|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
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
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:
These are some early sketches of Frank, before I figured out that the
mixed media with clay heads was the way to go:
And here he is, more "realistic" in his final version:
And the cover to Sreamland #1 (Frank's story):
The clay head for The Mummy:
(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.
And the cover to Screamland #2:
The clay heads for Dracula and The Wolfman:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Talk about the Monsters of SCREAMLAND.