AP: Martin, thanks for joining ALL PULP once again for an interview. Can you catch us up to speed on some of the things you’ve been doing since your last visit?
POWELL: Thanks for asking me back. It’s been a crazily busy time since we last spoke. I’m writing several new comics, graphic novels, and co-writing a screenplay, as well as a top secret new pulp prose novel featuring a very famous classic character. Also, I have a new novella for teens about to be published. There’s a lot going on here. I’m not sure where to begin.
AP: You are involved in a very special project, one that means a lot to you both professionally and personally. Talk a bit, if you would, about the professional aspects of FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN, how you became involved, the process of getting the project going, etc.?
POWELL: I’ve written a vintage-style “filmbook” treatment of the classic Universal movie FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN for the newly resurrected Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Fans of the magazine will know exactly what I mean, but to clarify, this will be a pulpy prose version of the story as adapted from Curt Siodmak’s original screenplay, profusely illustrated with photos from the film. This is one of the secret projects I’ve been teasing about on Facebook for the past few months. I pitched the proposal around last Halloween to editor Jessie Lilley, and she was wild about it. Next, we approached Joe Jusko for the cover. There was no other artist better suited and we were absolutely thrilled when he enthusiastically agreed. Joe loves this stuff as much as we do, and he created a magnificently monstrous cover painting.
AP: One question is why? Why does a classic monster movie need the sort of adaptation you’re giving it decades after it was released?
POWELL: Because this version of the movie has never been seen before, containing several scenes that were cut from the released film. In my filmbook, Bela Lugosi’s Frankenstein Monster is blind, and will speak, as Siodmak originally intended. Think of it as a sort of “Director’s Cut” of a long-cherished classic monster movie. Today, there are almost always novelized paperbacks of current hit movies, and FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was a ground-breaking blockbuster at the box office, and deserves the very same attention today.
AP: How do you as a writer take this entire concept, including the very classic, but also in some views very stereotypical portrayals of these monsters and make it appeal to a modern audience?
POWELL: In no way do I consider these characters “stereotypical.” Someone might as well say Superman, Sherlock Holmes, or Tarzan are stereotypes. The Frankenstein Monster and the Wolf Man are legendary archetypes of the cinema, and will far outlive the soulless slashers and the zombie-glut of today. I doubt there are very many kids over the age of six, anywhere in this country, who can’t name the classic monsters by sight, even if they’ve never seen one of the old movies.
AP: What does this being a feature in a magazine add to the concept, if anything? Why this particular medium?
POWELL: It’s not just any magazine—this is Famous Monsters of Filmland! As co-created by the late, great Forrest J Ackerman, it’s been the single most influential publication of my life. This is a national magazine with a tremendous readership, and there’s no greater home for this project. I can hardly express how exciting it is to be the writer of a cover feature in this iconic magazine!
AP: All right, now let’s talk about your personal affection for these characters. Why do these monsters mean so much to you?
POWELL: That’s tough to describe, but I’ll try. I was sick a lot as a little kid and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine served as a sort of security blanket for me every dreaded time I went to the doctor’s office. FM never, ever failed to make me feel better. I was a monster movie fanatic, and my older brothers have told me that Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi were the first movie stars I recognized on TV. FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN was only the second Frankenstein film I ever saw—and also was my first encounter with the Wolf Man—when I was six years old, and I was utterly fascinated. When I first read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novel at the age of eleven, it was a life-defining moment. That book, and especially the Boris Karloff films, changed me forever and I’ve never been the same since.
AP: Horror in recent years has moved away from Frankenstein, Wolf Man, Dracula, etc., and more to the visceral slasher type killers and the torture types. Why do you think this has occurred? And can the classic monsters and the stories those movies told be made viable again?
POWELL: Personally, I feel these slasher/torture movies represent lazy storytelling. Somewhere, somehow, the horror film became the gross-out film, with visceral effects replacing story and performance. To each his own, but I don’t find that sort of thing very entertaining. The classic monster movies have their peaks and valleys, but they’ve always returned to the screen and to new popularity. It’s happening again already. I recently read in Variety that no less than a half-dozen new Frankenstein films are currently in production in Hollywood. Plus, there’s The National Theatre’s brilliant new Frankenstein stage play by Danny Boyle and Nick Dear, where actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller alternated the roles of Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. The play was a huge critical success and a phenomenal sell-out hit. Audiences are always ready for something done exceptionally well.
AP: This is a Pulp news site. Some would, and actually have, argued that things such as movie adaptations of classic monster tales and other such things don’t qualify as Pulp. How would you respond to that?
POWELL: ‘Pulp’, at least as I understand it, is difficult to contain with such a narrow view, and by its nature has a very broad definition.
AP: You’ve also got a ton of other projects going. Care to share any information on what you can talk about?
POWELL: Well, I’m the writer for the continuing comic book series of THE SPIDER, for Moonstone, including a Halloween Special issue with artist Jay Piscopo, whom I’m very excited to be working with again. And speaking of my favorite holiday, my teen-readers mystery novella THE HALLOWEEN LEGION will be published later in the summer, and is probably the most personal project I’ve ever written. Also, I’ve just been contracted for a number of graphic novels coming from Sequential Pulp Comics, an imprint of Dark Horse Comics, including an exciting collaboration with my favorite author, Edgar Rice Burroughs, which will be happily teaming me again with my good friend, and Golden Lion Award Winner, illustrator Tom Floyd. Very shortly, I’ll be co-writing the screenplay for a new murder mystery set in the 1920s, but there’s not much more I can say about that right now. Most importantly, I’m surrounded by the things I love, which is the luckiest place for any writer to be.
AP: Martin, it’s been absolutely great to have you back on ALL PULP!
POWELL: Thank you very much. I always appreciate your interest in what I’m doing.