be about someone who is at a very low circle in that cycle’s totem pole to try and crush the Catholic church just on their own. It’s in this weird, futuristic hellscape where the church is the state.
B: Down here in the south it might as well be the state, honestly. I hate it and I’m down for any story about dismantling it. So, go Roan! Write Luci! He’s now one of my favorite antiheroes.
R: Thank you! I love him so much. Thank you for loving my son! And, I mean, the fundy churches have their issues, but the Catholic church is just easier to pick on because of their hierarchy and the fundies can’t get it together.
B: And then there’s your second story, “Carnal Bodies”. It’s by far one of the best incest stories I’ve ever read. Despite all the taboos people have gotten used to, incest is the one where it pops up in the story they’ll lose their minds over it. Incest has never bothered me though, at least not in a fictional setting. I don’t know why. Whenever I hear that two siblings are fucking, I’m just like, meh.
R: I mean, they’re consenting adults.
C: There are worse things.
R: There are way worse things.
B: I remember in the Old Man Logan miniseries, the central antagonist of the story is the Hulk, and he and She Hulk, like, mated and created a clan of inbreds. Basically, they’re the equivalent of The Hills Have Eyes hillbilly cannibals. I remember people freaking out over that.
R: But the Hulks are all they have!
B: (laughs) Right. But I’m not offended by it because First off, why would these two characters who despite being radioactive monsters are a nuclear scientist and a lawyer? Wouldn’t they have loftier goals than running an extortion racket because they’re fucking Hulks and they can destroy anything? Anyway, incest usually doesn’t excite me that much, but your story did! That was the first time I found incest to be something that actually had gumption to it and was not just some random thing that I found meh over. What’s surprising is that this is a story that has so many parts to it. It’s not just the incest. It also has elements of gothic horror that, now I’m reading We Have Always Lived In The Castle, kind of reminds me of Candace and Merricat a bit. The fact that they’re two siblings living isolated in a huge estate. The part I thought was the craziest you were able to put in there was the very, definitely Lovecraftian idea where when the two brothers descend into the basement, they come back up and one ends up catatonic because they saw something down there they weren’t supposed to. Not only that, but if you put a bag over his head, he can communicate with the dead. For me it was one of my favorite types of stories where all these different elements come out that seem like they shouldn’t be together but manage to. In fact, they’re intrinsically linked. I’m sure if I were to be much more nit-picky, I would point out “Oh, the super minor inconsistencies! They shouldn’t be together!” But I just went with the flow because the story was so well written. How did you come up with all this?
R: So, before I started my first thought was “How on Earth am I going to get started on someone being headless? I don’t have ideas! We’re coming up on the deadline!” I think I talked to Claude about it, but I just couldn’t think of anything. And then in the middle of the night, I woke up with the idea of “He’s headless because he’s not there! It’s someone else!” And then I went back to sleep (laughs). From there it was just, I don’t know, I’ve always really loved the idea of someone just being a conduit for spirits. Like, that’s fucking awesome! And I love the whole gothic estate and there’s something wrong with the cellar and there’s something wrong with this. I love Crimson Peak and having these siblings and they’re the only ones and no one knows how horrible or twisted the other one is. Although in my case one of them is comatose, so he doesn’t have much say in things. I don’t know, I just like all these elements, so I just fitted them together until they fit. Claude was the best editor. He was like “Okay, but this part doesn’t fit this part. You need to figure that out.” He really helped organize my scattered mind on paper. I don’t really know how I fit it together. I just remember being like “I want it like this and this and this and this and this”, and let’s make some confetti! (laughs). I just knew I wanted him in the basement, to go catatonic, then he could channel spirits. And maybe if he can do that, he can channel hot chicks and his brother and friends use him that way. I wanted to make sure all those elements were in there and, I don’t know, I got lucky I guess.
B: You did because it worked so wonderfully. I guess now I just need to ask Claude about his crazy illustrations. First off, let’s go back to the two headless corpses fucking their own heads.
