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“LIFE IN THE DEMON’S GIZZARD”
Ghoulish fiction from Betty Rocksteady
Hello, ghouls! I hope your weekend has been ghoulish and evil. To continue these vibes, we thought we’d share Betty Rocksteady’s “Life in the Demon’s Gizzard.”
This story is included in the debut issue of Ghoulish Tales, which is out now and available to purchase via our webstore, B&N, or Amazon. You can also SUBSCRIBE. Additionally, copies are in stock at our bookstore (Ghoulish Books, 9330 Corporate Drive, Suite 702, Selma, TX 78154).
In addition to writing the ghoulish tale you are about to read, Betty also illustrated both the magazine’s front cover and the opening interior illustration. Stay tuned after the story for an exclusive interview with the author/artist, where Betty drops some pretty exciting book news!
“LIFE IN THE DEMON’S GIZZARD”
By Betty Rocksteady
The rain pounds against the window, fills the silence between the sisters. Tess sorts through teetering stacks of VHS tapes, swirls of dark hair falling in her face. “What should we watch first?
“I still don’t know why you kept all of those. You’re way too attached to this junk.” Nicole slouches on the sofa behind a TV tray covered in snacks—cheese, crackers, chips, meat. A feast for her last night here with Tess.
“I can’t just get rid of them. It’s our childhood.”
“Honestly, I’d like to get rid of a lot of our childhood.”
Tess shuffles the tapes. Mostly kid stuff. A lot of it taped off the TV, Tess and Nicole’s childish scrawls labeling the contents. But there’s also at least a dozen brightly-colored cartoon tapes, off-model drawings of Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, all the classics. “Really? I’d love to go back. Just for a little while. No responsibilities. And Mom and Dad, of course, to have them back.”
“You barely have any responsibilities now. That’s been your life for the last 27 years.”
“Hey, remember Rune?” Tess holds up a tape. The cover isn’t colorful like the other ones; a black scrawl of ink against a white background. An owl leers out, all big black eyes and ruffled feathers. “You used to love this one. Maybe we should watch this first, and then a movie?”
“Did I love it? Honestly, I don’t remember this shit the way you do.” Nicole watches Tess’ face, then sighs, softens very slightly. “OK. Pick one. I can’t stay up watching cartoons all night. I have to get up super early for my flight tomorrow.”
“You don’t have to. You could stay.”
The rain fills the silence again. Tess’ lower lip starts to shake, and her eyes brim with tears that don’t quite spill over. Nicole says nothing, looks back at her phone.
“Nicole,” Tess starts.
“Pick something to watch, Tess. I’ll watch one cartoon.”
“I can’t decide. You pick.”
“Put on the owl one. I really don’t care. I don’t remember any of them. It’s all new to me.”
Tess smiles, showing too many teeth. “OK, awesome. You really did like that one when we were kids. I remember watching it all the time.”
“Are you sure the VCR even works?
“Yeah, I use it every now and then, it works fine.” She shoves the tape into the machine and it whirs as it rewinds. “It’s only 22 minutes, just three cartoons. We can probably watch something else after. You don’t have to get up that early.”
The cartoon clunks as it finishes rewinding. Tess presses play, then climbs up on the couch next to Nicole and the untouched snack board. Nicole types something into her phone, smiles faintly. Tess shoves crackers and cheese into her mouth. “It’s good,” she says. Nicole nods.
The cartoon starts with a cheery scream of trumpets. Swaying grey trees surround a title screen, white letters on a black background: Albert Lyster presents Rune the Demon.
“He’s a demon?” Nicole asks. “I thought he was an owl.”
“I guess he’s both. I know we watched these but I don’t remember much else. Remember when we were kids? We’d sit on the floor in front of the TV.”
“Yeah, while Mom screamed at Dad in the kitchen.”
