As horror fans we are often drawn to the little things. Covers and titles are hugely influential to many of us, particularly as we seek to expand our horror experiences. For many folks of my generation we remember the joy of walking down the horror aisle of the local Blockbuster Video or spinning the racks of comics at the local book store. So, when I came across a booth at WonderCon 2019 for a group called Sex and Monsters, and read the title of a comic called Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood, I was intrigued.
I am pleased to reveal that that title is exactly what you get with this comic and more. You not only get Tiki Surf Witches, but blood craving, and even better, a whole array of tasty recipes for great island drinks! I reached out to the team behind the comic, Will Penny (the writer) and Nik Poliwko (the artist), with some questions, and as a bonus we even have a preview of the book, exclusively for Haunted MTL. Oh, and beware, the comic is NSFW for blood, breasts, and witchcraft.
Will, where did the idea come from to mash up a horror story and cocktail recipes?
Will: I’ve always been into the horror genre, but back in 2016 I was really getting into tiki culture too. So I thought it’d be fun to create a tiki-themed horror comic. While I was brainstorming story ideas (and probably after too many rum cocktails) I struck on the idea of creating a comic book that also doubled as a cocktail-recipe book. I figured the combination would create a bit of extra escapism for readers.
Will, the story has a very old school feel to it, what horror works and/or writers influenced you as a writer on this project, Will?
Will: The story probably gets its “old school feel” from the fact that I decided to write something that wasn’t too cynical.
Tiki culture has its roots in the ‘30s, when Donn Beach created the first tiki bar in Hollywood, but things really took off for “tiki” in the ‘50s, after American GIs returned home from war, having served time in the South Pacific. So when I decided to make a tiki-themed comic, I wanted the artwork to serve as a visual reference to that specific time period. So the “look” of the book is definitely inspired by all those classic EC horror comics from the ‘50s. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have Nik Poliwko illustrate the book, who really nailed the visual vibe I was shooting for.
In regards to the actual story, I was inspired by a lot of late-night b-movies – particularly the work of Roger Corman and Del Tenney. But I also wanted to make sure the story would stand on its own merits and not just be something that MST3K could lampoon. So I tried to make sure each of the characters – particularly the female characters – had their own specific traits and motivations that would move the plot forward.
My real goal (and challenge) was to use the visual language of black-and-white b-movies and pre-code horror comics to tell an engaging (and even romantic) story that could still appeal to a modern audience.
Nik, your illustrations have a very classic, E.C. Comics style to them, were those comics a primary influence on you?
Nik: Love the EC stuff, although the Warren mags (Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella) were more prominent for me. My influences tend to be more the artist than the comic, and a few EC artists do show up. Russ Manning would have to be my first major influence, followed by Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Will Eisner, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta’s comic work, and of course Wally Wood. On the horror side of things, Bernie Wrightson would be a major influence, on the EC side of things it would be Jack Davis’ horror work, Graham Ingels and Bernie Krigstein. Some others would be Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko and Barry Windsor-Smith.
Will, Are there any other plans for tiki-influenced horror projects?
Will: Yes! On June 1st we’ll be launching our first Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a “magic” Zombie cocktail glass. Donn Beach created the original Zombie cocktail back in 1934, and traditionally served it in a tall chimney-style glass. The drink was so popular that the glassware it was served in became known as a “Zombie glass.”
So I’m working with Nik Poliwko again to develop an authentic-style Zombie glass that will incorporate Nik’s fantastic artwork and — for the fist time ever — will cause the dead to rise whenever a cocktail is poured into it! It’s going to be a real fun (and functional) art piece for anyone who likes horror, tiki culture, zombies, or just wants to drink cocktails while learning how to raise the dead!
I don’t want to give away too many more secrets or surprises, but if people want to stay up-to-date on this project, they can follow us on Instagram @sexandmonsters or sign up for our newsletter here.
Nik, your work is recognizable from The Creeps Magazine, do you have any particular stories you contributed to for the magazine you’d want people to check out?
Nik: Heh… people should check out ALL my stories in The Creeps! A few faves of mine include issue 11’s “If You Knew Sushi,” written by Don Glut, “Mary Shelley in Frankenstein’s Castle,” in issue 12, written by Nicola Cuti, and another Cuti masterpiece, “Graveyard Dance,” in issue # 13, which reveals the origin of “The Old Creep,” the host of The Creeps. And another Don Glut thriller, “Interview with a Werewolf” in issue 15.
Of the cocktails in the book, what is your personal favorite?
Will: My personal favorite tiki cocktail is the Zombie! Not only because it’s a strong and well-balanced drink, but it also has a rich and fascinating history (that people can read more about in Sippin’ Safari by Jeff Berry).
I’m also partial to the Surfer’s Blood – the climax cocktail of the book. It’s inspired by a type of Mai Tai served at Old Tony’s — one of my favorite bars in Redondo Beach, CA. It’s boozy and tart, and includes a “secret ingredient” called kook juice (a mix of Tang and sparkling lemonade)!
Nik: I’d have to say I love me a good “Zombie,” with “R.I.P. Tide” coming a close 2nd. Really hard to pick favorites as all the recipes are so good!
Will, Can you talk to us a bit about the origins of Sex and Monsters? What does the future hold for the studio?
Will: Sex and Monsters was just a silly name that I came up with for my personal webcomic about 10 years ago. But after awhile, the name grew into its own publishing brand, and now I work with a variety of artists and writers to make a bunch of fun stuff.
After we launch our “Zombie glass” Kickstarter, we’ll be publishing a comic adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe and H. P. Lovecraft material, we’ll also be featuring more work by the extremely talented and hilarious Alison Zai, and finally we have a soundtrack to “Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood” coming down the pike — a 7 inch vinyl record by our pals Dom Kreep and the Grim County Coroners.
Nik, were your illustrations for Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood traditionally done or digital? Do you have a preference for most of your work?
Nik: “Tiki Surf Witches…” was all digital, as is all my work these days. I’ve worked traditional for many years and when I picked up a Wacom Cintiq tablet back in 2010, it’s been digital ever since. Personally I love it, and at this point, prefer it over drawing on paper.
Will, what is it that you think allows horror and sexuality to blend together so effectively?
Will: I’m by no means an expert in this field, but I imagine the combination of sex and horror in fiction has been around since people first started telling stories. We certainly see this combination presented in the subtext of Victorian era Gothic fiction (like Dracula), and we see it become more overt in the early 20th century with pulp detective novels. In fact, the very first horror comic book published in 1947 – Avon’s Eerie Comics #1 – combined elements of sex and horror on its cover through the juxtaposition of a menacing ghoul and a scantily-clad female.
But I wasn’t really thinking about this history when I chose the name “Sex and Monsters” for my publishing company. I just thought it was a catchy name, and would let people know right off the bat that we’re not afraid to produce stuff that’s a bit offbeat or more quirky than mainstream publishers. And even though the name may imply that our work features gratuitous nudity and violence, I try to invert those expectations, and present the elements of sexuality and horror in a way that has purpose, or is in service to the overall story we’re trying to tell.
…Of course, it’s always fun to be a little gratuitous once in awhile too!
Enjoy this preview of the bloody fun inside Tiki Surf Witches Want Blood, including the recipe for the classic island cocktail, The Zombie!
Oh, and beware the boobs!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more interviews here at Haunted MTL.