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Panel of Experts: Favorite Monsters

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favorite monsters

Question: What are your favorite monsters and what specifically appeals to you about them?

A lot of us love the classic Universal monsters and could not choose just one. Some of us most fear the monsters we recognize the best for our worst impulses — murderers, serial killers, angry and sad people. Some of us most enjoy the monsters we see some positive qualities of ourselves in — vampires and werewolves and dragons we might love or tame. This perhaps means that some of us like our horror with hope of a happy ending and some of us prefer the no escape variety.

At the end of the day, the vampires win. The vampire is, with no close second place, our favorite monster. We love its erotic sensuality, its versatility, its brutality, its immortality, and its intelligence.

Coming in at a distant second place, we find human monsters pretty scary. Some of us find monsters sort of silly and a lot of us find homo sapiens downright terrifying. Special recognition to Hannibal Lecter and serial killer company.

In third place are werewolves. We enjoy the idea of the beast within, nature getting the best of us but only sometimes, and the power of werewolf passions both erotic and furious. Bonus points for puberty metaphor.

Zombies and Lovecraftian terrors tie for fourth place. Zombies just generally amuse us and we are intrigued by the combination of their shambling weakness and their hungry relentlessness. Cthulu and the Deep Ones and their ilk are unknown and terrible and could probably kick the ass of all of the other monsters. A lot of us felt that the unknown monster in general is always the most scary. Next up are ghosts. We find them disturbing for their sorrow, powers of invisibility, and agendas. Honorable mentions to the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Pumpkinhead, demons, Godzilla, King Kong, Frankenstein, Bigfoot, mummies, killer robots, aliens, and Dick Cheney who were all mentioned more than once.

Monsters are beautiful. When I see a good monster, I think about the creative process behind it. From the beginning stages of design, hours of make-up and prosthetics, all resulting in something very different to be manipulated with light and shadow. I love the Universal Monsters for their effective simplicity, as well as Daikaiju and Japan’s caring commitment for traditional suitmation for more than half a century.

Eric Swartz, dark artist

I want to be all uber-cool and say something really original. But I wrote my thesis on vampire legends, so, well, yeah, vampires. Most cultures have some sort of monster which is very alluring, even though it could destroy us. In a way, the vampire is a metaphor for love; I love the idea of sex with monsters because of the concept of abandoning yourself to a lover who could destroy you, but may choose not to. Yes, I realize I am implicitly condoning YA sparkle vamp romance here. From a YA perspective, I think the current popular culture incarnation of the vampire is appealing in that it is possible to be a “nice” girl and still get sex or some blood-sucking mind-meld semblance thereof.

Amelia G, writer

Hannibal Lecter is my all time favorite because you just can’t help but root for the guy, even as he eats people. How cool is that?

Adam Pepper, writer

As a kid I really identified with Dracula, for his sense of style, his aura of power, his sensual presence, his sweeping cape–and the fact that he was well spoken. Personally I probably identify with Mr Hyde more than any…I’ve had to struggle with my own Mr Hyde.

John Shirley, writer

My favorite monster is Japanese. It’s Kappa. It’s a cucumber eating river god. Every small town in Japan has their own regional monster, and they have positive characteristics in addition to meting out punishment. Amon Goethe from Schindler’s List is a particularly well-rendered monster. He’s human, with likable qualities that make his horrific tendencies even more terrible. The idea that under other circumstances he might have been the life of the party betrays a truth about human nature which is inherently unsettling. Nazis make great villains. Well-dressed evil is a constant source of fascination.

Matt Kennedy, writer

Vampires are probably my favorite, although I wouldn’t term them as “monsters” exactly. Other monsters are not my favorite subject and unless it had to do with supernatural or paranormal I probably would have no interest.

Corrine De Winter, writer

The Gillman is hands down my favorite of all the Universal Monsters because I think there’s more there than just a big soggy killing machine. I think he’s like Frankenstein and just trying to find his place in things more or less. However, part of that seems to be kidnapping blondes but who can blame him for that really? The lagoon really just needs a woman’s touch and he’s just trying to find love. Poor guy.

Vaughn Belak, dark artist

I like monsters. Werewolves, vampires, shape shifters, zombies, mummies, demons, ghosts: they’re all good. I write primarily historical horror and there are so many opportunities to repurpose history for my own plots and incorporate a monster – re-explain why a historical figure did the things he or she did – because they were cursed in some form, or a monster.

Angeline Hawkes, writer

As a guy known for his werewolf novels (Wolf’s Trap, Wolf’s Gambit, Wolf’s Bluff, Wolf’s Edge), I’d have to say werewolves appeal to me more, but not exclusively. I’ve written extensively about the “beast within” concept, which I find fascinating. The idea that all humans have a dark side analogous to a monster waiting to emerge and take control. The werewolf also works well as a metaphor for puberty and related issues, as has been explored fairly thoroughly. I’m interested in how the werewolf phenomenon led to executions of most likely innocent people in the Dark Ages. I’m attracted by the eroticism of the heightened libido that the inner wolf might reflect (again, well-explored in popular movies and books), as well as the connections to erotic folklore (Little Red Riding Hood and so on) and to mythology.

