Archive for the Horror Magazines Category

Remembrances of Things MONSTERS

Posted in 2009, Horror Magazines, Special Columns with tags , , , on December 12, 2009 by knifefighter

A look back at the original FAMOUS MONSTERS MAGAZINE: REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS MONSTERS with L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda

From L.L. SOARES:

I remember being maybe about 8-years old, going to a place called Giguere’s Pharmacy in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Even then, in the early 1970s, Mr. Giguere was old. A round French gent with a hearing aid and thick glasses. That drugstore is long gone now.

I remember the place had a big area where all the comic books were lined up (where I got some of my first comics, with titles like WHERE MONSTERS DWELL, CREATURES ON THE LOOSE, and of course, early issues of MAN-THING. This was before I got into superheroes, starting, not-surprisingly, with a hero who was also a monster, THE INCREDIBLE HULK).

Near the comics were the magazines, and the one that grabbed my attention more than any of them was FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND (affectionately referred to as “FM” by its legion of fans). I remember being very excited when a new issue came out. Back then, VCRs were a long way off, and the only way I’d see any of the movies mentioned in FM was late at night on television. And most of the movies weren’t available there, either, and I wouldn’t be able to catch them  until the video boom of the early1980s.

I remember begging my mother to get me the new issue of FM, and Mr. Geiger, the pharmacist, shaking his head and saying “This will give you nightmares, my boy.” Of course, it never did. Horror movies were a pleasure for me, a comfort that wasn’t scary at all. Where other friends wouldn’t be allowed to watch certain movies because they’d wake up with nightmares, I watched all of the horror movies I could, and back then was the perfect time for it, with multiple“Creature Feature”-type TV shows airing horror movies seemingly non-stop throughout the weekend.

FM wasn’t a serious study of its subject matter (I’d have to wait for magazines like the great CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN before actual criticism came into the  mix). Instead, it was more about pictures – lots of them – and brief descriptions of plots of movies I was dying to see.

Recently, when FM creator Forrest J. Ackerman (“Uncle Forry” to us readers) died, leaving behind one of the biggest collections of horror and science-fiction memorabilia ever compiled (he called it the Ackermansion, and supposedly gave regular tours of it), I figured the magazine was gone forever, without the chance of ever being revived.

However, I was wrong.

IDW Publishing has just announced that FAMOUS MONSTERS is coming back. I’m going to reserve judgment until I actually see an issue, but if it even comes close to recapturing the wonder of the original version, I’ll be pretty happy. Of course, what doomed the original mag was the changing times. It started out focusing on old movies like the Universal films of the 1930s and 40s, and the Hammer films of the 50s and 60s, among other great movies of the genre, but with the advent of films like STAR WARS by the mid-70s, FM suddenly changed direction and jumped on the bandwagon for the more current films. Instead of great Basil Gogos paintings of Karloff’s Frankenstein monster and Lugosi’s Dracula on the covers, we got slick photographs of R2D2 and C3PO. It was then that I stopped reading. The mag lasted a few more years before it disappeared from the stands.

When I was a kid, FM was a rite of passage, as much as Mad Magazine was back then (in the days when it featured Don Martin, Al Jaffe, Sergio Aragones and Spy vs. Spy.) I miss it. And I’m happy to hear it’s coming back.

If they can maintain a balance between new horror films and the old classics, it will be one helluva horror movie magazine again!

From MICHAEL ARRUDA:

My first memory of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was back in 1973, when I was just 9 years old.  My uncle Ray, who also loved horror and was quick to encourage my love of the genre, bought me Issue #98 of FAMOUS MONSTERS, and from that moment on, I was hooked.

I was immediately awed by the incredibly colored cover art, and on Issue #98 the picture was of an alien from a movie whose title eludes me at the moment. (It was a variation on the creatures from  “Invasion of the Saucermen” from 1957- LLS) The cover was just the beginning.  Inside, there was page after page of information about the horror movies I knew and loved (yes, even at 9 I watched monster movies regularly) which back then were the Universal and Hammer monster movies.

I was also immediately drawn to the writing of Forry Ackerman.  His puns, his humor, and his enthusiastic love of the genre were infectious.  Here was an adult who shared my affection for horror movies.  More than this, he had actually met the stars who were like heroes to me- Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Cushing, Lee, and Price.

Uncle Forry seemed to be talking to us kids directly, and we took to him and his writing as if he were a real uncle.  A lot of the humor I use in CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT was influenced by the writing of Forrest Ackerman in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND.