Tess doesn’t reply to that. The cartoon starts. Well, it’s not a cartoon yet. It’s a regular film. Black and white, shades of grey bleeding into each other. A hum of staticky silence as a man scribbles away on a drawing board. A glimpse of his writing. Not quite letters, maybe symbols or maybe just practice loops of his pen. After a moment, he flips to a blank page and turns to greet the audience. His hair is neatly combed back, dark eyes sunken in his face. The white expanse of paper behind him is ripe with potential. He smiles.
“I thought this was a cartoon?” Nicole picks up a cracker but doesn’t eat it.
The cartoonist introduces himself as Uncle Al and dips his fountain pen into the inkwell. “Cartoons are a remarkable art. A curve here and a swish there, and you have a funny little character.” His pen dances across the page, lines and circles, a smear of black ink, and Rune appears.
“He doesn’t look like an owl or a demon really.” Nicole frowns.
“Yeah, these cartoons are so old, the language isn’t really there yet. Like, Rune is one of the first cartoons ever. It’s kind of cool, right? Just raw creative energy.”
Rune dances across the page, his wings changing shape and size, his proportions stretching and distorting. “Creation is the most important part of life, one of the most fundamental human urges. Creating, and sharing your creation with others. The audience is just as important as the artist. Because without one, how would the other exist?” Uncle Al grins. “You can do anything in a cartoon. Makes you feel like you can shape real life just the same. Wouldn’t that be fun?” Rune nods his agreement, eyes swirling with darkness.
“I don’t know how you can watch this shit,” Nicole says. “It’s starting to give me a headache.”
“And when I say anything, I mean anything.” A few swirls of his pen and a hammer appears. The handle has a real weight to it, heavy and wooden, the claw sharp and dangerous-looking. Nicole’s back stiffens. A few loops of the pen and a goofy wide-eyed farmer appears and picks up the hammer. He chases Rune across the blank page for a few seconds, and the hammer grows in size as he lifts it over his head and throws it at Rune. Feathers fly, blood squirts, Rune is flattened.
“Ugh,” Nicole says.
A pause on the squished mass, a hesitation, a vibration, and then Rune pops back up into shape, eyes swirling, beak sharp. Uncle Al blots out the farmer with a sea of black ink. “See! Anything can happen in a cartoon! And if you don’t like it, you can change it. Just like in real life. All right, Rune, take a bow and get back in there.” Rune bows and hops back in the inkwell. Jazzy trumpet music swells up again as the credits roll.
“Ugh, that was awful. I don’t even get it. There’s no plot. I didn’t even like these when I was a kid.”
“Yes you did! We watched this all the time.” Tess shoves more crackers in her mouth and Nicole looks closely at her before speaking.
“My memories of being a kid aren’t as happy as yours are, Tess. I don’t think yours are even really as happy as you think they are.”
Tess turns her attention back to the screen. “That one was weird, but I think the other ones must have been better or we wouldn’t have watched it all the time.”
Nicole sighs. “I don’t think I can watch any more of this, Tess. I’m going to head to bed.”
“No, come on. It’s only 22 minutes. You promised.” Tess slides closer on the couch, drapes herself across Nicole’s lap. “Please. You make me feel like you hate me. You don’t have to go.”
Nicole puts a reluctant hand on Tess’ back. “I can’t stay forever. I have a life to get back to.”
“Yeah, well, I have nothing. I’ve lost everything. Mom and Dad are dead, you’re leaving, I’m all fucked up and I can’t do this alone.” Tess buries her face in Nicole’s lap as the jazzy intro music to the next cartoon begins.
Nicole tries to extract herself from Tess’ grip and goes limp instead when she can’t. “You can do this. I’ve done everything I can to help you get this place cleaned up and get some resources in place for you. That’s all I can do. I can’t live your life for you.”
The next cartoon starts, neither girl watching it. Rune walks through a dark forest as tiny creatures skitter by. His feathers shift as his body sways from side to side.
“They were your parents too.”
“Yeah, they were, and I spent years unfucking myself up from them and building a life that I actually enjoy.”
On screen, Rune scuttles up a tree until only his eyes peer out from the leaves. A grinning mouse family dances across the forest floor. Trumpets blare as Rune plunges down from the tree and swallows them whole. Faint squeals beneath the music. Rune burps, and one of the mice leaps from his throat and scurries away.