W. D. Gagliani, writer

The creeper from Jeepers Creepers (sense of humor and a realization of when he is twisting the knife), the lead vampire from Lifeforce (She is so damn hot!)

Del Howison, writer

If I could be a monster, I would want to be a shape shifter (animal, demon, robot, anything). I’ve always loathed my body and the idea of being able to transform it is like heroin to me.

Will Judy, writer

I’m not much into monsters. Lecter in Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon – because Harris brilliantly, mythically portrayed what we most fear and are drawn to about human monsters.

Alexandra Sokoloff, writer

I love the idea that a monster can be intelligent and discerning. Therefore I really love Pumpkinhead, the Mummy from the 1932 and 1999 versions, and the creatures in Nightbreed like Peloquin. This preference is why the creature in my horror novel Voracious is intelligent, cunning, and able to speak.

Alice Henderson, writer

Any type of monster that appears with little explanation. For me, the less you know about a creature/monster, the scarier it is.

Anthony Izzo, writer

I have difficulty writing convincingly about monsters, since I don’t believe in them. I find it hard to take them seriously. If I write a story about a werewolf (for example, “Silvery Moon” in When the Night Comes Down) the odds are that he probably isn’t what he seems to be and the supernatural element is more speculative than “real.” I’m less interested in the monsters themselves (especially mindless monsters) than in the reactions of characters to their existence. ‘Salem’s Lot isn’t interesting because there are vampires in town—it’s interesting because of how the characters band together to stave them off . . . or give in to them.

Bev Vincent, writer

Dracula (classy, sexy), the Devil (powerful, sexy)

Bob Johnson, writer

I don’t have a specific favorite, just as long as they are well done.

Carl Alves, writer

I’ve been partial to monsters, as a general concept, since I was old enough to understand the definition of the word. As an adult, I’ve been a particular fan of vampires for over 20 years, with zombies running a close second. In both cases, I think it’s their social/archetypal adaptability that draws me – they mean whatever we need them to mean at any given time. That’s awesome.

Chad Savage, dark artist

Well, Bernie Madoff was not my “favorite” monster, but he certainly deserves a mention and George W. Bush gets a vote, too. What I particularly like about Bernie is that he’s in jail for life. I only wish “W” could join him there. Doesn’t everybody love the classic monsters like Frankenstein and Count Dracula? I used to teach a college class, in fact, about the classic horror flicks of that era. Then you’ve got things like “The Blob” and “The Thing” and the recent really horrifying films like “28 Days.” And I saw a piece on “The Asylum” film guys who are making movies like “Snakes on a Train” and “Transmorfers,” which really amused me.

Connie Corcoran Wilson, writer

Zombies. I love the atmosphere of slowly approaching death, relentless like the tides.

Derek Gunn, writer

Vampires, definitely, because I think the legend has so many different aspects to explore. I think the hot-sex-with-vampires thing has been overdone (though in my two vampire books there is definitely sex). I think the mind-control aspect, the longevity, the invulnerability and the paranormal talents all have a lot of potential in fiction. I also like offbeat monsters that aren’t used too often. I’ve written about a genetically-modified CEO, a pagan fertility god reincarnated as heartthrob actor and a Celtic god of the underworld lurking in a mining town. In the book I’m working on now, a tulpa (vengeful thought-form) is stalking a rock band.

E. F. Watkins, writer

I always loved Pumpkinhead, Stan Winston’s created the best creature design next to Giger’s Alien.

Ed Mironiuk, dark artist

I love Bigfoot and El Chupacabra! Both fascinate me because of their elusiveness, which appeals to my imagination because I can fantasize that they’re real and justify the fact that neither has ever been proven by simply reminding myself that the giant squid used to be a myth too. I can think that it’s only a matter of time before a real Bigfoot or a real Chupacabra is found. In a sense, it’s like being a kid and believing all sorts of things are possible and not having any inkling that they might NOT be possible. I also like to think of these two creatures as terribly misunderstood. They’ve been given a bad rap, and I like to think of them just as animals like any other, only feared because no one knows enough about them.

Elizabeth Blue, writer

Godzilla, Frankenstein, Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy. They all had style.

G. O. Clark, writer

Old fashioned feral, vicious vampires because they’re so intense. Lovecraft’s multi-dimensional monsters broke new ground. My favorite monsters are the ones that pass among us, unnoticed, predatory, and deadly.

