Growing up, Rantz Hoseley loved doodling.
One day, he drew a single gaming die, titling the image Die, and wrote the word in all capital letters on the sketch. He thought it looked cool. His father had a different take, blowing up at the boy, screaming, Hoseley recalls, “Why the hell are you saying life is a gamble then you die?”
The moment became a pivotal point in Hoseley’s young life and has since inspired an eight-minute film set in the Lewis Clark Valley. The coming-of-age short, also titled Die and shot in Moscow and Lewiston, Idaho, last summer, explores father-son relationships, toxic masculinity, generational trauma, and the moment a child discovers subtext.
Hoseley (x’94 Fine Arts) returned to the Inland Northwest to direct the short, which he also wrote. He created the film as proof of concept for a full-length feature film that he also wrote and hopes to direct, exploring similar, but darker themes. It, too, was inspired by his own childhood in Clarkston, where he was raised by a single mom. His father, Hoseley says, was “a world-class grifter” who “coasted on his charisma and good looks” until his death.
But, Hoseley also says, “I don’t hold animosity or resentment toward my father. I feel sorry him. He never really found a way to be happy.”
By day, Hoseley is an award-winning senior editor at Z2 Comics, where—its tagline notes—“music and comics collide.” He oversees production, design, and content creation across multiple book projects at a time. By night and some early mornings he writes screenplays and works on other passion projects, such as painting the cover of Tori Amos’s 2020 holiday EP, Christmastide.
The two met in the mid-1980s when she was playing piano at the Holiday Inn near LAX. They became and remain “fast friends,” says Hoseley, who started at Z2 in 2019. The company specializes in graphic novels about musicians and bands, including the Grateful Dead, Elvis Presley, Anthrax, Joan Jett, and Judas Priest. But it’s not all rock and roll. Z2 has also produced a book in honor of Ludwig van Beethoven’s two-hundred-fiftieth birthday, as well as graphic novels on jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker.
“We have metal. We have pop. We have hip-hop. We have country western,” Hoseley says. “Seventeen-year-old me is seriously shocked and stunned that I’m getting to work with people whose music I lived and breathed as a kid in Clarkston in the ’80s.”
Back then, he loved Star Wars, science fiction, and—of course—comic books. “Growing up in this small little town with no exposure to fine art, comic books were like a gateway drug for my art education,” says Hoseley, who moved to Los Angeles after high school in 1986. Art school was “entirely expensive, and I didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth.” So he moved back with the idea he would get an art degree, become an art teacher, and do comics and writing on the side.
Volunteering in a junior high art class changed his mind. But working at the Daily Evergreen solidified his desire to write and create. He was the advertising art director, entertainment editor, and a comic-strip artist for Washington State University’s student newspaper, “and it fundamentally changed my life. I would not have had my career if I had not worked at the Daily Evergreen. It taught me how to be a manager. It taught me to multi-task and shift from project to project. I would get out of class and go to the art department/advertising area of student publications and make sure everyone had their assignments for the day, then I would go down the hall to editorial and work on ‘Borderline’ stuff while also doing the comic strip.”
“Borderline” was the entertainment section and, Hoseley says, “I was fortunate to be the editor as grunge completely exploded. There were two dozen really fantastic local bands, and I got to do coverage of Lollapalooza and bands like Candlebox and Blind Melon, playing little clubs in Pullman before they broke big. It was an exciting time to be at WSU. In hindsight, it was one of those moments where there was a mercurial level of magic with all these things lining up.”
After WSU, he moved back to LA and, after a short stint at a magazine, landed a short-term contract as an artist for a video game company. He also created story boards for music videos, such as Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” In 1996, he became a senior computer graphic artist at Disney Interactive, designing environments, characters, levels, and visual style guides for three years. Then, he spent 13 years in Orange County, working at Quicksilver Software. “As creative director, you’re supervising music and sound, scripts, voiceover recording—everything that is not programming,” Hoseley says.
He won Eisner and Harvey awards for 2008’s Comic Book Tattoo, his graphic novel anthology of 51 stories based on songs by Amos.
During his tenure as managing editor of Heavy Metal magazine from 2016 to 2019, he wrote the graphic novel adaptation of Nikki Sixx’s memoir, The Heroin Diaries, for Heavy Metal Publications and Eleven Seven Music.
His full-length feature film The Sinners Almanac is based on the Lewis Clark Valley serial killer, who operated in the 1980s when Hoseley was a Boy Scout. The film “isn’t about the murders. It’s about how these things impact and change a community and how they haunt the kids who grew up there,” says Hoseley, noting Die is thematically tied to the longer film but isn’t a sequel or prequel or narratively connected. A Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $8,000—it ended up raising $13,000—helped fund the short, which was completed in November of 2021, and has been submitted to a number of festivals around the world.
Meantime, Hoseley’s working on another script for a feature-length film set in 1978 on the Oregon Coast. The Whaling is loosely based on the 1970 explosion of a sperm whale that washed up on the beach in Florence, Oregon.
He’s also working with Amos again, this time on a graphic novel to mark the thirtieth anniversary of her 1992 debut album Little Earthquakes. The 24-story collection, set to be available in September, features collaborations with best-selling author Margaret Atwood and artist David Mack, who will create a narrative and illustrations for the song “Silent All These Years.” Neil Gaiman will write a story for “Tear in Your Hand,” illustrated by Bilquis Evely.
In today’s chaotic world, creativity, Hoseley says, “is the one thing I have control over. I can write, and I can make art, and people need art. They need stories, and I do think it can change the world if you’ve done your job well. It can comfort them. It can make people examine their own points of view. It can open up a different world to them.”