It Came From New Jersey! by Goosebumps Artist Tim Jacobus

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Nostalgia for Goosebumps books and related collectibles is at a fever pitch. Halloween stores like Spirit still sell costumes like Slappy the dummy for kids 20 years after the book series debuted. During the past couple of months there’s been several blogs that have presented Goosebumps related posts as part of their Halloween Countdowns. Also, I recently saw a link from Bloody Disgusting to the If It Were Stine Tumblr account that presents what Goosebumps book covers would look like if they were based off popular horror movies. Now I too have a Goosebumps related offering for you, one that I’ve been sitting on for a while.

I unfortunately missed out on Goosebumps when it was popular, but I was well aware of it at the time and I wished I was several years younger during it’s height of popularity so I’d be able to really get into them. The monstrous covers were so eye catching. The cover art captured the essence of the book line which was a mixture of Tales From The Crypt, The Twilight Zone, and Eerie Indiana, but geared toward young readers.

The spooky book line from author R.L Stine was so wildly popular that at one time it was the highest selling line of books in existence. The often macabre and mildly horrific storylines obviously left a big impression on the kids and teens who read them in their heyday which began in 1992. The vivid cover art created a starting point for kids imaginations before opening up the book. It’s no wonder why Goosebumps is still as recognized today as it was back in the ’90s.

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A few years back, while perusing lists of Goosebumps books to see what I was missing, I noticed an offshoot book published in 1998 by the same publisher (Scholastic) called It Came From New Jersey: My Life As An Artist by Tim Jacobus. Clearly, this was one that I most definitely HAD to read. Although it isn’t an actual R.L Stine penned Goosebumps book, it’s a book all about Tim Jacobus, a guy who is every bit a part of Goosebumps as Stine is.

Who is Tim Jacobus? He’s the artist who’s responsible for basically convincing you to read the books in the first place. I would wager that when you walked around Barnes and Noble or B.Dalton in the mall, or the local library, your decision to read a certain installment of Goosebumps was based solely on the cool cover art. Hmm, would it be the pack of Pumpkin-Headed teenagers, the Haunted Mask, or the Living Dummy?

Jacobus is synonymous with Goosebumps cover art for all 62 issues of R.L Stine’s Goosebumps books from 1992 – 1997. If you’ve read those books or have merely seen any cover or advertisement for one of the books or related Goosebumps collectibles, the artist was most likely Jacobus. That said, an autobiography from Jacobus was right up my alley, but I was unsure if I’d be able to read a full book before the Halloween countdown was over. Luckily, as I thumbed through it, it was only a breezy 59 pages, so I dove right in!

If you grew up reading/watching Goosebumps, did any of the stories actually give you Goosebumps? If not, I’m sure those creepy covers did. Quite amazing too, considering they were conjured up from the mind of a guy who was afraid of horror movies as a kid and wasn’t a very good artist growing up.

If it weren’t for discovering It Came From New Jersey!, I would never have known of Jacobus, or the fact that he’s a Jersey guy. He grew up in Denville NJ and for a guy who came from a simple upbringing, it’s quite amazing that Jacobus’ art seems like it comes from a different universe. His unique approach to the characters created the foundation of the visual aspect of the Goosebumps world.

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In one section of the book he gives us a peek into his studio where he painted all his Goosebumps covers. Tim then takes us through his day and his artistic process. I have little to no artistic ability as far as drawing and painting, so I find artist’s process to be fascinating. One aspect of his painting process that I found interesting was that he uses an airbrush for certain steps which is probably what makes his work so vibrant and outlandish.

Jacobus shares a few little fun facts for Goosebumps fans. He explains how he used to get asked often if he was personal friends with author R.L Stine or if they worked together to create the books. Surprisingly, Tim said he (up until that point) had only met R.L Stine once at a party and Stine didn’t even know who he was! Another fun bit for fans of the books is that he actually posed for the photo that he based the artwork on for the cover of The Horror at Camp Jellyjam.

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I thoroughly enjoyed It Came From New Jersey!, it was a quick, fun read. Jacobus is relatable since he came from modest beginnings working odd jobs to drawing pictures of food for local grocery store circulars and eventually with a lot of perseverance he became the Goosebumps artist during it’s peak. Toward the end of the book he gives the reader advice on how they can become an artist too. As I mentioned, I’m no artist, but his tutorial in the back of the book inspired me to do some drawing of my own. Jacobus provides the reader with a short art lesson on how to draw Curly the Skeleton in six steps. At first, it seemed pretty simple so I wanted to give a stab at it. I emphasize that I am a horrible artist (for more on that go here.) For those unfamiliar with Curly, he’s basically the Goosebumps mascot, sort of like their version of The Cryptkeeper, and below you will never see him drawn worse that you see here. Poor Curly. No one should let me within ten feet of a pencil and markers.

  • My daughter was into the books for awhile, but I was just too old, I guess! Hope you have a Happy Hallowe'en!