THE GRAPHIC HEADSTONE: TOM SULLIVAN, ORIGINAL EVIL DEAD ARTIST!

graphicheadstonebanner copy                           TOM SULLIVAN, Original Evil Dead Artist
mitchheadshotDeadwest: Howdy there, Scream Freaks! Wooowee! You won’t believe what’s been happening in the cemetery today! I was just catching some R&R before reviewing the next B-movie bomb for your displeasure, and everything suddenly went crazy! Bolts of lightnin’ tear’n through the air, winds whippin’ apart headstones, thunder louder than a sow in heat . . . pandemonium! After it simmered down, and the dust cleared, you won’t believe who I found in the middle of the carnage. None other than the multi-talented artist behind the special effects of the original Evil Dead film, Tom Sullivan!

Tom Sullivan: That’s the last time I bring the Necronomicon to a convention. No matter how many times you tell fans not to read it out loud, they do it anyway! Bunch of jerks!

DW: Anyhow, I told Tom I know a way back to the flipside of the grave, but it was gonna cost him an interview for you Scream Freaks!

TS: Can we get on with this? I’m supposed to judge a Hooters Horror Honey Contest back at the convention!

DW: Let’s get this shindig roll’n, then! For those who don’t know, Tom was there at the very beginning of Evil Dead. We’re talking ground zero! While enrolled at Michigan State University in the late 70s, Tom struck up a friendship with aspiring director Sam Raimi who shared his interests in filmmaking. Tom provided Sam with original poster art for his college films and was then asked to work on the special effects for the short film prototype to Evil Dead, Within the Woods.

62686-sullivan_teaserTS: That was mostly casting. Building an arm, doing some make-up on Bruce Campbell – a lot of scars all over him, and popping his eyes out.

DW: Within the Woods was a learning experience and essential tool for raising money for its feature length successor, Evil Dead. Sam again enlisted Tom’s artistic skills, putting him in charge of the Deadite make-ups, severed limbs, injuries like the pencil in the ankle, designing and building props like the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis and dagger, and the unforgettable stop-motion Deadite meltdown at the end of the film.

ed_sfx_photo_01TS: Yup, I was there for all that. I joined Sam and the guys in Tennessee and helped shoot the pencil in the ankle, Shelly chewing her hand off, and the Deadite burning in the fireplace. After shooting in Tennessee for seven weeks, all the actors and me, except Bruce, went back home. Back in Michigan, I began working on the Deadite meltdown sequence with Bart Pierce in his basement for 3 and half months, combining stop-motion and make-up effects for an ending Sam wanted to be more violent than all the rest of the film. We were left alone and allowed to go nuts, so it was a lot of fun!

DW: Those months of hard work definitely paid off, because we’re still talking about that ending over 30 years later! That same creative fire continues to be seen in your stop-motion work for the book ending sequences of Evil Dead 2 and had me wanting to see more of Ash fighting your monsters like your winged Deadite at the end. Do you prefer stop-motion animation over special make-up effects?

62690-interviews_tom_sullivan_01TS: In my mind, they are all part of the FX toolbox which has only become more powerful and amazing over the years. I like CGI when done with the time, money, and talent to do it correctly. But practical effects will always rule.

DW: So, you weren’t there for all the filming in Tennessee. This left Sam and the gang to do some of the special effects themselves. Is there any effect in the first Evil Dead movie you regret not being on set for when it was filmed?

TS: After Scotty axes Shelly, there is a shot of her body parts on the floor twitching, and it was a nightmare to rig. Sam and the guys opened up the floor boards, and *Fake Shemps had to lie there all day while the boards were replaced and the gore applied. I like to think there may have been a less painful way to do that shot. (*Fake Shemp is a Sam Raimi term used for an actor standing in for another actor.)

DW: Being the special effects man on Evil Dead, what was your involvement with the infamous tree rape scene?

TS: I thought it was a bit too strong a beat for the film. I remember Sam telling me during the shoot that you had to hit the audience with a sledge hammer in the beginning of the film. Years later, I sat next to Sam during the screening of Evil Dead for the Evil Dead 2 film cast and crew, and when the tree rape scene came up, Sam buried his head in his hands and said, ”Why did I turn it into pornography?”

DW: Without doubt, the Evil Dead fans would surely like to hear your best Bruce Campbell story.08

TS: During the shooting of Evil Dead 2, we had an abandoned school for our studio. Bruce had a weight lifting room across from my art department and next to the men’s bathroom. I went to the bathroom and in came Bruce dressed up like Ash. I was chatting with him and suddenly realized why he was so quiet. It was Bruce’s body double for the mirror scene. You had to be there. Bruce is great. Funny, generous, and a great guy to know.