And L.L. mentioned the pictures, and that was so true.  Picture after picture from my favorite movies, with some issues containing page after page containing nothing but movie stills, most from Ackerman’s personal collection.  I remember looking forward excitedly to looking through the next issue, to see which movies’ stills would be inside the magazine.  It was always thrilling to see a still that I hadn’t seen before.  Years later, I started collecting them myself, and today I have a decent sized collection.

Getting back to Issue #98, the biggest reason I was excited about that particular issue was it contained information on my favorite actor, Peter Cushing.  The Cushing movie being promoted at the time was the first of Hammer Films’” modern-day” Draculas, DRACULA A.D., 1972.

Soon after, I bought the issue, the huge (and today famous) 100th anniversary issue featuring Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster on the cover.

For the next 4 years, I bought the magazine faithfully.  I used to buy it from a store called Dwyers (note: I used to go to Dwyers regularly as a kid to buy comics! It’s a small world – LLS), in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts, the neighboring town to New Bedford, Mass.  It’s time now, I guess, to reveal the strange truth that L.L.  and I grew up in the same town, New Bedford, but we didn’t meet each other until years later when we had both moved away and were adults.  How weird is that?  True story!

Now, in 1977, while I continued to buy FAMOUS MONSTERS, something changed, and that something was a movie called STAR WARS (1977), and suddenly every media outlet in the world seemed to be covering science fiction.  FAMOUS MONSTERS was no exception.  While I loved STAR WARS, I wasn’t keen on seeing Darth Vader on the cover of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND.

Then, with the advent of FANGORIA and its coverage of modern gory horror movies, FAMOUS MONSTERS found itself needing to compete, and they too started covering the newer movies, which meant less coverage of the older classics.  While I started to enjoy FAMOUS MONSTERS less and less because of this shift in coverage, I continued to buy the magazine into the mid 1980s, and then, as L.L. mentioned, it eventually disappeared from the shelves.

I was fortunate enough to meet Forrest Ackerman at a horror convention back in 1998.  It was an exciting moment for me, almost a gift.

Now, today, it sounds like fans of FAMOUS MONSTERS are about to receive another gift, the revival of the magazine.  I sincerely hope it is as fun and as lively as the original, and I hope it lives up to the memory of Uncle Forry.  And speaking of memories and uncles, my dear Uncle Ray, who bought me that first issue #98 in 1973, succumbed to lung cancer some years back at the youthful age of 49.  If he were still with us today, he’d be one of the first in line to buy that new issue.  To uncles and memories, here’s looking with great anticipation to the rebirth of a monsterous institution, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND.

The Return of FAMOUS MONSTERS

Posted in 2009, Horror Magazines with tags on December 12, 2009 by knifefighter

It was recently announced that the magazine FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND will be returning as a print magazine. For those of us who grew up on FAMOUS MONSTERS (or FM, as we called it), this is big news indeed, since most of the horror lovers of my generation cut their teeth on this magazine.

Here are more details from the website FamousMonsters.com, from an article posted on December 7, 2009:

“Today,  we announce the return of Famous Monsters of Filmland, the print magazine.

“While we’re well into development on the first issues, we’re going to be keeping mum on a lot of the details.  Here are a few pieces that we can share with you right now:

“-  In order to make sure that FM gets as wide a release as possible, we’ve teamed with IDW Publishing.  Not only are they one of the largest comic publishers in the country, recipient of Diamond Distributor’s “Publisher of the Year” award 4 times, publisher of such hit comics as 30 Days of Night, Joss Whedon’s Angel, (Joe Hill’s)  Locke and Key, and Transformers; they also happen to be huge monster kids.

Famous Monsters is partially responsible for my lifelong love of horror, so to be involved in helping the magazine relaunch itself into the dreams—or nightmares—of new generations of fans is amazingly gratifying to me,” said Chris Ryall, IDW’s Publisher/Editor-in-Chief. “Phil’s plans for the magazine are respectful to the brand’s history and very forward-thinking at the same time, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

“-  Our editor-in-chief will be Michael Heisler, a 20-year veteran of the industry who brings a wealth of experience, along with his enthusiasm, to the relaunch.

FM was far and away my favorite magazine when I was a kid, and there has been nothing quite like it since,” said Heisler. “Our goal is to update that magic for a modern audience, with coverage of current horror in all its forms, while continuing to pay tribute to the classic films that started it all. Personally, I’m thrilled to be taking this step down the road that Forry Ackerman and ‘Chilly Billy’ Cardille put me on so many years ago.”

“-The magazine will begin its run in the summer of 2010 and be released quarterly. “

After decades of being a print magazine, from the late 1960s through the 1980s, the original FAMOUS MONSTERS disappeared from newstands. It’s most recent incarnation has been a Web site. But the news that it will once again be a print magazine is exciting indeed.

