An Interview with Artist/Collector/Monster Kid Dave Warren
Dave Warren is a Sydney based artist whose work reflects an influence of vintage tattoo design, garage rock & roll and classic movie monsters. When he is not sitting at his drawing desk in deep concentration, or working out his aggression on his drum kit, Dave is adding to his enormous collection of memorabilia based on the classic and iconic 1954 Universal horror film The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its two sequels (1956’s Revenge of the Creature and 1957’s The Creature Walks Among Us).
John Harrison: When did the collecting bug first hit you?
Dave Warren: Well, I have always been a monster fan, but I didn’t really start collecting seriously until I was in my early 20s. I had just moved out of home for the first time and was taking a walk one evening, when I came across a comic shop. There was a really cool display in the front window of model kits, comics and horror magazines. I went inside for a closer look, and found the Creature vinyl model kit released by Horizon. It was pretty expensive...but I had to have it!
JH: What was it about the Creature that struck such a chord with you?
DW: My earliest memories of the Creature go back to when I was a kid. Sometime in the 70s my Dad came home one afternoon with some gifts for my sister and I. My sister got a rubber shark and I got 2 rubber monster jigglers – a Wolfman and...a CREATURE! (I should add, I didn’t know this toy was called "The Creature", or who he was, or that these cool jigglers were produced by Azrak Hamway and would later in time become rare and highly sought after by monster collectors). The jiggler was my first introduction to the Gill-Man!
Another memory, from around the same period, was seeing a photo in MAD Magazine. It was the classic shot of Ricou Browning, as the Creature, creeping up on a log from the lagoon. That image was etched into my brain for a few years and soon after, I saw the movie on late night TV.
Seeing the movie for the first time as a young boy was an amazing experience for me. As much as I had always loved monsters, I had NEVER seen anything as cool as "THE CREATURE"! I was hooked from then on.
JH: You used to collect a wide variety of subjects, including Planet of The Apes and Mego action figures. What made you decide to focus all of your collecting energies on the Creature?
DW: There are many films, monsters and vintage toys that I dig, but the Creature is, and has always been my number one. I got to a point where I didn’t have the money or space to collect all the other subjects that I like as much as my favourite, so I made the only decision I could.
JH: What is your favourite piece of Creature memorabilia currently in your collection & what is the Holy Grail you most wish to add to it?
DW: There’s a variety of things in my collection, toys, model kits, masks, posters, t-shirts, 8 x 10" stills, comic books, jigsaw puzzles, magazines etc. I love every piece I own. Over the years that I have been collecting Creature memorabilia, I’ve been lucky to add pieces to my collection that I thought I may never own.
My favourite in the toy department is an AHI 8 inch "Male" action figure, and in my opinion, The Coolest Creature Toy EVER! (most of the original paint has worn away, but I love it anyway!)
I own the Don Post Studios’ Creature Hands (2nd issue from the early 70s). Rare, and awesome.
I have a small (but authentic) piece from The Revenge of the Creature Creature suit. It’s the rarest and most historical piece I own. There is nothing better than owning a piece of film history…that piece can’t be beaten.
On a personal level, some of my Creature highlights have been writing to Ben Chapman (who played the land Creature in the first movie); Ricou Browning (who played the underwater creature in all 3 of the Creature movies) and Julie Adams (who played the leading lady and object of the Creature’s affections in the first movie).
I sent Ben Chapman a fan letter, and a drawing I did of him in the Creature suit. A few weeks later, I received an envelope from Ben, filled with autographed photos of Ben and Ben as the Creature and a personal letter in which he thanked me for my artwork and for being such a fan of The Gill-Man. Receiving that response from Ben Chapman was such a rush!
I received similar letters and autographed photos, in response to my letters and drawings sent to Ricou Browning and Julie Adams. They are great caring people who acknowledge their fans worldwide.
Holy Grails? Well... there is a heap! The great Hasbro stuff from the 60s (The Mystery Game and Paint by Numbers Set) The Takara Inflatable Figure (from Japan), the AHI Squirt Gun and the Standard Plastics Monster Wallet...
JH: How does your collection inspire and influence your artwork?
DW: I’ve been drawing monsters since I was a kid, and I don’t see myself stopping! These days, I basically eat, sleep and breathe the Creature, so he does make regular appearances in my artwork, he inspires my subject matter, and he’s just so much fun to draw! I use my existing collection for reference, and I use images/photos of my sought after holy grails for reference as well. My artwork features many things I own and love, but also sought after items I may never own, and my artwork draws me closer to those holy grails.
JH: Having amassed such an impressive collection of Creature memorabilia, with presumably a lot more to come, do you have any long term plans to put your collection on display anywhere for other fans to enjoy?
DW: I will definitely be adding more to my collection. In relation to display, we will see what the future brings....
All original artwork Copyright Dave Warren.