DW: After Evil Dead 2, you went on to work on The Fly 2. Can you tell us anything about that experience?

MartinflysnarlTS: The Fly 2 was my college education for creating special effects. While Chris Walas directed the film, his company, Walas Productions, did the effects. I was hired and learned a lot from his amazingly talented crew. I sculpted concept maquettes, some of the Fly creature, some of the cocoon shell, and some of the dog at the end.

DW: So, you had a little to do with almost all the effects in that film! Regarding other things outside Evil Dead, I heard you were busy working on illustrations for board games between movies. When was this, and what was the game?

To Worship CthulhuTS: From 1982 to approximately 1992, I illustrated role playing games for Chaosium Inc. They produce The Call of Cthulhu role playing game.

DW: Speaking of Cthulhu, you’re a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft, and his literature has a heavy influence on the Evil Dead mythos. Despite having a strong fan base, why do you think Lovecraft isn’t as mainstream as he should be by now? Mentions of his name or Cthulhu still leave most scratching their heads.

TS: H.P. is an acquired taste, but his stuff is intriguing, and he knew how to capture the imagination of his readers. I’m waiting for Hollywood to make the ultimate Lovecraft films. They need to get busy. The Call of Cthulhu and other similar films are amazing.

DW: Looking at your Cthulhu illustrations, it would have been kick-ass to have seen Ash fight more of your monsters in Evil Dead 3 aka Army of Darkness! Out of curiosity, why weren’t you included more in this sequel? You were all over the first one, provided amazing bookend stop-motion sequences for the second one, and then I think you’re only credit in Army of Darkness was designing the newest version of the Necronomicon?

TS: The films got better, and sometimes life gets in the way of making films. It was circumstances I believe.

DW: I see. Most everyone involved with the first Evil Dead movie stayed close together and continued their film careers into Hollywood and beyond. You obviously have the connections and the undisputed talent, so may I ask why you fell out of the movie scene so soon?

TS: Yeah, life tosses you some curves sometimes. A few months after Evil Dead 2 was released, my wife Penny went sailing with two friends on Traverse Bay in Michigan. A storm blew in, and Penny and a good friend drowned. That kind of took the joy of life from me. 6 years later, I was in a car accident and got a closed head injury for my efforts. It was misdiagnosed for 3 years. Doctors blamed my depression on my wife’s death. Doctors, it seems don’t know much about close head injuries.

DW: It’s understandable how devastating events like those can hinder an artist’s creativity and ambition. After all these years, do you currently work as a full time artist?

TS: Not any more. I’ve lost my muse and associate creating art with legal messes that take all the joy out of creating.

DW: Well, I did find out you wrote a comic sometime ago. That must have been a fun creative project to check off your artist bucket list?

Untitled-17TS: That was for Chazz DeMoss’ Dead Dog comics. I wrote a 4 issue comic called Tom Sullivan’s Books of the Dead: Devilhead. While all 4 issues were created, only the first 2 were published which is unfortunate, because the artwork was amazing! Good story, too. I’m hoping Chazz will publish it as a graphic novel someday.

DW: A lot of the original Evil Dead cast and crew have been emerging on the convention scene in the last few years. When did you start showing up at conventions and what inspired you to do so?

TS: My first convention was at Ken Kish’s Cinema Wasteland Horror Movie Expo in Strongsville, Ohio in 2000. I love conventions, because I get to meet my fans who it turn out to be highly creative and intelligent. Talking to fans is the best.

DW: You still have a lot of original props from the Evil Dead movies you showcase at every convention for fans to enjoy. What else can they expect when visiting your booth?

TS: I have all the stories and amusing anecdotes from my proposed amendment. I also sell prints of my Lovecraft artwork, rare DVDs of the many Evil Dead films from around the world, and my documentary film, Invaluable.

DW: Hold yer horses, now! You have a film? When did this slip past my radar?

store_plugs_invaluable_dvd_coverTS: Director Ryan Meade is a gung-ho filmmaker who I’d met at Novi’s Motor City Comic Con, and he did an interview with me. Then he asked if I would act in a movie or 2 of his. Eventually, he wanted to make a documentary about me and my Evil Dead experiences. Over the next several years, we found my Evil Dead pals and some of the unsung heroes of Evil Dead which made it a special film. It’s funny, informative, and a love letter to Evil Dead fans. Fans can get DVDs of Invaluable from me at my facebook address: https://www.facebook.com/tom.sullivan.391420 or darkageproductions@yahoo.com They are $20.00 each and come signed. Shipping not included.