B: Well, I mean it’s the first thing I remember about Guillozine. When I was typing up questions for this interview, I was asking myself “How am I going to ask the artiste about what was going on in their head when they decided to have not just one, but holy shit two headless corpses fucking their own heads! That’s like a double entendre. That’s like eating a turkey and then eating a ham, and I mean like the big Thanksgiving style turkey and ham. So, it’s like when you’re full on one you think that you’ve had enough but then you get the second one and it’s just so glorious that you eat it. I mean, I really, really shouldn’t. But I really, really want to.
*Both Roan and Claude half hysterically at this point. Claude starts laughing so hard he’s crying.*
R: Claude is gone!
C: Yeah. Fucking your own head. What was the question or did you just want to get it off your chest?
B: The simplest way I can say it is, Claude, what the fuck were you thinking? And I mean that in a nice, nice way.
C: Okay, it’s weird because I can picture the order of pictures, I can see it in my head. I had 12 pages in my file, and how I ordered them in Guillozine is completely different than from how I ordered while working on them. But the head fucking one I did last because it was like “Eh, I need some shit to fill. Let’s just go real fucking weird.” I already know I did something similar, but the other one was a funny pun. Like, the spread of the head fucking one…Okay, let’s see penis flies off, something else. I think, yeah, I did the first one because I was like, “Lolol it’s a fucking pun! Lolol because the penis glands coming off is like a little head. It’s a decapitation. Eeeeeeey!” But then it was like “shit I’m out of puns. Let’s make it more gory.”
R: My boyfriend everyone!
C: 90% of everything in that title were puns.
C: So, I was like “Yeah, how far can I run this second head thing into the ground before it gets old. Well, let’s do a proper gross horror one just to run it even further.”
B: So, you’re saying you did it for the lolz.
C: Everything I’ve ever done has been because it’s funny.
B: Well, I’m happy with it.
C: I am glad.
B: One thing I was surprised by is that there are not a whole lot of comics in Guillozine, even though you’re known for comics, Claude. I mean, there is the “Oh fuck me” severed head. But I guess as Scott McCloud would say that’s not necessarily a comic because it needs to be a series of sequential panels because, well, bullshit standards. The only real comic I can think of is where the guy cuts off all his fingers, you know before that where he’s cutting up a mushroom head. I think as you said, puns! It comes right after Roan’s epic tale of supernatural incest. What made you decide that is where it has to be?
C: Honestly, it’s not going to be a luxurious answer. It was literally like, um, where what how? To a degree, I knew I wanted it in a certain place. I knew I wanted the gory head fucking to be first because I wanted the reader to know this is what you’re in for. I did the religious themed ones aligned with each other. And then Roan’s skull was like let’s put it there because it’s kind of related. Some things got moved around because I wasn’t sure if they were gonna work. I knew I wanted the two kissing decapitated heads between Roan’s stuff. It helped because you were gonna have a bunch of text for a while. And then it depended on how Roan’s story ended, because I didn’t know if it would end on a spread (two page) or half a page. So, I wanted my comic to start at the end of half a page. So, we head like the penis head one, but that didn’t fit. Then we had the two sisters, and well they’re related to each other so I would want them next to each other and kissing. And I wanted a girl with mushrooms and shit involved. And that needed to be next to the decapitated mushroom one. So, then I was like “Well, the only place that’s gonna fit after “Carnal Bodies”. So, I was like well okay then.
R: It worked just fine.
B: It worked fine. Oh, and thank you for reminding me of the two decapitated kissing heads. They’re fucking awesome and I love them. They were a great interlude between nasty stuff. Now, we’re going to talk about my next two favorite drawings of the zine. The first it’s the couple kissing, and it seems like they’re heads were decapitated at some point. But then they were switched around, I think? And stitched on? Well, at first I thought they were two sisters, but one of them has a scrotum. Are they a trans woman? What would you, the artist, say is the great metaphor for that drawing.
