BILLY TUCCI Sharpens His Katana for ZOMBIE-SAMA! Then SHI's Return

Credit: John Broglia/Sean Callahan
Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

Billy Tucci has made the jump to crowdfunding with Zombie-Sama!, his first Kickstarter graphic novel.

Working with co-creator John Broglia, Tucci’s Kickstarter is offering as one of its incentives a preview ashcan comic for his upcoming Shi — Return of the Warrior, which he’ll also be offering on Kickstarter.

Zombie-Sama! tells the story of sushi delivery boy Jim Okami, who discovers that nuclear-contaminated zombies have invaded his small town and are in search of flesh to consume. After grabbing a katana hanging over the restaurant’s cash register, Jim is transformed into “Zombie-Sama!”

Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

According to Tucci, the 60-page graphic novel is entirely drawn, and the Kickstarter has already reached it initial goal in only a little more than one day. Newsarama talked to Tucci about the new goals he’ll be adding for Zombie-Sama! and what fans can expect when he returns to Kickstarter for Shi — Return of the Warrior.

Newsarama: This is your second Kickstarter, but first for a comic book. What made youget on board with the crowdfunding process?

Billy Tucci: I’ve thought about it for years, but to be perfectly honest, I always hesitated due to fear of failure. I’ve pledged to dozens of crowdfunded campaigns so I am familiar with it, but it can be quite intimidating with all the work of putting together a book, printing it and most importantly packing and shipping it and all the rewards.

Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

But then again, I have published over 200 comics and graphic novels myself, and thought “what the hell am I afraid of?”

That said, crowdfunding really is the best way for creators to get their content out to the public. There is such competition in the direct market, that it’s almost impossible for small publishers to compete with the big corporations. Comic sales amongst the majors due to a variety of reasons, are down, and their slump has a ripple effect that spreads to smaller publishers and comic shops. Retailers have to pay way in advance for their product and their budgets are limited.

Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

I totally understand making Batman or Spider-Man a priority over small press as they are the shop’s bread and butter. But now with crowdfunding, our books can be bought and paid for on a far smaller scale through offering special limited-edition books through crowdfunding.

Now, with a complete graphic novel or series already in hand and financed, we then go through Diamond with a direct market edition and compete in comic shops. It’s a freedom that works for all… and retailers can be rest assured that the books will in fact be delivered on time.

Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

Nrama: Tell me about Zombie-Sama! Where does that title even come from? And where did this story come from?

Tucci: I’ve loved zombie stories since childhood.

All different types, slow zombies, fast zombies, dead zombies and infected zombies, voodoo zombies, and biblically-struck zombies. There are so many variations and reasons for there being, well… zombies and that’s the reason for their everlasting appeal; anyone can be a zombie! And that’s just terrifying.

Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

For those who’ve had me over their homes know that the first question I ask is “Is this place zombie-proof?” My friends, being the geeks that we are, always have an answer!

As for the title, it’s something I came up with in college and would shout out “I am Zombie-Sama!” in a horrible samurai voice. The name has always stuck with me and I thought what a fun idea for a zombie story and came up with the idea of a high school sushi delivery boy, Jim Okami whose mundane life is one day transformed into an apocalyptic zombie rom-com as he takes up the resturants samurai sword to become a heroic teen-sensation!

Credit: John Broglia/Paul Little

Nrama: OK, let’s talk about the story. What’s the main character like? How does this transformation change him and begin his journey?

Tucci: The zombie apocalypse is the literally best thing to ever happen to Jim. He’s no longer a shadow within the halls of his school as his true heroic self shines during the worst of times. He’s a hopeless romantic who becomes a knight of the round table and sets out on a quest to save his friends.

Of course, there’s lots of bumps along the way, for one, when the outbreak first occurs, he safely locks himself into the sushi shop’s freezer but doesn’t count on the power going off – which of course is what always happens during a zombie outbreak – and comes out smelling like defrosted, rotting fish. No matter how hard he tries to fight the zombies, they ignore him as he doesn’t smell human. He laments that once again, he’s ignored by the “in crowd.”

Credit: John Broglia/Sean Callahan

Nrama: It looks like it’s already being funded fully. Does that mean there might be more coming for fans, if you raise more money?

Tucci: Absolutely! We’re already planning new rewards (as several limited ones have already sold out) and stretch goals such as expanding the book’s page count and adding new story content. But of course, we can definitely use more pledges (which I look at as "an advance order") to get this book out there.

We’d love to deliver it in the most prestigious package possible. We’ll keep going. It’s almost a “little comic that could” mentality amongst our pledging “partners” and it’s wonderful!

Shi: Return of the Warrior
Shi: Return of the Warrior
Credit: Billy Tucci/HI-Fi

Nrama: One of the levels on your giving campaign also features a preview for the Shi - Return of the Warrior book you’re working on. How’s that project coming? Any news you can share about it?

Tucci: It feels so good to return to the character that started it all, but what I’m really excited about is that the all-new graphic novel takes place twenty-five years after Ana Ishikawa’s debut “Way of the Warrior” story arc. Ana has aged appropriately and is now curator of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Credit: John Broglia

She’s also a single mother raising her teenage daughter, Hotaru. Ana’s warrior days are far behind her but horrifically, it all comes back. Now totally unprepared she must once again take up the naginata to protect not only herself but her daughter too (who has no idea of her mother’s martial past). I’m having so much fun bringing back many of our original characters and introducing new ones.

It’s a real mother/daughter story that’s laced with ghosts and mystery and I think it’s due time for a comic book character to “grow up.” Our Kickstarter for Return of the Warrior will launch in April.

Nrama: Anything else you want to tell fans about Zombie-Sama?

Credit: John Broglia

Tucci: Since all the artwork is done for Zombie-Sama! John is already hard at work on Zombie-Sama II: Dorm of the Dead and the story for Z3 is already planned out in treatment form. We’ll be announcing those Kickstarters later on in the year.

Again, this is all exciting and I hope the fans will continue following “Yo! Jimbo’s” adventures as he matures from lark to samurai while going through college, travels to Japan and saves the world!

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