DW: We’ll, I gotta see that now! I know you also sell replica pages from your version of the Necronomicon at the conventions and on eBay. Might there ever be the chance you would sell replicas of the book in its entirety?

TS: Yes, there’s my official Bookbinder of the Dead I make with my partner, Patrick Reese. We’ve been making replicas of the book for years, but we have a list so full, we are not taking any more orders until we have the list whittled down.

DW: I’d imagine that’s a looong list with the kind of diehard fans Evil Dead has out there!

TS: But in the meantime, some very talented friends and I are producing a variety of Mini-Books of the Dead. The 1/4 Scale Books of the Dead are cast in a quality resin and come in a variety of finishes and presentations. They are: Hand Painted 1/4 Scale Books of the Dead by me, Tom Sullivan are $35.00 each. Not Painted 1/4 Scale Books of the Dead, (acrylics work fine) are $15.00 each. 1/4 Scale Books of the Dead Painted with Glow in the Dark eyes and mouth on a round stand with felt on the bottom of the stand are $25.00 each. 1/4 Scale Books of the Dead Painted with Glow in the Dark eyes and mouth on a magnet, perfect for refrigerators are $25.00. each. Their size is approximately 2 1/2″ by 2″.

18DW: The book of the dead has certainly become your long term bread and butter which is why it makes sense you’re so protective of the copyright to your specific version of the Necronomicon and its pages you designed for each Evil Dead film. Do you ever see a cent when they replicate it for action figures, video games, special DVD cases, Halloween costume props, etc.?

TS: When I license the copyright, I do. And I have had some amazing opportunities with the licensors. Unfortunately, my artwork is stolen a lot. It’s kind of a curse.

DW: What were your impressions of the 2013 Evil Dead remake and their version of the Necronomicon?

TS: Fede Alvarez’s film scared the crap out of me! When that arm fell off that girl, I wanted my mommy. Fede did call me to discuss me making a book for the film, but I passed, because the studio would only allow my work to be work for hire. Producer Rob Tapert didn’t want to step on my rights, so Fede’s book is the “how to fix it” book while my book is the “how to make it book”. My book was made by the Leonardo Da Vinci of ancient Sumeria. Fede’s book has engravings and wood prints with references to Beelezub and Satan, clearly 15th century Europe tropes. And then over the years several people had contact with the book and wrote there fevered ranting all over it.

DW: Have you had any involvement with the new Ash VS Evil Dead TV series?

TS: It’s a great show, and if I did have any association with Ash VS Evil Dead series, they may have had me sign a contract that might say I couldn’t make any statements without prior approval. So, I can neither confirm nor deny any association with this astounding TV series.

DW: Uh huh. I think that about wraps up any questions I have for ya, but I know the Scream Freaks would love knowing where they can buy prints of your work if they can’t make it to a convention. Maybe even contact you for commission artwork?

TS: I can be reached at darkageproductions@yahoo.com. I am not taking commissions at this time, but I am selling prints and some other goodies. My website is www.darkageproductions.com. Here is my sales pitch. There are Book of the Dead prints sets of 32, 8 1/2″ by 11″ pages, all signed for $280.00. A set of 14, 8 1/2″ by 11″ Lost Pages made from my original artwork from Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, signed by myself for $110.00. I am planning an online catalog of my artwork available as prints. There are a number of prints available from my website’s Gallery you can find here: http://www.darkageproductions.com/gallery.php. Prints come in two sizes: 8 1/2″ by 11 are $10.00 each.3 fro $25.00 The 13″ by 19″ are $30.00 each.3 for $75.00. They come signed and are printed with archival quality inks on archival quality papers. They should not fade or yellow for 150 to 200 years. Shipping is not included in the prices. With your address I can give you a quote on the shipping prices. We do take PayPal. We would send you an invoice upon your order.

DW: And there you have it, Scream Freaks! The unholy mother of all gift ideas for your Evil Dead fan at home! Deal’s a deal, Tom. Let’s show ya the way back, and you’ll be judgin’ Hooters in no time!

TS: Finally! Let’s go.

DW: Hope you Scream Freaks had fun and be sure to drop Tom a line and show him some fanfare. I’ll see ya later, Scream Freaks!

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