Kool Kat of the Week: Derek Yaniger, King of Killer Kitsch and the Daddy-O’est of ‘Em All Slings His Ink and Gets to Creepin’ with NETHERWORLD this Season of Haints, Haunts and Horror!

by Melanie CrewMonsters!
Managing Editor

Perpetual Kool Kat and Daddy-O extraordinaire, Derek Yaniger, now officially official (Finally. He did create our retro-tastic logo after all!) helps dish out the terror this season of haints, haunts and horror with one of our favorite local haunted attractions, NETHERWORLD! Beginning this Friday, Sept. 30, you can feed the maniacal monster inside nightly, through Oct. 31, with a bloody encore weekend, Nov. 4-5! Get out, get scared, and spook it up!

Consistently ranked as the nation’s best Halloween attraction, our very own fangtastic homegrown haunt, NETHERWORLD delivers a terrifying 20th season, which kicked off this killer season on Sept. 23! Founders Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong and a dedicated team of designers, painters, sculptors and other artists, including Yaniger and his classic monster art created specifically for NETHERWORLD, deserve every kudo imaginable for crafting a Gothic wonderland in a Norcross commercial space. Every year it gets bigger and more creative and this year’s MONSTERS theme is no exception. Chock full of nightmare-inducing creatures, horrorific special effects and a sinister atmosphere, NETHERWORLD does not disappoint! NETHERWORLD also always features a second haunt, VAULT13: MELTDOWN that is more slasher/contemporary horror in its bent–read toxic waste, laboratories gone awry and chainsaws.

Yaniger, former artist for Marvel Comics and Cartoon Network has made a groovy name for himself locally and worldwide in the land of all things retro-culture (rockabilly, burlesque, beatnik, etc.) and has been the purveyor of ‘50s/’60s-style art since 2000. Yaniger has slung his brushes and gathered a gaggle of giddy fans at many a retro-culture event: Tiki Oasis (San Diego), Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, Tales of the Cocktail (New Orleans), Spain Wild Weekend, DragonCon and more! And of course our brothers and sisters across the globe dig his work as much as we do, with pieces Gargoylehanging at Italy’s famed MondoPop, Australia’s Outre, Mexico’s Vertigo, the UK’s Castor & Pollux, just to name a few!

ATLRetro gabbed it up with Yaniger and dished about his ‘50s/’60s kitschy art-style, his love of all things retro and spookin’ it up with one of our favorite neighborhood haunts, NETHERWORLD . While you’re eyeballing our little Q&A, why not take a gander and grab a piece or two of Yaniger’s rockin’ art here!

ATLRetro: We are huge fans of your art (obviously) and of Atlanta’s own spooktacular haunt, Netherworld, celebrating 20 ghoulish years this season of haints, haunts and horrors. Tell us about your partnership with Netherworld and what you bring to their terrifying table?

Derek Yaniger: I do dig me some spooktacular haunts! And Netherworld is claws down the best of the best! I am lucky enough to have a nice relationship with Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong (the cats what founded Netherworld ) and they are kind enough to invite me every year to create a few pieces of art for ’em! Just like me, they have been monster fans since their early days so they seem to dig my retro-inspired take on creepy stuff.

Atlanta’s fangtastic classic horror scene seems to grow larger every year, which keeps local haunts, such as our pals over at Netherworld alive (so to speak!) and kicking. In the spirit of Halloween, is there anything in particular about this season, about the idea of getting spooked that keeps you coming back?

DRACULA

The Halloween season has been my favorite time of year ever since I was a crumbsnatchin’ lil’ creepster! Those first autumn days when the steamy summer temperatures begin to drop and the leaves begin to fall instantly transports me back to my trickin’ or treatin’ days! Memories of my old CREEPY and EERIE magazines and my Aurora Monster Models flood my brain bucket and I can’t wait to head to Netherworld to see it all come to life!

Which classic monster would you say is your favorite?

It’s got to be the original Boris Karloff FRANKENSTEIN! That cat is the ding dong daddy of ‘em all! King of the Monsters! For some reason that film as well as the follow-up, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN really started it all off for me! I used all my lawn-mowin’ money back in my youth to purchase anything and everything Frankenstein…FAMOUS MONSTERS mags, Don Post Franky masks, Frankenstein model kits…Much to the disappointment of my Mom, I would wear that damn Frankenstein mask EVERYWHERE….even tried to wear it to church once!

You create some killer images, with just the right amount of kitsch, which we of course can’t get enough of, and neither can your fans. Can you tell us a little about your style, and how it differs from the work you did with Marvel Comics and Cartoon Network in the ‘90s?

My current style is deeply rooted in the cartoon art of the ‘50s and early ‘60s….all the stuff that flipped my switches as a child! When I worked for Marvel the requirement was to draw the “Marvel Way,” but after 5 years of that I decided I would rather draw the “Derek Way“. I transitioned into working for Cartoon Network which was closer to my natural cartoon style, but still not me dancin’ to the beat of my own bongos. After about 5 years of that I decided I wanted to commit fully to my first love, the mid-century modern cartoon.

Take Me To Your LiterWhat drew you to a life of creating art? Any riotous tales of your artistic journey?

