Welcome to another installment of our Dark Hour commentary. Don't forget, you have one more week to enter for your chance to win a free signed copy of the book over at Goodreads!
Today, we're talking about the new monster on the block--the TJ Creature. This winged gargolye-man actually made his first appearance in the e-novella prequel to Dark Hour, Lengthening Shadows (still on sale for only 2.99 :p). For each book of the saga, I wanted to expand the monster mythology. In Book Two, we introduced the Shamblers, so in Book Three, I concocted another mutation of the "Shambler-strain", as it were. The Creature is described as being covered in black oil (like all Shamblers), except this one has a face because he's a different type. He's also winged, and wrapped in tattered clothes. With a description like that, you would assume that I was simply ripping off another awesome Hollywood creature--The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers. I mean, even their names are similar!
However, you would be mistaken. First off, let me say that I love Jeepers Creepers. I discovered that movie before I learned of certain controversies surrounding its writer/director, but both of those films came out in a time in my life when I wanted to believe in a monster again. I watched both of those movies with a childlike sense of wonder, so they are near and dear to me. So, I guess it's safe to say that some of that inspiration rubbed off when crafting my own winged menace.
Yet, the REAL inspiration for the TJ Creature dates back to when I was a small boy. You see, there's this little movie that came straight to VHS called "G.I. Joe: The Movie". No, no, not the one with the Wayans brother, but the REAL one. The one with Sgt. Slaughter. Featured in this stirring piece of cinematic history is a fearsome creature that terrified me--and thrilled me--all at the same time.
I present to you the glorious Nemesis Enforcer!
Breathtaking in his dread and wonder, isn't he? Well, I was, like, 9 when this came out, so he was awesome to me. He was a mute, who let those wicked blades do the talking for him. The guy was nigh indestructible, an unstoppable killing machine. What Dark Hour would be complete without a towering brute of unimaginable strength and unending cold hatred?
The TJ Creature turned out to be quite a challenge to write, however. I made him so strong, that, as the book wound down, I was uncertain how to actually destroy him. At one time, I actually had TJ originally discovering a winged statue (a la Cthulhu) and worshiping it so much that he took on its characteristics. Then, the heroes had to smash the statue to break its hold over TJ. Sounded pretty cool, but it didn't track. It was very important to me to showcase that our real-world spiritual battle is not fought with traditional weapons, but with grace, forgiveness, mercy, and love. In a sort of 11th Hour moment, I realized that having Jeff forgive the Creature as a means of repelling his monstrous state was powerful and unique.
Some have commented, though, that after this happens, TJ simply runs off into the woods, and right out of our story. That's true, he does. And it seems he has little real resolution. My purpose for this was to show that, in real life, things don't always have tidy conclusions. Sometimes people just move out of our lives and we wonder "What ever happened to them?" But TJ's still out there, somewhere. Maybe one day we'll meet him again, but maybe we won't.
The other Shambler mutation in this book is the Rosalyn-Thing. The origins for this one were two-fold. A) When it's revealed in the book that the Dark Hour doesn't really bring some Lovecraftian menace, I felt a little cheated, even as the writer. So Rosalyn (and the Behemoth at the Lake) was my nod to tentacles and slime and eyeballs. It's a pretty grotesque picture: Rosalyn is hanging in the air, suspended by this growth oozing out of the side of her head. It's got eyes and teeth and tentacles and slick with black and green slime. Yuck! I wanted something that was hard to picture, something you didn't want to picture. That was partly due to Lovecraft, but another inspiration for this bizarre design came from watching my brother play some of the more recent Resident Evil games. I mean, there are some sick looking monsters in those suckers!
Ultimately, I was very pleased with how these new and bizarre creatures turned out in the story and it thrills me to no end that I was able to write a "Christian" novel filled with tentacles, eyeballs, slime, claws, mutations, and the like in all of their horrible glory!
Tune in next Monday for our next installment! In the meantime, my pal and fellow horror author Ed Erdelac recently had me sit down over at his blog and take a thoughtful look back at the entire The Coming Evil Trilogy.