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Monsters Among Us! - Part 2

SEPTEMBER 1, 2022
I recently wrote about a series of movie posters commissioned by Universal Pictures for their classic monster series: Monsters Among Us! - Part I. Continuing on from that, here are the other three posters in the series, with sketches and notes:

 
Regular Edition
Variant Edition
Sketches

Bride of Frankenstein

Bride of Frankenstein is an odd movie. It's a direct continuation of Frankenstein, with random diversions into special effects. The titular bride only appears for a few minutes in the end. Still, Elsa Lanchester is amazing in the role (as well as playing Mary Shelley in the beginning). Her look is every bit as memorable as Boris Karloff, especially her signature wave of white hair. Unfortunately, the studio didn't have likeness rights for the actress, so all the sketches had to work around that. I struggled in the first round of ideas, I just couldn't find the right angle on it. There are so few scenes of the Bride in the movie and most of those scenes have been illustrated to cliche. Eventually, I found my hook - using her white hair as the conceptual element. Initially it was as stair case leading into the lab (sketch 3), but I found it worked better as the remnants of flame from the windmill fire at the end of Frankenstein. This is easily my favorite poster in the series, I think it just came together with concept and mood. The art was later picked up by Bottleneck Gallery and released as two limited silk screen editions.
 
Regular Edition
Variant Edition
Sketches

Dracula

Dracula was my biggest challenge in the series, as well as my biggest miss. As was the case with Wolf Man and Bride, the studio didn't have likeness rights for Bela Lugosi. The big problem is that there really is no classic Dracula without Bela. He is the entire look and feel of the movie. The film itself is my least favorite of the classics. As an early talkie, they just hadn't figured out how to integrate sound or pacing and the ending falls completely flat. The movie endures not because of it's quality, but because of Bela Lugosi's incredible charisma. So this was tough. Opposite of the Bride, I actually found a lot of rich ore to mine in the sketches. I'm especially fond of the third sketch above. I love the elegance of the female figure and the second read of Dracula's profile snaps especially hard, with the hint of fang acting as the visual kicker. Unfortunately, the studio really wanted to use their revised visual asset of Dracula's face for the piece. This was an asset created by their character team to be canonical and visually distinct from Bela's look. In the end, I tried going with a more conceptual approach in the flame, but the lack of a good likeness and the goofiness of the official design undermined the piece. This also wasn't my strongest concept, nor was it my best rendering. I still want to tackle that third sketch as some point, I think it had real potential. 

 
Regular Edition
Variant Edition
Sketches

Creature From The Black Lagoon

I love Creature From the Black Lagoon. The creature design, setting, and underwater cinematography make for a truly unique monster movie. It still looks great almost seventy years after it was released in 1954. I really wanted to do right by this movie, I wanted to make a total knockout of a piece. I think that psyched me out a little, and even after dozens of thumbs I don't think I ever found a concept that was truly special. We settled on a more straightforward idea, and in the iteration phase it was sanded down a bit more until it was more of a straightforward portrait. With the lack of a truly interesting idea for this, I resolved to bring as much love and refinement to the rendering as possible. In the end, I'm happy with the technical aspects of the piece, but frustrated that I couldn't comp up a better idea. At least the water looks good!

 
Well that's the project! In all, I did over a hundred thumbs, forty comps, and twelve visual assets counting variants. From beginning to end, the work took several months and more iterations that I want to remember. The art itself continues to pop up unexpectedly. I've seen it sold on dozens of pieces of apparel at hot topic, posters, and even lotto scratchers. Additionally, the series placed in Society of Illustrators and was in the annual show. Out of all the work I've done in my career, this might be my favorite project. It combines my love of movies, horror, poster art, and editorial thinking into one epic series. It was a lot of hard work, but I got to be a small part of one of the greatest legacies in pop culture history. 
Thanks for reading! 
© 2022 Chris Koehler