Gene Stewart, writer

Ultimately monsters are a part of what we are (Jekyll and Hyde, vampires, werewolves, etc) or represent the unknowable (“the other” and beyond – from bugs to aliens to entities). Both have their uses, and I like them all.

Gerard Houarner, writer

Varies greatly. Vampires are quite fun for the erotic contagion aspect. Then you get your Deep Ones for a profoundly NON-erotic contagion.

Greg Stolze, writer

I love zombies and ghouls, always have, but getting pretty tired of them. Burned out on vampires twenty years ago. I’m inclined to appreciate attempts to create new ones from mythology or imagination.

Harry Shannon, writer

I find most monsters make me laugh, although I enjoy classical monsters, e.g Polyphemus the one eyed giant, Cerberus the dog and the Harpies in Jason and the Golden Fleece. Several of the most recent monsters I enjoyed were in the Spanish film, Pan’s Labyrinth. I prefer my monsters to be serial killers and murderers.

Helen McCabe, writer

Dragons, because you think that they might be tamed

Jameson Currier, writer

Vampires. They’re rife with so much historic, cultural, religious and erotic symbolism.

Jean Graham, writer

Vampires, for the obvious reason, it’s what I write. I love the allure of a creature with immortal life who is both angel and demon.

Jeanne C. Stein, writer

Vampires are the obvious answer (darkness, sexy, generally physically intact, addictive, immortal), but I also like old-fashioned nature-abstracted movie monsters. Mecha-Ghidorah? Oh yeah.

Jemiah Jefferson, writer

I don’t think I have favorites. I like the classics – vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts – and all the variations of them. Shapeshifters. Good and bad vampires. Werewolf detectives. Magicians/wizards. I like nature-based monsters, like Wendigos and Bigfoot. I enjoy aliens hiding as people. I like dinosaurs. For me, it’s the book, not the monster, that’s important. But if it has a classic monster on the cover, odds are I’ll pick the book up and read the back cover.

J. G. Faherty, writer

Cthulhu and Lovecraftian creatures are my favorite monsters. As an illustrator, I think it’s the visual that appeals to me more than what they do.

Jill Bauman, dark artist

‘Jaws’ is one hell of a fish and scares the bejesus out of me. He is quite literally a lurking leviathan that celebrates our most primal fears of predation. I also love Barker’s Hellraiser character ‘Pinhead’ or in his book ‘Lead Cenobite’. All of the masochistic, other-worldly madness that accompanies him truly introduces a complex terror of how different beliefs can be perceived. A dogma of pain as pleasure and vice versa harkens to how religions can steer off course and get spooky. Everything really is a matter of point of view—what is unholy is made holy. It makes me think about those all too eager gentlemen in the Philippines that crucify themselves every year.

J. R. Parks, writer

“Alien” (and descendants) had a great visual look and intelligence, which places them above most movie monsters.

Karen A. Romanko, writer

Zombies – mostly because they are us, and that is terrifying.

Kevin David Anderson, writer

Lovecraftian terrors. I came late to Lovecraft, first reading him and the others working in his shadow (like Lumley’s TITUS CROWE) in my late 20s. The purpleness of the prose aside, I really think Lovecraft’s work set in motion the whole of modern horror, with its emphasis on man’s insignificance in the universe and our utter inability to even comprehend the things that really should scare us more than noises in the dark.

Lon Prater, writer

My favorite monsters are ghosts, because when I’ve interacted with them personally, it’s been really fun. I love to see what an author or filmmaker can do.

Loren Rhoads, writer

Don’t have a favorite monster.

Lisa Mannetti, writer

I don’t think I have a favorite, although I’ve always had a certain fondness for The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Lisa Morton, writer

I like monsters that lack definition. My favorite monsters still reside in Midian. What appeals to me about them is the fact they lack definition—they are amorphous. One has horns and blue skin, one has snake-like appendages topped with eyes coming from his belly. Shuna Sassi is a porcupine-like beast who moves like a bird, and Peloquin has fleshy hair that flows like squid tentacles. Are they werebeasts, vampires? No one really knows all their abilities. They’re diverse monsters that can’t be pinned down and categorized. This is one of the reasons I like working with the concept of fae in my horror, or dark fantasy. For me, fae represent that amorphous monster / creature that can’t be pinned down and easily understood, easily categorized. I like changeable monsters that lack definition.

Louise Bohmer, writer

I always seem to come back to ghosts. You can do a lot with them, they still actually freak people out, and many of the stories are somewhat psychological in nature.

Marcy Italiano, writer

Vampires. They represent the allure of the Other in deceptively human shape, with a skewed viewpoint on the human condition. The drinking of blood fascinates because it represents the ultimate intimacy. Vampires also have the advantage of being the most versatile of monsters, both in literature and in legend. (Whatever traits you want to give your fictional vampire, you can probably find a vampire or vampire-like creature somewhere in folklore to justify them.)

