(because ten questions aren’t enough — and who has time to read twelve?)
Christopher Moonlight Cooksey is the creator of the goth comic The Black Lipstick Curse, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. “I first wanted to be an artist when I saw a show they use to have on late night MTV called This Is Horror, hosted by Stephen King,” Chris said. “They were spotlighting an FX artist and I just thought he had the coolest job. It wasn’t until a comic shop opened in my town that I wanted to be a comic artist.”
X-Men legend Paul Smith took Chris under his wing and showed him the ropes of a studio when Chris was a teenager.
“My best friend, Frank Kane, was instrumental in showing me how to write a comic, and we’ve been working together ever since,” Chris said. “My first published works were The Third Eye 2001 annual anthology, and as a contributing artist in Supernatural Law’s Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Special, by Batton Lash. The artists that inspire me the most are Eddie Campbell, Dan Brereton, Alex Ross, and Dave McKean.”
Chris currently works as the lead instructor for Art Is Our Passion teaching animation, comic, and fine art. Chris’s works can also be viewed on his Blogspot and MySpace pages, as well as the official Black Lipstick Curse MySpace page.
T.E. Pouncey: You have said Wendell in The Black Lipstick Curse is a lot like you were as young Goth. How much of Wendell is autobiographical?
Christopher Moonlight: None of it really happened the way it does in the comic, but in one respect or another it does reflect true events. I’d never watched That 70’s Show until recently, but I realize that they were doing the same kinds of things that I do. You’re always getting glimpses of what’s going on in the characters’ heads; how they perceive things. You’re seeing things from their point of view, therefore it’s infected with their personalities. It’s a wonderful opportunity to inject deeper meaning into the layers of a story, and it keeps things from getting to dry. The literal truth is, I really did throw Tiki Voodoo Luau parties. My friends and I marveled to see people at the front of stages, chanting in odd languages at the rock bands, and in one way or another, we’ve all had to face death on very real terms.
TEP: A lot of social critics originally dismissed Goth as a passing craze that would soon burn out like Rubik’s Cubes and Disco. Yet the Goth scene seems to be as strong as ever. Why do you think Goth remains so popular?
CM: I’ve often wondered if it will burn out myself. The new thing is emo, which is essentially just a new brand name for goth, so I guess it’s evolving. The thing that I’ve always observed is that goth means something different to each person you ask. There are industrial goths (who will throw a fit and tell you that they’re not goths, but they are), vampires, fetish goths, death rockers, rock-a-billy goths (see Betty Page look-a-likes and Dita Von Teese), horror punks, and then there are subcategories of all of the above. Whatever you want it to be for you, baby… there it is. That works for me, because I don’t want to feel old and dated.
TEP: You recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of The Black Lipstick Curse. Looking back, is there anything you would have changed in the early stories?
CM: At first I just intended it to be like a gothic Archie comic inserted into my ‘zine, “Mary’s Mother’s Scream.” I used to run around interviewing bands, and taking pictures at clubs that I would then publish with The Curse in there as almost an afterthought, so I wasn’t seeing the big picture. I think now, I would have made more of an effort to make them all relevant to each other from the get go, rather then go back and fix it later. Of course I’m a better artist then I was then, but I still enjoy the youthful charm that they exude, and feel very happy with them, until this very day.
TEP: Which movie goth movie would you rather watch over and over — Edward Scissorhands or The Lost Boys?
CM: Oh, my friend! I can’t sit through ether one. The first, even though it’s a very well done and well meaning movie will never hold a candle to Frankenstein, which it really what Tim Burton was trying to do. The second caused me to hang upside down from trees (I remember my Mormon neighbors had a particularly good one for that) for months after seeing it, when I was a kid. I didn’t even know what goth was then, so I must have had it in me from birth, but the movies is far to cheesy for me to watch now. The movie I can’t get enough of right now is Queen of the Damned. Most people hated it, because it took extreme liberties with Anne Rice’s wonderful books, but as a B-movie rock opera that stands alone, I consider it a masterpiece.
