The Little Monsters of Richfield

Paul Afong Jr. cradles some of the figurines that serve as his inspiration as an illustrator.

The Halloween candy is gone for all but the most restrained revelers.

But Richfield trick-or-treaters should check their pillowcases again, just in case they missed the collection of cartoonishly ghastly drawings that a professional illustrator sketched just for his neighbors.

From his front door near the intersection of 68th Street and Morgan Avenue in Richfield, Paul Afong Jr. distributed about 100 coloring books filled with his own ghoulish creations this Halloween. The work is called “The Little Monsters of Richfield,” containing 16 original characters named after streets throughout the city. For instance, there is a Morgan, a Vincent,  a Newton, plus a two-headed monster named Lyn & Dale.

Hatching the 5 1/2-inch by 4-inch coloring books was just another creative outlet for the 37-year-old Afong, who as an illustrator goes by the moniker Junkykid, crafter of cartoonish scenes that blend whimsy, menace and the macabre.

Afong, who has a day job as a creative director at Bloomington advertising agency Morsekode, first began working with his current style around 1998 as he completed college, and never stopped. “Over time they’ve just evolved,” he said.

The idea for the “Little Monsters” first came up three Halloweens ago, but the holiday went by twice before Afong found the time to follow through. He spent three weeks crafting the book in his free time, coming up with 16 monsters — including the demented doctor, the boy cupping a brain in his hand looking ready to fling it like a snowball, and a creature boasting a skull made of eyeballs, with lobster claws for hands.

Two of Paul Afong Jr.’s monsters, which he created for a coloring book he gave to trick-or-treaters.

The influence of cartoony breakfast cereal is apparent in the work of Afong, who has worked on such accounts in his advertising career. Other hints of inspiration include the collection of cartoony figurines from the cartoon band, The Gorillaz, that he has neatly arranged on shelves next to other colorful toys in his office. Afong also says he draws from popular underground art magazine Juxtapoz.

The ghouls were fully realized but in need of names when Afong, who moved from Minneapolis to Richfield two years ago,  had the idea of drawing from Richfield’s grid system to make his monsters more relatable to neighbors.

Paul Afong Jr. packaged his coloring books with candy as he handed out his original work to trick-or-treaters.

But Afong says it is hard to tell how much neighbors have appreciated the work. Handing out the booklets wrapped in plastic along with candy, he wasn’t able to gauge trick-or-treaters’ instant reactions through the frenzy of Halloween — some thought they were getting microwave popcorn, he said.

While Afong is still waiting for mass feedback, at least one parent noticed the surprise in her children’s Halloween bag. Tara Wyckoff said she hasn’t heard much about the coloring books from her neighbors on the 6800 block of Morgan Avenue, but noted that her twin 6-year-old boys, Gage and Liam Holmberg, clearly appreciated the work.

“They absolutely loved it, and they were just turning page by page and recognizing the street that we live on and the streets their friends live on,” Wyckoff said.

At a Halloween gathering, “all the kids were just belly laughing at these pictures,” she added.

They can count on more fodder next year, when Afong plans to sketch a second volume of “Little Monsters of Richfield.” He is thinking about doing a Christmas-themed book as well, and said he might use the fundraising website kickstarter.com to raise money for a full-sized coloring book.

More of his work can be found online at junkykid.com.

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