Tito W. James: All right. So I’m here at DragonCon 2019 and I’m here with Tim Jacobus, illustrator of those fabulous Goosebumps covers that gave us all goosebumps has kids. I’m curious, what frightened you as a child?
Tim Jacobus: You know, I was one of those kids who was scared of everything. If I was a kid when Goosebumps came out I probably wouldn’t have read them because I’d too afraid. So the irony here is the guy who was too afraid is the guy creating the scares. So, I’m a scaredy-cat.
TWJ: What made you shift into drawing for comedic horror?
TJ: I had started out working with Scholastic and I did all kinds of books. I used to do these “women in jeopardy” series and they like when I played with the saturated colors. I did a lot of buildings with a doll lying in the gutter or something like that.
So, I did these slightly warped perspectives and I used saturated colors, and when Goosebumps came along [Scholastic] was like, “Yeah, I think you could move to this.” They were looking for light hearted. [Scholastic] was really afraid that Goosebumps was going to be too scary and they thought that my use of color would take that edge off of it.
Now the humor comes from RL Stine. He’s the guy who writes a little bit of comedic stuff into the art and its my job to reflect what’s in his stories.
TWJ: I think the hamster cover is a perfect example of humor combined with horror. It’s a funny premise that would be terrifying in real life.
TJ: Yeah, I do I still continue to keep that element of humor in the covers because I think that’s people like.
TWJ: In contemporary society there’s a lot more ways to scientifically debunk the notion of ghost and goblins. So do you think that the horrors of yesteryear can still feel scary to the kids of today?
TJ: When I was little, technology and special effects were horrible. And what I noticed with my son, is from a very early the age he could discern what was real and what was fake just like that instinctively. I didn’t have to explain it to him. And I think even kids today, even though special effects of mind-blowing now, still have that radar that they can detect the stuff.
The idea of ghosts and spirits and things that are unexplainable that never goes away. That’s human nature. And I think that even the old stuff still seems cool. I think it depends on how old the movie is will, you know, will the kid buy into it, but they may still just enjoy it for what it is you watch the original Frankenstein. You’re going to think that’s cool. I don’t care how old you are.
TWJ: So do you have any advice to aspiring artists who want to do something that mixes horror and humor?
TJ: If you’re an artist I won’t tell you what you should paint. It’s more about doing what comes naturally to you. Because that’s going to be what you can move forward. paint the stuff that affects you if it’s horror, jump on it and do your thing. But if that’s not your thing do what makes you passionate because in the long run, it’s just you sitting at home doing this and you’re kind of isolating yourself from everything else you have to concentrate on it and it’s a very self-serving isolated world.
So you should enjoy it because and it’s great when other people see it and they liked it but I spent 30 hours to create a finished piece of art all by myself alone and then I can turn it to you and you look at it and in five seconds, you’ll go “Yeah cool” and walk away. So I spent 30 hours and instantaneous response is all that there is and then it goes away.
Yeah, make sure if you are an artist do what you love to do because you’re doing it all the time.
I’d like to thank Tim Jacobus for taking the time to do this interview.