Special Guest! An Interview w/ 'Ghoulish' Gary Pullin of Rue Morgue Magazine

“Like a modern Frankenstein, Gary reanimates nostalgia and unleashes it to bite your ass!” -Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy).

As the creative force who has not only helped to reinvigorate the horror magazine industry thanks to his skillful design and remarkable works of art, 'Ghoulish' Gary Pullin is a man "possessed with a true affinity for classic horror and the gore soaked, brightly coloured films of the 1980s." He's also got a great sense of humor and a wicked imagination to boot.

Luckily, having been recently voted as The Best Artist of Year at the Rondo Hatton Awards hasn't stolen any of Gary's down-to-Earth demeanor. He was gracious enough to spend some time lounging around the clubhouse while Strange Kid and I tooled around with his grey matter a bit before letting him loose once more into the wilderness of Toronto, Ontario. The following is a presentation of our findings. No names have been changed to protect the innocent... what you are about to read is very true(ish).
Welcome to my parlor said the spider to the fly, MWHAHAHA! Tell us a bit about yourself a bit.

Thanks for having me! Nice place you have here. It sort of resembles my bedroom, circa 1986. Truthfully, I'm just a lucky life-long horror fan who gets to work at a pretty rad horror magazine and draw monsters for a living.

So at what point did you first know that you wanted to become an artist? Did you receive any formal training in art and design?

My grandfather was a painter who painted a lot of oceans and landscapes. I can remember studying his paintings for hours. I didn't have the talent or the right materials then, but it didn't stop me from trying. One of the first things I drew was a still life drawing for my mom. A vase, some flowers and some fruit. That doesn't sound as cool as I'd like it too, but I thought if you could draw real objects, then you must be a good artist. It turned out kind of OK for and eight year old. Soon after, our family priest came to the house for a rare visit. He heard I liked to draw so he brought me a giant box of markers, pencil crayons and paper. I was, uh... in heaven. I immediately employed them by drawing monsters and villains. I guess I have him to thank for all the atrocities I've created! Sorry, but the irony never gets old to me.

Artwork © Gary Pullin

It never really dawned on me that I could make a living doing artwork until I went to Conestoga College for their Graphic Design course. It really opened my eyes. Before college I decided to go to an art school, where I specialized in animation and print making. During that time I really enjoyed being around so many budding artists and I tried my best to never grow up. I even started a band that was going no where fast. So, I figured I better find a career if I wanted to move out of my parents house. I was admitted to a three year Graphic Design course and it changed the way I saw the world in a profound way. I had no idea there were so many avenues you could take with art. The course was a brutal regime but I stuck it out, graduated and moved to the big smoke.

You basically went from designing packaging for Cadbury chocolates and cardboard cereal boxes to living every monster kid's dream. How did it feel when Rodrigo Gudiño first brought you on board full-time as the Artistic Director of Rue Morgue?

Oh man, it felt great! I felt like I could really just dig in and help make a kick ass horror mag. After paying my dues within the corporate confines, I was ready for something different. It was a very happy time for me. I grew up on horror mags like Fango, Gorezone, Balun's Deep Red and Famous Monsters so I had many years of pent up inspiration. Rodrigo and I were on the same page where the mag should go from day one and when I came on full time, he basically threw me the keys and said "Drive."

Artwork © Gary Pullin

What was your biggest challenge when first joining the Rue Morgue Crew?

The logo was a challenge but also a really fun thing to explore. I remember that I wanted it to have a classic feel but I didn't want it to look too much like Famous Monsters, look too gothy or too heavy metal. I played around with a lot of concepts but when I added the moon in between the type forms, it was like the light went on. The crescent moon is a classic icon for any horror story or tale of mystery and it just seemed like a perfect fit. But yes, like any new job, there was a bit of pressure and some unexpected challenges. I had to learn Quark very quickly as I worked redesigning the entire issue, wanting to give the magazine a more stylized look. Then I realized that not only would I be designing the magazine, I would also be working with all of the advertisers and handling production duties after the issue was created. For the first few years, I wasn't just the Art Director, I was the art department!

Your cover illustrations in particular have helped Rue Morgue redefine what a modern day horror magazine should look like. Some say your work even recalls Basil Gogos of Famous Monsters of Filmland fame. What do you make of such a comparison?

Well, that is a massive compliment! Thank you for that. I am always really beside myself when people mention us in the same sentence. Honestly, I think I need about twenty-five more years of painting experience to be as good as Basil. There are so many amazing artists working out there and I am just trying to play on the field. But I'm honoured that people have made that comparison. We're both driven by our love of illustration and inspired by monsters.

Artwork © Gary Pullin

Where do you plan on taking Rue Morgue artistically 5 years from now?

We're already looking into taking the magazine online, adapting it to all of the digital formats that have become so popular. The print version of the mag will still be around as long as paper mills are still churning pulp but the publishing industry is changing and I think it's important that we adapt.

I would like to see a kick ass Rue Morgue App with some cool features that people would want to buy or share. I have read a bit about magazine design trends for iPads and I really like the simplicity of the layouts, so it's exciting to think one day we will be designing the Rue Morgue brand for multi-platforms. It is baby steps right now but we are always thinking ahead. We have ramped up Rue Morgue merchandise this year and I would like to see that become its own entity one day.

What's your creative process ordinarily like? Do you do tend to sketch out multiple ideas beforehand or do you begin with a clear picture in your head?

As soon as I know what we are covering, I start to brainstorm and think how we are going to tackle it, graphically. Usually I have a pretty good idea right off the top which leads to some quick, loose thumbnails. I'll show these to Dave, our Editor-in-chief, and together we'll bounce some ideas around. It is also a lot of fun throwing ideas around with Justin, my right hand man in the art department. He is an amazing designer and together we get to knock out some pretty fun stuff.

