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Top Monsters


The Monsters of SCREAMLAND

Hector Casanova takes us through his monster creation process

The Monsters of SCREAMLAND

The main things that struck me about Screamland, indeed, the reason why I chose to work on this book, was Harold's treatment of the characters. It is unlike any other monster story I had ever read. Screamland assumes that the monsters are very real. And while they are monstrous and immortal, they have had a hell of a time making ends meet since the faded glory days of their monster movies in the 30s and 40s. When Screamland opens, it's the post-dot-com boom and bust of the late nineties. The Frankenstein monster is washed-up, bitter, drunk and broke after a failed dot-com investment. The Wolfman is (barely) working the Midwest doing third-rate comic cons and sci-fi conventions (and trying to drown himself in booze or score some tail)... and the Mummy... well, it's tough being Middle-Eastern and immortal in post 9-11 America.

Dracula, however... Dracula's doing fine.

What struck me most about Screamland is how real, how frail, messed up, and empathetic the monsters were. The story is really told from their point of view, and from where they stand, the humans around them are the real monsters. Now, I love drawing a creepy monster about as much as the next horror-fan ómore, probably. The challenge of Screamland was to make the monsters more empathetic, more real and more "human" than the humans around them. Because a lot of the humans in Screamland are real dicks. (Can we say "dicks" on the site? Is it PG13? Feel free to change that to "bastards" or "jerks" to fit your editorial policy.)

Another challenge was that the characters needed to look familiar and classical enough to be recognizable as the iconic monsters from yesteryear, but also fresh and unique enough to be... well... fresh and unique. After dozens upon dozens of character sketches, I finally figured out that the way to achieve the look I wanted was by taking a mixed-media approach. By sculpting the main monsters' heads out of clay, and collaging photographs of them into the art, I was able to make the monsters look more real than the humans.

This is what Frank's clay head looks like:


frankenstein mold



These are some early sketches of Frank, before I figured out that the mixed media with clay heads was the way to go:

frankenstein art

And here he is, more "realistic" in his final version:

old frankenstein

And the cover to Sreamland #1 (Frank's story):




The clay head for The Mummy:

mummy mold

(As a side note: doing research for this book meant watching the old monster movies from the 30s. Most people know that Boris Karloff played the Mummy in the 1932 original. But I was surprised to discover that Mummy was so pathetic and non-scary, at least by today's standards! I mean, that Mummy wasn't even covered in bandages! It was just a gaunt Boris Karloff in a fez and flowing robes skulking around.)

I wanted to keep that look for our Mummy. Kept the fez, and added some bandages. Here are some pics of him.


mummy monster

And the cover to Screamland #2:




The clay heads for Dracula and The Wolfman:

dracula mold

wolfman mold


Dracula was fun to draw. He is timeless and sexy and classy. Of all the monsters, he has fared the best. It's not hard seeing why.

Draculas face

screamland dracula

Andrea Silverman is the monsters' Hollywood agent. The story is as much about her as it is about them, as she struggles to get her clients paying work. Andrea's grandfather Maury Silverman founded the talent agency in the 30s, and he offered the then-hot movie monsters lifetime contracts. But the monsters are immortal, Maury's long dead, and the burden is on Andrea now.

classic monsters

And last but not least, is Carl, aka The Wolfman. I saved him for last because he really has been my favorite character. He is huge fun to draw, AND I just plain like him. Carl is pure id. The years haven't been kind on him and he has put on a few dozen pounds, but no one can raise hell like he can. He is generally gnarly, and sports a proud mullet in spite of his receding hairline. Yes, the Wolfman is balding. Buy him a drink, but don't mess with him. He WILL eat you.

the wolfman comic

Screamland wolfman

I should add that when I was halfway done drawing issue 3 (The Wolfman's story) when I had the great fortune to meet a fellow at a party whose resemblance to Carl was so striking it was uncanny. He is a local musician, and was a great sport who agreed to do a photo shoot for me. From that shoot I developed the art that became the cover for Screamland #3:

The Wolfman

And that's the short version of how I came up with the look for Screamland. I am leaving out the sweat and tears and mountains of scrapped sketches and false starts. This art creation method I came up with may not be conventional or even practical, and it sure as hell ain't time efficient... but I am really happy with how this book came out. I hope people like reading it and looking at it as much as I did making it.

Talk about the Monsters of SCREAMLAND.

Copyright © by Horror Comic Book News - Comic Monsters All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2008-02-19 (19231 reads)

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