Thursday, 28 July 2011

One Question Interview #26: Ben Newman

Picture of The Bento Bestiary nabbed from our friends at Nobrow

As even the most casual ATF reader knows, the way to my heart is through a momentous amount of kaiju references. With that it mind, it shouldn't be hard to figure out why Ben Newman - illustrator behind Nobrow's fantastic yokai-inspired compendium The Bento Bestiary - has forced us out of our hiatus with this volume-length and video-packed answer to our long-standing question about his favourite monsters. This one's got it all, folks: Mattel, Ultraman, late 80s anime, more Ultraman, and the mighty Garamon; so sit back, relax, and enjoy what just might be my favourite One Question Interview yet:

Q: Our favourite monsters in The Bento Bestiary are Taimatsu Maru, Nue and Wanyudo. Whom are your favourite monsters?

I was thinking about this question as I was falling asleep last night and as I desperately tried to enter Slumberland I started to think back to what my earliest experiences with monsters were in my childhood. I was born in January 1982 which was the year Return of the Jedi came out into cinemas and although I was mere weeks old when it was released, I believe this was a point in time where movie and television merchandise was starting to hit an all time peak. When I think of all the difficulty my parents would have at Christmas trying desperately to buy the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Thunder-tank or Optimus Prime or whatever the relentlessly new cartoon phenomenon was governing the brains of children everywhere, I feel awful that I would cause them so much stress and money year after year. Especially now, as an adult, when I understand that excess money is not easy to come by and, with the gift of hindsight, can look back and see how my parents struggled to make ends meet while trying to please their children. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that, as a child, I loved toys especially Monster toys and this is the basis of my fascination with them as a grown up. So to answer the question (rather than write a dull mini autobiography about presents I have received at Christmas over the past 30 years), I have decided to compile a top ten of favourite monsters (in no particular order) that I feel have influenced me a great deal growing up and within my work.

10. Hordak (from The Evil Horde featured in the He-man and She-re cartoons)
Crazy evil Mohawk skull with a up-turned collar? Check. Bat encrusted battle chest plate in BLACK? Double check. Deemed to be far more bad ass than Skeletor (was skeletor much of a bad ass? His high-pitch-maiden-like-screeching voice makes me think otherwise), Hordak really knew how to turn heads in his little furry black pants and knee-high, steel toed boots. For me though, the very graphical, symmetrical look of his face pulls the right optical nerves and has done since I was a wee nipper, just watch the grainy video below to believe me.

9. My Pet Monster
'My Pet Monster' was the monster equivalent of Teddy Rukspin and although put together with some of the most garish colours pairings imaginable it ignited a flame of desire in my tiny infantile mind. His blue fur, with a purple and red tuft on top of his head, yellow beady eyes, a bright green warty nose, a corduroy belly, huge dirty fangs and bulbous fingers and toes made me want to tear it from my neighbour's clutches and hide it in my room. Both hands were shackled with bright orange handcuffs that you could snap open in a beastly rage. Yeah, I obsessed a lot over this monster when I was a child mainly due to the fact that I could not have one. I love monsters that try to look scary but actually just look confused and lost. 'My Pet Monster' is one of my favourite examples of that and this live action film that was made to help promote the toy proves it, just look at his befuddled furry face. I remember it blowing my mind as a child and watching this trailer on youtube, 20 plus years later, I was surprised to find how well I remembered the opening credits.

8. The Zoanoids from Guyver
When I was eleven, I would spend ages browsing the shelves at the local video shop looking at all the 18 certificate films like Critters, The Goulies and Troll, whilst my Mum and sister would be looking for 'Care Bears' in the children's section. One day I came across a new Japanese animation called 'Guyver'. My Mother kindly rented the first video out for me even though I was about five years too young to be watching it (some might say this is bad parenting but it just made me think she was even more awesome). "Guyver' was about a young high school student who stumbles across a bio-weapon that bonds to him as an organic battle suit and is then inadvertently flung into a war with the evil Kronos who conduct experiments on humans turning them into killer monsters called Zoanoids with an assortment of different abilities. I could go on and explain this in so much more detail and even longer sentences but I'll save you the eyestrain and boredom and just tell you it was incredible. This was my first foray into violent action in a cartoon and I loved it. Head would explode, limbs were hacked off and giant holes where burnt through bodies with lasers. Yep, cool right? If you're still unsure, the video below should sell it to you.

7. Jamila
Jamila was a man before a trip to another planet evolved his body into a giant, very broad shoulder, hulking monster. He really does look exactly like a mutated American football line backer. His shoulders have become the top of his head and the expression on his face is that of laughter rather than the intended horror. Check out this sparring match with Ultraman. Jamila is having the time of his life!

6. Mer-man
A lumbering, mentally under-developed 'Creature from the Black Lagoon'. I think that short sentence really sums Mer-man up pretty pretty pretty well. You can definitely see that Mer-man has had a big influence on the monsters I design. I guess I just have a big soft spot for brightly colours, idiotic, silly looking monsters. Thanks, Mer-man.

5. The Thing (from.... er.... The Thing)
Basically.... I just love this film. The Thing can look like anything so my fascination for this alien/monster isn't bright colours or a goofy face, its because its terrifying. I love the scene where they start dissecting it on the operating table and the open stomach forms teeth and bites off the doctors hands and then the heads slowly falls off the body and grows legs and antenna and trundles off down the corridor whilst the frightened survivors flame through the living hell out off the remains..... at least that what remember happening..... awesome.

Just found the scene on youtube... turns out I do remember it very well. Computer generated special effects have nothing on this.

4. Woo
Alex from Nobrow introduced me to this incredible beast that I now love dearly. The abominable yet adorable Woo is not as sleek as some of her contemporaries but then she is a giant supernatural monster that lives in the snowy mountain tops where an ergonomic look vastly outweighs that of aesthetics. Covered from head to toe in long yeti-like hair, she can be found summoning large blizzards to wipe out locals who are being mean to her daughter, Yuki. I love that her only viewable characteristic, apart from all the hair, is her terrifying face which is made up of two amphetamine wired eyeballs and a wide dentistry-nightmare of a mouth. Her face gives me flashbacks to Terrahawk's Zelda.

3. Moguera
Originally created by The Mysterians to bend humanity to their will and then later in 'Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla', it built by man to destroy Earth's greatest monster Godzilla but ended up helping him destroy SpaceGodzilla. Ugh! This giving me a headache. Moguera has made the cut because... well... he is essentially Robo-Godzilla and what is not to like about that sentence? Moguera ended up having the head off a mole, the hands of a lobster and a huge square corrugated body.... yes, he looks amazing... in the most laughable way possible.

2. Garamon
This is one of Alex from Nobrow's favourite Kaiju and... well, to be honest I can not put into words how brilliant Garamon is, it is probably best if you just skip to 2.57 in this here video and those first four seconds will explain everything. Honestly, it just makes me laugh every time. He is such (literally) a massive dork.

1. Dada
Last but not least, Dada is a monster that travelled to Earth extra-dimensionally with the aim to capture Earthlings so that he can take them back for testing on his home planet. He has a giant black dome for a head and a peering white face with large yellow eyes. The colour of his eyes change depending on the stages of his rejuvenation process after an injury. Beneath this daunting black dome is a white body covered in what can only be described as very fashionable 60s zebra stripes. Yes, this guy is a snappy dresser and that's what I find so appealing about him. This monster is so graphical and geometric and yet feels very organic. The stark black and white with a splash of colour really appeals to my visual tastes outside of monsters but I guess that's what happens when you are a sharp dresser from another dimension.

A SpaceGodzilla sized thanks to Ben for this suitably colossal answer.
The Bento Bestiary is still available in hardback on the Nobrow site for £12 and you are strongly, strongly advised to grab a copy for you and/or the monster-lover in your life immediately. You should also absolutely check out Ben's other Nobrow treasure, Ourobors, and cry that his awesome Dicephaly Bros figure is long out of stock. We regret not getting one, and so we'd appreciate if you'd share our misery too.


1 comment:

  1. Great review and I loved gyver