Honestly, art is the ONLY thing I’m good at, and I really believe I was born to doodle! My life-long obsession with visual images, even before I actually started scribbling, made it clear to me at a young age that a life creating art was the only way to fly! I don’t know how “riotous” my journey has been, as it was mostly working for fat cats n’ bigwigs that micro-managed me to the point where I wasn’t really proud of the work I was creating. One example of the drag that was advertising art: I was commissioned by Kroger to create a deli-chicken waitress character. After the committee of ad cats had their say, I was forced to add big red lips to the beak and red fingernails to the feathered hands! It was uglier and creepier than anything I ever created for Netherworld!

Who would you consider to be your top three favorite retro artists? Where did you draw your inspiration from and how did they inspire you?

My all favorite would have to be the great Jim Flora! Such a great mixture of modern art, humor and weirdness! His album cover art for Columbia, RCA and Camden is so damned great it kinda makes my stomach hurt! Second on the list would be Ward Kimball. He was the Disney director/animator responsible for the majority of experimentally fantastic art seen in the early ‘50s Disney shorts. I sometimes watch those on super-slo-mo and have to repeatedly dab the drool from my dropped jaw! Last, but NEVER least would have to be Georgia-born, UGA-educated illustrator extraordinaire…Jack Davis. His work for EC Comics and Mad Magazine was the first real exposure I had to art as a wee one. Although my style doesn’t really borrow too much from Jack’s, he will always be an inspiration!

Which pop-culture artist would you say is the most neglected and what do you think makes him/her worthy of attention?Witchy Poo

If we’re talkin’ present day here, I would say Mitch O’Connell. I dig his work the MOST! He uses heaps of vintage-inspired imagery in his work and as a technician, his skills are insane! AND he’s one of the nicest cats in the kingdom! He was a big inspiration for me when I finally decided to make the big dive into the retro art pool. If we’re talkin’ back in the day, I would have to say Cliff Roberts….kinda hard to find examples of his work. I was lucky enough to snag a copy of THE FIRST BOOK OF JAZZ off EBAY a while back. His B&W illustrations throughout the book swing like a well-greased gate! Who are your favorite local artists? Dave Cook is a local cat who is a very good friend and an even better artist. This Clyde can do it ALL! He’s known for his work on RollerGirls art and his “Cadavitures” (zombie caricatures that he scribbles at DragonCon), but I think he’s mostly known for all the Netherworld tees he’s created over the years. If you own a favorite Netherworld tee, Dave probably scribbled it!

Can you tell our readers how you got involved with Tiki Oasis, Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend, and our very own DragonCon?

Around the year 2000, When I decided to put all my eggs in the retro art basket, I burned CDs (remember CDs?) of all the retro art I created in my spare hours and sent them to anyone who published a retro-themed magazine (Atomic, Barracuda ) or held retro culture events. (Tiki Oasis, Viva Las Vegas, Hukilau) Otto Von Stroheim, the Grand Poobah of the Tiki Oasis in San Diego was the first to respond, and I’ve scribbled art for that gig every year for the past 15 years! Crazy! Thankfully I am now known as the retro art guy all over the world and have created art for heaps of events celebrating rockabilly, burlesque, cocktail culture, beatnik, etc. The DragonCon connection happened about 8 or so years ago. They were starting the Cat and MousePop Artist’s Alley to give some attention to artists that don’t make with the comic book bit (more underground Lowbrow kinda stuff). At the time, I was growing in popularity in the Lowbrow world so it was a natural fit!

Your art spans the globe, being housed in galleries across the world, including Italy’s MondoPop, Australia’s Outre, Mexico’s Vertigo and the UK’s Castor and Pollux. What’s it like to know that your art inspires people the world over and what do you want your fans to take away from your work?

Yeah, the international response to my work was a coo coo nutty surprise to me! Them cats overseas seem to really dig the whole American kitschy ‘50s art scene. Just last May I had a sold out show at the La Fiambrera Gallery in Madrid! It was amazing how many people attended the opening and how damn nice they were to me! It was a solid gas! It is so rewarding to know that all this silly crap that pours from my coconut can be an inspiration to so many other artists around the globe. I seem to have a nice following among young artists who may just be discovering retro. I just want my art to make cats ‘n’ kittens smile….I love seeing people eyeball my work for the first time and get a nice wide grin goin!

What are you currently working on? Anything exciting in the pipeline?

I have a couple of gallery shows that I need to start slingin’ paint for. I’m working on a design for a Mai Tai decanter set for Tiki Farm, I’m going to be designing some fabric for Pinup Girl Clothing and I’m REALLY excited to be in discussions with a company to create some high-end 3-D collectible figures of my work! These days I’m jumpin’ like a Mexican bean on a trampoline!

How can our readers get their hands on your art?Ghost Collector

Bop on over to https://www.misterretro.com/merchandise and snag somethin’ for your good self!

Anything exciting planned with Netherworld this year?

I created a new piece for Netherworld a couple of months ago. It’s my most favorite yet! Not sure how those cats are planning to use it, but it should show up in the Netherworld gift shop in some creepy form or fashion! Other than that, I’m just planning on falling by the haunts in early October with my good friend Dave Cook. Netherworld always delivers the CREEPS….and I do love it so!

All images provided by Derek Yaniger and used with permission.

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