Oct. 2007: Seeing the World Through Genre-Coloured Glasses

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Embrace Your Inner Geek!
The Art of Jon Hastings

One day, Jon Hastings decided to start a monster-a-day sketchbook to explore the natural history of unsung monsters, such as “Ha’alele Papahe’enalu, the Hawaiian tiki god of the wipeout.” Later, he decided that the project would become a book of poems, his personal ode to unsung monsters. But then his publisher suggested he turn the sketchbook in to a storybook and Terrabella Smoot and the Unsung Monsters was born.

Terrabella Smoot is a children’s book about a young monster (Terrabella). On her way to the Monster of the Year celebration, she gets lost in the woods. Thus begins a quest to be reunited with her family. Along the way, she meets all kinds of monsters, from the peculiar yet helpful Eppie-Gladys Snarf to the bellowing Lord Thonk the Ghastly, and more.

“Monsters were my inspiration,” says Hastings. “I love them in all forms, from the cute monsters in Where the Wild Things Are and Monsters, Inc., to the classic monsters from Frankenstein and Dracula, to every B-movie monster like the Blob and Godzilla.”

Much of Hastings’ work involves monsters of some sort. He says it’s because “Monsters, aliens and ghosts are much easier to draw than real people, you have complete freedom to create whatever the heck you want. Also, most real people are boring.”

But he also takes inspiration from everyday life. Terrebella Smoot is “based on my lovely wife Terry as a little girl,” says Hastings. But he’s also quick to note that “Terry has never had a tail.”

Every Day Aliens

Another character in Hastings’ pantheon is Smith Brown Jones: Alien Accountant. His website describes this comic as a “Saturday-matinee-science-fiction-movie-marathon of a comic” and, in addition to the eponymous character features a floating robot head, an alien-lizard assassin, dim-witted robot henchmen, goofy superheroes, a plucky cartoonist, trolls, fairies, goblins, a vampire unicorn and a burping cat.

“That came from watching too much sci-fi in all forms, but specifically The X-Files,” says Hastings. “In fact, Smith Brown Jones: Alien Accountant is The X-Files in reverse, with Smith trying to keep Earth alien-free as he takes in to account (hence, the “accountant” part) our eligibility to join the rest of the galaxy’s government. Smith, himself, is a combination of Bruce Campbell, Nick Cage in Raising Arizona and my dubious fashion sense (Hawaiian shirts, shorts and Chuck Taylor All-Stars, preferably in red).”

Ride Inspired Art

Fans of The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland will find it interesting to note that Hastings has worked on the comic book based on this iconic ride. Dan Vado, the founder of SLG Publishing and Hastings’ long-time publisher, “was in talks with Disney to do the Haunted Mansion comics and I was the second one he asked to contribute, knowing my love for Disneyland,” he says. “I asked Lovely Girlfriend Terry to become Lovely Wife Terry on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.”

Working on the Haunted Mansion comics “was a huge honor,” Hastings says. “I’ve done some of my best work on the title because of the admiration I have for the creators of the ride.” He’s done the writing and art for two stories in issues #1 and #5; written the histories of the three hitchhiking ghosts, one of which appeared in issue #2 with artwork by Jon Morris; and did the back cover painting of the hitchhiking ghosts in issue #3.

Getting Here From There

Hastings started out as a film major in college but moved over to comic art because, “I realized that I could write, direct, star in, do sets and costumes, etc. if I did it all as comics,” he says. “The only diva I have to worry about is myself and it’s much cheaper, too.”

He names Chuck Jones, famous for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and friends, as his biggest influence. They “just entertained the heck out of me.” He even wrote and drew a story about Jones in Spark Generators, a book he created and edited as a benefit for the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco.

Of course all this wackiness doesn’t just come from monster movies and Warner Bros. cartoons. “It’s a combination of several things, he says. His father was “full of puns” and his mother was “acerbically witty.” In addition, he likens himself to a comedy sponge, soaking up all that’s funny – “Everything from the Marx Brothers, Monty Python, stand-up comedians, Mad Magazine, Prairie Home Companion, The Daily Show — it doesn’t matter what media it’s in, just so long as it’s funny.”

So what keeps Hastings going? “Love, ‘cause it sure ain’t the money! That and the fact that I’ve met a lot of cool people (non-boring ones!) through comics; from fans to peers to heroes.”

It also helps that he shamelessly embraces his inner geek. “We’re all a little geeky about something,” he says. “Donald Trump’s a geek about money, Stephen Hawking’s a geek about the universe. And I’m a geek about comics, movies, pirates, monsters, robots, zombies, ghosts, monkeys, mad scientists, aliens and superheroes (to name a few). Embrace your geek!”

Up Next

Hastings has a few projects in his pipeline. “I have an idea for the sequel to Terrabella called Terrabella Smoot and the Perilous Knick-knack, but I haven’t started work on it yet.” He also has a new Haunted Mansion story in the works.

Want More Hastings?

You can find more samples of Jon Hastings’ work at his website www.KiwiBean.com. If you’d like to own your own copy of Terrabella Smoot and the Unsung Monsters, The Haunted Mansion comics or Smith Brown Jones: Alien Accountant, head on over to slgcomic.com.

Hastings Favorite Travel Moment

After Terrabella Smoot and the Unsung Monsters was published, he did a book tour, “which took Lovely Wife Terry and me to New York City for the first time,” says Jon Hastings, artist and author. “We did every touristy thing imaginable — Broadway show, Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, The Metropolitan and Guggenheim museums.

“Our only references for the city had been through Hollywood’s eyes, so were expecting C.H.U.D.s, French cocaine smugglers, gangs dressed as mimes, Snake Plissken, the Sta-puf marshmallow man, etc. but it was more like a Woody Allen version of the Big Apple. A good time was had by all.”