Updated: Apr 12, 2020
So, there’s a webcomic about paramilitary unicorns fighting for humanity in a zombie apocalypse.
(I just want to let all of you know that I have never done any drugs, and I sure as hell didn’t consume anything during the writing of this article. Are we good? Yeah? Okay!)
Hooves of Death is a weekly comic published on Webtoons and created by cartoonist Sam Bragg. The story is set in a world where humans have survived the zombie apocalypse thanks to the help of a group of unicorns, who organize themselves as an army with commander Sprinkles as their fearless leader. Our protagonist is Sergeant Glitter, an upbeat female unicorn who saves a young girl from dying at the hands of the undead and so kickstarts our story.
Hooves of Death appears to us as a love letter to Gen Z pop-culture, presenting the perfect balance of My Little Pony with The Walking Dead, in a tone that goes from comedy to action and serious emotional depth. The most interesting part about this comic is that it is not written to be a light-hearted comedy or a sarcastic adult parody of the zombie genre. The comic takes itself very seriously without losing track of its essential core (unicorns vs zombies!) and the characters are lovely and interesting.
The art looks like something out of a Cartoon Network show. Bragg’s style fits perfectly with the story she’s telling, with simple designs that would translate marvelously to animation and interesting page layouts and angles that keep the narrative rhythm interesting. For an artist to be able to pull that off, by herself, on a weekly basis, is a titanic task for anyone. To do so in such a tasteful way is even more impressive.
We got together with Sam Bragg with a set of questions about her origins, the beginnings of this project, her experience with webtoons and upcoming plans.
1- Where do you come from and how did that influence you as a creator?
I am from a small town in Northern Utah. Growing up I felt like the odd one out and I turned to drawing and reading when I found making friends was difficult for me. My home life was also tough, and I turned to media so I could escape my pain. In a way I feel that these outlets saved me in my youth and that inspired me to create a story that would help others to forget their problems, even if it is only for a few minutes. I think I made my first comic in middle school and it was terrible, with big-eyed anime characters that make me cringe just thinking about it. I made it in a spiral bound notebook and would work on it during classes. That is when I realized that comics allow you to create an entire universe all by yourself! Yes, it helps to have an inker, a colorist, and a writer; but you CAN do all those things yourself. That was it for me. I have tried making comics every year since then.
2- What moved you into starting your webcomic?
I always found myself getting involved in school or family, and then I would put my comic off and not do the work. Then in 2018 I told myself I was going to make a comic and this time I was going to finish it. I started outlining “Hooves of Death” that summer and I began to create concept work of the characters and post it on my Instagram. One of my followers told me about a contest Webtoon was having for new comics, and if I won, I could make $80,000. Talk about motivation to get some work done! I had to finish a 40-panel episode every week for six weeks or I would miss the deadline. So, I worked. Even though I had two very young boys and a house to take care of, I worked late into the night and early in the morning so I could make the deadline for the webcomic contest. And to my surprise, I made it! I had six episodes done just in time for the contest deadline. I didn’t win, I got an honorable mention. At first, I was shattered, but I told myself I was going to keep my promise to myself and finish a comic, so I started the next episode. I had made two more episodes when Webtoon contacted me and told me that they would be interested in featuring my comic and I would be paid to finish it. I was blown away. Of course, I said yes and then I started revising my comic for the new release.
3- How did you come up with the concept for Hooves of Death?
One day I was walking with my kids in the stroller and listening to a zombie audiobook (yes, I am that kind of mom) when I thought, “What would unicorns do in a zombie apocalypse?” This probably stems from my love of all things unicorn, ever since I watched The Last Unicorn as a small child. While I had watched My Little Pony that was not my main inspiration for the story, it was books like Into the Land of the Unicorns by Bruce Coville that I really drew inspiration from. Stories where unicorns were more than just pretty, they were dangerous mythical beasts and capable of defending themselves. From there I imagined a group of unicorns finding and saving a small human girl and trying to find a way to help humanity survive the zombies.
4- Glitter is a very interesting character, being positive and upbeat without being tiresome and allowing space for future personal growth. What was your objective with this character?
