Monsters Among Us looks like it could be one of the sleeper hits of Comic Con.
Rob Wuest, Stefano Paven and Mark Englert have assembled a truly amazing love letter to Marvel horror comics of the early Seventies with such an amazing verisimilitude that it seems likely that it could build a huge fan base.
We spoke to Rob, who is not only the creator and writer, but also inker and co-letterer, who spilled the beans on this upcoming tale of the macabre.
MONSTERS AMONG US is a Sci-Fi/Monster comic book set in the year 1959 which follows the lives of the Kraushaar Family and their tragic connection to monsters becoming unleashed upon the world.
|Dr. Kraushaar and friend|
Dr. William Kraushaar is the world’s leading scientist. Elizabeth Kraushaar is his wife and the mother of their teenage son, Bobby Kraushaar.
Issue #1 is the origin issue where we see Dr. Kraushaar, in Chapter One, inventing a machine that will hopefully change the world.
Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong and the machine instead brings monsters to life.
|Mrs. Kraushaar, Bobby and family friend|
After the creation and escape of the monsters, the Kraushaar family decide to courageously hunt for the monsters themselves to protect the public.
The Kraushaar family comes to this decision of sacrifice with the aid of a surprise guest.
Chapter Two reveals the first monster to attack…….a Vampire!
The Kraushaar family battle this Vampire and, well you’ll have to read the story to see how it ends!
What was the genesis of the book?
In June of 2003, I sat at my kitchen table over the course of a week and drew about 30 monster faces.
I don’t know really why I did this. Maybe I had seen a 1950’s sci-fi, monster movie during this time or read an old horror or mystery comic that I love so much. I was very happy with the results of these sketches.
About a year or so later, I wanted to try inking for the first time with a brush like the classic comic artists used. The first thing I inked were these monster faces.
Going forward about another year, I decided to make a mock up cover where I cut up copies of my monster faces and placed them on a 10”x15” bristol board to make a comic cover. I named the comic cover “Tales of Mystery #1” complete with an old 10 cent price.
This was as far as I intended to take my little art project of monsters……that is, until my son Michael, who was around 10 years old at the time asked me to make a real comic book from my monster cover. “Oh, I don’t know how to make a real comic book,” I responded to my son, “I’ve never done that before!”
As time passed, I thought of my son’s request more and more.
I couldn’t get it out of my mind and slowly began to think how a comic story could progress from my cover of monsters. It took another several years before I devised a story plot with characters that I was happy with.
This would have been around 2007 or so when I was ready to begin the real work on my comic book.
How did you start working with penciller Stefano Pavan and letterer/colorist Mark Englert and what unique stylistic or storytelling skills do you think they brought to the project?
During the time as I was developing my story, I was also thinking about trying to break into comics as an inker.
I began looking for avenues to submit my work. Soon after, when I was reading my favorite comic magazine, THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR, I saw an advertisement asking for an inker for a comic project which sounded interesting.
This project was headed by a man named Juan Gonzalez from California.
Juan sent me samples of the project’s penciled pages for me to ink. When I submitted these inked samples, Juan really liked them but would not be able to use me for awhile as they had another inker on board. I had really liked the penciled pages from Juan’s comic book and I asked Juan if I could ask his penciler Stefano Paven to maybe pencil my comic book. Juan put me in touch with him, around the spring of 2008 asking if he might be interested in illustrating my comic.
Stefano really liked the story and characters and agreed to pencil the comic for me, which he started around August 2008.
From the very beginning, I recognized that I was blessed as a comics creator to have a collaborator as immensely talented as Stefano. Stefano draws like he was lifted out of 1965 with his classic style of figure drawing and backgrounds. His style was exactly what I hoped to find in that I also love the old school style of comics. I just love Stefano’s art!
Stefano and I have become such good friends through working together on MONSTERS AMONG US, despite that we have never met in person (he lives in Italy). His storytelling is rock solid and I learned that utilizing the “Marvel Method” is the best way for me to collaborate on with him. I gave Stefano complete liberty to make changes to my story plot with his penciling if he found ways to improve the story, which he did.
There were some pages in the comic plot where I had written narration or character dialogue. But, when I received Stefano’s penciled pages, either he had made some changes to improve the story or he drew a page differently from what I was visualizing in my head so that now the pages no longer matched the words that I had written before.
I found that MONSTERS AMONG US was a building process, with each step of the way improved by the interaction between myself and my collaborators.
While Stefano was penciling issue #1, I began to search for a letterer and colorist.
I had originally intended to hand letter the entire comic book by myself and I actually hand lettered the first eleven pages on the original art. I have always admired the hand drawn lettering of the old masters such as Artie Simek and I wanted to give it a go. As happy as I was with my work, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
So, I decided to find a Letterer with more experience using digital lettering and Mark Englert joined the team as both colorist and letterer.
Mark Englert brought the experience and knowledge of comic book production to our trio.
