John Dies at the End by David Wong & the art of Jordan Monsell
  Book Reviews    October 31, 2015     Lucio Rodriguez

 

Every midnight in October: a great work of horror and a conversation with an artist. All works are on display in The Last Bookstore. Don’t forget to pick up a map when you get to the store, so you don’t miss anything, or take a peek here.

 

Those monsters you only see from the corner of your eye; the faces watching you from the T.V. screen; the secret messages you hear from passersby, or see scrawled on shop windows—it’s all real. It’s the vanguard of the coming otherworld/alien/monster/demon invasion. But don’t worry: David and John are here to stop it. They’re not the heroes we need, nor the heroes we deserve. They’re just the heroes we get.

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In John Dies at the End, by David Wong, we meet video store employees David and John. When they’re exposed to “Soy Sauce”—a drug (maybe?) that opens the user’s mind to windows in time and space—they can suddenly see the horrors that forever lurk around us. They become specialists, of a sort. John takes this new role in stride. Demonic possession, ghosts – it’s just a thing he does now. As for the story’s narrator, David? He’s apathetic at best; monster hunting is just another crappy retail job he has to clock in for.

While the novel is graphic—I lost track of the number of ways body parts explode or tear off—its biggest strength is how fun it is to read. Wong uses clever (if garish) turns of phrase, and quickly we learn to take them both figuratively and literally. The situations they find themselves in are absurd. What are they fighting against? Toupee wearing arachnids, a turkey-headed meat monster, among other things. But the story is internally consistent, even with this absurdity. So when John brandishes a Bible electric-taped to a baseball bat, you’ll shrug and think, “Sure, makes sense.”  And with the time-altering effects of Soy Sauce, insignificant events that take place anywhere in the novel can have plot-altering results anywhere else in the novel. This gives the author carte blanche to write any nonsense event and give it instant context. Did I mention this story is narrated in the past tense, David relaying it to a reporter? But, doesn’t that mean that everything works out? That David and John stopped the invasion and saved us all? Well, that’s the thing about the effects of Soy Sauce, and the novel’s end is where things get really weird…

Just remember: The world is going to end. Probably. And it’s all David and John’s fault.

 

JORDAN MONSELL with Lucio Rodriguez

 

I met up with Jordan Monsell at Long Beach Comic Con. Amid the explosive colors of superhero and Anime characters, his booth in Artist Alley was a stark contrast. His art is all silhouettes: intricate and elegant black and white cut-outs of Stormtroopers, Iron Man, Edward Scissorhands. He showed me some of his work, and a commission he was working on while at the convention.

 

Lucio Rodriguez – Halloween is closing in. Do you have any costumes in mind? Do you have any Halloween traditions?

Jordan Monsell – Well, I haven’t gone trick-or-treating in years, but typically I love to dress up. I’ll spend probably more money than I should on costumes. I grew up in a house where we always made our own costumes, so I try to carry on that tradition and make a lot of it. This Halloween I’ll be at Comikaze doing the silhouettes. It’s a three day event, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and I think Friday or Saturday it falls on Halloween. But I’ll be dressed up as something comfortable enough for me to cut silhouettes in.

 

LR – So no Thing or The Hulk?

JM – Exactly. I love dressing up as Batman or Beetlejuice, but I’d be so uncomfortable standing and cutting silhouettes all day. But something that inspires the age of silhouettes. Something Victorian or Edwardian like Edgar Allan Poe. Last year at Halloween I was Ichabod Crane from Sleepy Hollow.

LR – So, you finished your art piece for the Last Spookstore event. How’d that come along?

JM – It was fun. It was kind of a different take on silhouettes that I’m normally used to. I usually do cutouts of people. I’ve done some vehicles and buildings in the past but this one incorporates weapons from John Dies at the End, and a little bit of ink as well. Most of my silhouettes are just cut paper, but I decided to incorporate some splatter ink for the Soy Sauce.

You will find "John Dies at the End" in the New Dark Lords section of A Horror Story Art Show

You will find “John Dies at the End” in the New Dark Lords section of A Horror Story Art Show

LR – We should talk about your technique and silhouettes. I’ve seen silhouettes before, but mostly in textbooks. How’d you get into this? How do you do it? I see a fancy pair of scissors here…

JM – Well, I fell into it three or four years ago. My mom taught me the craft of it. She’s been cutting silhouettes since before I was born. At least thirty-five, thirty-six years. She came out to visit and she decided to teach me how to do it. I love that she’s passing that down, passing the torch, so to speak, and keeping that art form alive. There’s very few people cutting silhouettes these days, it’s kind of a lost art form. I think there’s five or six of us in Southern California that do it. My mom lives in Maine, and she’s really one of only a few people in all of New England that cuts silhouettes. I use a pair of scissors, they’re very sharp, very precise—they’re like surgical scissors, and that’s really how they were done.

LR – They look like lab-grade scissors.

JM – Right, yeah. This particular pair are from Switzerland. But you could use cuticle scissors; a lot of silhouette artists just use medical scissors. But that’s really how they were done two hundred, three hundred years ago. There’s some artists that use Exacto knives or even laser cutting, but I try to do it in the traditional style.

LR – I see a lot of pop-culture in here, a lot of steampunk and superheroes. Is there anything in particular that you enjoy doing?

JM – Oh, sure. I love doing all the pop-culture stuff. It seems like, and I don’t want to stereotype here, but a lot of silhouette artists I meet are women my mom’s age. They’re over fifty, over sixty, so I really wanted to branch out and do pop-culture stuff. I also do weddings and birthdays and Bar Mitzvahs, and I’m happy to do a silhouette of your cat or your kid or your dog, but I love Batman and Star Wars and video games. I want to show what those characters would look like in that traditional, classic silhouette style.

LR – They look really good.

JM – Thank you.

LR – Do you have any books you’d recommend for artists—and that can be either art books or any literature that you enjoy.

JM – I find inspiration in all sorts of things. We’re here at a comic book convention, I would say to any artist that wants to get into comic books, How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. That’s almost the Bible for young illustrators. Getting back to Halloween, everything from Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King, I find inspiration in all of that.

LR – Is there anything else you wanted to share? Anything else about your work? Your mom’s meatloaf recipe?

JM – Oh, sheeze. She wasn’t the cook in our family—that was totally my dad. My mom would make the salad. No, I just want to wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween, and I’m looking forward to the Last Spookstore show. I think it’s a great idea, mixing literature and art.

LR – Where can we see more of your work?

JM – I’m on both Facebook and Etsy, same name: SilhouettesByJordan. But I’m in quite a few stores around L.A.: Down at Whimsic Alley on Wilshire Blvd.; I’m in Steampunk Coffee Bar and Kitchen, which is a café in Valley Village; I’m in Bearded Lady Vintage and Oddities in Burbank as well as Geeky Teas in Burbank. There’s a few places where you can get my prints and sometimes originals that are hanging up.

 

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