As I’m fond of saying these days the 2010s is shaping up to be the era of 90stalgia. The biggest indicator of this is the massive success of Jurassic World but a new column of support has arisen to defend the growing trend with Jack Black’s Goosebumps. Though only a trailer has been released so far the film is getting a lot of positive buzz and the reaction has been pretty positive all around. The biggest part of that really is nostalgia, even if you didn’t read the Goosebumps books as a kid chances are you were aware of them like I was. Either you had friends who read them, caught an episode of the show once in awhile, or, most likely of all, you just knew the covers. It’s been my contention for many years that the Goosebumps covers are the real reason the series was so popular for so long because they are amazing so today we’re going to honor some of the best. I won’t be going in any real order so much as just showcasing them, usually grouping them together by theme. With all that said let’s take a look, but remember; reader beware, you’re in for a scare (I couldn’t help myself.)
These three covers pretty much make-up all of the Goosebumps werewolf novels and they’re all excellent. The Werewolf of Fever Swamp is classic Goosebumps, especially in the coloring work. That unique blend of neon green, exaggerate violate, and the accenting steel blue is incredibly emblematic of a lot of early Goosebumps covers. It’s this unique blend of colors that fits well into the Halloween palette. Werewolf Skin takes a similar approach with the emphasis on teal and orange color schemes but what really sells it is that creepy wolf face. It takes no small amount of skill to make eyes look seriously alive and this cover nails it. You get the sense there’s a malevolent consciousness behind those eyes and it’s just the creepiest. Finally there’s Full Moon Fever from the Goosebumps Series 2000 line. I’m actually an even bigger fan of the Series 2000 covers myself due to the sleeker aesthetic and more defined color work. What I really like here though is the very creepy werewolf head, the elongated snout and massive teeth make it look positively prehistoric which has the unique effect of making it seem more plausible. It’s the sense that this is a creature that’s hunted man since the Paleolithic era.
Aside from the two main Goosebumps book lines from the ‘90s and 2000s there were also several spin-off mini-series and takes on things. One such series was the Hall of Horrors, sort of the 2000s equivalent of the Goosebumps Horrorland adventures from the ‘90s. The series focused on several unique kids who were somehow drawn into the titular Hall of Horrors. I’m spotlighting this one because of just how creepy and well drawn that freakish screaming mouth is. There’s a really unique element here in that the teeth are completely asymmetrical, there’s something about that derision that makes it all the more creepy and menacing.
Back to the 2000 series for Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls which features hands down some amazing zombie art. There are a ton of reasons that I love this cover, the beautifully colored burnt orange sky mixed with slate gray clouds that blend expertly into the headstone is pure poetry. What really elevates it though is the zombie designs. They’re all such cartoonish grotesques rendered in a creepily realistic manner similar to Return of the Living Dead. I also won’t lie, I’m a sucker for green colored zombies and its rare to see them drawn in such a realistic fashion.
Another 3 way, this time focused on ghosts though this in no way represents all of the ghostly Goosebump installments. The Curse of Camp Cold Lake is something of an outlier on this list as it’s the only cover not to come from a Gothic origin point. Again, this cover uses color so well but in such a unique way from so many other Goosebumps covers with the emphasis on icey, artificial blue. I especially like the rising layer of fog on the lake giving it the overarching sense that the whole lake is what’s evil not just one ghost. Ghost Beach, despite the dopey name, is such a beautifully Gothic cover I instantly loved it even as a kid. A big part of this is the unique pairing of graveyard specter and the rhythmic ocean; it’s a strange combination we rarely see outside of a few excellent films like John Carpenter’s The Fog or Dead & Buried. There’s also that deliciously deep blue tone that colors the sky ad clouds to offset the soft greens and yellows of the foreground. Finally, this last cover comes from one of Stine’s first ever Goosebumps imprints: Tales to Give You Goosebumps, Special Edition #1. Even years after first seeing it this still remains my defining image for ghost stories. The archaic home yawning out over nothing in the background with its unique blend of run down house and summer beach home is a wonderfully chilling backdrop that blends familiarity with alienism superbly. Finally the ghost itself is very well imagined specter and the harsh white of its color is offset against the deep blues, oranges, and purple really well.
