Berzerkoids, my latest book, hit the stands last week. It’s been getting a lot of attention, in large part because of the gorgeous cover by artist Bill Hauser.
This is not the first Bill Hauser/MP Johnson collaboration. Check it out:
Bill and I have actually been working together for over a decade now. In the late ’90s, I started doing a zine called Freak Tension. I would distribute it by standing outside after punk rock shows and handing a copy to every punk who walked out. One of those punks was Bill Hauser. I think he got his copy after the Cro-Mags show at the Quest in Minneapolis, but I could be wrong. Some time later, he contacted me by email asking if I’d like him to do a cover for Freak Tension.
At the time, I was doing most of the covers myself, which probably goes a long way in explaining why so many people threw their copy of Freak Tension straight onto the ground when I handed it to them after a show. Even though Bill hadn’t done a whole lot of art at that point aside from his own DIY comic, Oh Crackers, I said sure, what the heck? How could it not be an upgrade? One of the best decisions I ever made.
Bill’s cover for Freak Tension #10 blew my mind. It was an intense rendition of Frankenstein that was so far beyond the typical zine cover that it was almost sacrilege to slap it onto some sleazy newsprint. When I took it to the copy shop to work on the layout, the guy working there blew a gasket over how good the art was. “It’s like some Bernie Wrightson or Michael Kaluta shit!” he squealed.
That was in 2004. Since then, Bill has done some more covers for me, as well as T-shirts, bookmarks, flyers… He’s also built a huge following for his work on punk and metal record covers by bands like Ghoul, Hirax, In Defence, Antiseen and many more. He even did a T-shirt for Ozzy Fucking Osbourne!
And now Berzerkoids:
I elbowed my way into his schedule to ask him some questions about art and Berzerkoids:
MP: Who is your favorite Berzerkoid?
BH: Picking my favorite Berzerkoid is like choosing my favorite child! I love them all! However if you came up with one that called “The Doodler” who is an artist Berzerkoid, but only draws phalluses, he would have to be my favorite!
MP: What was your inspiration when designing the Berzerkoids?
BH: My number one inspiration was the M.U.S.C.L.E. figures from the 1980’s! They were one of my all time favorite toys. I even had the little wrestling ring where you could make them fight. I would endlessly reenact the wrestling ring scene from Escape From New York with them. But really, all the great toys I grew up with were a huge inspiration to me for this project, and all of my artwork in general.
MP: How is doing a book cover different than doing a record cover?
BH: To be honest, it’s basically the same thought process. Both records and books are now sold and marketed primarily digitally, so it’s important to me to have striking images that translate well to an Amazon product page or to a record label page. Images I draw will be seen for the first time at a size of maybe 1 or 2 inches, so they have to have maximum impact at a small size. My work is very detailed, so it’s always a challenge getting it to read well.
MP: Why do you draw monsters?
BH: I’m not really sure. I started drawing at a very young age and I immediately gravitated toward things that were grotesque. I’ve always had a fascination with the abnormal and strange. I grew up in house that was pretty isolated from the outside world. I wasn’t allowed to watch much TV and I didn’t have a lot of friends. I lived in what amounted to a house sitting in the middle of a field, so I spent a lot of time completely bored out of my fucking mind! I would draw monsters and robots and alien landscapes just to have something to do.
MP: If you could time travel 20 years into the future, what would future Bill be working on?
BH: I hope I will be still be drawing record covers and merchandise for punk and metal bands! Music has always been a constant in my life, and I hope bands continue to want to work with me. I do hope, however, to be drawing more comics in the years to come. I started teaching a comic book class at The Art Academy in St. Paul, and it has reignited my love of comic books. I’m currently working on a comic book that will be released early June for the opening of a gallery exhibition of my artwork in Haarlem, Netherlands. The show is called Never Surrender! The Art of Bill Hauser, and will be the first overseas exhibition of my artwork.
MP: Who would win in a battle between Madballs and M.U.S.C.L.E. guys?
BH: Dude, seriously? I love Madballs, but there’s only like 20 or 30 of them. There are like a thousand M.U.S.C.L.E. dudes! AND, they have mad wrestling skills! The Madballs wouldn’t stand a chance!
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