Joe Badon is a Louisiana-based artist who has his own highly original and instantly recognizable style. Besides writing and drawing independent comics, he also creates outstanding prints of both pop culture and original concepts, plays experimental music, makes assemblage toys, and more. He’s a true Renaissance man with a great deal of talent and an obvious passion for what he does.
His 2015 comic book Terra Kaiju is about the the titular terra cotta god named Ramu and his battle with the serpent dragon Hebragon. Once a human who saw his parents slaughtered at the hands of samurai when he was a boy, Ramu is now a giant clay avenger who must confront what humanity still resides inside him. The story is an exciting one that explores the nature of good vs. evil in the external world as well as within ourselves.
Badon’s most recent comic book project is this year’s The Man With Ten Thousand Eyes, a philosophical science fiction tale with elements of body horror. Wendell Goodman, an office worker who is content with the routine of his everyday life and not fond of surprises, finds one day that he has developed a third eye that allows him to see the private secrets and thoughts of others. As you might guess from the title, things only get worse for Wendell. For me, this gripping story recalls the work of Richard Matheson with a dash of Franz Kafka.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Badon about his comic books and the other forms of art in which he works, as well. He and I share a great many common interests so it was a pleasure to get his take on art, cryptozoology, music, and much more.
Joseph Perry: After I read Terra Kaiju and The Man With Ten Thousand Eyes, I saw an illustration for the Expanded Perspectives podcast and I instantly knew that you had done the artwork because you have such a unique style. When did you start drawing? What kind of training did you have?
Joe Badon: I started drawing since before I could remember. My dad still has drawings from before I knew how to write. I was very, very young, drawing Star Wars comics with word balloons, with just weird symbols inside the balloons instead of words.
As far as training goes, I had no formal training. I went to college for just a semester but only took prerequisite stuff. The only art classes I ever took were regular high school art classes which were more blow off classes than anything else. No offense to high school teachers; that’s just the way it was.
Most of my training came from jumping into freelance work and having really particular customers that made me do a million changes until I got it right. Also, I would take my portfolio around to local comic conventions and have other artists and editors critique my work.
JP: The Expanded Perspectives podcast art is a fantastic piece showing Sasquatch, Nessie, the Mothman, and other paranormal icons. I’m assuming that you had an interest in cryptozoology and the paranormal because that piece of art shows a great deal of care and detail about its subject matter. When did this interest start, and how?
JB: Oh, man, I’ve always loved the paranormal, UFO, and crypto stuff. I remember watching things like Unsolved Mysteries and The X Files as a kid and just absolutely eating it up.
That Expanded Perspectives piece came about because I was such a fan of the podcast that I wrote them and asked if I could draw the logo for them. They were super cool and excited for me to do it.
JP: What are some comic books that you enjoyed as a youngster that may have played a role in inspiring you to become a comic book writer and artist?
JB: Definitely Ralph Snart Adventures; Marc Hansen’s artwork and storytelling was so out of the box compared to all the other comics lining the shelves at my local corner mart that I was enthralled by it. Note: That was back when comics were in every quickie mart and gas station.
Also, Trencher and Ambush Bug by Keith Giffen. Keith had such a jumbled, experimental story structure style and he was always changing his art style, which was fascinating to me.
Lastly, Zapp Comix and underground 1970’s comics were a big influence in my younger years. They just didn’t look like all the cookie cutter stuff coming out of the Big Two.
JP: I first learned about your work through your Kickstarter project for Terra Kaiju , which you wrote and did the artwork for, by way of the Monster Kid Radio podcast (www.monsterkidradio.net). As soon as I read about the subject matter — a young samurai, a terra cotta god, a flying serpent, a setting in feudal Japan, with some Daimajin and Godzilla influence (by the way, I also see a bit of Ultraman in the mix) — and saw your unique artwork, I knew I had to contribute and read this comic, which turned out to be incredible. What got you started on the path to create Terra Kaiju?
JB: I watched Daimajin a couple years ago and was totally inspired. It really brought the kaiju genre to another level for me. I instantly knew I wanted to do something similar.
JP: Your most recent published project is The Man With Ten Thousand Eyes, which was another Kickstarter project. Between Terra Kaiju’s tale of giant monster gods and the science fiction and horror premises of The Man With Ten Thousand Eyes, it’s obvious that you have some love for classic genre films and television series. I don’t make The Twilight Zone comparisons lightly; this comic certainly deserves that recognition in the best way possible. What are a few of your favorite films, TV series, and other influences that were on your mind when developing The Man With Ten Thousand Eyes?
