[Interview] Gaki Niccals – The Dixons
As the self proclaimed “Zombie Czar” of Omega-Level, I’m constantly on the lookout for freshness in the genre to show off to the class. So the other day, while doing research on Tumblr about the upcoming season of AMC’s The Walking Dead I stumbled on this gem of a web comic called The Dixons. The comic traced the dark nature of fan favorites Daryl and Merle Dixon, both characters exclusive to the AMC show (but not found in the original comic). If you have not read it yet, drop everything you are doing and click here or here.
I started reading, and was immediately hooked on the brooding tale of dysfunction that seemed to fit so perfectly with the show itself. I tracked down the author, and demanded answers! What I discovered was a young international prodigy on her way to greatness. Check her out after the jump. You’ll be glad you did.
– For those who don’t know you, who is Gaki Niccals? What planet do you hail from? How the hell did you end up here?
Hi! I’m a 21 years old French girl living in Marseille. I’ve used the nickname Gaki Niccals on internet for more than 5 years now. “Gaki” means little demon, bad kid. I’ve always been a vicious creature with an uncontrollable imagination. I’ve drawn since I learned to use a pen (the walls of my bedroom remember). It’s been a big obsession since, and I spent all my scholarship with drawings everywhere on my notebooks. After earning my bachelors I studied 3 years in an art and publicity school to become graphic designer and illustrator .
– Like myself, and others in the OL family, you seem to have a strong appreciation of zombies. I was always zombie-curious, but was completely indoctrinated by Max Brooks’ World War Z. Can you describe how your infatuation with the undead came about? Was there any one thing in particular that spurred your interest?
I like to qualify myself as a Zombiephile. When I was 5 or 6 years old my uncle secretly lent me the video game Resident Evil on playstation. I remember being totally horrified by this game. I discovered Zombies while playing Jill Valentine and shitting my pants in the dark each time I had to open a door. Anything with the power to scare me has always fascinated me, so since then, Zombies have always been the most terrific things that can ever exist. That’s why I couldn’t stop playing this game every night even if I was totally paralyzed by fear . One day, I broke the window of my little wooden cabin thinking there was a zombie in it. I’ve grown up with horror movies and sleep paralysis, but with time I tried to befriend all the zombies in my bedroom…and you know what…at the end of the day, I’ve finally learned to appreciate them.
– What inspired you to create “The Dixons”? How did it go from an idea to a reality?
Since the first season of The Walking Dead I was really intrigued by the Dixon brothers. They represent the kind of characters I like in a tv show. They appear to be bad and violent at first, but you can feel how intense and painful their stories must have been. That’s why I like bad boy characters and villains…it’s always fascinating to try to understand WHY they act like that. We can say that “The most dangerous creatures come from the most vulnerable places.”.
I really started drawing the Dixon brothers in season 2, when the episodes gave us different clues about their past (like Daryl lost in the woods, Merle in prison). We go deeper into the personality of Daryl with scenes like the Cherokee Rose which let us discover a new part of his personality. I don’t really care about the past of the other characters. I’ve always been interested by the life of the brothers and their personalities. That’s why my focus was immediately set upon them.
After a lot of fanart introducing the two brothers, I started drawing some sketches of their past, and people seemed to like it. They were just as interested as me to know a little more about the Dixons. One night at 3am, I just got the idea to draw a comic whith the young Dixons. I was bored and I just started drawing sketches, and finally a page. I was like “Yeah maybe I’ll draw 3 pages. It’s gonna be cool”. I didn’t sleep that night, and when I posted it some people started to ask for more, and now I’ve done 21 pages and it’s still unfinished.
– It’s no secret that the Internetz have allowed many an up-and-comer to find an audience, in turn allowing them to be discovered by the professional industry at large. Do you feel Tumblr and other social media has had an effect on your ability to expand your readership? Has being a part of the community helped stoked your passion for developing such an interesting story?
Some people already knew my other Dixon illustrations, mostly from last year, so already I had wonderful followers addicted to the brothers. I’m also in the Dixons Vixens group, which helped a lot with developing ideas, talking to fans, and sharing my art! Tumblr and Deviantart are my battlefields to post and share my works. I can easily say that 99% of my followers come from the internet, so yeah of course the web is my main asset to finding fans and new readers. That’s why my descriptions and texts are in English and not in French. I try to touch the maximum amount of people, so I have to use the international language. Most of my Dixons readers come from US!
– The characters Daryl and Merle are important in The Walking Dead on AMC. But they do not appear in the comic at all. Are you familiar with the comic? If so, which medium had more influence over your comic?
I’m a big fan of the comic. I’ve always loved all post apocalyptic stories and zombies stories, but what I really enjoy is the human portrait. How you change in the face of fear and death. How you adapt to this new life. How you deal with other people, and how far you can go to survive. What will be your limits, etc. When I read the comic for the first time it was in the middle of season 2 after Sophia’s death. I read all the books in less than 8 days with a friend, at school, during the night, on the bus.
Since season 1, it has had a HUGE influence on me and on my drawings. My graphic style has evolved in a more realistic and mature way. Both mediums helped me because we can easily feel the same universe with the Kirkman style: how he put importance on relationship and evolution. I try to share emotions in my comic, that Daryl’s troubled past is a part of his life. Norman Reedus once said “There’s a backstory with Daryl that he was a beaten child and he was abandoned, he’s a very damaged person.”. I like to read a lot of interviews because Reedus is really involved in this character. It also helps me to tell the story in a good and meaningful way.
– What are your thoughts on the upcoming season of The Walking Dead? Will what happens on screen potentially affect how your tell your story?
I can’t wait to see how the writers have adapted these chapters of the comic to the tv show. I’m looking forward to how they’ll introduce The Governor, the prison, and the character of Michonne. To me it’s the most important aspect of The Walking Dead story: the moment when they discover that the true danger isn’t the walkers but the other groups. It will have an important impact on each character, mainly Rick Grimes, and with the return of Merle Dixon I’m just super exited!
My story takes place a long time before apocalypse, but if we learn some new stories about the Dixons past during this season, of course it will affect my story. I know that Glen Mazzara doesn’t like flashbacks and other plot devices like that, so I hope what will come next does not interfere with my version of their past. If so, I’ll maybe modify things and adapt. I want my story to be convincing and linear.
– What I found interesting about The Dixons, is the setting. The story takes place before the zombie apocalypse, but the tone still suggests the end is near. It FEELS like a zombie tale, minus the zombies. You can almost sense their future presence. Do you plan to ever introduce any undead? Where do you see the comic going?
I’ve got the entire story in my mind, from the begining to the end. It’ll be something like 30/40 pages. They’ll be no zombies on this story. I won’t say exactly where it’s going, even if I want to because it’ll ruin the plot. I’m trying to explain how some situations came about and why. For example, I’ve imagined how Daryl learns the story about the Cherokee Rose…I couldn’t imagine Merle or his dad telling him a nice and cute story about a flower, so I just tried to reference pieces of their past, parts that people know because Daryl eludes briefly to during season 2.
I always just try and imagine the whole context around it. I’ve started with a weak and timid Daryl, a broken child with a lot of anger who want to disappear. We’ll end with a confident and strong Daryl, a new one…he was a survivor well before apocalypse! He was already alone, and he had to learn to fend for himself.
– Do you read any comics of your own? Who inspires you as an illustrator?
I just started to read The Goon, I’m loving it! I don’t read a lot of US comics. I grew up with Lucky Luke, TinTin, Iznogoud, Titeuf, Spirou, and a lot of other comics strips, mostly humorous. I like Peter Pan by Loisel a lot, and Joker by Brian Azzarello. My biggest first inspiration is Jamie Hewlett. I fell in love for Tank Girl and Gorillaz when I was in college. He’s the man who truly made me want to become illustrator and follow my dreams to create new projects.
– Besides comics, what else inspires you creatively?
Movies! I’m a big cinema lover. My mother has always shared with me her passion for cinema, and I can say that it is really what inspired me the most. Spielberg is my God. I was obsessed with his movies when I was young, and I would have not evolved in the same way without him in my childhood. He is my childhood. I’ve always dreamed about dinosaurs, aliens, spaceship, adventure and pirates! I’ve spent so many nights looking at the stars, and thinking how big the universe is and how many galaxies can exist. My creativity come from this mixture between Spielberg, George Lucas and Wes Craven (for his Nightmare on Elm Street movies).
– What are your plans for the future? Any big projects or career ambitions?
Rule over the world!!! But it takes time to plan. Seriously I really want to be published. It would be a dream to see one of my comics in stores, and to see people buy them thinking that it looks like a cool story. I just want to create something great in this life, and not follow a boring road where dreams evaporate and projects die. I would also love to work in video games or in cinema! I make a lot of storyboards for young director and students. I like the movie world so much. By the way, I would really enjoy acting in a horror movie. Not a big role, but just being on set one time in my life would be extraordinary. I want to travel a lot and meet as much people as possible.
– Is there anything else you want to say to the Omega-Level universe? Anything else we should take a look at?
Well thanks a lot for this nice interview I hope you like what comes next on The Dixons. I have also a Shirt store you may like : gakirules.spreadshirt.com and what can I say…BRRAAAAAINSSS!!!