Darren Kleine, known to most by his handle DKleine, is an NFT artist with a decidedly specific niche — Zombies. We’re talking crypto zombies, political zombies, mustachioed Salvador Dali zombies. Zombies of all shapes, sizes, and orientations! If it’s green, dismembered, and loves the savory taste of a good brain, it’s ripe for tokenization (and charity) so far as Mr. Kleine is concerned.
What started as a quasi-political statement just a few short months ago (his first zombie NFT was a decaying Donald Trump, still running for president in 2040) has now blossomed into a fully matured signature aesthetic. And with his creative output growing more popular by the day on blockchain marketplaces like Open Sea and Known Origin, Kleine concluded that the holiday season was a splendid time to exercise a little peace on earth and good will to all.
On December 12, Kleine will list the first of twelve Christmas-themed NFTs in a series titled The 12 Days of Zombie Christmas with 80% of the proceeds to benefit children's charities. Each artwork in the single-edition series will depict a scene from a classic holiday film, but with a deliciously gruesome twist — all of the characters are either undead... or soon will be.
A Zombie Brown Christmas by DKleine.
“I'm not changing them a lot. I'm changing them enough that it's just slightly uncomfortable, but there's still kind of a joy to it. There's still something beautiful about it,” Kleine explained in an interview with Cointelegraph. Carouseling through a sneak preview of his upcoming pieces, he continued:
“Here's the ‘Christmas vacation’ one. Clark Griswold and his cousin Eddie are shopping for brains at Walmart. I really like that awkward moment in ‘Elf’ where he's eating the spaghetti with jelly beans. So I took that, but I changed them to intestines. Star Wars Holiday Special is still in the works.”
They’re truly something to behold.
To explain his personal brand of phantasmagoria, Kleine launched into a description of the unintended psychological effect known as the “Uncanny Valley” — a term used to describe creations that are supposed to realistically mimic flesh and blood humans, but fail to capture the illusion in often cadaverous ways. Ever seen Robert Zemekis’ adaptation of The Polar Express? Uncanny Valley. Those creepy Japanese fembots with airbrushed silicone skin and glassy, dead eyes? Uncanny Valley. He reasoned:
“I think it's similar with zombies. There's something about them that is just instinctively repugnant. But then you put them into the context of this charming Christmas scene, and your natural reaction is to laugh.”
Home Alone (Except the Zombies) by DKleine
You can bid on the first in Kleine's series here.
Elucidating on this point, he drew a more serious comparison to our current, socially distanced reality. “It also ties back to the whole COVID thing, right? Because, obviously, the idea of zombies is that they're this impending viral threat that's always kind of looming over us.” Indeed.
“I do think this has been a bit of a coping tool for me, in terms of COVID. Just the humor of it. I was the type of person that as a kid, if I watched a movie and there was a sad or uncomfortable part, I would make a joke — because that made me feel more at ease. I do feel like there's a bit of that happening here.”
Creating NFTs has led to something of a rediscovery for the artist, in fact. Once an art major and bonafide creative spirit, Kleine shied away from such pursuits for years, favoring the analytical security of his job as a full-time grade school math teacher. As a child, however, his passion was for pencil and paper:
“When I was a kid, I could not stop drawing. I drew to the point that I got in trouble in class for doing that when I should have been doing my schoolwork. Then I got into teaching, and just never did it anymore. It wasn't until this digital art thing that it kind of grabbed me again.”
His work took on a new level of enthusiasm once he decided to create The 12 Days of Zombie Christmas as a charitable effort. The series, which is to be sold auction-style on the Open Sea NFT marketplace, will see 80% of its proceeds divided between 12 separate charities. He's working with The Giving Block — a non-profit outfit focused specifically on helping charities accept cryptocurrency-based donations — to ensure the funds are distributed accurately.
“Being a teacher, I wanted to focus on charities that have to do with opportunities for children, opportunities for girls in places where they don't normally have access to education,” said Kleine.
“I picked out 12 different charities, one for each piece. Starting December 12, I'm going to put a piece up for auction each day on 'Open Sea', and they're all going to expire Christmas Eve.”
With an unencumbered sense of joy for his work, Kleine shared that “My favorite Christmas movie is actually one of them. It's 'Christmas Vacation'. Chevy Chase. Every time I watch it, I laugh. I see the squirrel scene with the dog chasing them through the house, and I see them carving the turkey and it breaks open to this carcass. It's just hilarious. I love it.”
The charities included in the campaign are: 1000 dreams fund, Children International, Pencils of Promise, FIRN, Mona Foundation, SOS Children's Villages, Many Hopes, She's the First, Count Basie Center for the Arts, Code to Inspire, Save the Children, and Family Promise.
The 12 Days of Zombie Christmas kicks off today with a one-of-a-kind NFT called Home Alone (Except the Zombies). Interested parties will find this piece, and all future tokens in this series, on the artist’s Open Sea page. Happy bidding, and a Scary Christmas to all!