Saturday, September 5, 2009


I write about monsters a lot. They are also one of my favorite things to draw. I devote a lot of my life to studying them. Real, imaginary, mythological, cryptozoological, folklorical, fine art, crass commercialism, mass media, or mass hysteria, it doesn’t matter, I’m fascinated by grotesque beings.

Some say this is because I’m rather grotesque myself, but I guess I should let others decide that.

I am not unique in this fascination. Though not always considered to be high-minded, a lot of science, culture, and just plain stuff that humans do to amuse themselves are devoted to monsters. When I feel the need to amuse myself this way, I never have to search very far to find something suitable.

Why would this be? I have a theory.

It has to do with how I think the human brain works, and that I consider the imagination as a survival tool.

You know how it is, you think you have things figured out, you go about your business feeling that it’s all routine. Then, out of nowhere, you find yourself faced with something strange, so strange that it threatens all that you think you know. You sense danger. The fight-or-flight reflex kicks in.

Only this time, it’s more complicated than that. Fighting or flying won’t do the trick. This is so strange that your brain has to do some reconfiguring.
This is a wonderful thing I call the Monster Reflex.

Deep in parts of the brain, circuits light up that don’t get used in ordinary circumstances. The imagination starts running wild. Without any prompting, you find yourself performing daring feats of creativity. You don’t realize it, so you think that something weird is happening to you. You may hallucinate. You may come up with an idea for new invention. You may create a new religion.

Or you may see a monster.

Or a UFO. Or a demon. Or an angel.

It's an altered state of consciousness that’s perfectly natural and better than any drug.

I think it’s a very healthy thing to put your brain through. Once you get used to it, the world, or just your life going crazy on you, becomes easier to deal with. When the going gets weird, you can find the strength to deal with it.

You also may end up with monsters living in your brain. And they’re good company.

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