Mark had by far the most experience in our group, having worked in comics since the early 2000’s, I believe. In fact, if I remember correctly, Mark was discovered by Robert Kirkman when Robert saw some of Mark’s artwork on a fan site about 10 years ago, before Robert hit it big with INVINCIBLE and THE WALKING DEAD! Robert and Mark even did a comic book together called CAPES.
Mark and I both did the lettering of the comic book, where Mark did the digital dialogue lettering and I did the lettering of the titles and sound effects by hand. Mark had suggested I do this lettering by hand, saying it would add a warm quality to the book. With my hand lettering, I either lettered directly on the original art or I lettered on separate bristol board, then cut out the letters and pasted them over the original art boards. Even though it took a lot of time, I like how it turned out. For the dialogue lettering, I had Mark use the JOE KUBERT FONT, which I felt had a nice, old-school feel of the 1950’s and 1960’s comics.
The coloring is where Mark really shined on the comic.
From the beginning, I had wanted to color MONSTERS AMONG US in the old style coloring of the old comics. I felt that the old coloring would also match the 1950’s period of the comic. Personally, I am not much of a fan of the modern coloring. Mark was able to color the comic book just like the old comics, complete with little dots and slightly off center coloring imperfections. Suffice to say, I loved it.
I am so blessed to have had Stefano and Mark work on MONSTERS AMONG US #1and thoroughly love the finished product and look forward to continuing the series with this creative team.
The first issue looks fantastic, and I’ve read that you’re already working on number 2. Is each issue stand alone and do you have a regular publishing schedule in mind?
Thank you, I am glad you like it! My hope is that many people will enjoy the art and story of the comic book!
Yes, Stefano is hard at work on issue #2 which features a Werewolf.
|Pencils from MONSTERS AMONG US #2!|
Each issue to be a stand alone where the characters lives continue but each issue is a brand new story and monster. I have read how many comic readers tire of the extended 6 issue story arc and prefer the completeness of a graphic novel story that finishes with the end of the book. I wanted to do a hybrid of this with MONSTERS AMONG US where a story is completed, for the most part, with the end of each twenty to thirty page comic book.
Unfortunately, we do not have a regular publishing schedule.
It took about two years to complete issue #1 from start to finish, not counting all the years I was thinking of the comic. Even though future issues should come out faster, they won’t be completed monthly or anything close to that because this comic is our part time excursion away from our main jobs and our families. I wish I could work full time on comics with Stefano and Mark, but the current comics sales climate is too dismal for that to probably happen.
Any plans to release MONSTERS AMONG US digitally?
I am all for embracing the digital move in comics as I see it as a fantastic way for small press creators and self publishers like myself to reach the world. If digital really grabs hold of comics, then the costs to publish, print and distribute comics will be greatly minimized, if not eliminated in part or full.
I would have already started posting pages digitally of MONSTERS AMONG US on the website, if not for the interest of a certain publisher (who will remain nameless for now) in the comic book. I will be meeting with this publisher at the San Diego Comic-Con in person to discuss possibly publishing with them in print and digitally. So, I wanted to hold off posting my pages until after Comic-Con, when I will find out if I will work with a publisher or continue to self-publish.
Either way, I plan to release MONSTERS AMONG US in print and also digitally.
Who or what are the biggest influences on your work?
As a writer, I am mostly influenced by the Marvel Comics of the 1960’s and 1970’s, particularly those comics written and edited by Stan Lee.
Stan’s writing has so much pizzazz and draws the reader into the story and characters so well.
I also am a big fan of the EC Comics from the fifties, particularly their science fiction titles.
Regarding comic artists, I have three favorite influences: Jack Kirby, John Romita and Frank Robbins.
For me, Jack Kirby is the absolute greatest comic artist ever!
Romita’s art is so clean and crisp and well proportioned.
Although Frank Robbins’ work is not regarded as highly as Kirby’s or Romita’s, I just love the quirkiness of it.
My inking style is patterned after those artists that use mainly brushwork to attain rich, dark lines of “thick and thin” on the page. Joe Sinnott, John Romita, Frank Giacoia and Mike Royer are my favorite inkers.
MONSTERS AMONG US is set to premiere at San Diego. How could someone get a copy if they aren’t attending?
I will be in the Small Press section of Comic-Con, table K-2, under the self-publishing banner: COSMIC COMICS GROUP, a homage to both Marvel and Stefano (who sometimes calls himself “Cosmic Steve”).
For this first printing, I only printed 200 hardback copies with 34 pages each (32 pages of which contain story and bonus art). I chose hardback over floppy because I think customers might enjoy a sturdier book than the traditional comic. I plan to sign all of the books with an original art monster sketch inside the front sheets of the book.
I primarily printed this small number in order to take to Comic-Con and other conventions, if I do not sell out at Comic-Con. But, if someone e-mails me their request for the comic before I sell out, I will mail it to them anywhere in the world. I already have a number of international customers which I am happy to see.
When the comic sells out, I will either have arranged with a publisher for another printing or I will start a Kickstarter video campaign to raise funds for a full print run.
In 10 words or less, why should people read this book?
Monsters Among Us is old-school sci-fi/monster fun!