Growing up in the 90's I was always on the look out for something to scare myself silly with. My parents made sure that the R-rated horror movies my friends always bragged about watching weren't an option. So aside from the truly terrifying Scary Stories series (which I've posted about just a few times) in the school library, I had to get my fill for chills from another collection of horror-themed books: Goosebumps!
With a movie based on the books in theaters now (which I'm not totally sure about) and with Halloween on the horizon, I thought that this would be a good a time as any to revisit the series.
At the forefront of my memory, I'll never forget the joy of book orders in elementary school... But it wasn't until R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series hit those colorful newspaper-like pages of the monthly Scholastic ads that I was thoroughly, hopelessly addicted. Each month in the early 90's I would eagerly await the new ad and scour its pages for the latest Goosebumps book. Though it didn't usually take much scouring... The books were usually plastered across the front page in a prime location.
The first Goosebumps book I convinced my mom that I needed was "The Haunted Mask". I distinctly remember that awesome monster face looking back at me from the Scholastic ad and knowing instantaneously that I had to read this book! Actually, come to think of it, this book is probably the one that presented terrifying, nightmare-inducing scenario for me... The girl in the story purchases this mask that latches on to her face and controls her actions, turning her into a literal monster, forcing her to do its will. I'm not sure what I found more disconcerting about that mental image: the idea of a Halloween mask gripping tightly, catastrophically onto my face or the concept of something else having control of you as you watch, helpless to stop it... Legitimately scary stuff to do this day!
Let's take just a moment to appreciate R.L. Stine as a hardcore writing machine. While his work probably won't ever garnish any literary accolades, the man has an imagination and he put it to work! He literally churned out a book or more per month for years and managed to keep kids like me coming back for more. In fact, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Goosebumps series holds the title of the "largest selling children's series in history". Ultimately, the series would go on to include around 100 books, not including spin-off series such as Goosebumps 2000 and a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style collection. Additionally, the rabid popularity spawned a television series, and generated a ton of revenue thanks to merchandising.
Of course, if I'm being totally honest, it was usually the quintessential cover artwork that I obsessed and drooled over. The task of creating the covers for Stine's books fell to artist Tim Jacobus, who produced artwork for the books for over a decade. Jacobus once stated that he only met Stine on a few occasions and that usually the extent of their collaboration boiled down to Jacobus being supplied with a brief synopsis of a particular book's plot by Scholastic and being left to his own devices to create an eye-catching cover... And, boy, did he ever succeed!
Jacobus was able time and again to paint striking images that allured potential readers. Over time, his realistic depictions eventually gave way to stylized and exaggerated features typically enhanced with stunningly vibrant colors.
He always managed to select a memorable moment from a given book and develop an equally memorable piece of artwork that demanded attention. Only occasionally did Jacobus miss the mark... One such incident involved the book "Say Cheese and Die!" in which the artist created a scene that wasn't actually detailed in the book. Apparently Stine had to go back and create a dream sequence before the book was published to keep from disappointed fans of the series!
Regardless of any missteps along the way (and increasingly outrageous concepts developed by Stine), Jacobus' artwork remains synonymous with the series and the artist deserves as much credit for Goosebumps' success as the author.
Take a walk with me down a spooky memory lane and enjoy some of my favorite cover artwork from the series...