As a “shockingly-scary” first, author R.L. Stine is attending this year’s San Diego Comic-Con; The same R.L. Stine who has consistently scared children for around twenty-five-years, mostly with his highly-popularized Goosebumps book series. Even though this seventy-three-year-old writer doesn’t garner the same presence as he had in the late nineties and early 2000’s, that fact that he has written hundreds of books over his career is a terrific show of his legendary status.
Thursday night at Comic-Con, the author shared stories and news at his own panel. There was no surprise that the large room had no empty seats at its start. Before host Matt Snetiker, staff writer for Entertainmen Weekly, got into the questions for R.L. Stine, Comic-Con International surprised the author with an Inkpot Award as a recognition of his of his years of hard work and his successful career. This recognition pleased Stine, as right before he had retold a story from a recent book signing in New York. “A teacher came up to the table and she said, “Can I get my picture taken with you? The kids all think you’re dead.”
Perhaps greatly overdue in attending Comic-Con, this year makes it all the more suitable since this is also the year he has written his first comic book; Man-Thing. A limited series being done for Marvel, Stine relayed why he had picked the creature to be his focus. “I picked Man-Thing because he is the ugliest character Marvel has. He looks like a garbage heap, so I thought that would be a nice challenge.” Taking the amount of times the author has used grotesque, slimy-things in his works, the choice of Man-Thing was perhaps befitting. The comic almost had a different name though as Stine explained. “I asked the editor what did they want to call the comic book, and she said, ‘We’d like to call it R.L. Stine’s Man-Thing,’” said Stine. “It didn’t occur to me that there was anything wrong with that. I thought, ‘Oh! My name on the cover. Nice!’ I called my wife, Jane, and said, “Jane, they want to call it R.L. Stine’s Man-Thing.’ Well, she said, ‘I don’t think so.’”
Unknown to many, the Goosebumps series would have never happened if an editor for Scholastic hadn’t asked R.L. Stine to write a scary book series for seven to twelves-year-olds. “I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “That’s just the kind of business man I am.” After a lot of nagging from editors, the author agreed, but only to a few. If you thought they were then an instant success, they weren’t. The books sat on shelves for months, largely unsold. Stine said he wasn’t surprised since no money was spent on advertising and at the time he was largely unknown in scary books for kids. This was already a second instance in which Goosebumps almost didn’t happen. “Then, something did happen,” continued Stine. “They began to move. What was happening was word of mouth. Kids would tell their friends about Goosebumps, and their friends would tell their friends. And it makes sense, really… All these kids have to go to school, after all, and see other kids.” It was from that moment that children’s literature was forever changed.
Yet another largely unknown fact is that R.L. Stine was first a humor writer, going then by the name “Jovial Bob Stine.” Since Goosebumps, the teenager audience directed Fear Street series, and others, Jovial Bob has stuck to the scares of R.L. Stine. Though, he admitted, he still writes for comedy at times. One of his more recent stints was a comedy show at “Upright Citizen Brigade.”
The rest of the panel went on like this, filled with further stories of his work (the live-action Goosebumps movie and its eventual sequal) and his family (his son Matt has never read a single Goosebumps book to date), and all ending with a string of audience questions that by large asked “What happened to this specific character in the end of this one specific book?” R.L. Stine laughed the questions off as any seventy-three-year-old who’s written too many books to remember could. Though the Arthur never intended to be scary, we can’t help but to see the humor in his accidental success.