“Let me breathe.”
Tess sits up reluctantly. “I don’t know why you’re being like this. They were good parents. They did everything for me, they would have done everything for you too.”
“Yeah, they did do everything for you, but I don’t think that did you any good. They were both fucking nuts. I loved them, of course I did, but Mom’s mental illness made her a fucking nightmare to live with and I’m lucky I escaped. I’m sorry you didn’t, but now is your chance to build a better life for yourself. Do the therapy, take it seriously, take advantage of the money you inherited—this is a good thing. You don’t have to end up like her.”
A wolf follows Rune through the forest, laughing as he creeps through the bushes. Its' eyes are hungry, but Rune’s are hungrier. The wolf is huge, a mess of scars and matted fur. Rune is clever. Every time the wolf gains an upper hand, Rune shifts and his body blurs and something changes. Tess’ eyes are shiny, cracker crumbs on her chin. “It’s so weird the way these old cartoons were. Like you just said, the way they don’t really have a plot. Like Rune got so popular for a while, and everything went totally cookie-cutter. Not as big as Mickey Mouse, but way different from this stuff. God, it must be so weird for the cartoonist, do you think?”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know, how like you make something, you have an idea for it and back then cartoons were like brand-new, so he was doing this crazy, experimental thing and then it gets all popular and completely out of his hands. Like it has nothing to do with his original idea, it expanded so far past that. These ones have that initial creative spark, though. The real stuff, you know? Like where does that spark even come from, do you think? Did he invent Rune, or did he just pluck him out of the ether somehow? The collective unconscious, I don’t know. Do you know what I mean?”
“I don’t give a fuck about the cartoon, Tess. Is this really want you want to be talking about?
Rune’s legs grow beneath him, strange sharp angles, too many joints, his squat body teetering on top of them as he runs through the dark wood. A mob of animals follow him, lit candles clutched in their hands, murmuring under their breath.
“It’s just weird, right, the way something can spin entirely out of the creator’s control?” Tess’ forehead is shiny with sweat. Her words are coming faster and faster. “I don’t know. Maybe it sounds really weird but I feel, like, connected to that cartoonist. Do you think it’s because I watched it so much as a kid? I feel like I know what he’s thinking. I feel like he wanted Rune to be something, and things got out of his hands and he was so angry about it. It got popular, but I bet he never even got paid for those later cartoons. I bet that isn’t even what he wanted, that thing he said, how the audience is important too. He thought he wanted Rune to be successful, but what he really wanted was for Rune to be seen. You know?”
The cartoon ends with Rune alone in a tree, the moon spinning. Cryptic symbols light up the sky for a moment, transforming it. Rune closes his eyes and the screen goes dark. Tess stares at the screen, smiling as tears stream down her face.
Rain pounds against the window. Nicole chews her lip before she speaks. “OK, we don’t have to talk about our parents. We don’t have to dig all that stuff up. I get it. That’s for therapy. That’s fine. But Tess, just because I’m leaving tomorrow doesn’t mean I don’t care, OK? I promise I’ll stay in touch, I won’t disappear again. If I do that, can you promise me you’re going to take care of yourself?” Tess doesn’t reply, just keeps staring at the screen. “Tess, come on. It makes me really nervous hearing you talk like that. You sound like Mom with all that referential delusion type shit.”
The next cartoon starts with a melancholy blues riff. A cloudy sky, dark wings, a farm. Chickens shimmy into a dilapidated barn for the night, and shortly after, Rune squeezes through a hole in the roof. The farmer from the first cartoon creeps across the acreage.
“It’s not that I don’t want to talk about Mom and Dad. I’d love to talk about them, but you always have such nasty things to say. They did everything they could for us. I miss them so much. Why are you always so mean?”