Margaret L. Carter, writer

Godzilla: he meant well. Least favorite monster: Dick Cheney.

Marge Simon, writer

I love ghosts – there’s a relentless quality about them as well as a sadness that I find enchanting.

Marie O’Regan, writer

Classic Frankenstein’s monster – creepy, gothic, but the monster has a soul Werewolves – whether in control or not, I like the shadow within becoming manifest Zombies – they scare me… really.

Mark Onspaugh, writer

I don’t have a favorite few. All monsters ever dreamed up from The Green Slime to the Deadly Mantis to whatever Kolchak was stalking.

M. F. Korn, writer

I love old school werewolves, the idea of this carnal demonic force roaming within you, railing against your human side. I’m also partial to devils, as they can take on so many interesting incarnations. I like an intelligent monster.

Michael J. Hultquist, writer

Vampires because they are like us at our worst

Mick Sims, writer

Cthulu. How can you not love Cthulu?

M. R. Sellars, writer

Vampires are my long-time favorite, which is why I edited the anthology EVOLVE. I wanted to take the vampire to a new level.

I also adore zombies, if one can adore zombies. I think they’re pretty fascinating to read about and write about.

Nancy Kilpatrick, writer

I love werewolves. I just adore them. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but I think part of it has to do with Universal’s THE WOLF MAN being one of my favorite movies as a child. I was a pretty sheltered kid, so maybe the idea of letting your animal side loose appealed to me in ways I couldn’t quite comprehend at the time. I also like ghosts. They scare the crap out of me. They can be anywhere at any time. Plus, they can be invisible, so you don’t even know when they’re watching you, or when they’re behind you and reaching out to touch you…gah!

Nicholas Kaufmann, writer

I’ve always been a sucker for werewolves. I mean, how cool would it to be a normal person for most of the month, and then be able to kick ass on your enemies during the full moon? Such an ability would have really come in handy during my tormented years in high school.

Owl Goingback, writer

My favorite monster is man. Do I need to explain?

P. S. Gifford, writer

I have a real fondness for zombies, mainly because they gave me my first TV credit – when ‘Dead Time’ was adapted for the NBC TV series Fear Itself as ‘New Year’s Day’. But I’ve always loved them, ever since seeing the Romeros and the Lucio Fulci zombie movies.

Paul Kane, writer

The Creature from the Black Lagoon! He is Hollywood’s most misunderstood monster, and I love him best. You could argue King Kong, but really, his damsel and even his captor understood him.

Rain Graves, writer

Frankenstein. I mean, who wouldn’t feel sorry for an enormous, lumbering creature assembled from the body parts of dead criminals? I know I would!

Richard Dean Starr, writer

Ghosts are one of my personal favorites when done well. I like the creepy supernatural aspect of ghosts, the whole life-after-death question. I don’t think mutants have gotten a fair shake yet, maybe they’ll take over after the zombies.

Ryan M. Williams, writer

Not a big monster guy, although the original Alien creature never fails to freak me the fuck out. It’s just icky. You just feel violated looking at it.

Shade Rupe, writer

Godzilla. Big honking city-smashing dinosaur-like beasties are the best. Probably something to do with a slight misanthropic streak on my part. The spectacle of a giant rubber monster trashing a well-crafted miniature city is a wonder to behold. It’s easy for me to envision daikaiju as real. I’d love to see a bunch of them walking up and down the street, complete with a rousing Akira Ifukube musical score in the background.

Stephen Mark Rainey, writer

Vampires. I don’t know why, I just love vampires.

Steve Calvert, writer

King Kong and Frankenstein’s Monster, who had a touching, human (pathos) side to them. Hannibal Lectre. Norman Bates in Psycho. The clown in the movie version of Steve King’s It. Kathy Bates in Misery. Hal the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Butcher Bill in the movie Gangs of New York.

Steve Burt, writer

Well, I’m going to have to go with werewolves since I’ve written about them so much. They are a metaphor for that release of our primal self, the animal we all suppress in modern, polite society. I love the Jekyll/Hyde idea of being able to drop that mask and release the beast.

Steve E. Wedel, writer

Gray aliens unnerve me the most. Grays are the ultimate “other.” Vampires, ghosts, and zombies were once us. You can try to reason with them, or understand their emotions or motivations, their hungers and urges. Perhaps see something of ourselves, or of God’s handiwork, in them. But Grays are utterly alien. They don’t share our feelings, motivations, or religions. Grays challenge our understanding of the universe, and our role in it, as no other monster does.

Thomas M. Sipos, writer

I like different monsters for different things. I’m particularly fond of zombies, vampires, mutants, aliens, werewolves and cryptids.

Thomas S. Roche, writer

Imagery created via Universal and Raygun Robyn

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