Comics: Dirty, Sexy Storytelling Secrets #3: David Spurlock Reveals How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies

A marvelous mash-up of the modern masters of horror illustration and art instruction.

By , Columnist

How do you top off a solid 20 years of publishing comics, graphic novels, sketch books and coffee table-worthy art books featuring the work of Frank Frazetta, Jim Steranko, Wally Wood, Joe Kubert, Basil Gogos, and a host of other craftsmen too numerous to mention?

Well, if you’re J. David Spurlock, the visionary publisher of Vanguard Press, you’d celebrate by joining forces with one of the premiere art instruction imprints in the industry and release How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies, a cleverly written book stuffed with a lifetime of knowledge and an overflowing treasure trove of eye candy created by some of the acknowledged masters of horror illustration.

How would you describe How to Draw Chiller Monsters, Werewolves, Vampires, and Zombies to someone who hasn’t seen a copy of it yet?

It is an instructional art book on drawing monsters but, unlike most cookie-cutter how-to-draw books, and more like a college art program, it includes art appreciation and examples by the world's greatest, grooviest monster mavens.

Chiller Monsters... is also of use to everyone from budding beginners to the most grizzled pop-art professionals.

Well, how’d this project come about? What sparked the creation of the book, how long did it take to develop it, and what kind of changes did it go through during that process?

The erudite editor and I have known each other for epochs. She knew my other books and about my many years of college art instruction at New York's School of Visual Arts, The Joe Kubert School in New Jersey, and The University of Texas. We were discussing the possibility of my writing a series of instructional books and when we were brainstorming what such scholarly sagas might sheath, the idea of monsters rose to the top like a zombie popping from the grave.

Step3.jpg

You know, I’ve got to say that, as good as your prose and instructions are, one of the real highlights of the book for me is…well, the many highlighted artists and their illustrations that you’ve included as prime examples of the genre. You really did pick some truly spectacular examples of their work, in all kinds of states and stages, to showcase.

So, how hard was it to get all those folks, and those particular pieces, under one cover, anyway?

Thank you. I have worked with many of the artists before, including Basil Gogos, Gene Colan, Frank Frazetta, Neal Adams, Jim Steranko, Alex Horley, Joe Kubert, etc.  And monster artists love a good monster book and were happy to work with me again and to be part of such an artfully horrific team.

Another really nice aspect of this particular book is the fact that it allows a side of your work that we don’t always get to see to shine a bit—namely, your skills as a teacher. How nice was it to be able to put some of that rich store of knowledge you carry around into a volume like this?

I quite enjoyed it and, ghoulishly, I don't know many subjects I would have enjoyed digging up quite as much!

I also liked the voice you adopted. Did it take a while to perfect it, or did that just come naturally?

My dear intrepid interviewer, I know not of what winsome vocal vernacular of which you speak.

Okay, I gotta play the devil’s advocate and ask a kinda obvious one: Why publish the book with Watson-Guptill, and not under your own imprint?  

Watson-Guptill and I and Vanguard have had a great, long relationship—they actually distributed Vanguard to the book trade for about a decade.

Our fine friends at W-G asked me to do it, and I was horrendously happy to oblige.

Alex Horley Werewolf finished sketch for TMR 11-5-11.bmp

So, might we be seeing another, similar volume—or even a sequel, perhaps—from W-G with your moniker on it at some point in the future?

We did talk briefly, at the beginning, about a possible series. I understand How to Draw Chiller Monsters has reached as high as #18 on Bookspan's art-book bestseller list and got priority placement at the front of most Barnes & Noble stores upon release. I'm not ruling anything out. Stranger things have happened.

What do you get from doing a book like this, one you’ve created, that you might not get from one you’re publishing? Is it just the same, or is there something different about the experience for you?

Working with some new people... getting their points of view. Not having control over the diabolical design took a bit of getting use too.

How about all those wonderful creators you spotlighted? What do you hope that they get from being included in the book?

It is a mad monster mash! A great time had by all.

And what about your readers? What do you hope that they get from How to Draw Chiller Monsters?

Enjoyment, enlightenment, and some skills to help them carefully capture the proper likeness, the next time they are out drawing monsters in the wild by moonlight.

Let’s say that someone’s still undecided about checking out the book for themselves. Anything you’d like to say to them that you think might sway their final decision?

face05nyc.jpgDon’t leave home without it. If you are out drawing monsters in the field, without proper instructions, as Warren Zevon said, "He'll rip your lungs out, Jim."

Well, what’s coming up next?

At this exact moment, I'm at the great IlluxCon science fiction and fantasy art convention in PA; I sent my new 1950s Wally Wood comics collection, Strange Worlds, to the printer on the 30th anniversary of the legendary Daredevil, Mars Attacks, and Thunder Agents creator's passing.

And I also just sent to print The Art of the Dragon: The Definitive Collection of Contemporary Dragon Painting, which I co-authored with Pat Wilshire.

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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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