Strange and uncanny is an apt way to describe this week’s guest. Growing up in a graveyard with an appetite for both cartoons and monsters, Tom Krohne‘s added interest in illustration has forged him into an uncanny
monster artist who “walks like a man!”
All year long Krohne, under the moniker of Monsterfink’s Midnight Monster Spookshow, shares his love for Halloween, horror and nostalgia. Whether it be through photos of old toys or custom artwork of his favorite monster hybrids, Krohne knows what it means to be a strange kid. So, I figured what better time than now (October) to invite him over to the clubhouse!
As a New Jersey local I’ve got to know… have you ever seen the Jersey Devil?
No, I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the hometown hero and believe me I’ve been in perfect situations where I should have. My parents live near the Jersey shore and to get to their house I have to drive a very rural road right through the Pine Barrens, legendary home to the Jersey Devil. I’ve driven that road alone very late at night and every time I do I keep my eyes peeled on the sides of the road… maybe some day. I believe there is something out there.
Let’s go Freudian for a moment… tell us about how you grew up. Were you nurtured on a healthy diet of cartoons and monster movies?
I dunno, just you’re average ordinary lid growing up living in a cemetery. Yeah, I grew up in a cemetery, no not near, not next to… IN the cemetery. My dad was the head foreman in the yard and the house was part of the job. It was an old house, former farm house with it’s share of creepy goings on.
My brothers were older then me, by quite a few years, and since I lived where I did I didn’t have very many friends growing up so I read alot. This was the tail end of the Monster Kid boom of the 60’s and the middle of the 70’s paranormal craze so my reading materials reflected the best of both.
I can remember my dad sitting me down to watch Chiller Theater on Saturday afternoons and the 4 O’Clock move during Monster Week, he’s a Hammer films fan over Universal but her had me watch those too. Then he introduced me to Godzilla and all that the kaiju genre entails and well, things went from there.
Saturday morning cartoons are some of my earliest memories, anything with monsters or superheroes from Frankenstein Jr. to Thundarr to the Super Friends. In high school I chose not to try out for football as it would have interfered with my watching He-Man, G.I. Joe and Thundercats… hey, a guy has to have his priorities right? Of course, toys went hand in hand with the cartoons. Christmas was a veritable toy store in my house. If I had half the stuff I had as a kid today I’d be a millionaire. From the Aurora model kits to the entire Star Wars toy line to the D&D toys and my beloved Jumbo Shogun Warriors Godzilla. I miss those toys… ebay time!
How did you become interested in illustration?
My dad. He used to draw the monsters I watched in the movies and encouraged me to draw them as well. He also got me building models and was an influence in my love of setting up a good display.
My late Uncle Frank, my wife and DeviantArt [helped after that]. My late uncle was a huge monster fanatic and a dreamer. He was always one to come up with a grand scheme for a magazine or a toy project and he was always pushing me to go to the next level with whatever I was working on. My wife doesn’t let me get away with anything, no short cuts allowed. She doesn’t hold back if she thinks something isn’t working and she’s usually right. I was at a very low point at one time and it was then that I found DeviantArt. Up until then it was family telling me my work was good and once I started posting things there and getting feedback from other artists it reinvigorated me, forced me to look at my work and try harder.
Your illustrations have a very ‘animated’ feel to them. How long have you been developing this style? Do you have a specific process?
Yeah, they’re cartoony. The current style evolved over the years, in high school I was exposed to the world of indie comics and the mini comic movement. I did a few mini comics (I wish I still had them) back then in a style that was a cross between Scott Shaw and Fred Hembeck. Over the years I tried to do things more realistic until, in art school, I started to play around with more graphic looks to the art with varying weights to the line work and flat colors. That style started to merge with the old cartoon style and was then influenced by the cartoons on Cartoon Network at the time and the work of Gris Grimly and Eric Pigors. It’s not a set in stone style, it keeps evolving like some alien organism…
Your work is clearly influenced by monsters and/or horror movies. Why does this genre resonate with you so much and what is one of your most unlikely of influences?
It’s all my parent’s fault! No, seriously, it’s the time period I grew up in, monsters were plentiful all through the 70’s and 80’s. They were what I liked and you tend to draw what you know. Sure, I could draw you a cute bunny rabbit, but the whole time I’m gonna be wanting to put bolts and stitches on it. You know I think a lot about that time period and all the toys and movies and television shows we had and I’m pretty sure today’s kids are gonna end up like me. We’re raising a new generation of Monster Kids with movies like Paranorman and Hotel Transylvania and toys like Monster High. You watch, the Monster Kids will rise again!
As far as an unlikely influences? Music. I think a good song tells a story and in my case I tend to see the song as one illustration, not necessarily what everyone else thinks of when they hear the song mind you. Take the 70’s song Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot, most people think it’s about a woman that keeps pestering a guy, but me? I see an “I Am Legend” scenario with vampires creeping around his door at sundown. Of course, I might just be a little off.
Your keystone character seems to be The Indescribable Watchamacallit, what can you tell us about him?
Ah, “Big Orange” or as someone once said “The Hulk as seen through the eyes of a mentally challenged nine year old.” Most people really like him. [Personally], I still can’t see what it is that gets people so excited about him. [It] could be because he’s a part of me and my love for the “superheroes who are also monsters but thought of as a heroes because they end up fighting worse things then them” genre of comics like the Hulk, Man-Thing and the Brute.
I’ve never done an actual origin story for him, but I’ve shown and said that he was a scientist that got bonded with animal DNA samples that made him turn into a monster – all as a result of sabotage. I would like to tell the story of his transformation and his escape from the army base, but I’d really rather animate it [with] the whole sequence set to the one song from Pink Floyd’s The Wall where the character Pink states, ” I don’t need no drugs to calm me! I don’t need your arms around me! I have seen the writing on the wall! Don’t think I need anyone at all!” That there sums up the character perfectly.
One of your other best-known works is the Monster Cereal pin-up you did in 2007. Do you have a personal favorite of the bunch (Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute included)?
It’s a close race between Franken Berry and Fruit Brute. That would actually make a good fake movie poster, Franken Berry meets Fruit Brute.
Ah man, THAT would be cool! What are you working on now?
Lets see, finishing the Watchamacllit comic, doing clean up work on The Giantastics comic, the Hooray for the Bad Guy comic strip, a series of cartoons for Cinema Insomnia host Mr. Lobo and about four t-shirt ideas I have to flesh out.
As a kid, what’s the strangest thing you ever did?
You know, those things you see people make where you wrap a crescent roll around a hot dog and cheese and bake it? I used to eat those after they sat out for a few hours and got all cold and the cheese and grease congealed. Is that strange? It’s making me hungry I know that at least.
I’d say that qualifies. Okay, so at this time I’d like to break out our “Sinister Six” questions, just for Halloween…
In “Return of the Living Dead” Trash imagines the worst way for her to die. If you could choose, what would your worst death be?
Falling from a great height, I hate heights… HATE them.
What’s the worst Halloween costume you’ve ever had as a kid?
A Gene Simmons costume from either Collegeville or Ben Cooper. You know the kind that had to have the picture of what you were supposed to be printed on the front. What made it so bad was that my brothers and their two friends went as KISS and looked exactly like them while I looked like a chubby lil tool in a costume that didn’t fit right because it didn’t come in husky.
If you could be haunted by any famous person, who would it be and why?
Famous? Vincent Price. He’s an art lover, a great actor, a gourmet chef and has one of the bast laughs of all time.
What are your Top 5 “must see” horror movies to watch during Halloween?
1. Mad Monster Party, for my daughter
2. Trick R’ Treat, a modern classic
3. Nightmare Before Christmas, also for my daughter
4. House of the Wolf Man, great retro style movie in the vein of the Universal Monsters with a GREAT Frankenstein design
5. House of Frankenstein, the original mind you not eh made for tv one – although that one wasn’t bad either, but I’ll go classic
If you could bury any one thing (person, pet or object) in the Pet Cemetery, what would it be?
I’m going along with the Ramones on this one and staying away from the Pet Cemetery.
How do you plan on surviving the coming zombie apocalypse?
Fortified RV with a shit load of Cheez-Its and Pepsi.