JB: Definitely The Twilight Zone! With TZ, I loved how they were able to tell huge, fantasy tales within a very tiny budget. Many times, most of the special effects and fantastical ideas in the show were merely being talked about rather than shown but the audience was still immersed into this “other world,” regardless. That, to me, is top notch storytelling and one of the main influences for The Man With Ten Thousand Eyes.
Also, movies and TV shows like Twin Peaks, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Three Women, The Dark Backward, and Naked Lunch were all big influences for the book.
JP:. Are you currently working on any comic projects about which you can tell us?
JB: Writer Joey Esposito and I are about to launch a kickstarter for the comic Speakeasy.
JP: Besides comic book art, you have done some amazing art prints, some of which are sometimes based on popular culture like David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. Others are original ideas of yours. What are your favorite formats or media to work in when creating these prints?
JB: I actually draw everything digitally. I use an Intuos4 Wacom Tablet and GIMP software. Digital is definitely my favorite medium. It’s just so clean and easily storable. And I can hit the undo button!
JP: You are also an accomplished musician and have recorded albums as and with The Band That Wouldn’t Die. You do some live concerts as The Band That Wouldn’t Die, as well, both solo and with special guests. Your music is experimental with jazz, rock, and other influences. When did you start playing music? When did you start becoming more immersed in experimental music?
JB: I started learning to play guitar at 13. I always had a love for weird music. In middle school, I was obsessed with They Might Be Giants. I loved all the stranger stuff that the Beatles did but I can still remember when I really dove into serious experimental music. I was 16 or 17 and a friend of mine played me The Boredoms and that flipped some weird switches in my head. After that, I consumed anything fringy and strange. I ate up Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, John Cage, and any Japanese noise bands I could find. Since then, most — but not alll — of my musical endeavours have been noisy and wacky in some way or another.
My latest project, The Band That Wouldn’t Die, has been more of a side, solo project. Whenever I play live, it’s much more freeform than the albums. Live shows are usually me with a table full of equipment [such as] laptop, theremin, keyboard, toys, and so on; my dad on guitar; and then random musician friends; and we’re adlibbing and improvising. It’s just good, clean, nasty, noisy fun.
JP: I have seen some live footage of The Band That Wouldn’t Die on YouTube and it is fun, wild stuff. What are some interesting incidents you have taken part in or witnessed during your gigs?
JB: Ha, good question. I’ve had the occasional drunk that wants to talk to you while you’re trying to perform. I had one band that I opened for tell me that this will be one of their most memorable shows of the tour because we were such a strange opening act.
I always try to make the show interesting if I can. We had a ballet dancer that danced for us for one show. She had a Wii controller in one hand that was connected to the Wii Music Game so she could play along while we played.
One show, I gave everyone in the audience toys to play so they could participate in the noise. Stuff like that. I feel a lot of the times, noise shows and experimental shows are just so abrasive and attacking towards the audience. I want the audience to have a wonderful experience instead of a traumatic one.
JP: You have recently started designing some very cool, unusual custom toys. What gave you the idea to start on this unique project?
JB: I’ve been wanting to do custom toys for a while but then I saw Sucklord’s toys and I saw another artist in New Mexico doing assemblage toy art and thought, “Hey! I’ve already been wanting to do this!” So that lit a fire for me and my wife and we started making them together.
JP: Last year you began the Esoteric Buffet Podcast, with weird news, experimental music, special guests, and discussions on unusual topics. It seems like there has been a long break since your most recent episode. Do you plan to revive the podcast in the near future?
JB: I keep meaning to do more podcast shows. At the beginning of 2016, I had started working a lot at local New Orleans art markets selling my art prints and because of that, some of my other endeavours had to fall by the wayside and the podcast was one of them. That being said, I’m eventually going to do more shows . . . Eventually. Ha ha!
JP: Do you have any other projects that you would like That’s Not Current readers to be aware of?
JB: I am working on a TV show pitch called Subliminal Messages. All the details are still kind of under the hat. I’m also working on another personal comic and, of course, with Joey Esposito on the Speakeasy comic.
You can learn more about Joe Badon, purchase his stuff, follow him, or contact him at the following links:
Live concert video: