By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently reviewed Alien Next Door – the only official Alien cartoon book – describing it as “a lovely little book that will surely bring a smile to even the most cold-hearted of Alien fans.” AMO is therefore proud to present an exclusive online interview with artist/illustrator Joey Spiotto, a.k.a. Joebot!
Hi Joey, thank you for your time and welcome to Alternative Magazine Online!
Thanks for having me, and for the excellent coverage of all the cool stuff that I’m into!
Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself please?
I’m a 35-year-old Los Angeles based artist/illustrator. I used to work in the video game industry as a concept artist, but left that behind a few years back to pursue my own work. I regularly work with Gallery 1988 in Hollywood where I recently had my second solo-exhibition where I turn some of my favourite movies, musicians, TV shows, and video games into fake children’s books!
When did you first discover you had a talent for art and illustration?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. My parents were very supportive of my love of art, and so they didn’t try to stop me from doing what I loved, which I’m very grateful for. As a kid I was really into comics and video games, and so when I couldn’t play a game, or read a comic, I was doodling and drawing something. I did that a lot in school, which the teachers, for the most part, were also oddly supportive of.
You’ve previously worked in the film and video game industry. Can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve worked on over the years?
After graduating from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, I was hired to be an Artist Assistant on The Polar Express film for Warner Bros. I moved up to San Francisco and had a chance to work with the incredible team of artists behind Star Wars Episode I & II. It was like living a dream, going to work every day and becoming friends and colleagues with some of my artist heroes. I then moved into working in the video game industry where I worked on a few early projects with Telltale Games, ultimately I ended up at Electronic Arts where I worked on The Simpsons Game, The Sims and the first Dead Space as a concept artist. Dead Space was one of those rare projects where you know you’re a part of something special as it’s coming together. As a concept artist, you work so early in the production of a project, that there wasn’t really a game to play when I was on it, so by the time it actually came out a few years later, It was like a whole new experience to me… I absolutely loved it.
I recently reviewed Alien Next Door and loved it. Where did the idea for the book come from?
Thank you for the lovely review! It’s always a scary thing to put so much time and love into something and then let it out into the world. You hope people will appreciate or enjoy something, and with ‘Alien’ there is such a huge and dedicated fan base to that world… it can be a little intimidating. But when I was approached about the project, I knew I could do something fun with it. Titan Books contacted me, as they were familiar with my work from Gallery 1988, and asked if I was interested in writing/illustrating a humorous book based on the Alien films. Of course I said yes… So I did a few examples of my take on what I thought the book should be and they totally went for it! The cover of the book was actually the first image I drew.
Is it true that H.R. Giger had previously tried to contact you about this idea before he passed away?
Yeah… that was an amazingly bizarre phone call to receive. A few years ago I had created a print for a gallery show called ‘Facehugs for Everyone’. I had basically created a fake ‘Little Golden Book’ where these two little kids were being adorably attacked by Facehuggers. Somehow the artwork made it’s way to H.R. Giger and he wanted to get in touch with me. Apparently he was friends with a former private investigator, she’s the one that had reached out to me. My parents received a message on their answering machine… she had introduced herself and explained that she was trying to get in touch with me. So my parents called me and played the message so I could hear it. I called her back and talked with her for about an hour or so… turns out he was inspired by the artwork and wanted to work with me to develop a children’s book based on the Alien films. I was pretty excited and she said she would put him in touch with me… well, sadly, that never quite worked out, and Mr. Giger passed away. So when this project came up… it felt like a second chance at something that would have been an amazing experience. I recently heard from H.R. Giger’s wife, she absolutely loved the book, which was extremely gratifying.
So it’s safe to say you’re a fan of the Alien films and H.R. Giger? 🙂
Oh yes, of course. His work was so unique and different than anything else out there. The character he created will last for many generations to come, and those films… I just love them. I saw the first film when I was way too young, so it definitely loosened a wire somewhere in my childhood brain that probably shouldn’t have been loosened. But… it all worked out in the end.
Was it difficult to take such a terrifying creature and make it cute?
Not at all! The Xenomorph is strangely pretty easy to make cute… with the big long head, a tail, and the little mouth that pops out like a jack-in-the-box… I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner!
What’s your favourite ‘panel’ from the book?
Hmmm that one’s a tough question to answer. When I was writing down ideas, I always felt that if it made me laugh, then it was going in the book. I like some for their quick reads, some for the panels that tell a brief story… I’d say the one of him cosplaying as the Predator is one of my favourites.
Was there any material that didn’t make it into the final book?
Yep! There were definitely a few that were cut out… some didn’t quite read as well as they could have, some had copyright issues, some just needed more time, which I didn’t quite have a lot of on this project. But yeah, I wrote down even more ideas that never made it to sketch form.
In my review I mentioned how ‘there’s enough strong material here to make an ongoing comic strip’ – is that something you might be interested in doing in the future?
I would always be up for revisiting this cute version of the Xenomorph, but an ongoing comic strip is out of my hands. Anything official is out of my hands unfortunately as the book is officially licensed by 20th Century Fox and Titan Books, so they’re sort of in charge with this whole thing.
How about the Predator – do you think he could have a softer side too?
The Predator could definitely have a softer side… c’mon! He purrs like a kitten after all!
What’s next for you Joey?
The end of 2015 saw my release of this book, along with a solo-gallery show where I had created 50 new pieces of work, all while my wife and I welcomed a new baby into our lives. So needless to say, I took some much-needed down time after all of that. I’m currently laying the groundwork for a few upcoming projects that I can’t quite talk about yet and getting some new artwork ready for a few conventions I’m doing throughout the first half of the year around the United States. When I can share what I’m working on next, I will, and hopefully you and your readers will enjoy it! For news on what I’m up to, you can follow me on most social media outlets: www.twitter.com/joeyspiotto, www.facebook.com/jo3bot, www.instagram.com/jo3bot and of course, at www.jo3bot.com (which I’m currently renovating behind the scenes).
Thank you for your time, I really enjoyed Alien Next Door and I can’t wait to see what you draw next!
Thank you so much for your interest in my work, and for your support for Alien Next Door! Let’s do this again sometime!