Honestly Glitter is everything I wish I could be. I am quiet and never say what’s on my mind, but Glitter has no filter. I wish I had the courage to say what I am thinking. Yes, it can get her in trouble, but it just feels freer to me than the way I cage my thoughts. I also wanted her to be positive because over the last three years I have learned that a positive attitude can help us overcome our greatest challenges. I think this is an important trait to have in a main character because protagonists are who we all wish to be. I wanted her to be as real as I could make her, so I poured bits of myself and bits of what I longed for into her character.
5- Rebbeca Sugar once said that she was inspired by the Sublime movement to create Steven Universe, putting deep themes in a story that on the surface is child oriented. Is that something you were aiming for when creating Hooves of Death?
I totally wanted to put adult themes in a story aimed at a younger audience. What better way for children to learn about some of the tougher things in life than to wrap it up in an entertaining package? I really wanted to address life and death, as well as how death can sometimes be a release when a being is suffering. I also wanted to incorporate loss, whether it is loss of a friend or a loved one, this is something we all will experience at some point in our lives. I also wanted to show that just because someone is gone it doesn’t mean you should stop living too. You need to keep going, because that is what that person would want you to do.
6- What has your experience been with Webtoons? Would you recommend this platform for other creators to distribute their work?
I absolutely love working on webtoons. You can really pace out your comic more effectively with the scrolling feature, you can slow it down by drawing out the space between panels or speed it up for an intense fight scene. Submission is really easy and I enjoy the social aspect of it with the comment feature. It lets me know what people are enjoying or disliking and I can act accordingly to try to fix a few things.
7- What does a regular day of work look like for you?
Well it’s more like a regular week of work. I start on Monday with the script and thumbnails for the episode. I write a script describing what the characters are doing in each panel and then what they are saying in that panel. Then I do a rough sketch of every panel so I know what the episode will look like from start to finish, and I send it to my editor once I’m done. On Tuesday I work on the environments. I draw large environment images so that I can take pieces of the large image and use it as a background for multiple panels. I do the backgrounds before the characters because my editor usually changes my storyboards about what the characters are doing. That way my work isn’t wasted, I can always use the environments for a different episode. Wednesday is for inking. Thursday is for coloring the characters and adding in the backgrounds. Friday is for putting it all together in a large photoshop file and adding the lettering, and then I send it to my editor for final revisions. All in all, it takes about 35-45 hours to complete an episode, depending on how much I reuse assets.
8- Ok, now I’ll ask what everybody is thinking. Why unicorns? Out of all things in the multiverse?
Like I said before I like that unicorns can be lethal. I mean they have a huge spike coming out of their forehead, tell me that is not a weapon. I also like the more medieval style of the unicorn with the long lion like tail. Today unicorns represent being cute, but back in the day they represented bravery, innocence, purity, healing powers, pride, intelligence, joy and virility. They are so much more than just being fluffy.
9- The comic will end soon. What’s next for Sam Bragg?
I am currently writing a Fae comic and a Dragon comic. As of right now I have not decided which will be first, but I aim to create both eventually. The Fae story centers around a young woman who sets out to live in the woods to get away from it all. There she finds that she is being hunted by something in the woods and while running from the creature she finds a young man. The young man takes her to his Homeless camp where a bunch of other people are already living in the woods. She makes friends with these people only to find out that the creature that hunts her is hunting them as well.
The dragon story centers around two species, the Dragons and the Wyverns, and how their races have been at war for centuries. Only now, they find their magic is waning and they can no longer have children. In order to stop this an experimental union between the prince and princess of both species will test if combining their magic will save them from this strange loss of magic that is draining their people. I love them both and can’t decide. I am leaning a bit toward the Fae story though because drawing Humans would be a nice break from animals.
You can read Hooves of Death for free at:
Daniel D. Calvo is a writer, translator, editor and comics journalist currently based in Pennsylvania, USA. He was born in Havana, Cuba in 1999. At age 13, he published his first short story in an anthology. Two years later, he translated his first book “Tunnel to Eternity” by Leon S. Rhodes from English to Spanish, which was released and distributed in Latin America. After many years of non-stop writing and creating, he moved to the USA on a full scholarship for a Liberal Arts Major at Bryn Athyn College. He has joined Konkret Comics LLC as Editor-In-Chief, working on titles such as “Akolyte”, “Absolver” and “Odina”. Among other ventures, his first creator-owned comic “Andy Starboy” is set to launch on 2020.