Interview with Joseph & Christine of Monolith Graphics - May 2001

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What inspired your interest in gothic/dark themes?

As a youth, I tended to gravitate toward horror movies, monster models, and anything that could possibly warp my young and impressionable mind. My sister and I used to rush home from school to watch the old Dark Shadows TV series. Halloween was, and is, my favorite holiday, of course. I loved all the classic Universal horror films, but Dracula was my favorite. I drew constantly, and the subject matter was usually some kind of monstrous creature. Eventually, I discovered girls and my interest in monsters took a back seat to the fairer sex.

Who are your influences?

My major artistic influence is fantasy art icon Frank Frazetta. His work is seething with energy, and has a dark, primal quality to it. I have also been inspired by the works of H.R. Giger as well as British artist, Simon Bisley.

When did you start creating artwork? How did you get started professionally?

I've drawn this kind of stuff since I was a kid. I began my career as a professional artist in 1987, but this subject matter was frowned upon by critics and not taken seriously. After a while, I thought "What the hell? I love painting this stuff," so in 1991, I established my own business, Monolith Graphics, and began to sell fantasy art prints and T-shirts of my own design at Renaissance fairs. I started out with some images of dragons and warriors, but before long I began introducing some of my old favorites, such as skeletons, vampires and gargoyles, into our product line. This darker, new direction was well received, and the gothic prints and shirts eventually became our most popular merchandise.

Which Renaissance faires did you focus on when selling your artwork?

Mainly local faires: "Baycrafter's" and "The King's Company" were two Renaissance faires that I did throughout the early '90s, both located in Northeast Ohio. Our booth was always decorated with ravens and skulls and we quickly gained the reputation of representing the darker side of the Middle Ages. Certain fairgoers would avoid our booth like the black plague, while others would flock to us in droves. I've always considered my artwork to be "gothic fantasy" and we really found our audience here.

I'm also curious about you, Christine. I understand you work for Monolith, but I don't fully understand your role in the company. Is some of the artwork yours? Do you focus on marketing?

I joined Monolith Graphics in 1992 while attending college. I hold a BFA from Kent State University, my major is in graphic design. At first, I started helping Joseph with the production work on posters and calendars of his imagery. I had the computer experience to do the layout and pre-press and he had the coolest images I've ever seen. Our abilities truly compliment each other. Since then, I have taken on a much more encompassing role in the business, with the pre-press production and marketing of all Monolith merchandise, including co-editor of the book, Tales From The Dark Tower, and art director for Dark Realms Magazine.
     I have two pieces of artwork which are displayed on our website, a postcard image entitled "The Seer" (also featured as a full image in the "Madame Endora" column of Dark Realms Magazine), and the t-shirt design "Runes" (the latter which I re-worked from an original drawing of Joseph's). I am more at home on the computer with mouse in hand than with a paintbrush. Eventually Monolith will publish more of my artwork, but for now we are extremely busy taking care of what is already on our plate.
     Aside from doing the layout, photography and web design for Monolith, I also do the day-to-day business stuff... mundane office routine, but of course, very necessary to maintaining our good name. Answering e-mail is probably the most fun next to my design responsibilities. We love getting letters from fans; it just makes our day to know that we've made someone happy enough that they take the time to write to us.

Joseph, what do you do to celebrate Halloween?

I throw these elaborate parties every Halloween that are sort of like murder mystery role playing adventures. Each year is based on a different theme such as the works of Poe or Lovecraft, and I turn my home into a haunted mansion, cursed museum, insane asylum or whatever suits the story line. The guests are invited to explore my entire house from attic to cellar, unlocking rooms and dark secrets along the way.

What is your background for the production work you've done for Midnight Syndicate?

As the producer and creative director, I oversaw each stage of developement of the album, outlined the concept, wrote and performed the lyrics, defined the musical instruments to be used, decided what needed to be improved, changed or dropped altogether, wrote the liner notes, titled and arranged the songs, created the artwork and financed the entire project, then arranged and organized the marketing for the cds. Prior to working with Midnight Syndicate, I was also in several metal bands, writing and performing as a lead singer.

What inspired the creation of Dark Realms? How is it doing in what seems to be a fairly full goth magazine market?

We had made the acquaintance of so many talented people throughout the years that were having a hard time finding a format to showcase their work. The only other national magazine that specifically catered to covering the full spectrum of gothic culture was Carpe Noctem, but sadly this publication went out of business about a year ago. We possessed the resources to fill the void in this market and saw it as an opportunity to showcase the best in gothic culture.
     We sold out of issue #1 less than a month after we released it. Issue #2 actually sold more copies than #1, so we keep increasing our print run with every issue. We've received letters from people all over the world, and get great feedback about the features, artwork and interviews, which in itself is very satisfying.

Do you create the puzzles by Dr. Arcana? If so, where does that interest come from?

I've always had a fascination with riddles and puzzles. Dr. Arcana is an entity all unto himself and does not wish to disclose his identity. Personally, I find him very egotistical and antagonistic, and I love it when people put him in his place by solving his puzzles.

What are your future goals?

Last year, we released the illustrated anthology, Tales From The Dark Tower, which contains thirteen stories of vampires, gargoyles and ghosts based upon the characters in my artwork. Monolith recently launched Dark Realms Magazine, a quarterly periodical that explores the shadows of music, art and culture. Future projects include a Gothic Tarot deck, a sequel to Tales From The Dark Tower, a computer game based on the diabolical puzzles of Dr. Arcana, and quite possibly a movie or two. I will soon be embarking on a new music venture as well.