Sam Park Talks Monsterverse

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Back in the days when I was a young, fledgling horror fan, magazines and comics about my beloved genre were not nearly as readily available as they are today. At a time when Forry Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland ruled the roost and Fangoria was just a glimmer in the eye of some ad executive, we “Monster Kids” got our genre updates the old fashioned (and highly unreliable) way – via word of mouth.

As the years have clicked by and with the introduction of the Internet, being a fan has gotten a whole lot easier, still many of us look back on those early days of horror fandom with more than a little bit of nostalgia.

Luckily, those who have been missing the days of their youth, can rejoice with the introduction of Monsterverse, an imprint of genre-related titles such as Bela Lugosi’s Tales From The Grave (review here) and Flesh and Blood, upcoming issues of which will feature cover art by the likes of Academy Award Winner Rick Baker and Famous Monsters stalwart Basil Gogos.

Dread Central talked with Monsterverse ambassador, Sam Park, and got the low-down on what we can expect from the imprint.

Tell me a little about how Monsterverse got its start.

Publisher Kerry Gammill wanted to create a comic as a venue to write and draw horror comics, something he had not been able to do while drawing superhero comics such as SUPERMAN and POWERMAN/IRON FIST during the early days of his career. With the digital revolution it gave him the means to do this and follow his interests as a huge classic horror fan.

How did you meet veteran comics artists Kerry Gammill and Kez Wilson?

“Kerry and I are family and have always shared a great passion for comics and films, especially horror and genre. I met Kez in Houston, Texas, when I moved there to teach art in the early ’80s. He was running a print design studio and we ended up as roommates and on the board of Southwest Conventions, a company that produced comic conventions in Texas. That is how we met all the top comic industry people of the time and forged friendships lasting to this day.”

Is there a philosophy behind the imprint?

“To tell a great horror story with wonderful art is our driving philosophy. We have a great deal of experience and knowledge between our Monsterverse staff and we work very hard with our extremely talented contributors to try and make each story shine. We greatly enjoy the collaborative process in bringing out the best in each story.”

What affiliation does the imprint have with Monster Kid magazine?

Bela Lugosi's Tales From The Grave #1“MONSTER KID ONLINE MAGAZINE reflects another of Kerry’s desires to re-create the fun of his childhood. In this case it is a magazine devoted to horror films and done with the insightful fun and entertainment value of the magazines he grew up reading such as FAMOUS MONSTERS, CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, PHOTON and CINEMAFANTASQUE.”

Has Bela Lugosi, Jr. or anyone from the Lugosi Family given Bela Lugosi’s Tales From The Grave their blessing?

“Monsterverse is legally contracted with the Lugosi family to produce the comic and is officially licensed to use the likeness and name of Bela Lugosi. But more than that we greatly enjoy the Lugosi family. They are a wonderful and warm group of people.”

Do they have any creative veto power?

“The Lugosi family has a great affection for Bela Lugosi and a desire that his image and name be presented in the best light. We completely agree as we view this comic as being a natural extension of what Bela would be doing in his prime if offered. The Lugosi family has final say over stories to that end and luckily we communicate well and share the same ideas and goals so it has never been a problem.”

I know you’re having some very famous people such as Mick Garris, John Landis, and Steve Niles write some of the stories in the book. How did they come on board?

“As Monster Kid “geeks” we know each other from the world of being fans of classic horror films and comics. As we put the Lugosi book together we contacted many of our professional friends in film and comics that were Lugosi fans and they readily signed on to create something for the book. If you grew up reading FAMOUS MONSTERS and enjoying the Warren horror comics, you share a bond with many of these types of “famous” and talented professionals and they were excited to see this special kind of horror comic being developed that acknowledges the best of the past while celebrating today and the future.”

Are there any other contributor names you can give out?

“At this time we have some huge names interested in providing work but it is a matter of finding a window in their incredibly busy schedules. As the Lugosi comic series continues we will eventually find an opportunity to place a story of theirs in the book. We are also working with some incredibly talented new creators such as James Farr (XOMBIE) and others whose names you’ll come to know well in the future.

Let’s be honest, the comics industry is not enjoying the kind of success it did in, say… the ’80s. What was the thinking behind Monsterverse entering these admittedly troubled waters?

We believe the quality of the Monsterverse product and the insatiable interest of the horror audience will bring success in any medium. Monsterverse creates what we hope is innovative and entertaining HORROR stories and characters. We believe the market for this is larger than the comics audience and we plan to reach out and connect with them.”

How do you feel about the comics industry’s move away from paper/print and onto such things as the iPad & eReaders?

“I believe we will always have comics in the print medium. The comic book reading experience within a superior print product is unparalleled on many levels. Light reflected off a superbly printed page showcasing comic art to the human eye is experienced differently than from a screen that generates its images IN light. Discerning fans will always want the printed version of a wonderful comic book or graphic novel.

The unique and easy availability of digital comics via whatever application or device is to be embraced, not feared by comic publishers and creators. What we see changing is the business model for generating comic books. We plan to use digital and print together to sell our horror comics to a greater audience via a promotional symmetry between the two.

