Homage to the Portsmouth Monster Master
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Written by SeacoastNH Archives

399_Paarlberg_00SeacoastNH.com Presents  
Historic Portsmouth #399

It is the job of the historian to keep the past in plain view. To that end, with all the attention being paid to Photoshopped pictures of monsters attacking the Memorial Bridge, we must acknowledge the master himself. Illustrator Bill Paarlberg conceived the idea in the 1980s. His original image, painstakingly hand-drawn, was entitled "Giant Monster Attacks Bridge." (Continued below)

 

 

Bill also put the Kong in Congress Street with his huge ape climbing the North Church steeple. His popular illustration series also included a radioactive lobster eating Wentworth by the Sea hotel and the many-tentacled “Piscataquid” swallowing the tugboats off Ceres Street. The series was recently reprised in an exhibit at Discover Portsmouth and on the TV news show Chronicle. Bill is currently catching rays in Mexico, but had this to say by email: “I was recalling one of the very first horror movies my parents ever let me watch in which an immense lizard-like creature was portrayed towering in an especially terrifying manner above the skyline. That image is still etched in my mind, and one that makes me feel a special kind of afraid, even to this day.” The Japanese characters on the side of the poster, Bill says, translate roughly as “giant monster attacks bridge!” Art critics have suggested that Bill’s monster series was a warning against the creeping gentrification of Portsmouth and the attack of tourism on the Old Town by the Sea. The monsters, of course, won that battle years ago. You can see all the Famous Monster images and read Bill’s blog “Illustrating Portsmouth” at his Web site www.Paarlberg.com. (Image © Bill Paarlberg, used by permission of the artist.)

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