By Stefania Rudd. Almost everybody holds a fond memory of Goosebumps, the children’s horror novel series that went on to span across mediums and become a pop culture sensation. Now IDW Publishing furthers the legend that began over twenty-six years ago with a variety of comic book mini-series, self-contained bursts of mirth and mystery that capture the novellas beloved by millions of people.
October 2017 saw the first Goosebumps mini-series from IDW, Goosebumps: Monsters at Midnight. Now we’re in the midst of the next spooky adventure from the world of R.L. Stine, Goosebumps: Download and Die! Featuring the work of writer Jen Vaughn, artist Michelle Wong and colorist Tríona Farrell, Download and Die! marks the first all-female creative team to tackle the nigh-legendary series.
“I read the Goosebumps books as a kid — my school had so many of them,” Download or Die! artist Michelle Wong tells DoomRocket. “I used to spend ages just staring at the covers, and looking back on it now, that probably helped foster my younger self’s fascination with horror.”
DoD! colorist Tríona Farrell shares Michelle’s sentiment towards Stine’s series. “It’s one of those lasting formative memories and to hear I was on the second arc for the comic book series prompted me to go re-watch it. Of course it was silly and quite goofy but there’s something about the child’s psyche that’s different when it comes to scares. Having a comic book based on it seemed very natural and I was delighted to see they had taken a more modern route.”
Michelle Wong and Triona Farrell spoke with DoomRocket contributing writer Stefania Rudd about collaboration, working within the Goosebumps legend, and how a successful team always keeps an eye on timezones.
1. When you first heard that IDW was starting a series inspired by R.L. Stein’s ‘Goosebumps’, how did you feel about it? Do you have any connection to the original series from the 90s?
Michelle Wong: I was super excited after getting the email from Sarah [Gaydos], the editor. I read the Goosebumps books as a kid — my school had so many of them. I used to spend ages just staring at the covers, and looking back on it now, that probably helped foster my younger self’s fascination with horror.
Tríona Farrell: I have a very clear memory of watching the TV series when I was about four or five years old. It’s ridiculous looking back on it now, but I was terrified of this evil sponge that haunted this family and their dog. It’s one of those lasting formative memories and to hear I was on the second arc for the comic book series prompted me to go re-watch it. Of course it was silly and quite goofy but there’s something about the child’s psyche that’s different when it comes to scares. Having a comic book based on it seemed very natural and I was delighted to see they had taken a more modern route.
2. How did the two of you and Jen [Vaughn, ‘Goosebumps: Download and Die!’ writer] assemble as the creative team for this series’ second arc?
TF: I was called to action by our editor, Sarah. She was aiming for an all-woman team and I fit the bill quite nicely. I had actually seen Michelle’s work on an unrelated other project days before and I was admiring it, so it was great to get a chance to work with her. Through that I got to know Jen, though I had been thoroughly impressed by her work prior!
MW: Sarah reached out to me to ask if I was interested in the project (the answer was “hellz yeah”). I followed her on Twitter, and always really admired her so it was a great opportunity. I met Jen and Triona through Goosebumps and I’m just really thankful for it — they are both amazing role models.
3. Can you talk to us a little about your creative process and how the two of you collaborate to make the finished product?
MW: After I receive the script, I thumbnail the book and send that to Jen and Sarah so they can look over it before I get into inks. I’ll pass the inks by them too, so if there are any mistakes, I can deal with those quickly. Inks then get passed onto Triona, and if there are any more edits required, Triona and I would pass the pages back and forth before sending them back to Sarah.
TF: In general there was an email thread we all followed where suggestions were made on what we were doing as pages came in whether with inks or with the colour [sic]. In general to keep the process flowing, we would send pages in batches, so 5-6 for example, run through some basic large notes such as objects missing in scenes, etc. Once the whole issue was done, we’d get into more nitty-gritty, such as continuity errors and smaller bits. This is where an editor like Sarah is a life-saver; even the most experienced team is going to miss a few things.
