Ah, the glory days of my youth. A time when R.L. Stine scared the ever loving crap out of me with his easily accessible “youth” horror fiction series Goosebumps. I say “youth” because I challenge anyone who grew up in the 90s reading these damn books right before sleeping to truthfully admit they aren’t still freaked out by some of these stories. They are classic, and they are iconic. Now, thanks to IDW Publishing, Jeremy Lambert and Chris Fenoglio, fans are about to get scared all over again in that utterly unique way that only Goosebumps can raise the hair on your arms and put a shiver down your spine. Lambert and Fenoglio were kind enough to chat about their new 3 issue series, Monsters At Midnight, with me. Proceed with caution, you never know when even talking about Goosebumps is going to get you.
Aaron Long: Can you discuss your history with the original Goosebumps books? When you got the call regarding new original Goosebumps comics, do you remember your first reaction?
Chris Fenoglio: I read a bunch of them as a kid — pretty much like everyone else my age. I was a huge R.L. Stine fan and read a couple of his other series as well (Fear Street in particular). Getting the call to do Goosebumps was a dream come true. Not just because of the history of the franchise, but because I get the chance to draw a bunch of really fun looking monsters. And Slappy… I love drawing Slappy.
Jeremy Lambert: I did pretty much everything I could to get my hands on all the original Goosebumps books when I was a kid. A loooot of money earned from work around the neighborhood and chores went towards those books. That and miniature monsters that I could paint. My first reaction, other than jumping up and down, was to get all my old books from the closet and start reading them again. Getting the call to do Goosebumps was absolutely a dream come true! So much so that my parents thought I was joking, at first. “Yeah, sure, the one thing you were obsessed with as a kid.”
AL: Are there any Goosebumps stories that, through your research or from your younger days, freaked you out? (Full disclosure: Ghost Beach still haunts my dreams)
CF: I like how none of the books ever really ended, y’know? They always had some loose thread where you were never sure if the story was actually over. It’s that lack of closure that always freaked me out.
JL: Ghost Beach rules! Say Cheese and Die!, The Haunted Mask, and One Day at Horrorland got me pretty good when I first read them and they always stuck with me. I knew I wanted to do something with Horrorland when we were just starting up. I re-read a good number of other books too and the one that stood out this time was The Girl Who Cried Monster. That one’s pretty scary. As an adult, reading of that book has a much different meaning than what I got out of it as a kid. Definitely freaked me out this time around. Goosebumps: they’ll scare you at any age! Well done, R.L. Stine.
AL: Can you hint at what bumps in the night Mia and Ginny will face in this series?
JL: The sisters are up against everyone’s favorite dummy, Slappy, as well as a few more Goosebumps favorites! But I think the real scares here are the ones that Slappy puts them through on their own. I always thought Horrorland would have a way of personalizing the scares for each guest. That’s what would make it the scariest place on earth, for me. The rides adapt a different aspect, different monsters come out of the shadows, etc. Each guest’s own personal nightmare. And so that’s what we did for the sisters.
AL: What can you tell me about the setting of Monsters at Midnight?
CF: Issue 1 has our characters exploring a really creepy bookstore, and I had a lot of fun adding in little details and easter eggs in the books. Issue 2 has us exploring a creepy theme park where I get to draw a bunch of super fun crazy monsters!
JL: And in Issue 3 everyone DIES.
Kidding! Definitely, the trend I noticed when re-reading the original books was that every story was grounded in either suburban or mundane reality to kick things off. ‘Monsters at Midnight’ has our sisters Ginny and Mia spending the summer with their Grandma in total boredom, when Ginny finds a creepy old bookstore named Cursed Editions (because no one stopped us from making puns, woohoo!) that ultimately leads them to Horrorland, the scariest amusement park you could possibly imagine, with rides like the Coffin Cruise and refreshing drinks like Monster Blood!
AL: What was the most challenging aspect of capturing the tone of Goosebumps?
CF: That balancing act of making things scary and funny. I think that if you lean in one direction too far you lose an important aspect of what makes Goosebumps so special.
JL: 100% agree with Chris, here. That’s what makes the Goosebumps books so good, and so popular, is that extremely well-managed balance of scares and laughs. Horror and comedy can go extremely well together, but you need to make sure you don’t have one at the expense or detriment of the other. I tend to lean a little to the horror aspect and sometimes go a little too far in that direction, but we’ve had plenty of discussions and thoughts about the importance of that balance.
AL: Any final words for Comicosity’s readers about Goosebumps: Monsters at Midnight?
CF: Jeremy and I are having a blast putting this book together, and I really hope you all enjoy it!
JL: Yes! Chris, our amazing editor Sarah Gaydos, and myself hope you all dig our spooky little book and hey, Happy Halloween! Give one to your favorite trick’r’treater, yeah?
Goosebumps: Monsters At Midnight #1 hits stores October 25, 2017 from IDW Publishing.