Friday, October 28, 2005

Happy Horrordays!

All Hallows' is here. Hope you all have a ghoulish time this holiday weekend. Rumela has a great little history of Hallowe'en, full of facts like this: In the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain , the Celtic New year. On that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living. Naturally, the living did not want to be possessed, so on the night of October 31, the villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in and parade around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess. Around the eighth century, the Christian church made November 1 All Saints' Day to honor all of the saints that didn't have a special day of their own. The mass held on All Saints' Day was called All Hallowmas (the mass of all Hallows -- saintly people). The night before was known as All Hallows Eve. Eventually this name became Halloween. Neat, huh? Now on a slightly different holiday topic... John Stanley's Little Lulu is one of the best comic books ever, and the Witch Hazel and Little Itch stories always get me in a good, Hallomassy mood. Michele's World has some nice Halloween Lulu cover scans. For an extra treat, Bryan Munn has put up some really cool Halloween comics by the likes of Doug Wright and Jim Simpkins on his Canadian Comic Art Centre site. It's all so good! Hope you get all your candy favourites.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Mystery of the Cryptids Part 2

Cryptids, if you didn't already know, are mysterious creatures, monsters, or animals as yet undiscovered by science. Prime examples includeBigfoot (the image below is by the incredible SFX house Nimba Creations), Chupacabra (my cute version shown here), and the Loch Ness Monster. When I was a schoolboy, I won a public speaking contest with a convincing argument about the existence of the Sasquatch, and I've been fascinated with cryptozoology ever since. There's a cool crypto-blog here if you're interested, and the International Society Of Cryptozoology is the official site for serious enthusiasts (their logo features the formerly mysterious Okapi). So,this is where the inspiration for an animated cartoon came from. As I mentioned, various networks showed interest at one time or another. One wanted us ('us' being myself and the producer who optioned the rights, Fred Schaeffer) to make the concept "more like SpongeBob" and we briefly toyed with having the show set on a kind of wacky 'Cryptid Island' where all these beasts would be neighbors. One network asked us to add a human kid, another liked it without (all this tweaking and reworking done without any development money, of course), and eventually the concept as it stood mutated into something altogether different...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mystery of the Cryptids Part 1

Back in 2002 I decided to try and come up with a new cartoon show while waiting for the launch of Tutenstein . The executives at Discovery Kids had spent many hours telling me that my original Tutenstein designs were "too cute" and "too Casper", so, stubborn jerk that I am, I made sure to make this one even cuter. For inspiration, I went over my old Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse comics... particularly the Seven Ghosts and Phantom Blot stuff... excellent, classic work. My idea was to update the 'funny animal mystery trio' by incorporating my love of Cryptozoology into the pitch. It went a little like this:"CRYPTIDS features a crack team of globe trotting cryptozoologists uniquely qualified for the job because they themselves were once cryptids! OKAPI, KOMODO, and MEGAMOUTH, along with their nine-year-old human mascot, FRANCIS, serve as a sort of anti-detective team. Scooting across land, sea, and air in their fantastic CAMPERCOPTER, their never-ending goal is to preserve the mystery of the world’s strangest creatures before they are exposed by humans… or destroyed by the Cryptids' nemesis, MONSIEUR DODO."I pitched it to a bunch of studios and got some interest, but, ultimately this incarnation went nowhere. Nobody 'got' the design, commenting that it looked like a kiddie show but read edgier. When I brought up the classic Floyd Gottfredson Micky Mouse adventure comics, I got blank stares. Not even Walt Disney Television Animation knew who or what I was talking about. Sigh... back to the drawing board.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Sick 'Em

The hubub in my neck of the woods over Ontario's ban of 'Pit Bull' breeds has me thinking about another ill-concieved dog scare. In both cases, I'm sure the instigators meant well, and intended to do the public a real service, but the manner in which the subject was attacked is seriously flawed. By now you all know I'm talking about Zoltan. What? I said, Zoltan... you know... the famous Zoltan, Hound of Dracula? Also known as simply Dracula's Dog? Really, I swear I'm not making this up! Come on... you've all seen Zoltan, right? Sigh...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Grandaughter of Frankenstein