C: Honestly, it’s because I wanted the pun. I think I was tying some it back to more drag than trans, probably because I was thinking of Drag Race and I watch too much of it. (I really need to take a break from Drag Race).
B: Well, I’ll have to go back and reread because I missed that pun (Also, I just really want to reread the zine). Now for the next drawing, my favorite drawing of all the zine, mushroom girl with the mushroom clitoris. Normally, I don’t believe in waifus, buuuuuuut I’m just saying.
C: *laughs uncontrollably*
R: He’s already married!
B: But hey, if mushroom girl was put on one of those body pillows that they sale at the anime conventions, I might pick up one!
R: Hey, Claude! Now we’ve got an idea for merchandise.
C: So, Ben’s into body horror at least. That’s a transgression I can appreciate.
B: Are you kidding me? I love mushroom girl.
R: Mushroom girl on one side, Luci on the other.
B: *laughs* You already told me, but the reason mushrooms pop up a lot is that it’s a pun. Cutting off the mushroom head. And there’s this whole thing about the fear of losing your head. But then it got really awesomely weird and grotesque, and you have a girl and her vagina is sprouting a mushroom head and it’s severed. So, again, Mr. Artiste, is this some weird, genderqueer body horror thing?
R: Or a fear of STIs?
C: Okay, so, the artiste answer is I make shit up. I wanted to see how far we could go with being fucked up. So, first we start off with a girl in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform (which is similar to the one I wore) which is already problematic. Then we have jizz, and then I thought “let’s just take all the fungi and put in on her vagina). I thought that was disgusting, and I’m pretty sure that’s like an old shock website thing, like the blue waffle thing. I thought “Wow, that’s disgusting. Cool! Let’s go with it.” I didn’t go with it, but I still wanted to be artsy, so I looked up the names of deadly mushrooms and found the name of something phallic shaped. I was like, “Cool! We’re using that.” And yeah, we can say it’s metaphorically for a fear of STDs. I’m sure that happened on a subconscious level of me thinking “You can have sex and get STDs or get pregnant. That’s horrible. That’s disgusting. Why would you do that?” So, I went and rolled with it. And I think, like, I know I’m joking and being flippant because that’s how I am. And of course just me wanting to see how gross I can be. If I can make myself vomit in my mouth, I’m doing good. On a serious note, I think there’s always a base reason for doing something, and then you try to justify it. That sounds bad, “justify”, because it sounds similar to “I’m beating you and it’s because my mommy beat me!” I don’t mean it to sound like that. I just mean that we have reasons for doing things and then we try to make it fit in some rationalization. “What if someone saw me doing this”, which also sounds bad.
R: People do that subconsciously all the time. When I had to wash out my wisdom teeth at work, I did it only in private because I was worried what people might think if they see me sitting here using a syringe to shoot water in my mouth. Not that I need to, but your brain is going to try and find a way to connect the dots for everyone else.
C: I think on some level we do things, we make things–this is gonna sound Freudian–and don’t totally know why we do it. People might ask you “Why did you do that?”, and you can’t verbalize maybe perhaps why you did that because it would require walking through a lot of steps you weren’t even completely aware of. You try to find a reason: “Uh, ‘cause it’s funny.” I mean, I do have reasons, but I can’t really access them or I’m not thinking about them. I am aware that on one level it’s a flippant reason. “Yeah, ‘cause I could. Fuck you.” But there are other reasons, or like you’re working through something you’re not even aware of working through. And you’re only gonna be aware of it when someone else points it out. Then it’s like “Shit, that makes sense.”