Deep Trouble is another cover I bring up because of my weird ocean horror fixation. The main reason for this is that in anthology horror work like American Horror Story or Night Gallery ocean and creature horror tends to end up completely forgotten despite being such a major part of the horror pantheon. This cover fits perfectly into that Goosebumps palette once more, blending its deep blueish purple with the neon green high lights, but what really sells it is the size of that hammerhead shark. It’s unclear if the shark is meant to be huge or the person tiny but either way this picture is just every fear of the ocean you have as a kid, the sense that something as big as the ocean must have just the most terrifyingly huge creatures hiding within it.
Last 3 way of the list, this one actually drawing on three different iterations of the Goosebumps label. Escape from the Carnival of Horrors comes from the ‘90s ‘Choose your own adventure’ Goosebumps line. I bring it up because of how well the artwork blends freaky abnormality with a sense of reality in that creepy alligator monster. You can tell from its face and physiology it’s like an alligator but the purple skin and red eye almost immediately put you off guard and though you don’t realize it the cage is arranged to make it look like it’s barely fitting into its habitat its so huge. Calling All Creeps is from the Goosebumps heyday in the mid ‘90s. I bring it up because of how well it’s age has actually improved it. The ghoul creatures on the cover were always freaky, especially with how normal they’re trying to look, but now seeing them at a pay phone, this weird relic of forgotten public technology, makes it seem even more like they’re simply playing at being human. Also the gradient work on the sky, fading from neon pink to a deep slate blue is chilling and evocative. So much so that they used it again for the Invasion of the Body Squeezers Part 1 cover in the Series 2000 line. This earns a spot for just how freaky and menacing the body squeezer is. The artwork does a great job making it look like the thing is dripping weird fluid from its entire body not its mouth and its elongated arms make it seem creepily brutal.
This pick is another ‘Choose the Scare’ adventure, The Deadly Experiments of Dr. Eek. This is exactly the kind of cover I was referring to earlier with Beware, The Snowman a jokey idea executed with equal parts seriousness and levity. I especially like how the titular Doctor Eek appears to be a normal sized chimp that has just ended up in a lab coat somehow, to say nothing of how unclear his scientific skill seems to be based on this cover. The companion piece, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, is another chance for me to indulge my curious horror fixations, this case my bizarre love of Sasquatch, Yetis, Big Foots, Wendigo, and Abminable Snowmen. What I really love about this picture is again the goofy juxtaposed with the creepy as the actual design of the Abominable Snowman is honestly pretty menacing and creepy. It’s hard to tell immediately but he’s depicted as quite huge in size and his squinting, drooling face snarled into an angry scowl exudes a very threatening nature. All of this is, of course, marvelously undercut by the palm trees and bright pink back wall.
Another pair of Series 2000 covers as we close in on the end of our list. Both Ghost in the Mirror and Horror of the Black Ring are great examples of the highly underutilized horror subgenre of cursed object. Horror of the Black Ring is a real stand out for the hideous face enclosed in the black diamond on the cover, the single eye is a foreboding touch that’s great accentuated by the way it seems like the face’s other features have been sliced away. There’s a lot of attention to detail paid to the upper gums that gives it the look of a thing that's had its upper teeth violently removed. Ghost in the Mirror is more in the vein of a classic Goosebumps cover but filtered through the iconography of a classical horror anthology comic. The color scheme emphasizing lime greens and artificial blue is pure Goosebumps but the lurking hand from beyond the pale is much more in line with House of Mystery or other EC and DC horror comics of the ‘50s. I especially like the boney nature of the hand and how it only has 4 fingers, aiding a greater sense of inhumanity to the ghost claims.
Finally it wouldn’t be a Goosebumps list if we didn’t talk about jack-o-lanterns and Halloween in some capacity. That’s where so much of the visual inspiration for the series comes from, especially in terms of color work as the Goosebumps palette leans heavily on the shared associations of Halloween color schemes like orange, green, purple, black, and silver. I chose this cover over the more popular Attack of the Jack-o-Lanterns for how well it embodies that color work with the three dominant images featured here. Additionally the creepy design of the severed head with its distended, chameleon-esc eye sockets is really grotesque in a fun way.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this celebration of the Goosebumps covers and found it as nostalgic as I did. Given the power nostalgia seems to posses these days I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing more and more Goosebumps as the film draws closer. It makes sense to me, for people who grew up with Goosebumps that represent a more innocent time of scares and chills that always offered just enough of a laugh alongside the scream to be a scary good time.