Nicole pauses, presses her lips together, but the words spill out anyway. “Because Mom was fucking crazy, Tess! Besides all the shit she did to us, and there was plenty of it, and that was bad enough, but besides that, she fucking murdered Dad and killed herself! And no one was surprised! Fuck, this hero worship is doing you no favors. You’ve got to process this shit if you don’t want to end up like her.”
Tess blinks, then her eyes creep back to the screen. Rune stares back at her. The farmer has cornered him in the barn. He reaches for something on the wall. “You know, the cartoonist of this died penniless. I don’t know, did I read that somewhere, or do I just know it? Either way, it really fucks me up. You can see the occult vibes, right? Those weird symbols in the last cartoon, that whole creation schtick in the first one. Fuck, I don’t know. It bothers me. I feel really weird. Does this sound crazy? I think I know what he was trying to do. He was trying to make Rune successful, like with those symbols, they meant something, but he forgot to make himself successful too, right, and so Rune ended up exploding in success but he didn’t get any of it. What happens to that energy, do you think? That frustration and betrayal? Where does it go?”
The hand clenches a hammer. The hammer swings, flattens Rune, and for a moment there is silence. A moment to process the squished body, the bulging eyes, the spray of feathers, blood, and then Rune pops back up, unharmed. The magic of cartoons. Nicole opens her mouth, closes it again. A pause, then she huffs out a long breath. “I’m going to bed.”
Tess’ face collapses. “It’s early. Come on, you didn’t even eat any of the snacks I made.” Nicole doesn’t respond. Somber horns fill the room as she slinks out of it, shoulders slumped.
The end credits run. Tess’ eyes never leave the screen as static fills it. She sinks to her knees on the floor, and inches closer to the TV, and when Rune returns she hears what he whispers and she says, “Yes.”
Dawn brings a slim warm light into the living room. The couch envelops Tess. Blankets have sprouted up overnight, and the bookshelves loom in, making things feel tighter. Upstairs, Nicole’s alarm, and then the sounds of her getting up, flushing the toilet, washing her face. Tess sinks deeper into the sofa. The cartoons blare louder, the music more frantic beneath crackling distortion.
“God, the air is so stuffy in here.” Nicole has two suitcases in her hands, drops them by the door. “Are you still up? Did you go to bed at all?”
Nicole stops to look at the screen. Rune’s eyes roll madly in his head, his claws expand and contract as he swoops down onto a rabbit. “Is this the same tape? You’re watching it again?”
Nicole looks around the room. Old toys are strewn across the carpet. Books spill from the bookshelves. “I thought we donated most of this stuff. Where did this all come from?” She picks up a stained stuffed animal with a frown. A bunny. An old hand-me-down, one of Nicole’s favorites as a kid. “I definitely remember donating this.” Tess’ eyes don’t move from the screen, and her thumb creeps into her mouth. Nicole shifts weight from one foot to the other. “I’m just going to make a quick coffee and then I’ve got to get going. Do you want anything?”
“Come sit with me.”
“I’ve got to get going, Tess.”
“Just watch one cartoon. This one is ending. Watch the next one with me.”
“I don’t have time for this.” Nicole goes to the kitchen and the sound of her making coffee blends with the trumpet music as the next cartoon begins. When Nicole comes back to the room with her coffee, she looks more frazzled. Pale. “Did you paint the fucking kitchen overnight?”
Tess’ eyes don’t leave the screen.
“Why does everything look different? I don’t get it.” Her voice is thinner, near the edge of anxiety. She swallows her coffee and winces.
“Looks the same as it always did.”
“You’re freaking me out, Tess. I’m leaving. I don’t care what weird shit you get up to.”
“’Kay.” Rune soars through the air, something moving in the dark pools of his eyes.
Nicole looks at the screen, then looks at Tess, thumb in her mouth, curled into the side of the couch. She checks the time and sighs, sits next to Tess. Takes her hand. “You’re going to go to therapy later today, yeah? I’ll call you when I land. You are important to me, even if it doesn’t seem like it.”
Tess nods, but doesn’t look away from the screen. Nicole waits a few seconds, sighs. “OK. I’m headed out then. I love you.” She kisses Tess on the top of her head. Her soft hair smells like apple shampoo, the same cheap kind they both used as kids. Nicole frowns.
