Monster Maker: Matthew Allison

Its as if Robert Crumb directed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
That's the best way to describe our latest Monster Maker, Matthew Allison, who twists and distends human anatomies with the gleeful absurdity of a blind butcher.

Highly engrossing, each piece of work is full of muted color washes and intricate details that only add to the pulpy grit of Allison's narrative dialogue. Granted, I imagine its a dialogue comparable to speaking with someone who has no eyes, ears and only half a lip, but it sure makes an interesting conversation nonetheless.
Tell us a little about yourself. Who is Matthew Allison?
I’m a 37 year-old human male, weighing in at a hefty 235 lbs (mainly muscle and beer). I have a lovely wife and we share a home in Denver, which is where I was born and raised (well, in the suburbs of Colorado – Arvada to be exact). I have a basement full of toys and movies and comic books, all of which my cats love to puke on.

What inspired you to first become an artist?
My parents were great about exposing me to cool stuff and then indulging my subsequent obsessions. Weekends were spent at the drive-in - seeing everything from The Incredible Melting Man to The Sailor Who Fell from Grace With the Sea - or we were at home watching Gamera movies or pro wrestling. We had a super-8 projector with a stack of truncated films (which I still have) like The Vampire and The Ballerina, and Corman’s The Undead, and we’d watch those a lot too.

My dad kept a large box in the garage that was overflowing with copies of Warren horror comics, Famous Monsters, Mad magazine, Heavy Metal, and Car-Toons. He also loved Frank Frazetta, had a few of his books and calendars, and was constantly drawing barbarians and monsters. He did tattoos for a while and so seeing him work on that stuff made me want to draw as well. Whenever I found a new interest, whether it was KISS or Star Wars, or The Micronauts, etc., my whole world would revolve around that for weeks on end, so I was always either dressing up like those characters, collecting their toys, or drawing them.

In Junior High I really discovered comic book collecting and so that and horror films became my thing. There were two moments – both involving Batman – that sealed the deal as far as me wanting to draw comics: one was seeing Frank Miller’s cover for the second issue of Dark Knight Returns, which really flipped a switch in my head. It was Batman, but he was distorted and bloody and monstrous. The story didn’t grab me as much as that single image, really. Then there was a Bill Sienkiewicz Batman/Superman pin-up on the back of the Heroes Against Hunger comic that blew me away as well, again portraying Batman as an ugly creature more so than a guy in costume. We had an assignment in my 8th grade art program to redraw a famous illustration and I chose that, and my teacher ended up really praising me in front of the class. After that I drew this picture of 3 skulls sort of melted together (very metal!) and that picture was displayed in the hall. One day I walk by and see three of the younger students copying my drawing. That was when I thought I should really pursue art.

Your work has a very pulp/E.C. Comics style to the linework. Are there any comic book artists in particular that have influenced your style?
When I was full on into my superhero phase the guys I loved, but could never in a million years emulate, were David Mazzucchelli and Steve Rude. Once I started getting into what I guess would be termed as alternative comics it was Jim Woodring, Dan Clowes, and Charles Burns that really shaped the way I draw now. With Woodring especially the bizarre creatures and scenarios really struck a chord with me. Once I saw some of the early Frank comics it was like “Oh, yeah. I know this world. I’ve seen these beasts in my head before.”

As far as the EC artists, I’ve always been in love with Jack Davis. He’s really the perfect cartoonist, in my mind.

What's your process like for designing monsters?
Usually starts with the teeth. I love drawing teeth and gums so everything else sort of stems from that area.

Your creatures seem to often be an exaggeration of abnormal human anatomy. Is there a larger theme of biological horror amongst your work?
We had a book in my house called Very Special People (see insert), all about sideshow performers such as JoJo the Dog Faced boy and other people with deformities. There’s an entire section in there devoted to Joseph (John) Merrick, aka The Elephant Man, and I was endlessly fascinated by his life and his body. I would imagine what it must have been like to observe those changes as he got older, and so deformity and transformation always intrigued me. When David Lynch’s film came out I started dressing as the Elephant man, wrapping myself in a thick blanket and putting a pillow case over my head, with the pillow still in it. Then I’d drag my foot behind me and make slurping noises. That’s really horrible, now that I think about it.

Another huge influence was Rob Bottin’s work on The Thing, as well as Rick Baker’s on An American Werewolf in London. Cronenberg’s The Fly too. Your body revolting and no longer really belonging to you is a disturbing concept.

In your opinion, what elements make for the perfect monster?
Something that is familiar yet distorted in a way that shocks you, like the spider-head in The Thing.

As a fan of horror what's your top 5 favorite creature features?
Well, I suppose I need to put Carpenter’s The Thing in there since I’ve spent so much space riding Bottin’s jock. Others would be: Infra-Man (with Princess Dragon Mom’s menagerie of weirdos), VIY (more wild monsters), Creature from the Black Lagoon... and Ship of Monsters, this goofy Mexican film featuring a truly bizarre brain creature.

My favorite monster of all time is Garamon, from Ultraman. A friend of mine runs a fantastic blog dedicated to all things Garamon.

You've done animation work on Dum-Dum's Dungeon and Boong Goes Crazy Now. How different were those experiences compared to illustrating a comic?
This is embarrassing– but those are fake stills. I had the idea to create frames from cartoons that never existed, so I grabbed and tweaked some backgrounds from Scooby Doo cartoons, put my characters on top of them and then altered them to resemble screen caps. I debated whether I should disclose that on the blog but I assumed people would know they were phony. However, most people have told me they figured they were the real deal. At some point I’d love to see some of those actually animated (any takers?).

Really? I totally never would have guessed that the stills were fake. I spent about 2 hours or so looking for information on them and came up with bum-kiss. Thanks a lot, haha. Okay, moving on...

Battle of the Frankenstein Monsters: Boris Karloff vs Robert DeNiro. Who wins?

Man, have to go with Karloff. Have to.

Okay, so what's the strangest thing you remember doing as a kid?
One time, when I was 4 or 5, I got this really powerful nose bleed. No matter what my parents tried it just would not stop gushing so they took me to the ER. The doctor felt something hard in my nostril and ended up grabbing forceps and pulling out a dried cat turd. Why I felt compelled to shove that up there I’ll never know.


For more of Mattew Allison and his diabolically coagulated creations, be sure to check out his blog, Pray for the dead, kid. Make sure to tell him Strange Kid sent ya.


Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails