Thursday, November 29, 2018

D.J. Milky Interview - The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero's Journey

Photo Content from Stu Levy

D.J. Milky is the author pen name of creator and entrepreneur Stu Levy.

Born in Los Angeles, Stu is the founder, CEO, and Chief Creative Officer of the manga media company TOKYOPOP. Stu also produces, directs, and writes for graphic novels, film, and television. His preeminent work "Princess Ai" debuted at #1 on the National Bookscan charts for Graphic Novels.

Stu’s creative works include writing the children’s novels “Sailor Moon – A Scout is Born”, “Sailor Moon – The Power of Love”, and “Karma Club”; children’s books “Stray Sheep” and “Kung Fu Klutz & Karate Cool”; and the graphic novels “Juror 13” and the “Princess Ai” series, created with Courtney Love. He has also translated manga volumes of “Parasyte”, “Sailor Moon”, “Ice Blade” and “Magic Knight Rayearth”. He also has written and produced a series of songs including anime theme songs and a soundtrack from “Princess Ai”.

Stu holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics/Business from UCLA and a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center. He studied at Tokyo University and Keio University in Japan and is a California attorney. Currently, Stu chairs the Producer Guild of America's International Committee and was previously a Board Member of its New Media Council. He is fluent in Japanese.

When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I suppose when my parents couldn’t stop me from singing in the shower, lol. Seriously, though, I never stopped making up stories from when I was a kid – and I think I’d be doing that whatever my day job ended up being.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Certainly having “Princess Ai” be #1 in the country on Bookscan when it was first released was thrilling but by far the most rewarding experience was an email I received from a young woman who read “Princess Ai” and had been contemplating suicide. She said when she read the book – and the lyrics to the song “Suicide Ride” in the story – it encouraged her to have second thoughts and ultimately decide not to go through with it. What an amazing experience – to be able to touch someone’s life in such a positive way as to save it!

In your new book; DISNEY TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: ZERO'S JOURNEY, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it
Zero’s Journey is really a focus on the most lovable character from Tim Burton’s original Nightmare Before Christmas film – the ghost dog Zero. Since he really only appears in a few scenes, and does not have a major role in the film (other than being adorable and lighting the way for the Halloween “reindeer”), it’s an opportunity to discover more of who Zero is, and how he reacts to many other characters, both old and new. His journey is a classic one – trying to find his way home – but the twists and turns along the way are unique to this special quirky world of Nightmare Before Christmas. For both fans of the movie and for those readers who have never even seen the film, we think it’s quite satisfying and entertaining.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
There have been many exciting adventures – perhaps my most memorable were Ghana and Jordan.

What cartoon character best describes you?
I have often been compared to Kermit the Frog – not that I’m proud of that…

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Definitely the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I spent quite a lot of time up in the devastated zone volunteering and have never been the same since – it made me cherish the people around me and every day I am blessed to be healthy and safe.

Have you ever stood up for someone you hardly knew?
I think I make a bit too much of a habit of this, which sometimes gets me into confrontational situations but I can’t sit back and just watch unfair situations.

Last Halloween Costume you wore and when?
This year was boring, just a fun panda head, but last year I was Wolverine.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
Definitely the Roaring 20’s!

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
Too often, my deadlines!

  • Zero never speaks in the entire story – which actually makes it a big challenge to write!
  • Japanese manga artist Kei Ishiyama created Grimms Manga Tales for TOKYOPOP when she was living in Germany (birthplace of the Grimms of course)
  • D.J. Milky attended the Nightmare Before Christmas concert with Danny Elfman at the Hollywood Bowl as a fan two years before he knew he would be writing this story
  • Dan Conner, our colorist, met Stu Levy from TOKYOPOP at San Diego Comicon in 2017 which led to his gig on Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero’s Journey
  • Howly – a new owl character in Zero’s Journey – gave the team good luck as writer D.J. Milky randomly encountered 2 owls on the streets of Japan less than a month after writing that chapter.
  • Lock, Shock and Barrel cross their fingers behind their backs in Zero’s Journey – just like they did in the original movie!
  • Publisher Stu Levy’s first-ever concert was a local gig by Oingo Boingo early in their career – of course that was Danny Elfman’s band before he became a film composer
  • Artist Camilla d’Errico draw a variant cover of Book One, exclusively available via retailer FYE
  • The contraption that allows Zero, and the others, to jump between the worlds was invented by Jack in this book – and came out of brain-storming session in Tokyo amongst the creators
  • One character originally had an axe in his head in the movie but does not in Zero’s Journey per Disney’s request – can you find that one?
Once Disney and TOKYOPOP came to an agreement about creating an original Nightmare Before Christmas story, the first major challenge was coming up with an overall theme that both Disney and Tim Burton would approve. It took months of back and forth to discover the right story, focusing on Zero, that they felt comfortable with. Then there had to be silence for quite awhile as the project was in the works and before it could be announced. But this gave me time to re-watch the film many times, especially on the treadmill! There were many days of either writer’s block or coming up with ideas which just didn’t seem good enough – so lots of frustrating days. Ultimately, though, once things come together and click, my writing is very fast, especially if there is enough coffee involved. That tends to be more or less the day before a deadline J Having many friends and colleagues congratulate me for the project was encouraging – but also made me quite nervous. I know it’s a large responsibility to take on a story in such an incredible world as this one Tim Burton created, but I take that responsibility very seriously – as do all the artists.

When Jack Skellington's faithful pet Zero gets lost, the ghost pup must get the help of the residents of Christmas Town to find his way back. With Halloween plans on hold while Jack mounts a search, will they be reunited in time to save both holidays?

Set in the wonderful world of The Nightmare Before Christmas as created by Tim Burton, explore the magical realms of Halloween Town and Christmas Town through the eyes of Zero as he tries to find his way home in an unfamiliar world.

Story by D.J. Milky | Art by Kei Ishiyama | Cover by Kiyoshi Arai

You can purchase The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero's Journey at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you D.J. MILKY for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of The Nightmare Before Christmas: Zero's Journey, Issue #5 by D.J. Milky. 


  1. "Favorite Manga?" I'm not sure if I follow too many classic manga--I'm crazy about the horror books of Junji Ito!

  2. My favorite is Speed Racer. I have liked it since I was a kid.

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