Wicked drag royalty and artist Dr Count Evil first immersed themselves in the unusual and spine tingling realm of monsters during their final year at Dublin’s National College of Art and Design. As they shared in a 2021 Instagram post, one particular illustration project was created to reflect their relationship with creatures who “were always around me, purposefully put there in fact, but why?”
Titled ‘I, The Monster’, the final degree project explored their personal connection with iconic terrors by becoming those fantastical and frightful beings themselves. Through the photographic series, they transformed themselves into some of pop culture’s most legendary creatures, such as Hellboy’s humanoid amphibious man Abe Sapien, Dragon Ball Z’s evil overlord Freeza, and Quake 3’s enemy warrior and walking eye Orbb.
Many of Dr Count Evil’s monstrous looks were inspired by the monsters they grew up with. “I’ve been obsessed with monsters since I was a little kid, my mother was a huge influence on that, she let me watch the good ol’ classics like Hellboy, got me cute monster plushies. I remember her working on a huge Xenomorph painting that stayed in the living room for a while. Even my father would let me watch him draw big hulking badass monsters and let me watch him play Mass Effect or BioShock.”
“They’d also let me play video games with them. There’s baby photos of me playing Quake Arena,” Dr Count Evil continued.
The creative conjures their captivating magic by infusing art with this personal connection. During the 2020 Queens of Captivity pageant, they performed alongside their mother to a horror version of Britney Spears’ ‘Oops I Did It Again’, which went down a storm.
“I’ve always been fascinated with monsters, how they work, how they look, their design isn’t limited to, well, anything! Artistically I can’t think of anything more freeing, fun, and cooler than monsters.”
They also note, “As someone who’s non-binary I also started to look at monsters and go: ‘Wow, gender/same!’”
Before they created their ‘I, The Monster’ photographic series, Dr Count Evil opened up about feeling stifled during their college years, struggling to express themselves. They credited “a really nice tutor” who gave them the creative freedom to move away from an illustration-focused project into more exciting territory. They seized the opportunity to create a stunning final year project where they were the sole audience. Or as they jokingly termed it, “Super self-service stuff.”
This chaotic celebration of freedom surges throughout Dr Count Evil’s art, reflected by their excitement to try different drag styles. They said, “I started off as a bedroom drag king, I then became a fully-fledged drag king and before I could switch from a ridiculous amount of socks down my pants to something more professional, I became a drag…person… thing? And now I dip a lot more in the drag queen territory.
“I just like to try everything and stay versatile, keep y’all on your toes! You never know what you’re gonna get! One day I could do a slow song in a shiny gown, next I could jump all over the stage and do a gross backend, there’s something for everyone!”
Although audiences might not know which Dr Count Evil style concoction to expect, the 2020 DCU Drag Race winner always guarantees a mind-blowing show. They continuously bring their all to each performance, including an Irish Drag King Collective music video celebrating Earth Day, the 2021 Mother Summer Block Party, and numerous WIG events.
Reflecting on their approach to performing, they humorously comment, “The stage is really just another medium, it’s just as if I was painting but with a lot more stress involved and possible physical injuries, and instead of taut linen it’s a hardwood floor that’s a little sticky. Fun!”
Alongside this element of painting with a spotlight, Dr Count Evil also wants to ensure audiences remain at the forefront of their shows. They state, “There’s this feeling of responsibility up there, I’ve seen so many performances that just inspired me so much and made my night so damn fun and memorable. How could I not want to try to induce the same feeling in other people?”
‘I, The Monster’ was introduced on Instagram with a question about subverting the expected reaction to nightmarish creatures. Rather than being met with horror, the ghoulish beings spark fascination, wonder, and imagination. Dr Count Evil’s performances draw upon those same feelings, reworking the terrifying into a thrilling show.
The Instagram post offers one answer to Dr Count Evil’s question of why they grew up enjoying monsters instead of fearing them, quoting their mother saying, “‘We wanted you to not judge anyone, anybody, anything by how they look.’” To which, the drag artist wonders, “But why monsters? My mother pulls a face, apparently it’s too obvious.”
Monsters are typically portrayed by contemporary media as heinous, immoral, and grotesque figures who the audience are meant to root against. However, their ludicrous schemes, outsider narratives, and campy fashion sense typically garner feelings of excitement rather than disgust among LGBTQ+ communities. Contradicting singer Bonnie Taylor’s assertion that heroes are needed, villains continue to soar, as the Babadook, HIM, Ursula, and many more have become infamous queer icons.
These monstrous outsiders go against what society deems acceptable in a fabulously outrageous way. In particular, Dr Count Evil shared how anime villains steal the show. “They often dominate the whole scene they’re in, with that presence they have, you can’t just look away from them! They’re always just so much more fun as well, they’ll do things the protagonist would never do with their little morals and such. It’s a whole lot of drama and really tense moments. Even if they’re terrible, gross, nasty people, it would be a whole lot more boring without them and they’re the ones making me click on the next episode!”
When thinking about potential anime characters to base future looks and/or performances on, Dr Count Evil shared, “I would say Freeza from Dragon Ball Z. In the project where I was supposed to mash up multiple characters into one, I couldn’t bring myself to change anything about him, I like his design way too much.
“Mayuri Kurostuchi from Bleach is incredible, still the human body but such fantastic outfits, very fun designed face paint and wonderfully creepy movements, I think that could make for a really fun number. Pretty niche however, so I’m not sure that would work out. Actually, bonus one, I’ve always wanted to do a full Ryuk from Death Note cosplay, truly a fantastic character,” they concluded.
Although monsters are typically meant to frighten, Dr Count Evil celebrates the gender breaking spirit and dramatic flair of creatures that go bump in the night. In becoming their own monster, they exude a remarkable and captivating strength.