Dick Briefer is one of my absolute favourite cartoonists of all time, and it's a shame there isn't more of a tribute to his work in print or online. Even the few links I found to his art when I wrote about him back in the spring are dead. It's a cryin' shame, because the guy was a pioneer. His version of Frankenstein that debuted in Prize Comics #7 (1940) qualifies as the first comic book series in the Horror genre, period! And, as far as I and most of my collegues are concerned, it got even better in 1945 when Briefer decided to make the series a comedy! The stuff with 'The Merry Monster' is just great... wacky, sick, and wayyyy ahead of it's time. And the brush line is just luscious. One of my favourite issues is where the monster meets my hero Boris 'Karload'... Scott Shaw! has a great write up on that particular issue here, and I've included a scan of the splash page with Boris climbing out of a grave. And here's a really cool bit of news. Dick Briefer's granddaughter, Alicia Jo Rabins, plays violin for the Klezmer/Rock band, Golem, and reflects on her memories at the Golem website . How cool is that? Anyway, I feel lucky to have found one, last place to read some online Frankenstein, including the monsters' 'Birthday'... enjoy!

UPDATE! 10/25/05
Monsterama reader John Platt has dug us up some more Dick Briefer comics online, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Blogs! The Blooooggggs!

Here are a couple of monstrous blogs by Canadian animators with a definite taste for the sickly sweet. Mark and Riccardo crept right up Monsterama alley with their Gruesomestein's Monsters! shorts, and the blog is chock full of dasterdly doodles. I think Rex Hackelberg draws awesome living pumpkins, monsters petting dogs and stuff, and his blog has got some great yikey paintings. And here's a great all- Hallowe'en blog... go crazy!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Back in 1978/1979, Ruby-Spears came up with a rip off of the show they had created over at Hanna-Barbera years previously. This 'new' Scooby-Doo had a furry twist... one of the protagonists was a werewolf. Fangface was cheaply produced and highly derivitive, but I still loved it. Sherman Fangsworth (the Shaggy character) is cursed as a lycanthrope, and his mystery-hunting pals (including best-buddy Puggsley, with whom he has a Bowery Boys-esque relationship) often have to show him a picture of the sun to change him back. Oh, it was very wacky. And when they introduced the baby werewolf Fangpuss (you know, just like Scrappy-Doo!) in the second season, it got so cute your fangs would rot out. Believe it or not, I'm not the only fan.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Great Garloo

He is the Great Garloo, battery-operated monster toy! He is a single Dad! He is worth $500 to collectors! How much are you worth? Grrrrr!!!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Abnormal Norman

Speaking of the great Norm Saunders, you really need to go and check out this rather comprehensive site covering his career from Pulp and Comic Book cover artist in the '30's to star painter for the Topps Trading Cards and stickers.

Monster Mash Notes

The mummy face image I used to illustrate the post about my daughter's story is from the Frankenstein Sticker series by Topps (1966), which were labeled 'Frankenstein Valentines' on the box and were, indeed, horrible love notes. Topps is probably best known for their Wacky Packages stickers, which are also pretty monsterous, but the Monster stickers are (duh!) my favourite, with pencil art by Jack Davis and Wally Wood, and finished paintings by Norm Saunders. I'm a big fan of the Mars Attacks! and Batman cards from the same period, but my runner up series would have to be the Ugly Stickers (1965) and Buttons (1967), with more sick art by Wood, Saunders, and Basil Wolverton. Talk about a golden age of creep!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

New Dead Kid On The Block

Happy Thursday the 13th, and welcome to Monsterama, where kooky cartoon monsters roam free range. As you might imagine, based on my own animated creation Tutenstein , I'm a bit of a fan of creepy cartoons. Hope some of you feel the same way, because I'm here to share. While I'm getting set up, feel free to wander over to the official Tutenstein Website and dig around in the sarcophagus. For perfect 13/13 vision of this blog, I humbly suggest downloading the free fonts Unfinished Sympathy, and SF Slapstick Comic to enhance the effect. Go ahead and download all the rest, too. It's a great resource.

