Monday, October 19, 2009

1980's Flashback (& interview): Doc Stearn, Mr. Monster

When Michael T. Gilbert was asked to develop new characters for Pacific Comics he drew on Canadian artist Fred Kelly's obscure golden age one-shot hero as inspiration. The first "new" Mr. Monster story appeared in Vanguard Illustrated #7 (1984; see image, left). Gilbert's updated version was a fanatical monster hater. Gilbert maintains a tongue-in-cheek approach to all of the Mr. Monster stories which have endeared the character to fans who've become jaded on the grim & gritty fare that dominates the stands today.

Gilbert cast his "Mr. Monster" as a hereditary position, going back into antiquity and now held by the original Jim Stearn's son, Strongfort. Being Mr. Monster was not simply the driving force of Strongfort "Doc" Stearn's life, it was his destiny. Assisted by his "gal Friday" Kelly Friday (whose first name was chosen to honor the original characters creator), Mr. Monster operated from his mountaintop citadel to battle vampires, werewolves and other things that go bump in the night around the world.

Pacific Comics didn't use Mr. Monster after the Vanguard appearance, but other publishers ran with it including Atomeka, Caliber, Dark Horse, Eclipse, Fantagraphics, Image and Tundra on titles such as Airboy-Mr. Monster Special, Mr. Monster Attacks, Mr. Monster Presents (Crack-A-Boom!), Mr. Monster vs. Gorzilla, Mr. Monster's Gal Friday ... Kelly!, Mr. Monster's Triple Threat 3-D and Mr. Monster's: Who Watches The Garbagemen?. Mr. Monster has also played a "cryptkeeper" role, introducing stories reprinted from the '50s under the titles Mr. Monster's Super-Duper Special, Mr. Monster's Hi-Octane Horror & Mr. Monster's True Crime. Doc Stearn currently provides the same function on articles featured in the fanzine Alter Ego.

The longest (and most serious) Mr. Monster story to date is "Origins", which was published as an 8-issue mini-series by Dark Horse between 1988 & 1991. It was later re-worked into a graphic novel by Graphitti Designs.


Now, as a special Halloween treat for readers of the Catacombs, here is a new interview of Doc Stearn, Mr. Monster, conducted by yours truly [courtesy of Michael T. Gilbert]. Enjoy!

Q) Hey Doc! What's your favorite classic horror film?

Frank Miller's The Spirit movie, of course. Talk about a horror film! Or at least horrible.Ugh! As far as classic movies, the 4-D Man still gives me chills!

Q) Are there any particular beasties that even you dread going up against?

The blue-pencil editors of doom, of course!

Q) How is Mary Monster working out as a sidekick?

A bit green, but the girl's got spunk. Unfortunately I HATE spunk! However I suspect that she'll someday grow into a first class monster-killer!

Q) Surely you've still got some "hi-octane" horror left in you. Any plans for a return (pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top)?

Of course. No publisher yet, but Michael T. recently completed two new Mr. Monster stories. One of them features Dr. NoZoNE, and the other a sequel starring the wood-monster, Oooak!

Q) So far what 's been your favorite published case, besides Hemo-Boy, unless that's it of course?

For a longer story, Origins. Mr. Monster vs The Nazis from Mars is also a favorite!

Q) What's the derivation of your name, Strongfort?

German and English meaning “Strong as a fort!" Or so I'm told.

Q) 'War of the Independents', what's that all about and did it ever get published?

It's a project that David Ryan has been drawing featuring cameos by a variety of independent characters. I don't believe it's been published yet, though he's drawn a fair amount.

Q) Who among the current crop of whippersnappers do you think best carries on your fight against monsters and such?

The Goon does a passable job on the monster-mashing front. Ugly chap though!

Q) So, modesty aside, what's the scoop on that Vampirella liaison rumor (nudge-nudge, wink-wink)?
Harumph! A gentleman never kisses and tells! Especially since Kelly might stumble onto this!

Q) Um, sorry but there's a guy here who keeps prodding me to ask my chances for scoring a Mr. Monster con-style sketch (and don't forget the pricing)?

Don't bother me with such trivia. There's monsters to destroy! However for commissions your friend could contact Michael T. Gilbert. He's too lazy to bother killing monsters anyway. He'd rather draw.

No comments: