Crusade Comics Founder Billy Tucci Goes Zombie

Crusade Comics Founder Billy Tucci talks prepping, zombies, and his latest projects

New York Comic Con 2013 Interview

Originally written and published on zombietraining.com on November 15, 2013.

William [Billy] Tucci founded Crusade Comics in the early ‘90s from his one-bedroom apartment in Queens, NY. Crusade Comics’ flagship title, Shi: Way of the Warrior has sold over 4 million comic books and grossed over $25 million in sales since debuting in March 1994. Several comic characters, including Top Cow’s Witchblade and David Mack’s Kabuki, actually debuted in Shi.

Tucci also did the penciling for Marvel Comics’ Heroes for Hire, and DC Comics’ Sgt. Rock: The Lost Battalion. In 2011, he partnered with Apostle Arts LLC to create “Billy Tucci’s A Child Is Born”, a 32 page graphic novella about the Birth of Jesus.

I have had the pleasure to be acquainted with Billy for many years, not only because of being a fan of the Way of the Warrior series but also because we share an enthusiasm for motorcycles—both of us use to be avid riders.

One of the last times I had spoken to Billy was at New York Comic Con 2012. I had stopped by his booth eager to hear how his family was doing and what new projects were in the works. That year Billy told me his Shi film was back on and that he was working on a new comic concept that involved zombies, called The Boys of Company Z. When I told him that I was writing for Zombie Training and that I would love to hear more about the comic and do an interview, he was excited. We agreed when Comic Con was over we’d get together. Unfortunately the interview never happened.

This year at NYCC, I was covering the two Walking Dead panels for ZT, and I knew that Bill was once again going have his booth in Artist Alley. This time I came prepared. With questions in hand, Billy invited me to sit next to him and hang out. With the catching up aside, I launched right in …

Zombie Training [ZT]: I understand you have been working on a zombie story called, The Boys of Company Z. Can you tell me about it?

Bill: We’re going to be launching it on Kickstarter and it will be coming out next year, 2014. I may draw the whole darn thing myself and write it to be perfectly honest with you. It’s basically The Dirty Dozen meets 28 Days Later, where a group of World War 2 re-enactors literally parachute in to an elementary school to save a bunch of kids who are besieged during this infestation.

ZT: You are working on a new Shi series. Can you tell me what new enemies Anna Ishikawa will be facing and where she may be doing battle?

Billy: I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you it is 20 years after the Way of The Warrior storyline. The comic book is actually 20 years removed as well. So Ana will be 20 years older. She’s married. She’s a mother. We’re introducing her new daughter. She has an adorable, 16-year old, precocious daughter that has no idea what the hell is going on and is in incredible danger. But we’ll be revisiting all of our great classic characters.

ZT: Do you have a release date on it?

Billy: We’ll be doing a Kickstarter project of it. We will be launching the Kickstarter in December. So I figure if we do the Kickstarter in December and I’m working on it now, probably late spring.

ZT: I understand you have a movie deal with producer Mimi Polk Gitlin to bring Shi to the big screen.

Billy: Yes. Patrick Tatopoulos is attached as director. It’s really cool. I had to send in my notes for the script, and we got another set of revisions.

ZT: Is this the second draft or are you now on your third?

Billy: This is probably the fourth draft of the script. It’s just going. It’s really coming together great. It’s a little bit different than the comic obviously, but it actually has a lot of the same elements of my new series that is coming out.

ZT: I’d like to go back and talk about zombies. [Bill interjects an enthusiastic “Yeah”]. There’s always a series of questions I ask pertaining to the subject. My first is: Do you believe in the possibility of a zombie apocalypse?

Billy: [a resounding] Absolutely. Mine is always like my Boys of Company Z, which would be a human strain of rabies outbreak. You have Plum Island, which is off the coast of Long Island here, which is the Animal Disease Control Center. And a lot of that stuff, we talk about all these chemical, biological weapons are being developed out there, and viruses and antivirus stuff. Just imagine if something like that gets out. They’re actually moving it. So who could imagine what could happen in the moving process, and the possibilities of what could happen in the transportation process of it. But I think I’m ready for it, personally and my family. I’m pretty armed to the teeth and have been preparing for it for 30 years.

ZT: Would you plan on bugging out or hunkering down and fortifying?

Billy: Where I live I have to hunker down. But that’s all right because I’m in good shape.

ZT: What would be your firearm of choice?

Billy: Well it depends. My main firearm of choice would be my AR-15 and my Kimber .45 1911. But I also have my backups. Um… I’ll tell ya. I probably have about fifteen guns. [Gives a slight chuckle]. I hunt and I’m a sportsman, but I also have for my tactical gun a 9mm Beretta PX Storm. That’s probably what my wife would use. I have a lot of shotguns and I also have an M1 Garand [rifle] for my .30-06 rounds that’ll take care of business.

ZT: What would be your edged or blunt weapon of choice?

Billy: Well, I got a bunch of knives, but the edged weapon would have to be my katana because I practiced Iaido for three years. I have a really sweet katana. But a machete is great too. And in all honesty, and to be practical, I’d say machete because I could carry it easily as opposed to carrying a katana, a samurai sword. So I would go with machete.

ZT: Who would be in your survivor group?

Billy: No one you guys know [laughing]. You know it depends. I would go if I could with Bo Smith, Chuck Dixon, Sergio Cariello, John Romita Jr. … Definitely my family. Friends and neighbors. Army buddies I had and still stay in touch with. Guys like that. I think for the most part though this [comic] industry, the majority, they’re fucked. They’re all fucked; they’re all going to die, because they’re all very anti-2nd Amendment. So what’s going to happen when the shit hits the fan? They’re all going to be looking for the police to help them out or the army, and they’re not going to be there. So they’re all dead.

ZT: My final question: Who was the person that most influenced you to become an artist?

Billy: [Surprised] Ooh, wow! … I guess in all honesty, Norman Rockwell. If you really get down to the one I loved and appreciated as a child, and make me want to do it, Norman Rockwell and probably Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen. Before I discovered art nouveau, fashion illustration and great comic artists like Noel Sickles and [Milton] Caniff, I would have to go with Norman Rockwell and then those Hollywood animation guys. What tremendous artists they were. I remember seeing Willis O’Brien’s drawings from King Kong and The Lost World and it was like oh, my God. Ya know?

The Boys of Company Z won’t be Tucci’s first foray into the zombie genre. In 2005, he penned Zombie Sama!, a collaboration with illustrator John Broglia. Hopefully when The Boys of Company Z finally arrives in 2014, it will be penned and inked by Billy.

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