Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gruesome Discovery

With all the traveling and other obligations I've had lately, I've been bummed that I haven't had time to draw, much less post any sketches. I've about exhausted all my old stuff too. But then I remembered some of the items I found when I was moving out of my sweet old window seat at at work. This stuff really brings back memories.

Back in 1988 (twenty-one years ago!) I was a junior at VCU, studying filmmaking. Mike, though five years older, was attending college at the same time. We had different majors (Through a strange stroke of luck, I'd gotten into the Communication Arts school while Mike somehow ended up in Fashion Illustration.) so we rarely had classes together unless we agreed on an elective that interested us both. History of Animation, a night class, was such an elective.

At the time, we were living in a crappy little university-subsidized apartment off-campus (waaaaay off-campus) with a couple of nice, friendly guys who'd gone to high school together. While we all went to the occasional party, our isolation (and my standoffishness) kept us at home most weekend nights. Lucky for me. Because that's how I discovered Dr. Gruesome.

Dr. Gruesome's Movie Morgue was a late-night show on Saturdays on the Richmond FOX affiliate (brand new at the time) in the vein of Elvira and Hilarious House of Frightenstein. The good doctor wore fake glasses and moustache, a mop for a wig and a lab coat. He and his "assistant", the tutti-fruity-wig-wearing Skeeter, hosted old horror movies, doing skits before and after commercial breaks from their cardboard and plywood "laboratory" set. The show was produced on less than a shoestring budget, the jokes were horrible and there were no production values to be found. (Though, somehow, Gruesome pulled off a live, on-camera effect of Skeeter's head exploding into a cloud of confetti.) And I was mesmerized.

Being a fan of all things horror-related (I was a subscriber to FANGORIA for years) I ate the show up. Mike and I tried to never miss a show. So, imagine our elation when we discovered that the instructor of our History of Animation class, Mark Bartholomew, was Dr. Gruesome. Mike and I almost went through the ceiling. I don't remember how it came out in class but the reactions of the students ranged from "meh" (most of the ladies) to "well, that's kind of interesting" (the majority) to "HOLY #$%*ing SHIT!!!" (Mike and me.)

I tried to keep the fanboy hero-worship to a minimum but I think Mark got a kick out of having some fans in his class. I brought in the Commonwealth Times (VCU's rag) article about him for him to autograph. (I've attached it below.) One night, when he couldn't make it to class, he even had Matt "Skeeter" Pak fill in for him. It was a blast. And the class was very cool too. Mark knew his stuff and was a great teacher. Mike and I were exposed to amazing animation we didn't even know existed. And Mark covered all the bases from Gertie the Dinosaur to Snow White to Bugs Bunny to Star Blazers. I got to write a paper on Ray Harryhausen and an essay on Bugs Bunny's cross-dressing proclivities.

But the highlight was definitely meeting Dr. Gruesome and Skeeter. I was so taken with them that I decided to draw a comic book story about them. I've since lost the first page (which is about how far I got) but I did find the cover which I've posted above. I think I was going for a John Totleben inking style which was appropriate for the material, I guess. I hope you like it.



Tim Perkins said...

Fantastic post, Matt.

I love your little anecdotes

Great drawing!!!

Thanks for sharing it and your story with us.

Hope you are keeping well.


Brian said...

Great story, Matt.

Apparently those who teach, also can do.

Warren said...

We had a local horror film host named "Dead Ernest" who talked like a redneck back before redneck was trendy. I like him because he put on movies like "the Mad Goul" and the original "Thirteen Ghosts".

Sadly, those days seem to be gone.

Nice story, Matt!

And sorry I've been reading and not responding lately. :/

Tipsy said...

Please join the FB group dedicated to Dr. Gruesome - if you would like. :)

P.S. I added your news clipping and fan art to our gallery for all Gruesome fans to enjoy.