Butcher Billy on Imposter Syndrome, ’80s Fandom, and His Hit Posters for Stranger Things

Now in its fourth season, Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things isn’t just a massive global hit. It also becomes something of a cultural nexus, including introducing 80s stars Kate Bush and Metallica to a whole new generation and propelling them back onto the charts around the world. And it’s also been a huge source of inspiration for artists and illustrators, inspiring countless fan projects such as Xavier Portela’s upside-down photographs.

But creating your own fan design for everyone’s favorite nostalgia-tinged sci-fi horror is one thing. Being tasked with making official art for the series is quite another.

This is exactly the exciting (if a bit scary) position that Brazilian Pop Art illustrator Butcher Billy recently found himself in. campaign for season four. In response, Butcher Billy created something quite special.

Rather than standard promotional art featuring the main cast, his designs draw inspiration from the 80s aesthetic of horror comics, movie posters, Stephen King book covers and video jackets. unpleasant, with a gloriously dark and sinister touch. They caused a stir online, garnering tens of millions of likes on Instagram alone. And Netflix was quick to jump on that fan love, releasing the image as physical posters, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies through the Netflix online store, as well as using them in advertising. exterior through Los Angeles.

So how did it all go, right? We spoke with Butcher Billy to find out how he approached the project, how nervous he felt, and where his influences lay.

When and how was work born?

I was contacted in February by a New York creative agency called Ralph, who was handling the social media strategy for an upcoming well-known sci-fi series, and wanted to know about my availability. They said I would be fine. When I found out it was Stranger Things and the Duffer Brothers had loved my previous work and suggested my name, I was thrilled, to say the least.



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

What was the brief?

They were looking for 80s style movie posters for each episode of Stranger Things season 4 – not the usual art that is done for a series, where you see all the main characters grouped together, but something that plays with the iconography, symbols and specific elements of the show, focusing more on the bloody and scary scenes, without revealing too much of what is happening. Overall, the pieces would work as teasers for each chapter.

What did this opportunity represent for you?

I’ve worked with Netflix on promotional material for series such as Queen’s Gambit and Cobra Kai, and specifically Black Mirror, where you can see some of my work featured in a few episodes. But even that wasn’t as big or as personal as working on this project.

How did you develop the ideas for each poster?

I was given early screenings of each episode long before it was released. It was a work in progress version, with unfinished special effects as post-production was still going on when I watched it. I was absolutely free to choose ideas and what I thought would work best. I especially liked picking the quotes that I thought were the most impactful and memorable from each chapter and incorporating them into the design.

What kind of look and feel were you going for?

Naughty VHS videos, 70s and 80s horror movie posters and vintage book covers, including those of Stephen King, of course.

What tools and media did you use?

First hand sketches, then digital applications like Illustrator and Photoshop.

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

What feedback and changes did you receive during the process?

Surprisingly, there were very few comments. They had mentioned early on that they all liked my previous work, so they basically wanted me to do what I usually do without too much interference.

It should be flattering to be approached specifically for your style, rather than having to tailor it to the client. Is this still the case now?

It wasn’t easy or quick, but yeah, I guess it’s a dream come true. I worked for years as an art director in agencies while developing my own personal artwork as a side project until I felt safe enough to quit.

It’s scary to give up a regular salary, but I wanted to develop my style and ideas without interference. And thanks to this decision, I indeed found this freedom, in which now I am approached by brands and companies that are looking for exactly what I do, and I am able to choose whether I want to work for them or not, when I want, and only if it’s the right person for me.

Which poster was the most difficult and why?

I decided to design each piece so that I wouldn’t have to use many actor likenesses unless strictly necessary. The two that feature a main character’s face were a bit more difficult to create as they required more revisions to make sure everyone was happy.

Nostalgia is everywhere in a way that makes you feel like it was yesterday. I grew up as a child in the 80s and as a teenager in the 90s. I feel privileged to have been shaped by what happened in those decades, but not superior to others who have not. not been.

What was your favorite and why?

Probably Dear Billy and The Piggyback because of all the excitement around the particular scenes they’re based on and the music involved.

Your style is heavily influenced by 80s comics, music, and movies, and the show is heavily influenced by 80s sci-fi and fantasy. How was the mix?

It seemed like an ideal combo. When Stranger Things first came out, I remember it ticking all the boxes for me. Finding out that the Duffers were fans and wanted me to try on their turf was like coming full circle.

Why do you think there’s so much love for the 80s right now?

I recently saw a meme that said that in eight years the 80s will have been 50 years ago. It’s quite scary. I’m 44, so this should be obvious to me, but it’s not.

Nostalgia is everywhere in a way that makes you feel like it was yesterday. I grew up as a child in the 80s and as a teenager in the 90s. I feel privileged to have been shaped by what happened in those decades, but not superior to others who have not. not been.

However, I honestly don’t know why it lasted like this for people who didn’t experience it. Seeing stuff like Stranger Things, Cobra Kai, Ghostbusters and all the legacy remakes/reboots adored by Gen Z fascinates me.

When a briefing like this comes along, do you ever suffer from impostor syndrome or worry about not doing a good job?

Yes, every time. I panic a little at first, then I go out and drink a coffee. Going to watch a movie. Calm down a bit and realize that nothing is as complicated as it seems in my head. I think it’s healthy to feel that way. It’s a sign that I’m always excited about what I do.

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy



Stranger Things for Netflix © Butcher Billy

How has the fan feedback on the artwork been?

To be honest, I’m overwhelmed with attention. People love the coins and share them everywhere. I received hundreds of comments, direct messages and even emails of compliments.

Where did the posters appear in the physical world?

As far as I know, they decided to put billboards all over Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. They asked me to fit each piece into horizontal versions. It was a last minute thing, and I have to say I wasn’t sure at first, because it was a very different canvas to the one I had originally worked on. However, in the end, I think most of them turned out as good, if not better, than the originals. It was exciting to see them in physical form, spread all over LA.

What do you think are your main influences?

Saul Bass, Jack Kirby, Andy Warhol and Banksy.

What advice did you receive early on that helped you?

It’s funny. I don’t really remember the good ones. Strangely, the most effective advice I have ever received comes from people close to me, who discouraged me from pursuing my dreams or criticized my work, my choices, etc. I think there’s something empowering about being the only one to believe in yourself. It could take you even further.

Finally, what advice would you give to others?

Don’t just work for others; find time to create for yourself.

Based in Curitiba, Brazil, Butcher Billy is an illustrator represented by IllustrationX. His retro style is heavily influenced by 1970s and 1980s music, movies, books, comics and computer games, which are iconic elements of his works. Its clients include Netflix, NME, ESPN, Waxwork Records NBA TV, Loot Crate, Penguin Random House, Stylist, Foot Locker and more.

Founded in 1929, IllustrationX is the world’s premier illustration agency, specializing in connecting clients with talented illustrators from diverse backgrounds around the world. Today, it represents over 220 talented artists and animators, with offices on four continents. For more information, visit www.illustrationx.com.

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