TEP: I enjoyed your “Vampire Cat” story, particularly the scene where the vampire installs a pet door on the side of his coffin so the cat can roam. If there was a vampire cat, how soon would we be up to our knees in vampire mice?
CM: Thank you. I was particularly pleased with myself when I came up with that one. Vampire mice? Please. Sabrina would lay waist to the entire population and shrug it off by saying, “They believed in nothing, and now they are nothing.” She deals in the deaths or preconceived ideas, which is what that story is really about. I’m only sorry we didn’t see Wendell slit his wrist at her dinner time.
TEP: Last September you participated in the Super-show at the Shrine Expo Center in Los Angeles. What did you enjoy most about that experience?
CM: Just being there was great. It wasn’t a busy show, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. The most surprising and encouraging thing was how many non-goths bought the book. The reason being, that Frank Kane and I wrote it with the intent that everybody could relate to it.
TEP: Your mixed media work including “Mermaid Queen” and “Katie Fey” is pretty amazing. How long does it take you to design and complete one of your mixed media works?
CM: It’s hard to say, because I get so distracted from everything I do. I’m a Mr. Mom at home, an art teacher, and I also have to put my work on hold for freelance stuff that pays the bills. I can usually do a piece in a week if I set my mind to it, though. Sometimes I’ll start a work, and then don’t get to come back to it for months. I long for the day that I don’t have to be like that anymore. Pouring all that toxic resin, and integrating all those textiles takes focus. I’m glad you think it’s amazing though. I really think it’s important that I make my work as organelle an impact as possible. People are doing so much of the same thing these days because they think it’ll get them into Juxtapose magazine or something. It makes me very sad. I take my time with my work so I can really think through what the possibilities are.
TEP: Can you tell us a little bit about Chris Bussing and the Benton Harbor mermaid controversy and how you became interested in this story?
CM: Well the short answer to that is Chris sells my prints at his gallery. I was very angry when I heard his side of the story, which I was surprised to see, didn’t really get any press. I mean, they called an emergency meeting where Christian groups turned up to tell people that mermaids were evil. You’d think that was newsworthy. I wasn’t there so I can’t say to much about it, but Chris really works hard to get art out there to the people, so I wanted to aid him in getting his voice heard, if only through my obscure little blog.
TEP: You have a Black Lipstick Curse t-shirt available. Any new merchandising planned for 2008?
CM: Oh God, yes! Getting around the whole overhead thing may take some time, but we’re planning on more T-shirts, tote bags, stickers, switchblades (for the kids), suppositories, and a whole line of lawn care tools.
TEP: If you could create and design the ultimate vampire comic book, what would it be like?
CM: It would have some real style and atmosphere. So many people treat vampire comics the same way they treat superhero comics, and they just don’t gel the same. To anyone who wants to do a vampire comic, I’d say take your time and really think it through. There is nothing more played out then vampires, but people are still starving for the stuff, because so much of it is empty crap.
TEP: What do you have planned for the NEXT 10 years of Black Lipstick Curse?
CM: Aw, now that’s the really exciting thing. I haven’t given up on the pen and ink, but a lot of the new comics are going to be fully painted. My best friend and co-writer Frank Kane is working on a 120+ page story that is going to take the Curse into whole new realms, while I’ve dug up some of the old scripts that I’ve written and will be drawing them as “Classics.” I’m also planning on recollecting the original stories along with a “lost” story and all the original issues of Mary’s Mother’s Scream into one trade paperback. There’s just so much that’s possible now, with print on demand. It’s wonderful. I was talking to Batton Lash (who does Supernatural Law, under his own imprint, Exhibit A Press) last weekend, and we both agreed that POD comics are the future of indie. Indie – “Throw me the whip.” Diamond – “Throw me the idol. I throw you the whip.” There comes a point where you know you’re just going to have to jump for it, on your own, and you know what? We can make that jump and kick some ass.