4. Considering that you’re not located in the same geographic region, how does this impact the work?
MW: I’m often up late at night because of the timezones, in case there’s anything I have to discuss with the others. I have a very weird sleep schedule, but it works out for me. This is one of the great things about comics — you don’t all have to be in the same place, so you have a lot more flexibility with your hours and can adjust if needed.
TF: For me it’s not a huge impact. I worked in the middle of team so to speak, so when I was fully into work at about 12, Michelle would be in the middle of the night while Jen and the IDW crew would just be waking up. I’m usually vaguely aware of the timezones so I can be a little ahead of the curve so to speak. My hours tend to be later then average here, so that I can communicate with my teams as most of them are based in America.
5. Michelle, your artwork for this series (and in general) is very detailed and realistic. With this series, how do you balance keeping your work grounded in reality to make it believable while also stretching your imagination when it comes to the monsters and other supernatural stuff? How much direction do you get from Jen on the look and feel of the artwork?
MW: I’ve always admired art styles that are a cross between cartoony and realistic, so that just bled into my own work along the way. With the monsters, I tried to keep in mind that this series is for younger audiences, so the horror should be fun! I wanted the monsters to be scary, but also a little exaggerated and goofy at the same time. My favorite one to draw was Slappy — he’s got the best evil little face. As for art direction, if I ever got stuck, Jen would send me refs of certain things like the game world, which were super helpful. Jen was always really great with the feedback too — as an artist, you want to get excited responses from the writer, but you want to be told exactly what needs to change as well.
6. Triona, once you receive the artwork from Michelle, where do you start? Are there notes of how things should be colored or do you have the liberty to just go for it how you want?
TF: There was sometimes one or two notes either in the script or from the rest of the team, but usually I was left to my own devices when it came to the colours. Usually I go through a script before hand and take note of what I want to do, and I use that as reference while I was colouring.
7. Tríona, you are very good about using color to evoke emotions from the characters and in turn from us readers. How did you determine the color palette for this series?
TF: When I was first offered the series, I had a look at the wonderful cover Michelle had done and noted the sinister pink she had used for the phones. I decided to keep with that theme and used very rich colours, as I felt they matched Michelle’s inks. Otherwise the tone was slightly muted earthy colours with daring greens and pinks when the action got a bit scary. Looking back on the old Goosebumps tv show, there isn’t too much colour theory at play, but I did love the sinister use of greens from time to time. And the red from that cursed sponge episode.
8. Triona, Michelle — What inspires you and keeps you motivated in this field?
TF: Being able to invoke feelings with colour. Just stepping back and going, woah, I really told a story with that stray bit of yellow. I draw myself from time to time, but I love the puzzle of colours, figuring out what works best and what palette to use. It keeps me on my toes.
MW: It seems like a really generic answer, but I think the greatest source of inspiration for me is watching movies, reading other comics, and consuming media that makes me remember why I want to be a creator in the first place.
9. Do you have any advice for kids who have an interest in getting into comics, and how to find their place in it?
MW: Do what you love, and keep learning. And if you’re hesitant about drawing a comic because you’re afraid it won’t be any good, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and do it anyway! You’ll learn from it and be able to create even better work in the future.
TF: Just keep working and keep a very open mind. When I first started colouring I would be constantly reading comics or looking at illustrations asking myself, ‘how did they manage to make that spectacular colour work there?’. Breaking it down and listening to criticism is so very important.
10. What other projects do you have coming up that you’re excited about?
TF: I’m on the next issue of Runaways in Marvel which I’m very excited about. I’m also working on the reboot of Nancy Drew with another all-woman team with Kelly Thompson and Jenn St-Onge due in June!
MW: I’m currently doing covers for Lion Forge’s Quincredible, which has been really fun. The rest I can’t talk about just yet!
‘Goosebumps: Download or Die!’ #3 hits stores May 16.