There was a time in the childhood of many of us when we felt drawn to the forbidden, frightened but safe, as we leafed through the scary tales of ‘Goosebumps‘, perhaps the most famous series of horror books for children.
That fascination with zombies, aliens and mysterious creatures that populated the Earth described by author R.L. Stine could not have exerted the same fascination on children and teenagers without a characteristic element of the series such as the covers, designed since the first issue in 1992 by illustrator Tim Jacobus. The scary stories aroused the curiosity of children in the early 1990s and over the years more than 350 million copies have been sold, translated into 32 languages, making ‘Goosebumps’ the best-selling children’s book series in history.
This imagery of fear could not have been realised with the same intensity without the work of Jacobus, author of more than 100 covers and all the special editions of the saga, as well as inventor of some key characters such as Slappy, the terrifying boy with the red bow tie who first appeared in issue 7.
Stine’s amazing ability was to create ever different, ever more absurd and frightening stories. Tim Jacobus’ images went hand in hand, giving ‘Goosebumps’ one of its main characteristics, namely collectability. Having so many issues meant having a colourful library full of works to look at before reading. Jacobus’ images then had the important narrative function of guiding the reader into the story, defining the narrative and not just the aesthetic imagery.
The artist’s style is inspired by the world of progressive rock albums and in particular the work of illustrator Roger Dean. Tim Jacobus has brought this style to a children’s series, with a working method that starts with pencil sketches and ends with paints and airbrushes, a total of 30-40 hours of work per panel. Other characteristics of Jacobus’ illustrations are the perspective of the scenes and the acid colours of the subjects and landscapes, which made the covers of ‘Goosebumps’ unmistakable.