Monstrous Mythologies is a 2021 illustrated art book featuring work from American artist Michael Bukowski. The work is the first in a three-part series of Illustro Obscurum art books to be released by the Philadelphia-based artist. The book is edited by the award-winning Steve Berman and features an intro from Oakland-based artist Skinner.

Michael has spent the last 20 years working as a freelance illustrator, mostly working in the punk music scene with bands from all over the world. More recently, he’s worked with weird fiction authors and publishers on covers, and interior illustrations, in addition to the essay series Stories From the Borderland with Scott Nicolay. His Illustro Obscurum project, in which he illustrates creatures and entities from prominent horror and weird fiction writers, led to him founding the small press zine “publishing house” Seventh Church Ministries, which showcases other illustrators’ work alongside famous (or not-so-famous) authors.

Monstrous Mythologies Michael Bukowski

Boasting a brimming bestiary of mythological varmints, Monstrous Mythologies covers a multitude of beasts from differing cultures from all corners of the globe. From Aboriginal culture to Tibetan mythology, this 84-page vade mecum features a huge range of creatures spanning throughout time and origin such as the Greek Polyphemus and Japanese Kappa to name but a few. Denoted by a beautiful key system listed at the work’s beginning, these visuals are a non-intrusive means to display key information about their history. However, this will cause a lot of back and forth throughout the book, and the substantial information contained in this system near impossible to fully absorb at a quick glance.

Additionally, the majority of background information comes in the form of quotes from other works. The mediums of poems, tall tales, and historic publications have been tralled for descriptive material about these allegorical critters. In spite of this, Monstros Mythologies feels a little shallow in this regard, lacking any bulk of informative knowledge of their origins and instead contains a mere paragraph or two of information derived mostly from fictitious works with only a handful of informative sources. Undoubtedly, the inclusion of a more concise background of each critter would increase the validity of the compendium to more than just a visual art book.

Monstrous Mythologies

Typical of Michaels’s art style, each illustration features an impeccable level of detail. From the bold line art, and deep shadowing, to the vibrant colours and visually grotesque nature of these beings; his style is unequivocally perfect for their depiction. However, unlike most mythological reference books, Monstrous Mythologies artwork certainly focuses on an adult audience. A visual cavalcade of monster peen, vagine, and everything in between is on full display for all to discern and is, unquestionably, not intended for the eyes of children.

A visually delectable representation of mythical creatures in all their glory, Monstrous Mythologies is an undeniably unique handbook of whimsical beasts full of intricate detail-fully embracing their horrifying foundations. Unfortunately, with the majority of information being sourced from other works, it’s difficult to overlook the fact the title is limited to an art book rather than a useful source of information, often having to go to a different source for more knowledge on certain beings. Nevertheless, Monstrous Mythologies still warrants some investigation from those interested in some fine mythological-based artwork.

Monstrous Mythologies is available to purchase from Lethe Press

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