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Famous Monsters of Filmland

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Publication.

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Letter-size Cinema Magazine printed on newsprint-quality paper. Publisher: Warren Publishing. Editor: Forrest J Ackerman, possibly Jeff Rovin for the final issue. Format varied from perfect-bound to saddle-stapled. 191 issues, February 1958 to March 1983. The publication schedule was erratic, ranging from quarterly to (most often) nine times per year. See below for further incarnations 1991-1998 and 2010-current.

Famous Monsters of Filmland arose from publisher James Warren's (1930-    ) plan for a one-shot publication in late 1957 and Forrest J Ackerman's suggestion – inspired by the French Cinema '57 #20 (July/August 1957), a special issue devoted to fantastic films, and the popularity of Universal Studios' 1957 Television film package "Shock Theater" – that Horror and Monster Movies would be an ideal theme. The first issue sold out quickly and was reprinted by demand; the title became a long-running addition to Warren's schedule.

The magazine had numerous professional imitators as the 1960s unfolded, including Warren's and Ackerman's own Spacemen and Monster World; most of these Media Magazines (which see) suspended publication after only a few issues. During this era most of the best covers appeared, primarily from Egyptian-born artist Basil Gogos; further cover artists included Albert Nuetzel (1901-1969), father of author Charles Nuetzel, Ron Cobb, Ken Kelly and Vic Prezio (?   -    ). Ackerman introduced a new generation to sf and horror fiction by discussing Pulp magazines, sf Conventions, Fandom and other genre topics in "FM" – as it was affectionately known – heavily sprinkled with Ackerman's often atrocious trademark puns. Horror Comic strips appeared from around the mid-1960s, some original and others adapting film stories. Obituaries were also introduced, mostly of Cinema and Television creators but occasionally of notable sf authors.

In the late 1960s, Warren Publishing suffered a decline in sales leading to the use of much reprint material, a practice which continued until around 1973. That year's sensational and controversial film The Exorcist (1973), directed by William Friedkin, brought a revival of interest in horror which boosted sales for Warren titles. Nevertheless, by the late 1970s, Famous Monsters of Filmland was showing its age. The revival of sf cinema with such films as Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) offered a change of direction. Many issues from #136 (August 1977) onward carried material relating to these two films, and there was a greater emphasis on sf films – with coverage of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Meteor (1979) and Alien (1979) – and Television, with cover billing given to Battlestar Galactica (1978-1979) and other series. Though Gogos and Kelly still contributed covers, as did such newer artists as Bob Larkin and Don Maitz, film scenes now predominated. The magazine's name was shortened in 1977 to Famous Monsters on the covers only, initially on #136 and then consistently from #138; the full title was retained on the contents page to the end.

Collectors should note that some early issues had variant covers and/or contents. For example, #7 (June 1960) appears in three differing versions. A bibliographic complication is that, after issuing Monster World as an attempted sister publication from 1964 to 1966, Warren retroactively rebranded its ten issues in 1970 as Famous Monsters of Filmland #70 to #79, in order to reach #100 more quickly. Thus the elder magazine's numbering skipped directly from #69 (September 1970) to #80 (October 1970).

With the demise of Warren Publishing in 1983, the original Famous Monsters ceased with issue #191 (March 1983). It had helped launch many careers, with such figures as special effects artist Rick Baker, film directors Joe Dante, John Landis, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, author Stephen King and many more citing it as a major reason for their choice of career in the sf or horror genres.

Spinoffs included nine "Yearbooks" of reprint material published in identical magazine format from 1964 to 1972, the 1969-1972 issues being termed "Fearbooks". Three final annuals appeared 1981-1982 in another series, Warren Presents, billed as "Fantasy Film Books" without mentioning Famous Monsters. A special one-off title written by Dick Smith was the 1965 Famous Monsters Do-It-Yourself Make-Up Handbook. Nonfiction reprint Anthologies edited by Ackerman are The Best of Famous Monsters of Filmland (anth 1964), Son of Famous Monsters of Filmland (anth 1965) and Famous Monsters of Filmland Strikes Back! (anth 1965). [GSt/DRL]

In 1993 the magazine was revived by Ray Ferry, who obtained the lapsed rights to the title and its distinctive cover logo, and relaunched with issue #200 for May 1993 – another discontinuity in the numbering – as a quarterly under the longer cover title Famous Monsters of Filmland. Ackerman was nominally editor-in-chief, but Ferry's rejection or heavy editing of his material, coupled with persistent non-payment and imitation in his own contributions of the pun-spattered Ackerman style, led to a 1997 lawsuit won in 2000 by Ackerman – who was awarded substantial compensatory and punitive damages, never paid. Ferry filed for bankruptcy but nevertheless continued publication until issue #249 in late 2007. Title and logo rights were then purchased by Philip Kim, whose relaunch and use of the magazine's traditional look and feel were agreed by Ackerman before his death in December 2008. Kim's incarnation of Famous Monsters of Filmland began with #250 for July 2010, and after a slightly erratic start the magazine achieved a bimonthly schedule which still continues [see links below]. [DRL]

further reading

  • Tom Skulan, editor. Famous Monsters Chronicles II : 1958-1983 (Albany, New York: Fantaco, 2017) [nonfiction: anth: annotated listing of all issues plus other material: Famous Monsters of Filmland: illus/various: hb/Basil Gogos]


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