“I’ll call you when I get in.” Nicole leaves her coffee on the table. She picks up her suitcases with shaking hands and heads to the front porch. Tess snuggles deeper into the couch, clutching the stuffed bunny Nicole picked up earlier.
Rune dances with a group of barnyard animals, and one by one, takes them away into the woods, until only Rune is left, dancing. Tess watches and Rune smiles at her.
Nicole’s curses interrupt the cheery music. Her face is red and puffy when she comes back into the living room. “What did you do to the door?”
“Didn’t do nothin’.”
“It won’t open. I don’t have time for this!” She storms to the back door and Rune opens his wings and rats fly out and Nicole comes back and now her face is really red. “What did you do?” She grabs Tess’ arm, hard, and Tess shrugs her off and stares at the screen. “Why won’t anything open? Fuck! I’ll crawl out the window if I have to.” Nicole rolls up her sleeves and moves towards the living room window.
“I’m gonna get some cereal.” Tess wanders into the kitchen and pours a colorful bowl of sugar and marshmallows, adds milk, grabs a spoon. Nicole is cursing in the living room, but the music drowns her out. When Tess comes back, Nicole is crying. It’s OK, though, because the cartoons are on and she can just sit and watch them, and everything else can fade into the distance.
Rune is flying over a row of cottages and the lights go off one by one, until he is just a dark shape moving in darkness, wings and talons and teeth and Nicole is saying something, and Nicole is angry, but Tess is safe. She is on the couch watching cartoons. She spoons more cereal into her mouth. Rune dances on screen, his wings wiggling in tune to the music. Symbols move in the expanse of darkness behind him. Tess laughs, she can’t help it. Then Nicole is shaking her, and Tess’ glassy eyes shift slowly to Nicole’s pale face. “What did you do to my phone? What the fuck is going on here?” Nicole’s breathing is fast. Sweat drips down her forehead. “I don’t understand what’s happening.”
“I dunno. Why don’t you just hang out with me? Do you want some cereal?”
“I don’t want any fucking cereal,” Nicole spits. She storms out of the room, through the kitchen, down into the basement. Tess slurps the last milk out of her bowl and takes her dishes to the kitchen to rinse. She pauses, listening to Nicole rustling around in the basement, then pours more cereal into her bowl. There’s plenty. They’ll never run out. When Nicole comes back up, there’s a hammer in her hand. “Where the fuck did this come from, Tess? This shouldn’t be here.”
“This is it, isn’t it? Isn’t it? The police should have this, this shouldn’t be here. How did this get back here?”
Tess walks back into the living room. Nicole storms past her to the window. The flat thuds of the hammer against glass seem to frustrate her more, until she is screaming. “Why is it so dark out? Where is everything?” Nicole paces back and forth, her hair soaked with sweat. Tess closes her eyes, and time passes, so much time, the jazzy notes of the cartoon swell and fade and swell and fade, and eventually Nicole’s sobs slow down, soften, and finally Tess wraps her arms around her and lowers her to the couch. She covers her with a blanket and they sink back into the cushions and the crying stops. Nicole lets herself be held and Tess shoves more cereal into her mouth and keeps her eyes on the TV.
“I can’t do this anymore.” Nicole is pacing again.
Tess doesn’t mind. It’s easy to ignore her. She’s said it before, dozens of times, and yet they’re still here, watching cartoons together. Rune scuttles up a tree and Tess giggles at the screen, greasy hair shadowing her face.
“It feels like we’ve been here forever.” A cluster of zits near Nicole’s mouth break open and ooze.
“We have. It’s always like this. Just me and you watching cartoons. Come sit with me.”
Nicole yanks at her hair, looks out the window again, into the swirling darkness. “I miss my cat. I miss my life. I was supposed to go home.”
“This is your home. You’re making me dizzy walking around like that. Come watch the cartoon.”