B: Well, I think the idea you’re working through some subconscious things is true of a lot of writers and artists. And I’m just thinking of my own stories. “Why do I keep on having, like, it be young people that end up doing awful things to themselves or others. I think maybe there might be some latent stuff about my childhood or my teen years that I am just not over. So, I need angry, violent, and even sometimes sociopathic teenagers to get over it. Which, when you bring up the elements you two keep bringing up in Guillozine: Incest, betrayal, pedophilia, and also big family tensions, it seems like that has to do with the idea of being headless because like in all these stories it’s fear of losing autonomy. The head controls all autonomy in the body. Like, the illustrations and stories have something to do with this. Like, Roan with your story, “Carnal Bodies”, and the character who’s comatose, he isn’t literally headless but very much is metaphorically. Being comatose is like that, having no control over your life. And having a bag put over his head furthers that point. And, Claude, ironically your first two drawings of head fucking are almost like a reclaiming of autonomy. How much more can you be autonomous than fucking your own head?
C: I mean, if you had the opportunity wouldn’t you?
B: I might now.
R: You inspired him!
B: Maybe all that has to do with the core theme of Guillozine? All the gore, abuse, pedophilia, isn’t just for the lolz, but these are things related to a lost of autonomy. We think of these things where someone in the scenario has lost control of their bodies, their minds. Then calling it Guillozine, like Roan you mentioned the current political climate. Guillotines are the hot meme for us angry millennials. “Send them to the guillotines!” So, maybe there’s an idea of a lost of autonomy, and then reclaiming autonomy by being upfront about your feelings. Roan, you said you like to take things usually shoved in the corner and make them powerful. For me, part of that is reclaiming trauma as your own. People may not like the fact you bring it up, but it’s this thing that keeps bothering you so why not express it? It doesn’t matter if people like it as long as you find catharsis. So, aside from the fact I like grotesque stuff, I feel like I’m also getting this out of the book. That deeper, artsy thing we have to have because that’s the mark of real literature and shit.
C: I mean, but ain’t it true though? I mean, look, there’s a place for art to be let’s sing songs and be happy. It’s Teletubbies and Mr. Rogers. I mean, not to shit on Mr. Rogers ‘cause he’s pretty cool, but like most things are going to make you feel something. The more you mature, well maybe just grow, the more you realize art isn’t always going to make you feel happy feelings. But the purpose, or one of the purposes, is to say: Okay, look the world’s a really dark and cruel place sometimes. It sucks. Let me show you something that’s gonna upset you. You’re gonna react to it emotionally, but it’s in this, I don’t want to say safe space, but quarantined place away from you. You can look at it and have a catharsis. It can’t hurt you. Even if you never felt this before, it can bring up other feelings that are adjacent. It still can’t hurt you, but you can deal with it. On another level, I think what we’re doing…like Roan’s dealt with stuff, I’ve dealt with stuff, you’ve dealt with stuff. And even if none of us have dealt with stuff, we’ve seen stuff that’s made us go, oh shit. That’s fucked up. And you as a human being have to sit there and your life is perfect, and the worst to ever happen to you is your dog died. You’re still in a world where you turn on anything and it’s like, oh children are murdered; so that’s a thing. And you have to sit there and reconcile that with whatever your worldview is. And it’s hard. And it’s scary. It’s sometimes nice to pick up a book and go, huh this is more fucked up. But it’s not real. It can’t hurt me. As much as there are people who commit incest in real life. As much as there are serial killers. And as much as there is a bunch of horrible shit, things that might not be outright said in Guillozine or merely in relation to, it’s not real in our zine. I’m not looking at the real thing but a simile of it that’s actually pretty to look at. Even if I’m sitting here drawing it, feeling uncomfortable, I’m somewhat enjoying it. It’s like I can take it at my pace. If I can’t take anymore I can put it down and stop reading. If I need to come back to this later, I can.
R: That’s the thing about horror, too. It should be much more lenient on allowing content that’s problematic or sticky. If your horror is super cozy to read and everyone’s just having a fucking good time, you’re not reading horror. People read and watch horror because they enjoy it. But I don’t think people go into a Halloween or a Friday the 13th and go, oh I really wanna go home and kill teens just like my hero Jason. Maybe some! Obviously people go see slasher films because they enjoy it, but that doesn’t mean they would enforce it. That’s stupid.
