The Mummy Returns… Again…

Almost forgot about this guy. Just in time for Halloween, too. I considered sticking with tradition and discussing historical or literary facts about mummies, but I haven’t personally read any books about mummies (one short story comes to mind, though the name eludes me at the moment), and since the internet is not exactly lacking in historical write-ups about ancient Egypt, I figured no one is coming to my blog for such common knowledge.

The movie, however, is another story. And I am talking about the 1932 Universal Studios version, The Mummy. It was, after all, the classic Hollywood movie monsters that inspired this set of  mug shot illustrations. That said, what better tribute than to acknowledge one of the most iconic Hollywood purveyors of horror, Boris Karloff. When I think of the mummy, I’m definitely seeing Karloff’s face wrapped in time-worn cotton strips, looking as though he might disintegrate to dust with the slightest tap on the cheek.

Additional movies were made by Universal Studios that deviated from the plot of The Mummy. In 1940 they made The Mummy’s Hand, wherein Tom Tyler plays the role of Kharis the Mummy. Lon Chaney Jr. would take over the role in this movie’s sequel, The Mummy’s Tomb, and he would go on to reprise his role in The Mummy’s Ghost and The Mummy’s Curse. And while these movies were all successful in their own right, you just can’t beat Boris Karloff’s interpretation, in this blogger’s opinion.

My illustration deviates from the Hollywood image with the addition of the decorated chin piece. mummy-vintage-mugshotThat particular adornment was typically found on the sarcophagus rather than the mummy itself, but I liked the touch of color it added to my graphic. I may have been inspired by a Scooby-Doo cartoon. Who knows. Artistic license, and what not. Plus, Karloff’s masterful makeup retained his features, whereas mine leans more toward the modern zombie-style. Because, zombies. (As always, a vector of this image can be downloaded from Just 3 credits, kids! Trick-or-Treat! Yay!)

Speaking of which, what if you had a story about an Egyptian mummy-zombie? Let’s be honest; that’s a different concept than zombies or mummies on their own. The traditional way to kill a zombie is to brain the thing, whereas mummy’s, as most of us know, have their brain removed (through their nasal cavity) prior to mummification. So how the hell would you kill that thing? How, indeed. Yeah. I bet you hadn’t thought about that. Well, think about it. Then let me know. I like to be prepared.

I also wanted to share this killer movie poster I stumbled upon on Wikipedia. It’s a Karloff_UncannyMummybeautifully high-resolution image, and according to Wikipedia, it’s in Public Domain (the design is attributed to Karoly Grosz, via the Los Angeles Public Library). I love the myriad colors that went into the creation of this painting, and the fiery hot text of KARLOFF is a beautiful juxtaposition to the mummified text of MUMMY. This style of painting is often replicated, but the digital reproductions still pale in comparison to these original hand-painted wonders. I could stare at this for hours envisioning the process; the layers of color, the layout of the text, the meticulous attention to detail… I’m so accustomed to throwing something together then shifting the text this way or that, nudging up the main focus of the design, reversing this aspect or that, and adjusting the colors with a few simple clicks of the mouse. The thought of putting this all together without the ability to COMMAND+Z (yeah, I’m a Mac user) just boggles my mind.

I’m also including this short (38 sec) YouTube clip showing Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Bella Lugosi, and John Barrymore in various behind-the-scenes scenarios. I just got a kick out of it; perhaps you will, too.

Well, I think this does it for my Halloween contributions this year. Perhaps I’ll expand on my mugshots at a later date. I need to add a quality witch illustration, and perhaps a ghost or a genuine zombie could work their way into the mix. And definitely a Lon Chaney Sr.-inspired Phantom of the Opera. That would be fun. Until next time-

A Monster By Any Other Name

Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, is one of my favorite horror novels. As a teenager, it was both refreshing and surprising to read the book, when all I knew of it was the pop-culture imitations (inspired almost exclusively by Boris Karloff’s iconic portrayal). The creature within the pages was not a slow-witted, mindless beast, but rather a sensitive and compassionate man, whose unchecked rage and violence were the result of personal misery from ostracization. As I recall, the creature wasn’t even ugly, per se (nor green, for that matter). The description in the book referred to him as grotesquely beautiful, which I can only imagine as a beauty born of his unnatural creation.

That said, it was still Boris Karloff’sfrank-vintage-mugshot grotesque visage that inspired my clip art (in the same vein that the monsters of the Golden Era of Hollywood inspired my fascination with the horror genre). You can download a vector version of the art from

Did you know that the monstrous creation within Mary Shelley’s gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus never had a name? It was certainly referred to as the monster, the creature, and even the devil, but she never gave the beast a definitive name of his own. Some suggest his name was Adam, based on the line from the novel spoken by the creature, “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel,” but even as you read that line, it’s clear the beast is merely drawing a correlation.

In early stage plays, the creature is billed as “_____,” and even in the Universal Picture’s 1931 movie “Frankenstein,” the character Boris Karloff famously portrayed was listed as “Unnamed.” But with nothing else to call him, those who knew only of the theatrical representation came to know the monster as Frankenstein. That’s pop culture for you.

However, if you happen to be fond of correcting people for referring to the beast as Frankenstein—“Frankenstein is the name of the doctor, not the monster”—or if you, yourself have been called out for misidentifying the beast, then you should be made aware of the following passage from Mary Shelley’s book. In chapter 16, during a conversation between the creature and Victor Frankenstein, the creature says, “I learned from your papers that you were my father, my creator; and to whom could I apply with more fitness than to him who had given me life?” Right there the monster refers to Victor as his father. And while it’s true that not all sons share their father’s surname, it’s safe to say that most men do, in fact, bear the name of their father before them. So the next time someone challenges you for referring to the creature as “Frankenstein,” you can dig this passage out of your memory bank and prove the nay-sayers wrong.

Being one of my favorite novels, I pull this out at least once every couple years and re-read it as the seasons start to change and Halloween approaches. I get something new out of it every time I read it, and each time, I’m inspired to create a new illustration to mirror my imaginings. I’m almost done reading Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, and once I’m finished, I believe The Modern Prometheus will be back on my list. Will I start referring to the creature as Adam Frankenstein? Probably not. But I’ll be sure to offer a viable argument for those who (as I once did) feel the need to correct the “less informed” for their misuse of the moniker “Frankenstein.” And yes, Jeremy Messersmith, I promise to stop correcting you now.