Nicole screams. No words, just a shrill expression of rage. The hammer is in her hand again. It’s heavy and makes her shoulder sag. “You did this, didn’t you?” Tess doesn’t say anything, puts her thumb in her mouth. Nicole takes a step closer, another. “How did you do this?” Tess shrugs.
Nicole raises the hammer.
Unlike the window, the TV crumples under the blow. The screen shatters. Tiny fragments of glass rip into Nicole’s forearms. Blood dribbles onto the stained carpet as she swings the hammer again and again. Plastic crumples. The electronic insides hiss and fizzle.
The television is dead.
Nicole falls to her knees.
Silence fills the room, broken only by the wet sounds of Tess sucking her thumb.
A hum of static.
The TV puts itself back together in fits and starts. The air in the room feels heavier, more difficult to breathe. The glass flies back into shape, a groan and hum of wires, and Nicole is screaming but she tires herself out quickly, because by the time her voice grows hoarse the cartoons are back on. Tess reaches for her sister, touches her sticky hair, but Nicole shrugs her off.
“You did this, didn’t you?”
“Mmm.” Rune devours a mouse, claws and talons ripping it to shreds, and the mouse’s skeleton hops up and does a little jig.
Nicole’s breathing is thin. “I love you but I’m not staying. I’ve got to stop this somehow. I’m not staying. Not here.”
She picks up the hammer again.
It comes down hard against Tess’ temple. The bone crumples, the flesh caves. Nicole grunts, and something flickers across her face. Tess doesn’t move, just smiles faintly, and the hammer smashes into her nose this time. A gush of blood, a spray of bone. Her eye bulges under the pressure, weeps red tears. The hammer flies again and again and again until Tess’ face is just a smear of red on the couch, and Nicole screams but the doors still won’t open, and the window still won’t budge, and the red fades to black and white, and there is a groan and a wheeze as Tess’ face bounces back, a crunch as her features fill back in, and she looks younger somehow, even younger than before, and on the screen, Rune is pacing back and forth and he really is such a funny character, the way his limbs change shape as they move. The cartoonists didn’t have a plan in mind when they made those original cartoons, it was just raw sweat and blood and ink, and it was amazing what they could create, or what they could discover, and the little creatures move across the screen and they dance and finally Nicole laughs and the jazz is suffocating and this time when Tess asks her if she wants some cereal she says yes and settles deeper into the couch.
Read the other stories in Ghoulish Tales Issue #1 HERE.
A GHOULISH INTERVIEW WITH BETTY ROCKSTEADY
Is there an origin story you can share for “Life in the Demon’s Gizzard?”
Yeah, a couple different things came together. I knew I wanted to write something I could also do some art for, and I knew it had to be GHOULISH – fun without being funny, just really enjoying the horror genre. So I landed pretty quickly on doing something with cartoons and especially old VHS cartoons, which I have a huge collection of. Rune the
OwlDemon’s visuals are inspired by this owl you see for about four seconds in the beginning of the 1933 Betty Boop cartoon The Old Man of the Mountain.
Even though old cartoons are supposedly for kids, there’s something very raw and surreal about them that has always made me uneasy, and I try to really play with that when I’m writing about cartoons. From there I wanted to do some character-based stuff, and I love to write stories where you don’t get a ton of back story filled in, it’s just hinted at as you get deeper into the horror and the NOW of what’s going on. So I spend a lot of time writing notes about exactly the past history of the sisters and what they’ve gone through, and I dribble that information out and let the reader fill in a lot of the blanks.
Over the years we’ve noticed a definite evolution in your work as you’ve continued embracing your sincere love for old cartoons, and I think this story is a perfect example of that evolution. Do you think about your work in this way, and where do you envision it going in the future?
Yeah, since I started writing there’s definitely been an evolution in this direction and it seems to fit really well to me. The first couple years I was writing I was getting some of the construction stuff down, figuring out how to begin and end a story, but for a long time it felt like there was something missing. It’s when I started embracing the surreal and dreamlike aspects of horror that I started to hit on what made my writing mine, and those surreal and dreamlike aspects are very prominent in old cartoons too. My dad was a cartoonist and I grew up watching 1930s Fleischer cartoons and they made a really big impact on me. Drawing and art has always been as important as writing to me, if not more, and marrying them together feels the most Rocksteady to me.
