The Heroin Diaries graphic novel, a collaboration that Nikki Sixx and Heavy Metal, presents Sixx’s 2007 memoir The Heroin Diaries from a different angle and gives both insight and understanding to the deadly trap and temptation of addiction adapted by Rantz Hoseley and illustrated by Danijel Zezelj, Patricio Delpeche, Kelsey Shannon, Roy Burdine and Kieron Dwyer.
The Heroin Diaries is currently available in the Heavy Metal Shop.
We spoke with Heavy Metal’s managing editor Rantz Hoseley, who adapted the story from Sixx’s 432-page book, and artists Danijel Zezelj, Patricio Delpeche, and Kelsey Shannon.
What your first memory of music, when did a song first grab your attention?
RANTZ HOSELEY, Managing Editor, Heavy Metal: There was always music in my house growing up, but it was stuff like classical or Martin Denny… exotica, samba, et cetera. The first band that grabbed my attention was probably Kiss with Destroyer. Detroit Rock City and God of Thunder undid my brain in the 4th grade.
KELSEY SHANNON, artist: These were the days of vinyl and my parents had milk crates full of records. Yes, Moody Blues, Kansas, The Marshall Tucker Band. It’s hard to remember the first song that grabbed my attention, but it very well could have been Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” from the Off The Wall album.
PATRICIO DELPECHE, artist: I was very shocked when I saw the video (mixed with animation) of The Wall when I was 5 or 6 years old.
DANIEL ZEZELJ, artist: We had a 45 single at home, “Children of the Revolution” by T-Rex, as a kid I was immediately struck by the song as much as by the cover image, a black and green photo of Marc Bolan’s face.
What was the first album your purchased? How old were you when you bought it?
DELPECHE: Elephant, from the White Stripes. I think I was 15 at that time.
HOSELEY: Styx’s Pieces of Eight. I was in 5th grade, so… maybe 11 years old?
ZEZELJ: Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols, I was 12.
SHANNON: It was actually a cassette tape: Beastie Boys, License to Ill. I must have been around 11 years old.
What sort of awareness of Nikki Sixx and Mötley Crüe—or even The Heroin Diaries—did you have prior to this project?
DELPECHE: I knew Mötley Crüe, and listened a couple of albums (like Girls, Girls, Girls). I also heard about some of the weird stories around Nikki, like the extracorporeal one, when he saw himself after he died.
HOSELEY: I was into Crüe from the Too Fast for Love era. Shout At the Devil came out and it was all over for me—to my mind start to finish it’s still one of the greatest albums of all time. I saw Crüe open for Ozzy on that tour, and—I’ve been to hundreds of metal shows, and that’s one of the few times I’ve actually been scared in the pit. It was complete madness and insanity, but glorious.
SHANNON: Mötley Crüe was everywhere when Shout at the Devil came out. “Girls, Girls, Girls” may have been the first song I ever heard from them. I was too young to really understand what that meant. You might say they helped usher me into puberty. Back then it was just music and I’m not sure I separated the individuals playing it. It was all hair, colored lights, and fun. That’s all that really mattered.
ZEZELJ: I knew many of their songs, and I did read The Heroin Diaries a few years ago.
HOSELEY: I’d read The Heroin Diaries when they came out 10 years ago, and have a huge amount of respect for Nikki as an artist, so for me it really was an honor getting to work with him to bring this into graphic novel form.
How much do you associate music with art and visuals? Are they intertwined, or are they separate things for you?
DELPECHE: They are highly connected. I hear music the whole time I’m drawing. It’s a necessity.
HOSELEY: Back in the days before MTV, when I heard songs, I saw “videos” in my head with such clarity that when I first saw MTV I felt a moment of cold shock, like “wait, someone’s been reading my mind!” My first gig was doing storyboards for rock videos, so for me they are inseparable.
SHANNON: I can’t help but associate music and visuals having grown up in the MTV generation. It’s damn near impossible for me not to visualize to music or hear music when I visualize. Great music often tells a story that plays in your head like a film.
ZEZELJ: They were always intertwined, for me LP sleeves were as important as the music. I picked many records simply because I loved the design of covers. Then the CDs came and LPs disappeared, sleeves were small, and it all became less exciting.
There are a number of different artists involved in the book with different artistic approaches. What was your particular process in developing your portion of the storytelling of the graphic novel of The Heroin Diaries?
HOSELEY: For me it was all about trying to match the state that Nikki was in during that event to the artist’s style. Danijel did the pages where Nikki is alone and in the depth of his paranoia and addiction. I wanted to make it clear that the “good time party” that we associate with Rock n’ Roll—because it’s what’s presented to the public—isn’t necessarily what’s actually going on inside them. So, that drove the artistic choices.
ZEZELJ: I did what I usually do, a high-contrast black & white style, trying to bend it around the script.
SHANNON: Time is often a factor in comics so I’m mostly looking for a feeling rather than details. Like emotional expressionism. Maybe it’s not perfectly in focus, but it feels right. Hopefully.
DELPECHE: I was one of the last artists to jump in, so I hadn’t much time to mess around with crosshatching or texturing. I went with a style closer to those of Paul Smith or the Hernandez brothers—synthetic, clear, and strong.
What was your first take on reading through the script for the graphic novel?
DELPECHE: I didn’t know much about The Heroin Diaries, but it was clear enough that the adaptation to graphic novel was a great idea. It’s rich in its crazy imagination and dark aura that a comic artist can use to his advantage.
ZEZELJ: I already read the Diaries, so I was well aware of many of the stories.
SHANNON: I always heard Nikki and the Crüe were wild but honestly I had no idea what that meant. Gaining some life experience of my own, I have more perspective on some of what Nikki was dealing with. The stuff I found most interesting was all the other musicians in the periphery, like Slash. It was fun seeing their connection to the rest of the musicians I knew at the time.
A question for the editor and scripter here—Rantz, how did you feel as you saw the pages coming in?
HOSELEY: Well, I knew Danijel was great and I had always wanted to work with him, but when those first pages came in? I was floored. I loved how Kieron Dwyer gave a rooted in reality contrast to the introduction, and Patricio Delpeche is a monster. He’s not huge in the states yet, but I think this book will change all that.
It’s uncommon to do a nonfiction graphic novel about a living subject you have access to — did having Nikki on board affect the art in any way?
ZEZELJ: It’s based on Nikki’s diaries and the script by Rantz, so it was highly influenced by both. There wasn’t much feedback during the process, which worked great for me and left me plenty of space and freedom.
SHANNON: Well, I certainly made sure to draw his guitars as accurate as I could. It was important to him, so it was important to me. Fortunately I had some funny scenes to draw so it would be great if he saw these events from a new perspective and maybe get a good laugh out of it.
HOSELEY: I’ve worked with a lot of musicians, so in my experience it’s critical to take a no bullshit approach. You tell them the truth, and clearly convey what your creative idea is. That way they can give you actual feedback, and the two of you can make sure you’re on the same page from the jump, rather than spending weeks on a project then find out “Oh, that’s not acceptable at all!” Nikki’s been fantastic to collaborate with. Very open to approaches and ideas, but he doesn’t hesitate to say if something feels off or doesn’t work for him.
Out of your own musical heroes, whose life or music do you feel would make for a particularly vivid comic or graphic novel?
DELPECHE: I would love to do a graphic novel about Jack White. There is plenty of room there to go crazy and the aesthetic around the character has always been rich enough to fuel any artistic production about it.
ZEZELJ: Frank Zappa.
SHANNON: Mike Patton.
HOSELEY: The dream project for decades has been the Sisters of Mercy. Maybe someday Andrew will give the thumbs up on it!