Baby Mummy

My seven-year-old daughter Nora is one of the finalists in a Hallowe'en story contest, and her tale is more than a little kooky! Scroll down to the last tale for some baby mummy action.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist

During the height of the '60's monster craze, a comic book featuring this freaky family appeared every Hallowe'en for four years (1963-1966), making it one of the only Hanna-Barbera comic features never to have it's own cartoon show (the other being 'Cave Kids'... which happened to feature backup stories with the Gruesomes). The title characters are of the typical H-B husband/wife variety, with gags in the vein of early sitcoms such as I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners, but with monsters, bats, ghosts, witches and the like filling out the scenery. Sounds an awful lot like the popular Addams Family and Munsters shows that were on at the time, but, as the indespensable D. D. Markstein points out, Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist actually made their debut in the Snagglepuss cartoon short Fraidy-Cat Lion in February 1961... 3 years before those other shows. Since the Scientists and their baby 'Junior' appear again as supporting cast in a Snooper And Blabber episode, it looks like Mr. and Mrs. J. Evil Scientist are the very first recurring 'creepy and kooky' monster family to appear on television! Hanna-Barbera often tried out new characters and ideas as supporting cast before committing them to a series of their own, and it's likely that was the case for the Scientists. Why it never happened-- especially considering the fad for freaks at the time-- is a mystery. In any event, they stayed out of the grave for a little longer in comic books, making their print debut in Hanna-Barbera Bandwagon #3 in 1963 before being eclipsed by the more famous Hanna-Barbera monster family, The Gruesomes, who also never had a show of their own. Just what was Hanna-Barberra afraid of, Hmmn?

A Nice Spider Goulash

The great big hunk of red shag known as Gossamer (don't you just love that John T. Smith 'Mad Scientist' monologue!?) first appeared in the Warner Brothers' short Hair-Raising Hare back in 1946. Despite making only two more classic appearances (Water, Water Every Hare [1952], and Duck Dodgers in the Return to the 24 1/2 Century [1980]), he's become a cult favourite of the Chuck Jones characters, as you can see from this bit of weirdness, and this nifty Gossamer Fansite. You can count me in as a fan.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Uncle Boris

I adore Boris Karloff!!! Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Mummy are three of my favourite films. Not only is the former William Henry Pratt (cousin of renowned Italian cartoonist, Hugo Pratt, by the way) deservedly famous for his convincingly horrid early screen roles, he was able to laugh at himself and the genre later in his career, appearing in spoofs on several television variety shows and contributing to two of Monsterama's favourite animated films-- How the Grinch Stole Christmas , and Mad Monster Party .The drawing at right is, of course, by animation king Chuck Jones. Chuck Jones + Boris Karloff + Dr. Seuss = awesome. Below is a production drawing for Mad Monster Party by the amazing Frank Frazetta. The Rankin/Bass stop-motion masterpiece is sited as a major influence on Tim Burton's puppet films, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. Rankin/Bass + Boris Karloff + Mad Magazine = also awesome. Karloff's voice was absolutely unique, and still much-imitated today when trying to invoke a creepy, mad scientist vibe. The Pitt has some really fabulous sound files of the Great Karloff and his spine-chilling lisp.

Monday, October 03, 2005

He Died First

Robert Bright's wonderful Georgie series, featuring a friendly, mild-mannered little ghost debuted in 1944... a year before the first Casper animated short.

Who's Casper's Daddy?

Writer Seymour Reit went to his grave insisting it was he, not Joe Oriolo who invented Casper the Friendly Ghost. I am a big fan of Oriolo's work, and tend towards his version of events... let's remember that Oriolo was quick to give credit where credit was due in regards to his other major character, Felix The Cat. But Joe's story of the Hallowe'en night that he came up with Casper just doesn't wash. In his recollection, he claims to have cut a cute ghost out of cardboard and hung it in a tree one Hallowe'en night, and brought out his young daughter to introduce her to a friendly ghost named Casper. The problem with this tale is that the first two Paramount cartoon shorts , 'The Friendly Ghost' (1945) and 'There's Good Boos Tonight' (1948)... both written by Reit and animated by Oriolo... feature an unnamed , Friendly Ghost. The character wasn't named 'Casper' until his comic book debut in 1949 (shown here), so Joe simply couldn't have named him on that first night. The name Casper at the time had a timid, nerdy connotation... like 'Eugene' or 'Poindexter'... clearly meant to emphasize how harmless the ghost was. The meekness of the name had been popularized by H.T. Webster's 'Casper Milquetoast' character. Considering that the name wasn't very original, the idea wasn't new, and the look of the ghost didn't 'take' until much later, there really isn't that much of a claim to fight over anyway.

Creepy and Kooky

The patron saint of Monsterama is, of course, Charles Addams , one of the greatest cartoonists of all time, and the originator of a macabre, black humour that inspired most , if not all, of the other funny creeps I'll be posting about here. Oh yeah, and he created The Addams Family .