Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Give Yourself Goosebumps Again

For young horror fans there was always one book that would cease to entertain us and in turn, lead us to a whole new realm of horror. For some it scared us, for others it led them to modern horror books, and in other cases they were the closest things to pure horror we can get to. These were the Goosebumps books and they debuted in 1992 and stopped in 1997. Back then, they were the best things that ever happened to us and now we see them as a cornerstone in pop horror culture as well as pop culture of the 1990s. Personally, they were the mile marker in my life and they would eventually be the gateway to books written by Stephen King, Dean Kootnz or Michael Crichton.

The first Goosebumps book was entitled ‘Welcome to Dead House’ andsince then they caught on fast. Guiness Book of World Records says that Goosebumps was the largest selling children’s series in history. The books are precursors to other great horror novels and it was very evident that R.L. Stine (author of the series) borrowed from other great stories to create his. So in a way, we were introduced to vampires before we knew what a vampire was. The books were also very morbid for kids and at times they were also very violent. Titles such as ‘Don’t Go Into the Basement,’ ‘Werewolf Skin’ and ‘The Scarecrow Walks At Midnight’ are all great examples of books that ended up being extremely dark and rather frightening. Titles such as, ‘Vampire Breath’ and ‘The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb’ are examples of ‘Dracula’ and ‘The Mummy’… light. Several of the books had twist endings so it was sort of like reading The Twilight Zone for kids, which is something that would stick with me.

Soon after Goosebumps became a hit, Stine delivered is 2000 Series appropriately titled Goosebumps: Series 2000. These books were sort of like the big boy Goosebumps books since I remember them being slightly more terrifying then the original series. These stories included more original stories and had more frightening endings and at times I remember them being a little more descriptive on the books monster or ghost. I also remember them being a little more science fiction than most of the original series books. Titles such as ‘Brain Juice,’ ‘Invasion of the Body Squeezers,’ and ‘Creature Teacher’ was sort of tributes to the classic sci-fi era of the 1950s and 1960s and introduced us to those films. The 2000 Series also gave us sequels to the big hit books from the original Goosebumps such as ‘Return to HorrorLand’ and ‘Bride of the Living Deummy.’ Even the pictures on the front cover of the 2000 Series grew more detail and more frightening.

Shortly after the 2000 Series began to run it’s course, Stine gave us the last good series in the Goosebumps saga. These were called Give Yourself Goosebumps with the tagline “Reader beware… you choose the scare.” This was the cherry on the sundae that would eventually be devoured over time. Stine delivered us the same terrifying and original stories found in the 2000 series but added a twist; we as the reader got to choose which direction the story would go. At the end of each page or each scenario the book would ask us questions like, “should Mike go into the closet or should he walks away and confront the monster under the bed?” If you choose wrongfully you ended up dead or something worse. That’s the thing with these books, the endings didn’t always leave to death but rather something more morbid and Stine liked to jab at us with how disturbing his books could be. These books literally made us readers feel as though we were a part of the book and they really made us become more imaginative.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the entire Goosebumps run was the amazing artwork by Tim Jacobus. They were so incredibly detailed and they enhanced the imagery of the Goosebumps. Each painting had it’s own world that it belonged to and for us kids, they felt almost real because of the amount of detail that was in each one. What I noticed about each of the paintings was that they had a certain kind of mood lighting, Jacobus blended in colors like blue, orange and red to give the monsters a frightening tone. Also, for us hardcore Goosebumps fans, you’ll notice that in almost all of his paintings he incorporates Converse All-Star… a shoe that has really stuck with me throughout my childhood.

Looking back on them, the Goosebumps books were really horror food for us kids and they did at times scare us but also entertained us. If I read them now they wouldn’t do anything for me, of course, but they would trigger lots of memories of me hiding under my covers wanting to know what happens to the characters. They were a gateway into other horror fiction and non-fiction and they really impacted my life… more than I could ever say. It’s a shame that I had to sell all my books but someday I will get them back. Hell, I haven’t even mentioned the TV show.

Reader beware, you’re in for a scare… indeed.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

I LOVED these! The only books I read as a kid. Funhouse, The Babysitter, and one I can't remember the title of but it was like I Know What u Did Last Summer! Awesome.

The Spooky Vegan said...

Great post! These were a definite cornerstone of my childhood and it's nice to reminisce about them.

Ryne said...

Awesome post. Goosebumps were the books that I grew up reading as a kid, and I still think back to fond memories where all of the details about what I was doing at the time seem crystal clear.

I'm planning on doing a nostalgia month sometime soon on my blog, and it seems like you'd be great for doing a guest post on Goosebumps if you'd like.

Mr. Johnny Sandman said...

Hey Ryne, I would love to do a guest post on Goosebumps. It was a show the really altered my life.

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