C: Also, if you’re exploring horror and find something offensive, God I sound like a channer saying this, then Bitch what did you come here for?
R: Maybe you wanted a murder mystery instead. Those are on the nex aisle.
B: I think people still insist Horror should have a limit to what it portrays, but I say the limit is what the storyteller is comfortable with. I don’t mind content warnings because, okay fine if people want a warning I’ll give it to them. It’s why I’m not worried over using trigger warnings. I think those will eventually become like parental advisory stickers, attract more readers than push away. To go into it knowing what’s potentially in it and still complaining though is, like, come on! I gave you every warning! I think that Horror is that one genre, as you said Roan, that has the leniency to get more uncomfortable than other genres because it’s simply not seen as marketable. If Chronicles of Narnia had incest in it, people would wonder what the fuck is going on. If you have incest in Flowers in The Attic, it’s like par for the course.
R: Ooooh it’s edgy and pushing boundaries in the horror genre!
B: Exactly. I guess at the end of the day, it’s what the artist or storyteller is comfortable with. Whether or not it says something depends on how it communicates with the viewer because not everyone will pick up on what you’re trying to say, and that’s just the state of art. People have different ways of comprehending something. I’m not saying Horror should be completely boundless, but it should be understood that it is a genre about digging up some really awful stuff. To me it has to be there or it’s not really horror.
C: It is the state of things that not everyone’s gonna pick up on what you’re putting down. At the same time, I feel like yeah someone’s gonna bring something new to the table, like something you weren’t even thinking. But I also think audiences aren’t stupid to a degree. I mean, people are stupid sometimes. Like, I have some faith in an audience. I think iff it’s a horror thing, I have faith they know what they’re getting into. They might not know what exactly, but they probably expect the worst. I debated whether or not we should have content warnings for the zine partly because of this. I know there will still be someone angry, like uh why are you talking about child abuse? Why are you a pedophile? I mean, like, it’s a horror book! It’s supposed to be scary, and I should trust you if you’re a reader, like even if you’re not super hardcore, you have the intelligence to make that judgment. Not some idiot that wants to read just to be offended.
B: I was thinking about whether to ask or not about the exploding penis head. I’m going to just chalk that down to whatever you make of it. That and puns, delicious puns.
R: Free range, organic puns.
B: I do have a few more things. Where would you direct anyone who wants to pick up a copy of Guillozine?
C: https://twodeadqueers.neocities.org/ is going to have your main information of where toget the download and the print one, which is on Amazon.
B: For both of you, what was it like making this zine? Are you happy with it? Or did you have at least fun making it?
R: Yes to all of the above. I think it turned out very slick looking, very professional looking. I’m really proud of the content we both put into it. I liked it so much as soon as we published it, I asked Claude when we can make another one. So, we are working on a second zine.
B: Excellent! What do you hope comes out of Guillozine? In terms of your careers or just whatever impact it might have now that it’s out there.
C: Roan reminded me today we talked about trying to make this safe haven for queer horror, for the queers that are too weird and dirty that no one else wants to take in because we’re not going by…God, I can’t say it because I sound so stupid every time I do.
R: You want me to say it?
B: Please do, Roan!
R: We have this dream. It’s a little ambitious right now and we’re just starting to lay the foundations, one day we could have a publishing house or brand that other queer creators could publish under. To give them, basically, I don’t know if I want to say legal protections or not, just somewhere for them to be published. And to put them in front of an audience we’ve already curated for them. So, it would be cool to have people published under Two Dead Queers in the future. Right now we’re just making our own zines. If we drum up enough interests and we have enough resources and so forth, we would like to organize it to be bigger than just a brand for ourselves.
C: That’s a lot nicer than what I was thinking. Fuck the authority! Fuck the police!
R: That was my thought the first time, but I’m like your manager and PR person.
