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Dan Brereton: Some Thoughts About Monsters

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I love monsters.

They were the first things to ever scare me and the only things I drew as a kid with any confidence. As I get older, rather than outgrow them, I relate to them even more.

With each year, as I get further away from the child too terrified to watch ABC’s Trilogy of Terror in 1975. Monsters continue to fascinate me in new ways. Frankenstein’s Monster, in particular, is of great interest to me, his plight, his inner Hell; to want to be loved, and yet be exactly the murderous horror you’re accused of. Along with Dracula, the idea of the sympathetic and the hideous sharing one frightful form captivates me endlessly.

Over the years, I have read blurbs and pieces of marketing copy describe me as “Horror Master” or “Master of Macabre Art.” I always feel weird when I read those. They’re designed to get people’s attention, rather than be wholly accurate. While a fan and even a practitioner in the subject of Horror, I certainly don’t feel like a master of horror. I’m still kind of afraid of the dark, so how masterful is that?

However, I do count myself a Monster Guy.  I know my monsters.

I drew dragons and devils constantly from age four. Later I drew alien monsters. I loved the idea of Sea Monsters. Then I discovered the Undead. I became obsessed with Daikaiju or Japanese Giant Monsters. Real life Human Monsters got under my skin. Loveable Monsters stole my heart. I flirted with Monster Girls. Made a few Monster Kids.  I’m captivated by Furry and Cute, Blood-thirsty and Hideous. Perturbed by Man- Made Monsters. Blown away by Atomic Monsters and carried away by Monster Brides. Walked tentacle-in-hand with Cosmic Cephalopod Monsters under the dark stars. I’ve delighted in the destruction caused by Monster villains.

But I always root for the Monster heroes.

Man-Thing wasn’t going to get me; I knew better than to fear him and get burned. The Hulk hated puny humans, yet was tolerant of youngsters.  I drew monsters of my own by day to ward off the ones at night who were under my bed, in my closet and outside my bedroom window. I liked monsters who were part of a family, like the Addams’ and the Munsters. The Herculoids were a family who were protected by monsters!

When it came time to write, illustrate and produce my own comic, in 1993, I created a monster family of my own called Nocturnals. There are bad scary things in the night waiting to get at us sleeping ignorant folk, and the Nocturnals are there to make sure we live to see the morning sun, a sun they themselves are either frightened of or can’t abide..

When Nocturnals first hit stands, there was almost no comic you could say was a cousin to it. Monster comics were not popular then and friendly little girl characters like Evening (aka Halloween Girl) were certainly lacking in action/horror and super-hero comics. I figured readers might not be ready for her, as the trend at that time was for mean, big-chested gals armed to the teeth. I counted on them liking the undead Gunwitch, the outlaw with the stitched-up mouth and smoking pistols, just because he looked so cool. I was half wrong; readers loved them both. What a relief, to know I wasn’t alone.

15 years later, the Nocturnals are still kicking around. In that time, many little girl heroines have populated comics, just as monster champions in a slew of today’s comics titles are fighting monster villains. Many of them consistently tell great stories with surprising depth we don’t notice half the time because they are also so much fun.

I’m not telling you this to take credit for the trend, but to point out something I always knew; when done right, their stories show us ourselves from the darkest parts of our hearts, to the most heroic. Monsters make great comics.

Dan Brereton, award-winning master of horror, works at night so he can leave the lights on. He has worked in TV, film and animation and is the Creator of the Nocturnals series of stories, GiantKiller and The Psycho. Other comics credits include Immortal Iron Fist, Thor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror, Vampirella, Clive Barker’s Dread, JLA: Seven Caskets and Thrillkiller. Visit him at www.nocturnals.com

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  • Richard Boom

    Richard Boom Oct 28, 2009 at 3:10pm

    wow...now thát was a great read!!! Dan is one of my all-time heroes and his stuff always makes me wonder how much magic selling his soul could give him!! That man is too talented to be true!! LOL

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