Illustrator Russell M. Hossain talks Artwork and the Future of the Ape Planet
There would be no Planet of the Apes without a “Planet of the Fans,” whose dedication and passion for the franchise allowed the films to be what they are today. This month, we’re celebrating Apes fans with special interviews featuring just a few of the incredible people we’ve had the chance to meet.
Russell M. Hossain
Russell M. Hossain is a freelance illustrator based in London, England. In addition to over 10 years’ experience in media, Hossain is a dedicated Planet of the Apes fan with several amazing fan comics that explore and broaden the world of the Apes in new and fascinating ways. From the many “what ifs” Hossain has raised in his stories, to the incredible vintage comics-inspired artwork he produced as result, we’re excited to feature him as our first Planet of the Fans interview guest!
Read our chat with him below, and look forward to more interviews with Apes superfans all throughout this month!
What is your favorite Apes movie and why does it stand out to you?
Difficult to choose a favourite, but I do have a particular soft spot for Beneath the Planet of the Apes--it starts out almost as a partial reprise of the original 1968 movie, even down to casting the Taylor-esque (though smaller, and far less cynical ) James Franciscus as ‘Brent,’ but it takes an unexpected turn with the appearance of the Mutants, who are actually even crazier and more twisted than the talking apes!
The film then of course goes on to kill our main heroes, and ends with the Earth being incinerated! What should have been the absolute ’end of the saga’--the definitive nail-in-the-coffin--actually opened the door for the franchise to grow and thrive.
On the same note, who is your favorite Apes character and why?
Has to be “Milo/Caesar” ( Roddy McDowall ) in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Caesar is forced to dumb himself down in front of the fascistic humans so that his intelligence isn’t discovered, but he also must rally his fellow apes into revolution; so much of what makes Caesar infinitely compelling is done with a look, and a gesture. We also get to witness Caesar through a spectrum of challenging emotions: fear, loss, hatred, anger, compassion, ultimately forging him into the legendary leader we know that he is destined to become.
Describe what it was like the first time you watched an Apes movie. Was it the 1968 original, or one of the modern films? What was that experience like for you, and did it have any lasting effects on your appreciation for movies or the sci-fi franchise?
I do not recall the very first time I watched Planet of the Apes (1968) as I was too young. But I had enjoyed it from earliest childhood, being enthralled by incredible Ape make-up by John Chambers.
When I was able to wholly and fully appreciate the saga was during my time as a pupil at Secondary School, ITV ( a British TV channel ) was running a weekly nighttime marathon of the five Ape movies at around 3 a.m. in the mornings.
Once I was able to catch all five films as a whole, I appreciated the scope of the incredible storytelling, the allegories, lessons, and the core sci-fi themes, which have fascinated and inspired me ever since.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the franchise. How do you think these films have withstood the test of time? What is it about these films that are timeless to you?
The films’ themes of Man’s inhumanity and hubris, and where it may lead us as a species on this planet, are ever-green, and ever-relevant. It’s amazing that I can look back on one or more of the Apes movies year after year, and still see parallels with our real world. Our questions - and fears - about what lies ahead in our future is something that will always be fascinating, and the Apes movies grab us by the scruff of our necks and drag us through a topsy-turvy world of what “might be” if we are not careful.
Also…the Apes and their world are just so darn COOL. To this day, the characters, the make-up designs, the costumes--and the swagger of the Apes--hold up, and makes me almost wish I could be one of those “damn, dirty APES!”
What about these films inspired you to create such your fan works? How do you hope your works have expanded or added value to the Apes universe?
Back in school and in Art College, I did a couple of essays and projects exploring the Apes franchise (from Pierre Boulle’s original novel, through to movies and other spin-offs ), and I also recall drawing and envisioning my own Planet of the Apes ideas from when I was very young.
With the onset of the new movies, I began thinking of ways that the new Serkis films could clearly be folded into the canvas of the Classic five APJAC movies, without the need for ignoring the original continuity. Jumping off from that, I’ve been motivated to draw a number of fan-comic strips which might conceivably take place in a reality where ALL Planet of the Apes stories and worlds are part of one mighty “Apes-Multiverse.”
What do you hope the future of the franchise entails?
There has never been a better time for Apes fans, so I hope the franchise is able to continue to put out the high quality movies, comics, games, books, etc. that it is already doing.
I would definitely like the see the next movies explore the rise of the Mutants (whose origins we have just seen in War for the Planet of the Apes), the war/destruction that leaves the United States the devastated wasteland that we are familiar with from the original movies, the continuing evolution of the Apes ( into their classic, more upright/“humanoid” form), and the fight for Caesar’s throne amongst his generals, following his death--something to marry the new films with the old.
Attribution: Artwork featured in this article belongs to Russell M. Hossain at russell-hossain.squarespace.com and behance.net/Antediluvian. Featured with permission from the artist.