Michael and I both grew up on this magazine, and we’ll be posting some of our memories about it here tonight.

~L.L. Soares

Cinema Knife Fight: FANGORIA VS. RUE MORGUE

Posted in 2007, Cinema Knife Fights, Horror Magazines, Special Columns with tags , , on November 17, 2009 by knifefighter

(And now for something completely different. This was a fun change of pace for us. Fear Zone editor Greg Lamberson suggested we compare the two premeire horror movie magazines, FANGORIA and RUE MORGUE. It was a big change from reviewing movies, but I think it turned out very well. We should do something like this again sometime. This one was originally published on 11/3/07 – LLS)

***

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: FANGORIA VS. RUE MORGUE
by Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares

(THE SCENE: a vast subterranean world full of stalactites and stalagmites, with geysers of flame shooting up into the air and rivers of magma bubbling. L.L. SOARES is sitting on a rock, laughing. He has two identical heads, each looking at a separate magazine. Suddenly, MICHAEL ARRUDA appears. He is not laughing.  He lifts a spear.)

LS:  What the hell is that for?

MA:  Well, you look like you belong in a Ray Harryhausen movie, so I thought I’d grab myself a spear.

LS:  That’s pretty rude. Do I go to your home and aim a spear at you?

MA:  I don’t know.  If I had two heads you might.  I see you have the magazines we’re reviewing.  Just looking at the pictures?

LS (growls): No, I’m doing something called “reading,” you wannabe Sinbad!  Yes, these are the magazines we’re reviewing, the new issues of FANGORIA and RUE MORGUE (each of his two heads is looking at a different magazine and suddenly the two heads merge into one with a loud POP).

MA:  I had no idea you were so talented.

(LS raises a hatchet that was behind the rock he’s sitting on, and MS tightens his grip on the spear, but both of them refrain from taking any action.)

MA:  Let’s get to the column, shall we?  This time we’re doing something different, reviewing magazines instead of movies, FANGORIA and RUE MORGUE, to be specific.  How about some background on these magazines?

LS: (puts down the hatchet): Well, I remember FANGORIA from way back. It first launched in 1979 as a companion mag to STARLOG. Where STARLOG catered to people who loved science fiction movies, FANGORIA was geared toward horror movies, with articles, reviews and interviews about the current crop of horror flicks and filmmakers out there. It varied from previous horror movie mags that I grew up with, like FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and THE CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, which dealt mostly with older horror films, in that FANGORIA focused on new films, and gave their readers the inside scoop on movies that were coming up.

MA (sighs):  Will there ever be another FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND?  Good old Uncle Forry!

LS:  The new issue of FANGORIA is Number 268, and features the new Stephen King movie THE MIST on the cover.

RUE MORGUE covers a lot of the same ground. It originates in Canada and first started in 1997 (which is why the new issue – Number 72 –  is their big “10th Anniversary Halloween Issue”). The magazine started getting distributed in the United States in 1999.

There’s even an article in the new issue about the history of the magazine, written by publisher Rodrigo Gudino. The article gives a good retrospective on how the magazine started and what they set out to do, showing us how RUE MORGUE progressed over the years.

RUE MORGUE deals with a lot of new films as well, but the anniversary issue also shines the spotlight on John Carpenter’s classic film THE THING, from 1982, with an extensive overview of the movie, including an article about the book it was adapted from, WHO GOES THERE? and some insight into its author John W. Campbell that I found interesting.

(A zombie teenager wearing an AC/DC shirt approaches them)

Zombie: They even have an article about me in the new issue!

LS: Goddamn Johnny Gruesome! He’s everywhere these days. Get outta here you decaying delinquent! (throws a beer bottle and the zombie runs away). Both magazines are very popular with fans, and each have their own annual horror conventions (FANGORIA with “Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors”  and RUE MORGUE has their “Festival of Fear”), as well as their own radio shows (FANGORIA RADIO airs Friday nights on Sirius satellite radio, and  RUE MORGUE RADIO airs weekly as a podcast that you can download from the Internet).

MA: So what did you think of them?

LS: I actually found things to like in both magazines. FANGORIA is clearly the slicker publication, but it does have informative articles, and some good interviews. I also like features like the “DVD CHOPPING LIST” which gives you information about movies coming out on DVD in the next few months. For some reason, I’ve always liked lists like that.

RUE MORGUE is more eclectic. They cover horror films, too, but also have informative articles about things like horror-related music (in this issue, they have a history of Black Metal and an interview with Metal Blade Records founder Brian Slagel), and a history of General Mills Monster Cereals that we grew up with (Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Boo-Berry) that I found pretty entertaining.