My book Soft Places is a hybrid novella/graphic novel and while I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to work on next, I definitely see my work continuing in this direction of marrying art and prose together to create unique stories.
How do you approach the “vibe” of a story? What can focusing on atmosphere accomplish that plot/story simply cannot?
It’s hard to put into words what exactly the “vibe” is and how I create it, but it is essential to my writing. I do a lot of visualization before I write to try and get myself into the atmosphere – I'll close my eyes and run through the scene a few times before I start typing. I do also like to listen to music while I’m writing, always instrumental. For Soft Places I was listening to the album Mr. Gone by Weather Report, I’ve listened to the Eraserhead soundtrack a lot for surrealist stuff, and for “Life In The Demon’s Gizzard “I listened to Cab Calloway – he did the music for The Old Man of the Mountain, and several other old Betty Boop cartoons, so he always gets me into that mood.
In addition to writing, you also illustrated the front cover for this issue, and will (hopefully) continue illustrating every issue of Ghoulish Tales for as long as we remain a publication. Can you talk a little about how the character of The Ghoul came to be? What goes into drawing this character? Have you secretly established any fun little exposition for The Ghoul that readers might find interesting?
The first time I drew The Ghoul was for the Ghoulish podcast logo, and I was basically trying to draw you, Max, if you were an old-timey werewolf cartoon. I looked at a bunch of other werewolf and wolf cartoons for inspiration and just sort of whipped it up – and then he was just really fun to draw, so we ended up using him for other Ghoulish stuff.
When I’m drawing him I try to keep things pretty loose, not too fussy with the anatomy, just make him a bit wild and fun looking. I think he’ll keep evolving as my art style does too, since I started drawing him I’ve gotten a new program to draw with and I’m getting a lot more comfortable using color and various textures, so I think I’ll be able to come up with some really fun stuff for future covers. I used to primarily draw in black and white and I’m really happy to be exploring more colorful stuff now and being able to make it look the way it looks in my head. I love the way the cover for issue two looks as well! Excited for that one to come out.
You’re hosting a movie night of old cartoons. What are you screening for us, and what kind of snacks will be involved?
Okay, great question. I could list dozens of favorites, but let’s do say 5 shorts and a feature. So for the shorts, Silly Symphonies The Skeleton Dance, Bimbo’s Initiation, Mickey Mouse The Haunted House, Betty Boop Snow White, and Swing You Sinners. For the feature, let’s go in a different direction, with the traumatic, insane, psychedelic Belladonna of Sadness.
Snacks, I like popcorn, twizzlers and cream soda. Y’all can bring whatever you want though.
Any final words you’d like to share about “Life in the Demon’s Gizzard?”
I go to a craft night a couple times a month with a group of friends, and I drew up the character sheet for Rune the
OwlDemon there and the girls were all absolutely aghast at Rune’s appearance and I was delighted at how uncomfortable he made them. I think he has a real vibe – there's no reason for this picture to be scary but it is and it was great to know I had hit upon exactly what I was trying for.
Please use this space to promote anything else you might have coming out that our ghouls should be excited about.
Yes! I am so, so excited to say that my collection In Dreams We Rot will be re-released soon, not exactly sure the date, but soon, from a little publisher called GHOULISH, with an new cover drawn by me, story notes, and a bonus story.
ABOUT BETTY ROCKSTEADY
Betty Rocksteady writes cosmic sex horror, cat mythos, and surreal, claustrophobic nightmares.
Her debut novella Arachnophile was part of Eraserhead Press New Bizarro Author Series 2015. Like Jagged Teeth and The Writhing Skies were released by Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing. The Writhing Skies was voted Novella of the Year by This Is Horror Awards 2018.
Soft Places, a novella/graphic novel hybrid, was released by Ghoulish Books in October 2022.