R.L. Stine, a man whose name seems born to be featured on 160 books of children’s horror fiction, told an utterly packed room at New York Comic Con that he never intended to write the Goosebumps series. Stine is an incredibly sarcastic and sardonic man, speaking like your uncle from New York who’s lived too long, seen too much, and takes a not-so-serious view on life.
Though it’s hard to take everything he said at face value, the author said that while working on his series called Fear Street (which recently got a reboot of sorts on Netflix), which he described as “a series where you get to kill teenagers,” his editor told him he should work on a new series of kid’s horror fiction. The younger version of himself didn’t want to take attention away from Fear Street’s audience, so he said he would do it if he could find a good title for whatever would come out of it.
“I was going through the TV Guide and I saw that it said ‘it’s goosebumps week on channel 11,’” he said, knowing he now had to do it. He added: “When I was a kid, I never planned to write horror, I just always wanted to be funny. When I was a kid there was Tales From the Crypt, and I just loved them—the artwork was amazing. They were scary and funny at the same time. And that’s what I always try to do.”
Stine was also joined at the Friday panel by James Howe, the co-author of the famed children’s book series Bunnicula, there to promote the 40 years of his series that enticed children in the ‘80s onward with its titular rabbit draining tomatoes of color with its sharp fangs. His recently released Bunnicula: The Graphic Novel retells the classic story of a family’s pets trying to prove this vampiric bunny isn’t what it claims to be.
Howe said he and his late wife Debbie were mostly-out-of-work actors who came onto the idea after watching hour upon hour of schlocky B movies, especially vampire tales, on late-night TV. Howe started to think about what what would be the worst creature to become vampiric, and came upon the idea of Count Bunnicula.
Howe’s few books in the Bunnicula series pales in comparison to the more-than 160 novels Stine has claimed he’s written (there’s been some dispute if Stine fully authored every single one). Still, both authors found themselves adorned in the adoration of fans at NYCC, some on the younger side, but others who said they grew up reading their books. Fans brought up some of their favorite Goosebumps books, like The Haunted Mask and The Girl Who Cried Monster. The former, Stine said, came from an incident when his son Matthew accidentally got a Frankenstein mask stuck on his head.
Stine’s latest Goosebumps novel, Slappy, Beware!, marks the return of the sentient ventriloquist dummy Slappy, a character so renowned in Goosebumps he’s appeared in numerous books and was an end villain of sorts in the 2015 Goosebumps movie. Stine was the first one to admit that Slappy’s origins have changed multiple times over the years, and this latest book reinvents that story yet again.
Why write another book about Slappy? “Well, I had no choice,” the author said. “Everybody loves Slappy. How do I write 1,200 books about Slappy? Believe me, it’s not that easy to keep telling the story about a dummy who comes to life, and they don’t know it, and then they do know it. I even killed him once, I did a book called The Ghost of Slappy. I had to bring him back. Don’t tell anyone, he’s sick of it.”
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