THE PLUCKER IS OUT!! 160 page hardbound illustrated novel. Over 100 paintings. Brom combines his arresting illustrations and compelling storytelling to create a world where fairytale tradition collides with vileness and depravity, suffering and consequence. Published by Abrams. Available in most bookstores.
Pain. It could feel pain. Pain racked its entire body. And it was good to feel the pain. Good to feel anything other than the endless darkness. It also felt hate. But this wasn't new. It had sat in that doll for over two centuries with hate its only companion. But mostly it felt hunger, a deep ravenous clawing in its stomach. And there were so many sweet smells coming from the little boy's room. So it waited for the night, waited for the little boy to fall asleep. Waited for the toys to come out and play.
All the toys had stopped playing. They stood facing the bed, like statues. Something, Angel realized, was looking out from beneath the Underbed, something with pale, glowing eyes. Was that a toy? It didn't look like a toy.
The Foulthing pushed right up close to her, cocking its head slowly from side to side, the way a puppy will when curious. Gingerly, it reached out and tapped the small, brown face on the nose.
A sallow Foulthing with a purple bow in its hair waltzed out from the Underbed. It trotted across the floor to Thomas's dresser, picked up Wiki's arm, flopped on its rump and began to gnaw noisily.
The Plucker leaned down until its face hung a kiss away from Angel, peeled back its black lips, and exposed the most sincere smile its rotting teeth would allow. "You will be such a treat," it whispered.
They spread out like a bad smell, encircling him, snarling, and snapping their teeth.
Jack's heart began to drum, to thirst. His fingers twitched. He wanted to tear every one of those monsters apart with his bare hands. A ping echoed from under the bed. A sour, biting smell drifted into the room. Jack smiled and slid behind the dead toys. He crouched like a hunting panther and waited.
Monsters Beneath the Bed:
Brom and the Art of The Plucker
Interview by Ari Berk
Acclaimed painter of the gothic, the gorgeous, and the grotesque, Brom sharpens his quill to bring us a shadowy fairytale of vileness and depravity, love and heroism, suffering and sacrifice in his new illustrated novel The Plucker.
Berk: I understand you have just completed work on an illustrated novel "The Plucker" (for clarification, this is not a graphic novel/comic book, but a lavishly illustrated novel).
Brom: Yup, 160 pages with over 100 images. The Plucker has been an obsession, haunting my days and nights for the last several years. Now, at last, it's finished and on its way to scratch out the eyes of children of all ages.
Berk: Can you tell us something about the story?
Brom: Here's the synopsis: Jack and his Box are stuck beneath the bed with the dust, spiders, and other castaway toys. Forced to face a bitter truth--children grow up and toys are left behind--Jack believes this is the worst that can happen to a toy. But when the Plucker, a malevolent spirit, is set loose upon the world of make-believe and Jack is thrust into the unlikely role of defending Thomas, the very child that abandoned him, he finds out there is worse that can befall a toy - far worse. Jack, and a beleaguered last handful of toys, must struggle to rise above their simple roles as playthings in an effort to save the boy they love.
Berk: And I imagine that abandonment is only the beginning, that there are even worse things than dust-bunnies waiting for the "good" toys beneath the bed?
Brom: Admittedly, it's tough being a toy in this story. A lot of things are out to eat you. But the story is more than toy carnage. I have always been fascinated with fairytales about toys coming to life. And one of the underlining themes in this book is how toys deal with being abandoned by their children. The last pages in the final Winnie the Pooh book, delicately skates around this subject as Christopher Robin heads off to boarding school and Pooh and the gang are left behind. I always wondered what happen to Pooh and the other toys once Christopher left. Is Pooh rotting away in an attic right now? His little soul begging for some child to befriend him? To save him from the rats, spiders, and dry rot?
Berk: Besides Winnie the Pooh, what else inspired you to begin work on The Plucker?
Brom: My kids. Reading to them the classics like The Nutcracker, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, Raggedy Ann, and other stories where toys are alive in the land of make-believe. It was while reading these that I began to contemplate what would happen if these toys were introduced to a hard dose of reality, and what if something very, very bad entered their happy little world? Could these toys learn to kill to protect themselves? The Plucker is essentially a children's fairytale for adults, but unlike most fairytales, there is no guarantee of a happily-ever-after.
Berk: So it's the monsters-under-the-bed meet Raggedy Ann. Interesting that, despite the sensual maturity of much of your art, it is the primal terrors of childhood that you've chosen for your first illustrated novel. What is it about the monsters under the bed that so fascinate you?
Brom: As children we are naturally afraid of the things hiding in the darkness, under the bed, in the closet, the basement, behind the door. Children are much more in tune to both the imaginative and the supernatural, especially to supernatural things that like to bite. As we grow older these senses begin to dull, and we forget - well, some of us forget. I still make sure to leap into the bed to avoid having my toes bit off by the group of nasties hiding beneath my dust-ruffle. So I guess to answer your question, yes, my childhood fears have never completely left me and I find they make fascinating subject matter.
Berk: Did you draw these horrors when you were a child as well?
Brom: As a child, I started out drawing "monsters eating people". My first artbook Darkwerks actually has a selection of these childhood drawings. From there I progressed through the standard "what must be drawn in art school" such as still-lifes and landscapes. I had a brief stint as a commercial illustrator doing cute products in my early twenties, but that didn't last long. Now I'm back to "monsters eating people" and am very happy.
Berk: Where do your monsters in The Plucker come from? Are the monsters adapted from folklore or are they created entirely from your own imagination, out of the recollections of your own childhood toy chest? A combination of the two?
Brom: The creatures are based on childhood recollections. My grandfather's old house had a dank, dirt-walled basement lit by a single light bulb on a string. Heaps of discarded clothing, stacks of canned food, piles of forgotten grimy toys and magazines formed a maze of shadows that a child could quickly get lost in. The dirt walls crawled with spiders, centipedes, earwigs and silverfish. Something--rats, bugs, toads, snakes maybe--had burrowed hundreds of holes into those dirt walls, I knew, knew, that horrible things, hungry for my small kid fingers, awaited just out of sight in each of those holes. It was those creatures I tried to recall when creating the Foulthings that populate the world of The Plucker.
Berk: You seem to find amusement in the ways people see your 'devils', and you're always trying to have a bit of fun with your subjects. But are you ever afraid of going too far into the abyss, of scaring people (also meaning potential customers) away? Are there topics that might be too dark even for you?
Brom: I find that a sense of humor is important; it is often the combination of the absurd with the horrible that makes the subject interesting. As far as scaring potential customers - no. I believe if you are true to your art, then the people that share your vision will be great patrons. I believe if you cheat your vision, trying to appeal to the masses, then neither you nor your audience will be satisfied. As far as topics that are too dark - hmmm, I think any topic could be approached; it is how it is ultimately handled that I would begin to draw lines.
Berk: Your prior work is steeped in fantasy, the mythic, sword and sorcery, and science fiction, and while The Plucker certainly contains elements of the fantastic and the terrible, it's also a book about childhood. Do you see this book as a departure, of sorts, from your usual genres?
Brom: As an artist I am drawn to exploring different paths. But overall my work falls under the darker sides of genres. It is simply what I am interested in. If you asked me to paint a toaster I would find it very boring, but if you asked me to paint an evil toaster, well … see, it suddenly becomes interesting.
Berk: And what was your process in creating art for The Plucker, of following its development from concept to finished art at the same time you were trying to write the book? In writing The Plucker, how were the acts of writing and painting similar or dissimilar? Did one ever help, inspire, or hinder the other?
Brom: The two worked together most of the time. I would write a scene or about a character and the vision would be so clear in my head that I would immediately start sketching. Then new ideas would come from the sketches that would spill back into the writing. Some ideas would originate in the story, others in the paintings.
When it came to the writing, at times, I had to turn off the illustrator in me. The illustrator tends to see everything in terms of visuals, but with a story, you find that it is the characters that tell the story not the scene. So there is some adjusting on creative focus. At times it was truly like two separate people working together.
Berk: Was the switch in media challenging? Do you have any preference between being an artist or being a writer?
Brom: I love both media dearly. But the writer and artist in me do not always get along. Many times in my illustration career I have been at odds with the editorial component of a project, perplexed that they did not see the obvious advantage to changing a description to make a better painting. Now it is funny to find myself on both sides of that argument. Who wins? It varies, as I stated above, usually the two feed off of each other; the elements discovered in one medium are incorporated into the other, enhancing both. This is a large part of the excitement for me.
Berk: Did you face any challenges bringing such an untraditional book to print?
Brom: The biggest hurdle was trying to convince marketing folks that illustrated books are not just for children. There seems to be a preconceived notion amongst marketing circles that books with illustrations and animated movies are only for kids. I believe they are overlooking a huge audience of adults that have a deep appreciation for sophisticated stories and finely crafted images. Fortunately Abrams Books (the publisher) seemed to understand what I was trying to do with The Plucker right from the start, and instead of asking me to tone down the material for juvenile consumption, they encouraged me to write the book I wanted.
Berk: Since it's already such a visual story, would you ever consider adapting Plucker for the screen, or would you be concerned that something of the book would be lost in trying to adapt it for film?
Brom: I've always considered myself a storyteller, whether through pictures or words. The combination of the two seemed a natural progression - the ultimate way to tell a story in the print medium. Since the story is already visually dynamic, moving into the cinematic realm seems just as natural.
Berk: And next? Is there anything that you can talk about that's in the works now?
Brom: Well, my brain is plumb full of stories; like a sack of wildcats, they all seem to want out at the same time. So I am already working away furiously on the next illustrated novel. At this time I cannot divulge any details, but I will say it is a very, very wicked thing. Basically, my focus is to continue bringing my stories to life through illustrated novels.
Berk: And when all the tales are told? When all the canvases are covered? How do you want to be remembered... your epitaph?
Brom: "Oldest living person!"
The Plucker is an Imaginosis book, published by Abrams Books, and is available in better book stores and outlets. The book is 160 pages, full color, over-sized hardbound, with over 100 paintings.