B: It would be nice to have a publishing house for those queer writers and artists too weird and no one else wants them. As John Waters would say, I made it for the marginalized people that felt out of place among their own outsiders.
R: We’re like a house for wayward queers.
C: I know that frustration. I tried to do stuff like that before with NonSENSE Press, and tapping my friends who are queer that do erotic grotesque. Like guys let’s make something, please! We did two things and it was cool, but I think I was more invested than they were. This is something we’re both very invested in.
R: We’re basically married, so that gives us superpowers to do a project this size.
C: Yeah. So, like we’re more invested in it. A place for people who do get hit with those limits. Like, “Oh, here’s my queer, kinky comic anthology! Here are the list of things not accepted”, and you’re sitting there thinking this is the blandest shit for a kink comic.
R: I will say I think it’s easier for horror writers to get away with a lot because, I don’t know if it’s because we’re such a visual culture now, but it’s jarring and muh-uh-uh! Honestly, I haven’t tried to publish through other routes, but it does seem to be hard for queers like us out there.
B: You have my support always because I love what you two do.
R: Thank you! You’re the only reason I would come back down to Jacksonville.
B: Do either of you have any recommendations?
C: Can I just say Poppy Z Brite?
B: Poppy Z Brite is always the best recommendation.
C: I still love Exquisite Corpse. I have some weird shit on my shelves. Let Roan go. They read.
R: I don’t read as much as I used to. All I’m going to say is Shirley Jackson. I really like shitty movies though. All I’m thinking of now is The Houses That October Built, which isn’t even my go-to genre. It’s a found footage movie about a bunch of young adults trying to find the ultimate haunted house experience. The really fun part of that movie for me is the Halloween segment where you’re like just going through the haunted houses and stuff is popping out at you through their camera view. I’m like, oh the colors are bright! I love it! Because that’s my trashy aesthetic. And Shirley Jackson is my pretty aesthetic. So tired of myself. Claude, you say something.
C: I’m looking at my bookshelves. Okay, this is some serious esoteric shit. I got this magazine from Japan (God, that makes me sound like a weeaboo). It’s called Talking Heads and granted most of it is in Japanese, I can’t understand a goddamn word, but they tend to do weird subcultural things. You’ll have cool art and some weird stuff. There’s this one about food, and it’s framed semi-pornographic. It’s really, really cool because it’s stuff that we normally wouldn’t see over here because it’s distinct to Japan. It’s this cool horror and avant-garde shit. You can find it at http://www.akatako.net/.
B: Any inspiring words to all the horror artists and writers out there? Especially the queer ones?
R: Someone’s going to like your stuff, I promise. Even if it’s just one person, that’s awesome.
B: Like me!
R: Yeah! Also, write for yourself. Make art for yourself, first and foremost. I don’t know. Maybe I’m giving bad advice.
C: I think you’re right. There’s always gonna be someone. It’s a scary world to be out there making anything. It’s scarier still to be queer making anything. It is even scarier to be out there making things that you know are going to push buttons that are gonna upset people. But I had someone say to me, “I have seen your art. Some people might say this is grotesque and not be thrilled with it, but other people would say it’s genius.” You just have to remember that. If you’re making something, creating something, it’s a very radical thing to do. There will be someone out there that will look at what you make and say this is genius! So, just keep what you’re doing. What else are you gonna do? Kill yourself?
R: Most surprising for me about making this zine was that my mother wanted to see it. She was like, “Oop! Didn’t expect to see a human head!” And I was like, “It’s called Guillozine!” And she said, “Oh! I should’ve known.” My brothers read it, friends of mine that aren’t horror fans read it. So, yeah go and make it. You’ll be surprised by who likes it.
Download Guillozine at Two Dead Queers: https://twodeadqueers.neocities.org/
Buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1720635226
Follow Claude on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kmclaude?lang=en
Follow Roan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/roanofarc
Check out Claude’s website: https://kmclaude.com/
Read Claude’s comics: https://tapas.io/kmclaude