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NYCC 2014: R.L. Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’

Emily Dunbar ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

As Bob “R.L.” Stine made his way onto the stage for his panel at New York Comic Con 2014, he and past Goosebumps cover illustrator Tim Jacobus exchanged jokes and handshakes while moderator Patrick gave a quick summary of the success the series has achieved over the last 20 years.

Stine deadpanned that he was especially glad to be at NYCC because he had just done a book signing a couple weeks ago during which a librarian demanded to take a photo with him to prove to her students, once and for all, that he actually was still alive.

Patrick explained that Goosebumps has been running since July 1992 (that’s 23 years, people!) and has been printed over 350 million times in English. Of the hundreds of books Stine has penned, Jacobus has illustrated 67 of the Goosebumps covers. The illustrator took us through a few of his favorites.

Goosebumps was only going to be a 4-part series, so Jacobus was competing against another illustrator for the honor of painting the cover art for the start-up. In the end, Jacobus’s art won out because of his use of color.

As more and more jobs came in for him, Jacobus found that he was being given a lot of leeway in what he could include in his artwork. Stine joked that he would only “vaguely tell Tim what the book was about,” and that this method only failed them once, during the illustration process for “Say Cheese and Die,” a popular Goosebumps novel whose cover depicts a family of skeletons at a barbecue. According to Stine, the cover made no sense, and Scholastic asked him to include some mention of a skeleton family barbecue so Jacobus’s painting wouldn’t be completely incorrect. Stine obliged and added an unnecessary dream sequence.

Stine then joked, “We change the name of the Goosebumps books every six months… to keep it fresh.”

Indeed, the Goosebumps series is now being referred to as Goosebumps: Most Wanted and features continuations of some of the most popular Goosebumps stories ever told. The current illustrator, Brandon Dorman, does exciting, poster-type covers for these new installments.

Talk moved to the upcoming Goosebumps movie, to be released in August 2015. It is now officially (and excitingly) confirmed that Jack Black will be playing Stine in the film, which depicts the story of what would happen if the author’s monsters came to life and really started raising goosebumps on the arms of all his neighbors. Apparently, Stine’s son thought Morgan Freeman should play him, but still others suggested Stine play himself. When he asked his wife what she thought of that proposition, she allegedly replied, “You’re too old to play yourself!”

“That’s horrifying, right?!” Stine laughed, recounting the experience.

“I wanted to see what they did with me,” he continued, explaining his involvement with the film. He explained that he was “interested in the balance between horror and humor” and wanted the movie to be “just scary enough, but still humorous.”

Stine teased that terrifying fan favorite, the dummy Slappy, would make a big appearance in the film. He confessed that if the movie did well, he would love to make more. Stine even admitted that he’d consider making a Fear Street movie.

Moving on to fan questions, Stine explained that he never had trouble coming up with names for his characters because he always was able to use his son’s school directory for inspiration. He admitted to taking his son’s advice in naming characters, even though he had a high suspicion that kids at school were paying him to try to trick his dad into writing them into Goosebumps books.

Despite using names of real people, Stine explained, he never based his characters off of anyone he knew in real life. Except, he admitted, the one time he based a character for his Fear Street series off his son, in hopes that he might actually give his books a read if he was in them. Unfortunately, Stine Jr. didn’t take the bait… so his dad made sure he got bitten by a vampire in the last paragraph, instead!

“Why, why do I enjoy killing teenagers so much?” Stine mock-lamented. “Because I have one at home!”

Even though he enjoys killing teens in his books, Stine made sure to take the time to thoroughly answer their questions about writing.

“I do all my thinking in my outline,” he explained to an aspiring author in the audience. “That’s my advice, and everyone hates it… If you do all your thinking in advance and plan out your book, you can’t have writer’s block.”

Finally, Stine related the other side of his writing process: titles.

“Almost all my books start with a title. I have to think of the title first. And the title leads me to the story.” He then told us about throwing out potential ideas just because he couldn’t think of good titles to go along with them.

Stine may be too old to play himself, but Jack Black is going to give giving goosebumps a shot. Keep your eyes peeled for the Goosebumps movie, hitting theaters next August!

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