Artwork © Gary Pullin

Do you ever find yourself struggling with creator's block? How do you overcome it?

Of course! I have to be creative on day to day basis, so when the ink well is dry, I usually step away from the desk... take a walk, read a magazine or grab an art book. Sometimes you need to sleep on things and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyeballs.

You find yourself waking up in a swampland sink hole with nothing but a Twinkie in your pocket and a set of disposable, glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs. A zombie is coming at you from the left and an alligator is on your right... what the HELL do you do?!

Dude, I was totally in this situation once! I had stumbled away from an outdoor horror convention party in Florida because I REALLY needed to relieve myself from the eight beers I just drank. There was no way I was going to make it back to my hotel room without any unhappy incidents so I darted around until I spotted the perfect little nook between two bushes. I charged into the darkness to do my thing and finding a cozy spot I just let it rip, with a big grin exposing the dollar store plastic vampire fangs I brought to the party for comic effect. I barely remember a few stumbling steps before I passed out in a sink hole. For how long - no one can say, but the next thing I knew I was awake, smack dab in the middle of a zombie vs alligator attack!

Artwork © Gary Pullin

It was really fucking cool for a minute until they noticed me. I struggled to get away but I was stuck pretty good. I had to think quick! As the two creatures lumbered towards me, I reached down into my pocket and pulled out... a smashed up Twinkie. I picked it up from the concession stand in the hotel lobby. The food is always shit at cons. I didn't have a clue what I was going to do with it or how I was going to get out of this situation, I mean come on it was a fucking Twinkie, not a shotgun. As they inched their way closer, I baited them with my crumbling snack. Hoping that they would be more interested in the Twinkie than me.

The zombie lunged at me first so I jammed that tasty treat right into his gaping, infested maw. To my utter amazement, the alligator sprung up with a leap, grazing my nose with his scaly torso, and bit down on the zombie's head like a rotten tomato. The alligator took the living corpse for few death rolls and was now a couple of feet away, ferociously eating its dinner. I guess you could say that The Creature ate my Twinkie. True story.

Artwork © Gary Pullin

You've recently announced a new project in the works with Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid called Tales from Beyond the Pale. Can you describe what that project is exactly?

Tales from Beyond the Pale is a really refreshing idea, something I think horror fans are really gonna dig. Much like the radio dramas The Shadow and Inner Sanctum, Tales from Beyond the Pale will be downloadable audio radio plays.

My involvement started when Larry and Glenn asked if I could come up with the logo and a poster for each tale. I have to say that I am really excited that they asked me to be a part of the project and working with them has been a blast. I have had the chance to read most of the scripts and I can't wait to hear the final episodes. The tales are really well written and some great up and coming filmmakers are involved like Ti West, JT Petty, Paul Solet, Graham Reznick, Ashley Thorpe and of course Larry and Glenn.

You also seem to stay pretty active in the art community outside of Rue Morgue as well, are there any plans for forthcoming exhibitions of your work?

I will have a booth at the Festival of Fear this year which is at the end of August. It gives me the opportunity to sell some prints and meet fellow horror fans. It's always a blast. I am also working on a big art show for the summer of 2011. I can't say too much yet as it's in the early planning stages, but I'm really excited about it.

What was the last really good horror movie you saw in theaters? How about on DVD?

I really enjoyed Black Death that screened at Fantasia this year. It is directed by Christopher Smith (Creep, Triangle) and it really evokes the Hammer and Amicus films from the '70s. It also reminded me of Witchfinder General, so top marks for that one. The last DVD or Blu-Ray I really loved was The Road. Not a horror film, I know, but it's dark and really depressing. That's my feel bad movie of the summer.

If you could be any one of the six kids from Monster Squad, who would you be?

My name... is HORACE!

Speaking of kids, what's the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?

Where do I start? Well, I made a Freddy glove in grade eight shop class. The shop teacher made me promise I wouldn't show anyone and I was to go right home with it. It was crudely made out of sheet metal and the tips were bent back but I was really proud of it. Naturally, the first thing I did was head down to the library where all the kids were. I was waving it around and showing it off. Everyone seemed to love it!

Then the principal walked by and noticed it. I froze and tried to hide it but he just asked me to hand it over. He was so disturbed by it, they actually thought I had invented a weapon! They called my mom down to ask what kind of disciplinary action they should take. She wondered what they had meant when they told her I was caught with a dangerous weapon. So, when they showed it to her she laughed and said "Haven't you ever seen the Freddy movies? It's just a prop!" They were dumbfounded that she didn't think horror films or making something like this was unhealthy. She asked that they give it back and I still have it to this day!

Still got the itch for more of all things 'Ghoulish?' Then check out these awesome places around the 'net where you can find out even more about Gary Pullin and even snag your own sweet horror swag by the maestro of monsters himself!


The Official Ghoulish Gary Pullin Facebook Page

The Art of Ghoulish Gary



  1. Belle Dee said...:

    That was great!!! I'm big fan of Gary's work & he's a hero of mine. Especially since he has my 'dream job'! But as I've said before his art, as well as his design work never disappoints. He always makes Rue Morgue a visual treat for the eyes!

    Have to check out that 'Tales from Beyond the Pale'. I've been listening to a lot of old horror radio shows lately. Sounds like it would be right up my alley!

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    @Belle: Thanks so much, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    I'm also a little jealous of what a great job Gary has, but he's definitely earned it. His artistic direction is one of the main reason I keep picking up the magazine. And he's such a cool guy to boot!

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails