What happens when you stick a bunch of monsters into a mansion? You get Monster Soup, a webcomic by Julie Devin, also known online as ‘Ghost.’ I’ve followed Monster Soup for a long time and I am also honored to say that Julie is a good friend of mine. Julie’s approach to horror is fresh, fun, and a good fit for readers at Haunted MTL, so, I asked her to talk about her core cast of monstrous personalities.
Alright Julie, before we get down to the characters, I need to know what horror stories are most influential to you.
I always have a hard time answering questions like these, but I would definitely say… Dracula, Frankenstein, An American Werewolf in London, The Craft, Hellraiser and Poltergeist.
It feels like some of these are obvious given the subject matter of the comic, but how do you feel Hellraiser might have influenced your work?
I think it’s more of a subtle influence as I watched those films when I was younger and most of the themes and visuals have stuck with me. Small bits seep into my work, whether it’s a costume/design idea or a sense of surrendering to something terrifying or becoming the thing that terrifies.
What appeals to you most about the horror genre?
I think it’s the sense of not being in control. In slasher films, it’s the fear of someone hellbent on killing you. In supernatural horror, it’s more about the unknown that can terrify. The horror genre reminds me of a roller coaster. There’s a thrill and fear while being safely secured in your seat. Horror allows the exploration of many themes and ideas while we remain in the safety of the real world.
So, how did you develop the idea of Monster Soup?
Monster Soup began as a simple idea; what if a group of monsters lived under the same roof? I wanted to keep the main cast as close to the classic monsters as seen in films and novels; zombie, witch, ghost, werewolf, vampire, and mad scientist. From there on out, anything goes.
Alright, so let’s walk through the characters then.
So, please tell me about Bo, who is a personal favorite character of mine.
I wanted Bo to be the antithesis of the stereotypical zombie. He was also shaped by the Twilight mania that was going on at the time. I wanted a James Dean/Luke Perry type who fights his urge to eat humans, but instead, eats animals. Even though Bo is dead, he is still an idea of a slow, deteriorating death. This element of the character is a reflection of my grandmother who has dementia. It may seem odd, but I find it a little therapeutic writing this character.
I really like how you have approach Amanita as the resident witch.
This story about monsters didn’t feel complete without a witch. Instead of the typical hag-n-rags, her initial design was genie inspired. I wanted this character to embrace her appearance: makeup, nice clothing, and jewelry, all things stereotypically feminine. Outward appearance aside, her personality can be abrasive, and forming long-term friendships is something she continues to struggle with.
I am particularly a fan of Jacklyn’s design, it evokes “ghosty” without being too transparent.
Inspired by Dr. René Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark, specifically regarding archaeology and clothing, Jacklyn is the ghost of the story. She also carries a common trope about ghosts– “ghost amnesia.” While she knows she is dead, she doesn’t remember how she died, and is not really concerned with knowing about her past or death.
How about the resident Werewolf, Pepper?
At the center of werewolf lore is the transformation from human to beast; from something we know to something frightening and unpredictable. The center of Pepper’s character lies within her inability to accept herself.
The Ginger Snaps films, especially the sequel, influenced the earliest ideas of who Pepper was; someone who is fighting a battle they have no chance of winning.
Luke, the vampire? He seems just moody enough…
For the vampire character, I originally planned for Luke to be Dracula. The plan didn’t last for long. While I wanted to keep some hints that perhaps he and Dracula were one in the same, I began to develop more of the story, and quickly, the two separated. I wanted Luke to be the opposite of the recent trend seen in vampire fiction. Where those vampires are brooding and filled with self-loathing, Luke has accepted what he is centuries ago. He also isn’t concerned with protecting humans.
What about Vengari, the mad scientist?
The castle that houses the main cast of supernatural criminals needed an owner. The easiest answer for me was a mad scientist, with influences from Frankenstein and Dr. Moreau. When it came to Vengari’s appearance, I knew I didn’t want him to be the typical white-haired eccentric surrounded by Tesla coils. The red hair he ended up with seemed like an odd choice, but it stuck. In some weird way, he still reminds me of a demented Beaker from The Muppets.
His madness, unlike his striking red hair, isn’t as prominent. He is someone who is fascinated by the supernatural world and seeks to explain its existence through science. Magic to him isn’t just magic. Everything has a scientific explanation. The supernatural world isn’t really “super” through his eyes.
Noni, the chef? She almost feels like the mascot of the series.
In a comic with a slight food theme, I knew the castle needed a chef. I personally have an inability to make cute characters, so I wanted this character to be cute and innocent on the outside, but a mess everywhere else. She is also a chimera created by Vengari in his attempt to design a satyr. Other creations live elsewhere on the island (similar to the Island of Doctor Moreau), however, Noni lives in the castle with her “father.” Noni is the part of me who lives without any inhibitions. She will say what she wants regardless of others’ feelings.
Momo, how about him?
Momo is the Frankenstein’s Monster of the cast. Unlike the violent criminals he was created from, Momo’s mind is an innocent one. I always liked the idea of a large, muscular man who is nothing more than a big ol’ teddy bear. As for his appearance, he is loosely based on Vin Diesel. Momo’s greatest passion is cooking and helping Noni who he sees as his sister and boss.
Now as for Toadie…
This character came from a previous webcomic I attempted to make, but it never made it past the first chapter. When compiling characters for Monster Soup, I was looking for my Igor and realized Toadie was the perfect fit. In some moments within the comic, he also takes on a more “Renfield” roll when around Luke.
Julie was very kind to share some recent pages from the comic, so please give them a read and then hop over to Monster Soup for more great reading.