I’m not the type to get my panties in a bunch over images of women in the media – I think interpersonal relations have more influence on self-image than a photo of a babe in a thong – but even my sensibilities were rattled by Girls and Corpses. It’s hot girls posing with human corpses, which may or may not be real. Editor Robert Steven Rhine says its a comedy magazine about death and that it also makes a point about advertising in our society: put a beautiful woman next to anything, even a corpse, and it sells. We sat down with Rhine at the Alternative Press Expo and asked, “Girls and Corpses? What the hell?”
Robert Rhine: Can I say anything on this?
Pink Raygun: Sure. You can say anything you want to.
RR: Vagina. And speaking of vagina, this is a very good lead in. I think you should describe this for your readers.
PRG: It’s a greenish bar of soap that looks like a zombie vagina with maggots.
RR: That pretty much sums up Girls and Corpses. What does it smell like?
PRG: I can’t tell. What is that? Smells kind of like sage.
RR: Actually, zombies do smell like sage. A lot of people don’t know that. That’s an exclusive.
PRG: So, zombies are savory instead of sweet. What was your name?
RR: I’m Robert Steven Rhine, the Deaditor in Chief of Girls and Corpses magazine.
PRG: I heard about this-
RR: On a bathroom wall?
PRG: No, I heard about it on the Kyptographik podcast. Brian and Damien were talking about the first print issue of Girls and Corpses.
RR: Yes, the first issue featured Sheri Moon Zombie and Rob Zombie’s corpse, which was approved by Rob. We had to get clearance for his corpse. He wouldn’t let us do it unless he saw it first. We shot in a cemetery, and they don’t want me to say which cemetery because it’s weird to be hanging around a cemetery with your own corpse. You show up in the morning with a corpse and people freak out. We shot it and it was great. Rob showed up for the shoot and it was really cool, and Sheri wound up on our first print cover. We’ve been a webzine for fifteen issues.
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PRG: So you’ve been publishing for about a year and a half, then?
RR: About that. At another show like this one, a guy came by a couple of times, and said “Look, I publish sports magazines and I’m really interested in this whole thing. I want to put money into it.” And he put the money into printing it. I have control over all of the creative content, I bring in all the writers. I don’t know if your readers know what this magazine is exactly. . .
PRG: They will.
RR: It really is sort of a spoof of like Maxim meets Dawn of the Dead. It hearkens back to National Lampoon, Mad Magazine, bringing comedy back, but with horror. We love magazines like Rue Morgue and Fangoria – they do a really great job – but, we’re a different kind of market because we’re a comedy market.
I’m a fiction writer, I have a graphic novel we’re selling here, Satan’s Three Ring Circus of Hell, and that came through a series of comic books that started with Selected Readings from Satan’s Powder Room. Then it was Chicken Soup for Satan, and the third one was Satan Gone Wild, and then we came up with the graphic novel which has forty three of the top horror artists in the world – William Stout, Tim Vigil and some of the people here like Alex Pardee, Jim Smith – so that’s how it all kind of came about.
Then I had this wacky idea. I used to go to the Comic Con and I’d have corpses in my booth. Girls would come by and ask if they could take their pictures with the corpse. That went on for about three years, and I’m like “What’s up with girls and corpses? What is this fascination?” And there is something up with it. So, I started shooting these really beautiful girls with rotting corpses, and the thing took off. We now get two million hits a month. Recently, Howard Stern started talking about it on his show. Then Quentin Tarantino got a copy and went on the Mark and Brian Morning Show on KLOS in Los Angeles and talked about the magazine. So, we’re getting great press. This thing is kind of taking off. Sorry, I’m just kind of interviewing myself.
PRG: That’s OK. I like letting people go on their own tangents.
RR: Oh, I’ll go on for – how much time have you got?
PRG: I’m here until 6 PM, but the battery on this thing won’t last that long.
RR: I do want to mention something very important for your readers. We’re not snooty about our models, we take models from all walks of like. You could model for Girls and Corpses. I don’t think he could model (gestures toward John). It’s always pretty girls with male corpses. We’ve had some people ask why we don’t do males with male corpses. It doesn’t quite work for us. We may do it – I don’t want to be discriminatory against gay corpses. We have had two females – we did Zombie on Corpse, Zombie Zoe, which was like a girl on girl thing.
PRG: I’ve gotta tell you, on the surface I think a lot of people are going to see Girls and Corpses and immediately be turned off by it and really offended.
RR: We should only be so lucky. People have been offending people in creative ways forever. People who have been banned, like Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, people who crossed over. And people may say I can’t compare Girls and Corpses to them. Well, when Playboy came out it was banned and burned. So, yeah, people are gonna be offended.
But, we have no nudity in the magazine and it’s really a spoof. It’s a comedy thing, taking these two completely opposite things and putting them together. It points out how our advertising and marketing works in society. How they put women next to anything to sell it: a car, a suitcase or whatever, and here it’s a rotting corpse. Because a woman is next to it, people will look at it. But, the contrast of life and death – a woman gives birth and literally makes life and a corpse is the end of life – so, its the yin and yang.
You have all of these TV shows like CSI where they’re ripping people’s heads off and showing their guts. We don’t even do that. We don’t have any gore in the magazine. In a way, it’s a very compelling image. It makes you look. You see the beautiful girl and go “Why am I looking at this?” or “Why am I laughing at this?” I could even argue that this is a good thing for people because it makes them look at death in a funny way. It’s something we’re all going to experience. We also have articles. We interview people who do embalming, who do cremations, who run funeral homes. And I get their humorous take on all of it, too. Those people who work in those fields have a great sense of humor. They have to.
The other thing that’s different about our magazine is – for example Suicide Girls, which is great – but we don’t do the girls with the tattoos and all that. We want that girl that the guy couldn’t get in high school. He couldn’t get a date, he couldn’t get to first base with this girl, but she’ll kiss a corpse. And they do, but it’s not in a sexual way. It’s romantic.
PRG: OK, romancing the corpse. Do you find that the juxtaposition with the gore and the gruesomeness makes the funny funnier? If you heighten the emotions on one end, you have to heighten them on the other.
RR: I certainly didn’t invent that. That sort of humor and dark comedy has been around forever and they’re still doing movies like that. I think it’s a great venue and it’s something that I write in. I had a book out called My Brain Escapes Me, which is based on my injury as a kid when I had a horrible head injury and was almost killed. So those are kind of spilling out, these things that I can’t stop. I just don’t edit myself. People walk around all day trying to censor themselves and I can’t do that. I just don’t care anymore. I just do what I want and it’s really a creatively freeing thing. So far, the reaction to Girls and Corpses has been tremendous. 99% of the response has been positive. People are like “Bless you! I’ve been waiting for something like this!” “This is the best magazine in the world!” I don’t understand it, but they love this.
All fifteen back issues of Girls and Corpses Magazine are available at the website. The first print issue is part of Pink Raygun’s “Couldn’t Make APE?” prize pack.
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