At Monsterverse we are working extensively to provide both a unique printed and digital experience for our comics as produced by incredible talents. What you see on the printed page will NOT be a bastardization of a comic experience just to make it easier to go directly to digital. So many printed comics today look quite ugly and read in a terribly unsatisfying manner because of this kind of pre-emptive design for commerce over art. We try to avoid this sort of thinking while keeping an eye on the bottom line.

To the digital end we are working just as hard to translate our printed comics to apps and devices that will offer the same story but told in the best manner for that medium. This requires a discerning trained eye to rearrange art and text but it is well worth the effort while also making each comic representation unique. If a fan likes a version of our comics in one medium then he may also appreciate the quality of it in the other and perhaps be tempted to buy both.”

It was revealed recently that Rick Baker is doing the cover for Issue #2. How did you guys go about hooking up with him and will we see more luminaries doing covers or content for Monsterverse books?

“Rick Baker is a long time friend of our publisher Kerry Gammill. They are Monster Kid pals from way back. Kerry once used Rick’s likeness as the model for when he originally co-created the Rik Duel character in the STAR WARS comics (from Marvel). Using the creepy sailor image created by Rick for the cover was a natural extension of their friendship and great passion for classic horror. And yes, we will be using other such “luminaries” as time goes by, but it all depends upon their time and availability.

Let me mention how important and wonderful it was to have a Basil Gogos cover on our first issue. Gogos is the King of Horror Illustration. Basil’s work was what defined and separated FAMOUS MONSTERS and many of its sister Warren horror comics of the day with an inferior product. Gogos is on a level few illustrators can claim and the top ones acknowledge that his talent is rare. Here is how writer/director/producer Frank Darabont (AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD) describes (in Kerry’s book) Basil Gogos:

“Basil Gogos doesn’t paint pictures of monsters, and never has. What he does is conjure their essences on canvas like a magician. More than that, he conjures our love of these subjects in a manner that defies description or analysis. How does an artist infuse an entire fan community’s love of a whole genre into his brushstrokes? I’ll never be able to explain it, but I know I’ll always be grateful for it. Seeing Gogos’ portraits is revisiting the best friends of my childhood.”

What can you tell me about Flesh and Blood?

“Writer Robert Tinnell and artist Neil Vokes are well known to horror fans with their highly praised work on “THE BLACK FOREST” and “THE WICKED WEST” among other comic book stories. As wonderful as those terrific books are, – you haven’t seen anything yet until you get the chance to see their amazing horror graphic novel, “FLESH AND BLOOD,” which debuts this coming Halloween from Monsterverse. This is inspired comic book creativity brilliantly firing on all levels. As an editor it is a joy to pour over every page that is emailed in. And when done I cannot wait until the next batch arrives! If you love classic horror cinema and the best in horror fiction, this book is going to blow your eyeballs into the back of your skull. Somehow Bob and Neil channel the best of everything and have created a comic that reads like the most fantastic horror film that you never knew you MUST see. And to add to this experience, Monsterverse will be releasing “THE BLACK FOREST” and “THE WICKED WEST” via Apple iApps as a prelude to unleashing “FLESH AND BLOOD” in the fall.”

Are there grander plans afoot with regard to Monsterverse (more titles, more characters, film, etc.)?

“Kerry and I are working on specific new characters and stories to push the envelope on horror today while embracing the past. Kez has a character, SCARLETT, that deals with vampires and their hunters that he is re-tooling from its earlier run at DC Comics. We are discussing other projects with some known creators. It is too early to tell what will emerge yet but we are all very happy with the progress so far.

In the next few weeks we will be moving into digital distribution via iVerse Comics and have plans to expand with other digital distributors. A few Hollywood producers are talking to us but we remain focused on the comics. Right now it is about building the company book by book and concentrating on quality over quantity.

We do have something very interesting coming out of our “DVD division.” Last year we released our first DVD of the cult classic “The Navy vs. The Night Monsters” with commentary by noted genre film historian Tom Weaver and the film’s director. We wanted to test the waters for this kind of release and it worked so well we received a nomination for the Rondo Horror Award as BEST COMMENTARY – 2010. Next up is a highly regarded cult horror film that we will be releasing in… Well, you will find out soon.

These DVDs, posters, books and other fine genre items at our MONSTERVERSE STORE located at our official website.”

What’s next for Monsterverse and the brains behind it?

“I wish I could tell you but then I would have to kill you afterward and use it for a future story in “BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE.” There are more creepy-cool projects coming but it is a matter of putting all the pieces in place before making it solid enough to announce. Expect more bizarre monsters and horror stories told by the most talented of the genre’s creators who bring a special knowing touch to the work and come from the best in the film world and the comics industry.”

Fans are encouraged to inform their local or online shops they wish to pre-order this highly collectible special issue. In addition to issue two Diamond will be re-listing issue one in a show of faith in the strong back-order sales since its release last October for Halloween.

Diamond pre-order # for BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM GRAVE # 2 (cover by Rick Baker):

Diamond pre-order # for BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM GRAVE #1:

Sam Park Talks Monsterverse

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