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Monday, February 21, 2011

Monster's Ink: FM and me!

Our grand ol' Uncle Forry. He started it all!

Wow! I recently edited retro issue #70 of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Issue #70 represents the first of the missing FM issues that appeared when Warren Publishing replaced FM with Monster World for ten issues in the 1970s. For a monster fan growing up in Hawaii, Famous Monsters, or "FM" was my only lifeline to the horror world I loved. To get the opportunity to link my name to the magazine's legacy was, well, a dream come true. Years ago my dearly departed friend and original FM editor Forry Ackerman asked me, "So pal, when you were a little boy did you ever dream you'd grow up to be best pals with me?" I'd be lying if I said yes. But once I did become Forry's best friend, it was obvious to me that we belonged together. I seemed to have a positive impact on him and he found it easy to relate to me. We were an unlikely but remarkable fit. Opposites in personality, but our value for loyalty and sense of wonder was the same. Nonetheless, if you had ever asked me if I could imagine following in the footsteps of my mentor by editing an issue of FM? I would have laughed in your face.

The 1st issue of Warren/ Ackerman's "FM" c. 1958

I got a call from FM publisher Phil Kim in September. It was then that he offered me the managing editor position on Famous Monsters #70. I was over the (full) moon. The issue was going to replicate the old-school 70's FM as closely as possible, right down to the black and white newsprint pages! I asked if I would have any control over content and was thrilled to hear that I would. I hung up with Phil and immediately began spinning my wheels. Off the top of my head I knew I wanted to do a Dick Smith-style makeup layout and to have some of the iconic elements of the old mag brought into this issue. Things like Forry and Warren's anti-smoking ads and perhaps a whole segment on fan collections of the time (I had collected so many vintage pictures). As it turned out, FM was still growing and morphing. So, two weeks after agreeing to edit the mag, I got another call from Phil. Now I would be "guest editor" under copy editor Jessie Lilly, managing editor Mark Redfield and editor in chief Mike Heisler ... Oh, well. Growing pains. But I was still excited and wholly grateful to be involved.

MY first issue of Famous Monsters magazine.

As it was to turn out, Mike Heisler and Mark Redfield left the FM organization before issue #70 had been put to bed - but not before determining the content and layout of the issue. I confess, at first I hated the Hercules In New York cover, but it had already been locked in as the face of FM #70. The artwork was nice - but the subject? I made the best of it and asked my young, talented (and sarcastic) friend Justin Halliwell to write the "Filmbook" for HINY and I really warmed up to the subject as Justin's tongue-in-cheek treatment tickled me. Today when I look at the cover art, I kinda love it. I smile knowing what fun it represents. I also asked my good pal Elizabeth Haney to contribute a retro-article on Women In Horror - as I insist on female fandom being represented in any project I am involved in. Finally, I contributed the editorial intro (with as much pun-shine as I could muster) to honor our Ackermonster and captioned much of the mag - other than August Ragone's Destroy All Monsters piece and 2 of Max Cheney's terrific multi-contributions (I did caption his YORGA piece - some of my proudest groan-worthy work). Jessie Lilly and the rest of the FM staff were incredibly diligent in putting the finishing touches on the mag. I hear the final product is fantastic! As I write this, I understand that copies of the issue have just hit the FM offices and I am really excited to get one in my claws!

The cover of issue #70. Don't judge a book...

It was a bittersweet ending to the project when I was informed that I would now be credited as senior editor. I embraced the honor, but admit I was a little sad that the mag wouldn't truly represent what I woulda/coulda done. So, while the perfect opportunity to edit a real FM was not the perfect experience (like all journeys), I'm really glad I did it! I hope it opens the door to more participation in the stuff I love. Maybe down the line I'll get the chance to create MY perfect issue? I have other exciting projects planned with FM, Phil and his dedicated crew. As FM evolves, It will certainly hit its stride. It's no small feat transitioning from an entertaining novelty of the past into a relevant presence of the future - but we're all working away at trying to get there. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in the genre, honor Forry Ackerman, perpetuate FM and to have had such fun doing it. Buy a copy of FM issue #70. If you like it, tell Phil to let me do it again sometime! Do check it out. I'm proud of it and it was made with a lot of love of fandom, Forry and MONSTERS!

EPILOGUE: I now have copies of FM #70 in my grubby little paws. It's really fantastic! It does exactly what we'd all hoped. It looks, smells and feels like vintage FM! Phil plans to learn from this issue and continue to tweak the authenticity (he's gonna up the paper thickness a bit), but all in all it's quite a faithful replica of the original. I gotta admit, it choked me up a bit to imagine Forry examining this issue. I could see him, beaming as he turned it over in his hands and read every single word. Hope you enjoy it! Looking forward to more...

1 comment:

  1. Awesome, cannot wait to get my hands on that issue. And being a supreme NOT FAN of Arnie and that movie, I look forward to being converted to at least being able to laugh about it, haha! Well done Joe.