Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Great Monster Magazines

Famous Monsters of Filmland, the magazine that inspired everybody from Stephen King to Steven Spielberg, appeared in 1958 . By then I was well into my Gold Medal books phase. I still read science fiction and I still saw most of the horror movies that came my way. But Famous Monsters, given my taste for hardboiled fction, struck me as pretty juvenile and not worth buying.

The Great Monster Magazines by Robert Michael ""Bobb" Cutter (McFarland) takes singular exception to my feelings about Famous Monsters. But just about everything else he praises strikes me as just about right.

As the publisher notes, "This work provides a critical overview of monster magazines from the 1950s to the 1970s. The term "monster magazine" is a blanket term, which, for the purposes of this study is used to describe both magazines that focus primarily on popular horror movies and magazines that contain stories featuring monsters which are illustrated in comic book style but printed in black and white."

Thus the book details the history of the hallowed EC comics, Jim Warren's fantastic black and white magazines, Marvel's long run of horror comics and various Conan sagas, Hammer films, and all the black and white horror magazines that translated the likes of Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and Robert E. Howard into graphic form.

Cotter is an excellent writer and a great organizer. A good table of contents backed with a fine Index makes it easy for the reader to skip around if he chooses, though Cotter's chapters are coherent, thematic units so I read straight through.

This is both serious history and a somewhat nostalgic look back at the magazines and comics that helped shape so many of today's graphic creators.


Fred Blosser said...

FMOF ran the gamut from pretty good historical archiving of the classic horror movies to the omnipresent punning of 4SJ. A couple of issues with comprehensive filmbooks on DRACULA and KING KONG were jam packed with information and great stills. I suppose Warren and Forry were trying to appeal alike to "Mad" fans and readers who took the movies more seriously. It certainly gave the mag an inconsistent tone. CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN in many ways was a more interesting magazine, with coverage of obscure European movies, the outraged political opinions of Calvin Beck in the Nixon-era issues, and occasional stills of bare-breasted actresses. FMOH and COF alike were required reading for us kids in those days before the mainstream big budget horror and SF movies.

Bill Carlin said...

In the UK monster movies weren't shown on TV right up until the late 60's.FMOF was a source of wonderment to my friends and I. Oh, how we envied our American cousins who could not only buy the "Aurora" model kits advertised on the back of DC comicsbut also view the fims they were based on.I had a look at this book in "Forbidden Planet" and was sorely tempted. When this kind of nostalgia hits I find it helps to lie down in a dark room for a while and think about the cost of family groceries.Still, it's a nicely produced little gem.