There is a lot of overlap between the two magazines, but that’s understandable. Both of these new issues feature interviews with Clive Barker (who has a new horror novel out, as well as a video game), and articles about current films like 30 DAYS OF NIGHT. While FANGORIA has articles about all of the big Hollywood horror movies coming out and some information about smaller films, RUE MORGUE seems to give the indie and foreign films a bit more attention.

They also have different tones. FANGORIA is clearly for the fan of big movies, and the special effects crowd, with lots of glossy pictures (many of which will appeal to gore fans) and behind-the-scenes scoops. RUE MORGUE seems more thoughtful and literary. Even their interview styles differ. I thought FANGORIA’s interview of Clive Barker got to the point and brought up some very interesting projects Barker’s been working on, while his RUE MORGUE interview seemed more intimate and relaxed.

I actually don’t think you can go wrong with either one if you’re a horror movie fan. But my personal preference would be for RUE MORGUE.

MA:  I think you need to bring back your second head.  You sound like a politician, “you can’t go wrong with either magazine.”  Clearly, based upon the two issues I read, RUE MORGUE is the superior publication.  Now, this is not a knock on FANGORIA, especially since my criticisms are based on one issue.  But here’s the scoop as to why RUE MORGUE is so much better.

First, simply by handling the two magazines, flipping through a few pages, glancing at this and that, I decided to read RUE MORGUE first.  Why?  The look, the feel, even the smell of the pages were more attractive.

The quality and style of the writing from RUE MORGUE was also superior.  Take its retrospective on John Carpenter’s THE THING, for instance.  There were separate articles on Carpenter, special effects wizard Rob Bottin, actors Kurt Russell and Keith David, and other small tidbits that were very informative.  RUE MORGUE’s coverage of THE THING was thorough and fresh.  FANGORIA’s movie coverage, by contrast, consisted of one article for each title, certainly acceptable, but not phenomenal.

Like a good book, I couldn’t put my copy of RUE MORGUE down.  Article after article, I kept reading.  I found the article on Count Chocula and his breakfast cereal friends not only a real hoot, but also informative.  After all, I’ve wanted to know for years whatever happened to Fruit Brute.  Now I can sleep at night.

(In the distance, a howling cartoon werewolf chases a shrieking cartoon leprechaun from one cave into another.)

I also really enjoyed the pieces on Lon Chaney’s silent classic THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923), the classic vampire flick FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), and F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack novels.

As you can clearly see, there’s A LOT here.  The fact that RUE MORGUE bills itself as the magazine of “Horror in Culture & Entertainment” is not lost within its pages.  Horror is about so much more than just movies.  RUE MORGUE is an intensely satisfying read for the horror fan.

That’s not to say FANGORIA doesn’t have merit.  Head to head, both magazines covered the subject of our last Cinema Knife Fight column, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and I have to say I thought FANGORIA’S article was better, more thorough and informative.  I also enjoyed the articles on the upcoming movies THE MIST, I AM LEGEND, and the next ALIEN VS. PREDATOR flick.

However, unlike my experience reading RUE MORGUE, while reading FANGORIA, I wasn’t compelled to keep turning the pages.  I knew the next article was going to be about another movie, whereas with RUE MORGUE, I didn’t know what to expect, and I looked forward to what the next subject might be.

For me the choice was clear- RUE MORGUE over FANGORIA.

LS: While I’m in agreement that RUE MORGUE is the superior magazine, my point was that FANGORIA fits a niche as well. If you’re into big studio horror films, FANGORIA is going to give you more bang for your buck. And, to be honest, FANGORIA is not just about movies. There are reviews of video games (“Horrorcade”) and books (“Nightmare Library”) as well. But these non-movie articles aren’t given much room, and clearly take a back seat to all the movie coverage.

As a writer, I prefer the tone and the coverage that you find in RUE MORGUE. But I want to give our audience enough information to make their own decisions.

MA: Well, I found a clear difference in quality between the two and wanted to point that out.

LS: Yeah, yeah. Your opinion is so scary important. I think you’re forgetting something. You’re on my home turf this time, and I get the last word here….HIT IT BOYS!

(Small demons that have LS’s face come out of a cave, wearing top hats and singing): HE’S MISTER GREEN CHRISTMAS, HE’S MISTER SUN….

MA: Oh boy, entertainment!  (Grabs a bowl of his favorite sweetened monster cereal and begins eating in front of the show.)

—end—

© Copyright 2007 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares