Written by Neil Greenaway
At DINK 2017 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Enzo Garza of Gutt Ghost about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 4/14/2017, and you can read their version of it here.
I have been hearing about Enzo Garza for months. All of my comic making friends want to know if I’ve read his book. Pictures of his creation, Gutt Ghost, flood my social media. Who is this guy? His bio on the DINK webpage says very little aside from the fact that he has a wife and son, and “continues to produce all manner of foul nonsense for the masses.” When I get to the Denver Independent Comic and Art Expo (DINK!2017), I get asked almost immediately, “Have you spoken with Enzo yet?”
No, but I think I should go introduce myself.
Neil Greenaway: Can you tell me how the Gutt Ghost comic got started?
Enzo Garza: It actually started in my high school art class. I did a doodle of this horrible Mickey Mouse smoking a cigarette, and across from him was this ghost lifting his sheet to expose his guts. Then in Oct. 2015 there was a Halloween drawing challenge I was doing. Day #1 was to draw a ghost, and I remembered that weird ghost I drew. So I thought, oh, I’ll do that. So I did that drawing and set it aside and didn’t even touch it for about a year. Then I decided to do my first convention, which was Megacon 2016, and I was trying to get this comic done for the show but I ran out of time. I wasn’t going to attend the convention because I had nothing, but my wife kept telling me to get some prints and maybe a ‘zine and just go. One of the prints that I took was that ghost drawing, and it sold out at Megacon. It sold so well. And it really connected with people. After that, I was thinking maybe I should make a comic. And so by June for Heroes Con I had the first issue of the Gutt Ghost comic, and that was the beginning of it all. It’s just crazy.
NG: Before Gutt Ghost, had you put out any other comics?
EG: I put out this weird little, 4-page tiny comic called Sensation Boom. It was about this drifter who wore ratty clothes and goggles. All he did was fight monsters at the end, he would just explode and take out the problem. I kept making these as mini-comics, and I had fun but eventually someone pointed out that the concept was basically the same in every issue. And he was right, it was. But that was all I had done before, just silly stuff like that.
NG: One thing that has impressed me about Gutt Ghost is how the word has spread through the indie comics community. You seem to be the indie artist that all the other indie artists are talking about. How did you achieve that kind of acclaim from your peers?
EG: I honestly don’t know. All of this is still very weird to me because I like Gutt Ghost, and I see why other people like it. But it started as just another drawing that I did, amongst a whole bunch of other weird drawings I do. So when I started hearing people say that they could really connect to this character, or that they understand what he’s going through, in a way that’s what I was going for. Even though it’s this weird concept, it was supposed to be grounded in reality. So what can I attribute his success to, the fact that he is more well known? Perhaps the fact that it is a strange drawing. I don’t think I have come to terms with how much that drawing clicks with people. When they see this blue ghost exposing his guts for some reason it works. And just the name Gutt Ghost. I have people at conventions walk by and just start laughing because it is such a weird concept. So I attribute that to an idea that just clicks. It’s weird and it works. But beyond that, I am trying to tell stories that are grounded in life. A little comedic, a little sad. I love doing detailed line work. I love the pastel colors on flat colors, I have fun with that. I think that all of those combined and clicked just right for this book.
NG: Looking forward, do you see yourself continuing with Gutt for a while?
EG: Yeah. My original plan (and still plan) is to tell his story over about 12 issues. I do have an ending in mind for him. I would always be willing to go back, though, and tell other stories that he had. But I definitely already have his story played out in my head. It does play heavily into life, and the emotional stuff of life. How life can get kinda sad sometimes. Death, dealing with death. While I do have a lot of fun playing with the comedy aspect, I still am very interested in the emotional aspect and the aspect of life in general. I do have 12 issues in mind that I want to tell his story. But one thing I have noticed about Gutt Ghost is the fan art – just some weird, out-of-left-field concepts. I have seen so many strange takes on Gutt Ghost, and I’ve learned that it’s sort of out of my hands, in a way. It’s not just for me anymore, now it’s for everybody. One of the first times it happened, there was a pin-up I commissioned Shaky Kane to do for me, and he actually drew it in his universe. And he had Gutt Ghost have his own detective agency with one of Shaky’s characters. It was just the weirdest thing. I was just like, ok, I guess Gutt Ghost once had a detective agency. So I have started accepting any history that anybody adds on to him because were I to explain who he is or where he came from… I have no idea. I don’t think that I ever want to know where he came from, or how old he is. So that is something fun. Even though I want to tell these 12 issues, and I have an ending in mind, his story is already sort of beyond me. And that’s what is so exciting about this, that anybody could take him and do something with him. And I will accept it (within reason) as part of his history.
NG: You have a Gutt Ghost comic in Heavy Metal. Can you tell me how that came about?
EG: Yeah, that was actually really weird. Basically, as I had said, all of this started in May of last year. I did Heroes Con 2016, and decided that I wanted to do conventions to try and get this book out there. In September, I was actually here in Denver for Riotfest and I was having a pretty bad experience. I was just having a pretty bad day. So I got this message from somebody at Heavy Metal. When I read the message, I did not even know who it was. But it said they really liked the character and asked if there was anything they could see for the magazine. I looked into it and it was from one of the CEO’s from Heavy Metal, Jeff Krelitz. I freaked out for a minute, but I had a 6-page mini-comic. So I sent it in. Then, I didn’t hear anything for a month. So I thought, I should have sent something better. (laughs) This is Heavy Metal, what was I thinking? But a month later he messaged me and asked for my phone number. we talked and he said, “Gutt Ghost is good, people really like it. Do you want to be in Heavy Metal?” And I said of course! After it released, he asked me if I would want to come back for a second issue, a love issue. So the new Heavy Metal (issue #285) has a 10-page Gutt Ghost story in it.
NG: You have a couple of Gutt Ghost plush toys for sale here on your table, can you tell me how you got those made up?
EG: One of the things that I really love about making comics and the world of graphic art is that some of these creators don’t just rely on their comics. They will do other stuff. The first thing that came to mind for me was Michael Allred and the stuff he did with Madman. I remember all of the zany things he would try, like paper airplanes, and his mom made a doll. I love that stuff. I love seeing things outside of just the comic. Another example is Archer Prewitt (he did Sof’ Boy), he did so many things. He had a cloth doll, he had balloons, and calendars and weird stuff. I just love that stuff, so that’s where the idea for the plush toys. I definitely want to go down those avenues of outside-the-box comics. First, we had a cloth doll made by a small sewing shop in Longwood, Florida called Goose Bumps. I had just taken the design in to her and asked if she could sew it, because I don’t know how to sew. I have the prototype Gutt Ghost doll, and it looks atrocious. Our second attempt was the plush and it was made by a company called Jellykoe. They are a 2-partner team, they do a lot of stuff at conventions.
NG: If people wanted to see more from you, or more of Gutt Ghost in general, where could they look online?