If you were in grade school in the 1990s — or at least, if you visited your local library — chances are you caught a glimpse of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series.
Launching with 1992’s first title in the series, Welcome to Dead House, Goosebumps — and Stine’s empire in general — has reached audiences young and old, far and wide, in the almost three decades since, appealing across any demographic with an interest in the mild but creepy genre of children’s horror stories. With several core series, a handful of spinoffs, two feature films, and a very popular television show, it’s hard to deny that Stine’s ever-popular franchise confirmed that the chills and thrills of genre fiction weren’t — and still aren’t — for just adults anymore.
In fact, in an increasingly conservative era where parents and companies were cracking down on the fear-factor of role playing games, video games, and television shows, Goosebumps became the core text for children who were ready to trust in themselves enough to experience something scary for a change. (Well, maybe not too scary.)
Although the many stories in a series that published more than 60 books in its first five years alone were filled with mystery and often rooted in the very strange, very real fears that taunt us as children (What if my gym teacher became a vampire? What if my toys were trying to kill me? What if my mom and dad are aliens?), the real hooks for the series were often, right from the jump, the colorful, eye-catching cover art adorning each new volume.
From library shelves to the inviting piles of Scholastic Book Fairs in schools, the Goosebumps books couldn’t help but out. Utilizing vibrant colors, movement-heavy cartooning, and a combination of alternately silly and horrifying visuals, the art of cover illustrator Tim Jacobus is something that has stuck in many a 90’s kid mind long after we’ve forgotten what the stories were about.
Jacobus illustrated every Goosebumps book from the original run and, in turn, created a host of memories for generations to come. While I couldn’t tell you what Egg Monsters From Mars was about, I can certainly remember the cover, with a broken, rotten egg spewing out a textured muck that made my stomach churn to look at. Thus, I had to have it!
The same is true of any of the Monster Blood stories, with artwork ranging from giant feet on a normal-sized playground to a rabid, angry little gerbil busting out of its cage; the list goes on, with each cover stirring up vivid memories, not just for the yearning to know what kind of story could be under such a strange book cover, but for the chance to reach out and take charge of what made me curious and scared in equal measure. I imagine that a quick side-scroll through the gallery below will produce a lot of the same feelings for many.
To wrap up our month of Halloween programming, it felt only appropriate to get back to the roots of where horror started for so many now-aging genre junkies: the glorious spooky, the icky, and the eerie covers of Tim Jacobus that, after all these years, are still giving us memories, heebie-jeebies, and of course, goosebumps.