The Life and Times of Frankenstein (Superstar) – Interview w/ Cartoonist John Hazard
As you all well know I’m a HUGE horror fan, especially when it comes to monster movies and there are no monsters more legendary than the Universal Studios kind. Yes, the stories existed well before they were ever put on film, but it’s because of the films that each (Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy, Creature) have become part of popular culture.
Every so often a “mad” creator will come along and attempt to modernize these characters, integrating them into today’s society. The most recent to take on this mantle is cartoonist and animator John Hazard whose webcomic, Frankenstein Superstar, shows these monsters in all of their big city sexiness– full of rowdy monsters, shapely succubi, superheroes and more!
Hazard was recently a Guest Artist for the popular webcomic PVP for a story entitled A Bridge Too Far in addition to his twice weekly updates of Frankenstein Superstar, but we managed to steal him away for some good old fashioned voyage through the origins of the series and what we have to look forward to.
Glad to see you make it to the top (of the clubhouse), John. You didn’t lose any limbs on the way up, did you?
So long as I still have my drawing hand, I’m good.
Glad to hear it… our insurance doesn’t cover drawing hands. I understand that you came all the way from New York, are you a NY native?
My birth certificate claims I was born in a nearby suburb, but I insist I’m really a native New Yorker. I’ve lived in every borough, so I think I’ve earned it!
Fair enough. You spent the past 10 years working for Nickelodeon, what was it like being a part of THE first network for kids?
In some ways Nick Online was just another office job, in other ways it was something more. I was there during my divorce, so it was kind of the magical treehouse I ran away to (or, that I was stuck staying in!). When my kids were small they thought it was very cool, but they’ve outgrown Fairly Oddparents and SpongeBob (well, no one outgrows SpongeBob), so hopefully my webcomic can be the thing that keeps me cool in their eyes. Assuming a Dad can ever seem cool to his teenage kids.
Have you always wanted to be involved in the animation industry?
I’ve always loved animation. I have a BFA in Film & Video, and I took animation classes, but when I failed to magically become Spielberg upon graduation I gave up film for a fabulous career as an illustrator in NYC. Then Flash came along, and I found a way to do animation again. I think it’s very Frankensteinian, creating life from scraps.
Did you have any strong artistic influences growing up? Cartoons, comics, video games… that sort of thing?
I grew up on Marvel and DC comics, Mad and Heavy Metal magazines, Warren and Skywald horror zines, Loony Tunes cartoons, Peanuts and Doonesbury digests, late night horror movies, Twilight Zone and Star Trek… all the good stuff. Charles Schultz, Rod Serling, Chuck Jones, Moebius, Mort Drucker, Gene Roddenberry, Roger Corman and Jack Kirby all influenced my attitudes on drawing, writing, and life.
You are currently working on a webcomic called Frankenstein Superstar. Can you explain what this new series is about?
Frankenstein Superstar is a funny webcomic for grown-ups about the Frankenstein Monster and his Bride (a smart, sexy Jewish woman) living in New York. The sources of humor are sex, marriage, pop culture, politics, New York lifestyles, and spoofs of classic movie monsters and superheroes trying to make it in our modern world.
The main characters of the series was originally created back in 2008, is that correct? Did you have the series laid out in your mind all this time or has it evolved since then?
I had been trying to get the webcomic off the ground for three or four years. Actually, the first story arc was supposed to be about Franky going on a secret mission for CANDIDATE Sen. Obama to stop John McCain and Sarah Palin’s evil plan to steal the election. I wrote lots of scripts, but found it difficult to get beyond the pencilling stage while working full-time at Nick. When I left there last November I finally had the mental space to get the project going. Now that it’s out there I love working on it, and the feedback has been great.
Is there a larger story taking place or are the strips pretty much independent of each other, aside from the characters?
I try and make every strip work by itself, but most of them also contribute to the larger story. Basically Franky used to get money from comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, etc. but over the years these deals have dried up. Franky will have to grow up a little and figure out what he wants to do with his life, and how he can bring home the bacon. Fortunately for us, he’s going to stumble a lot along the way- and occasionally fight MONSTERS!
So far we’ve seen monsters making out, Edgar Poe and H.P. Lovecraft are a couple, and something resembling robotic S&M. What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when thinking of story ideas while trying to remain PG13?
Staying PG-13 is a challenge. I don’t want to be restricted, but I also don’t want to go too far into the “adult” realm sexually. I’m trying to do something that feels almost like Charles Addams, with a Harvey Kurtzman twist. Not so naughty that people think it’s porn, but not so safe that I get bored.
Are there any plans for Frankenstein Superstar to go from webcomic to print? If not, what are your future plans for the series?
The webcomics business model (yes, there is one) is that you give it away for free on the web, build your fan base, then when you have enough comics you collect it in a lovely book, and sell it to your fan base, along with t-shirts, fine art prints, monster girlie pin-ups, mugs, and anything else appropriate. That is my goal, though it also serves as an artistic outlet for me, and a platform for other art projects.
You seem to really have a handle on the horror genre, are you a fan of horror literature and/or movies?
I love old horror stuff- monster movies from the 20’s through 60’s, from Nosferatu to Godzilla, horror magazines from Tales from the Crypt to Creepy and Eerie, and some modern horror. I know the kids today- with their fast running zombies- think that old stuff isn’t scary, but to me it isn’t about scary- it’s more like family. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
I know just how you mean, some of my best “fiends” are monsters. Do you have any favorite characters from the series so far?
People who know us say Frankenstein is me, and Elsa is my girlfriend Lisa (which is sometimes true, sometimes not), so naturally I like them the most. Eartha is all made up and has some fun stuff coming up in her story. I love doing Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft as a gay couple- they’re a way of talking about everyday New York City life, but in a more interesting way.
Are there any other projects that you’re currently working on?
Frankenstein Superstar is my current obsession. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the things I want to do with it. Sadly, I also have to do work that pays the rent, but hopefully someday in the not-too-distant-future Franky will do that too.
What’s the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
My whole childhood was strange. One Halloween I decided to make my own Hollywood special effects- type prosthetic monster mask. I didn’t have the proper materials, but I improvised; I made a plaster cast of my face, then layered strips of foam rubber and rubber cement onto the plaster cast until I had a flexible creature mask that would perfectly fit me- BUT, I did not have spirit gum to safely stick it to my face, so I glued it on with the RUBBER CEMENT. It burned like Hell, and the fumes made me woozy and stung my eyes, but people screamed with honest fright at the sight of it. It was an exhilarating night- but when I got home, I found that rubber cement/foam rubber combination had burned into my face. It took my mother hours to peel that thing off me. Totally worth it though.