Wednesday, July 21, 2010

CONVERSATIONS FROM THE VAULT (PART 1)


AN INTERVIEW WITH JIM CLATTERBAUGH, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER OF MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT.

Cover of the first issue of MFTV
Pardon the unintentional pun, but Jim Clatterbaugh has a good thing going. Why? He's been publishing one humdinger of an outstanding monster 'zine for, oh, only the last 15 years or so. To tell you the truth, his is one of the very few monster mags that I actually get excited about when I spot a new issue, very much like I did when my heart would leap in my throat whenever I'd see the latest issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND on the stands way back in the day (my doctor says I can't get that excited any more, but I still allow myself a little tingle). That, my friends, is watcha call poignant (look that up in your Merriam-Webster, would ya?).

I haven't known Jim very long, really only as long as it's been since he agreed to answer a few questions for MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD and the ensuing handful of exchanged emails. Nevertheless, I can tell you that he is a great guy who has built a great magazine through many years of hard work and dedication to his beloved monsters. Issue after issue brims with the top journalistic talent of the genre today as well as historical material and photos that you will not see anywhere else. As a result, each edition of MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT is a lesson in horror cinema history that will leave any red-blooded monsterologist with a pentagram on his palm howling for more.  Now, enough of me. Let's hear what Jim has to say!

MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: What in the world possessed you (ha! ha!) to consider publishing a monster movie magazine in the first place?

JIM CLATTERBAUGH: I'm a "Monster Kid" who grew up in the 1960s loving horror and sci-fi films and the monsters that starred in them. Whether I was huddled in front of the TV watching Universal classics on Sir Graves Ghastly Presents or Shock Theater, or catching the latest Hammer offering at a Saturday matinee, or picking up the new issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND or CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN, or hitting the local Woolworth's or hobby store for the latest monster toy or Aurora model—I couldn't get enough monsters! After graduating high school I joined the Air Force, and for the next 7 or 8 years I left the monster world behind. But around 1985, I discovered my local PBS station was showing the classics (with a host), and I fell in love all over again. I began my quest to obtain all monster-related items from my childhood (a lot harder at that time than it is now, thanks to eBay) and began attending horror-related conventions throughout the United States. I also had the good fortune to visit the house of Forrest J Ackerman (Editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND during its more than 25-year run), dubbed the Ackermansion, three times during that period. Then, in 1992 when I was stationed at Andrews AFB, MD, I met Gary Svehla, Editor/Publisher of GORE CREATURES and MIDNIGHT MARQUEE (one of the many genre-related fanzine/magazines I was reading) and attended the FANEX convention he sponsored, along with his wife, Susan, in Baltimore. Over the next couple of years, I met many of the stars and filmmakers of some of my favorite films at FANEX (as well as at Chiller Theatre and Monster Bash). I also was lucky to meet and become friends with some of the best genre writers, who were regular contributors to the magazines I was reading. In addition, I met Michael Kronenberg, Art Director for an Alexandria, VA-based trade publication. I told Mike that I'd always wanted to publish a fanzine/magazine on classic horror/sci-fi films; he said if I ever wanted to make my dream a reality, he'd be happy to design it and do the layout. I approached some of the writers I'd met; once they agreed to contribute we kicked around a couple of names, and Monsters from the Vault was born. It was also around the time of the first issue that I met my future wife (an editor by profession) at a meeting for the group that supported the FANEX convention, The Horror and Fantasy Film Society of Baltimore. Marian (a horror-and-all-things-Halloween-related fan) and I were married in 1997, and by marriage she became the copy editor of MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT, starting with issue #3. In 1998, I retired from the Air Force after 20 years and remained in the Baltimore area, and the rest is history, as they say.

MMW: I see you have an impressive stable of contributing writers who have an affinity for vintage monster movies. Did they come to you or did you solicit them?

CLATTERBAUGH: I met most of my contributors at the conventions I was attending in the early 1990s, such as FANEX (in Baltimore), Chiller Theatre (in New Jersey), and Monster Bash (near Pittsburgh). It was then that I also found out about McFarland & Company (publishers of some of the best genre books out there) and picked up a ton of books from them, many of which were written by the writers I was meeting at the conventions, such as Bob Burns, Mark Clark, Greg Mank, Michael Price, Gary Rhodes, Bryan Senn, and Tom Weaver. When I decided to publish MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT, I approached Tom Weaver, Gary Svehla, and another friend from Baltimore (the late Joe Guilfoyle), and once they agreed to contribute, MFTV was off and running. After the first issue was published, I never had to solicit writers, although I’ve had to turn quite a few away, as their work didn’t quite fit the MFTV style and focus.

MMW: How long have you been publishing MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT?

CLATTERBAUGH: MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT is now in its 15th year of publication, and issue #27 was just published in June 2010. I try to publish two issues a year (this doesn’t always happen) in what little free time I have when I’m not working at my day job as a contractor Test Officer supporting the U.S. Army, at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

MMW: How did you fund the first issue, and how did it do sales-wise?

The first issue was funded completely out of my pocket, but since only 500 copies were produced, the bill was only $680.00. The issue was 32 pages (including covers) and premiered at the FANEX convention held in the summer of 1995 in Baltimore. We originally intended it to be a one-shot (just to say we did it), but it was so well received we decided to publish a second issue in early 1996. Copies of MFTV #1 are hard to come by these days and have sold for as much as $400.00 on eBay. Due to the low print run, I’d say there are only about a 100 people who have a complete run of the magazine. So getting an inclusive set is quite a feat. The issue was sold at only a couple of conventions and through an ad in MIDNIGHT MARQUEE. By the time our fifth issue was published in fall 1997, the first issue was sold out.

MMW: How did you market MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT so that it had some traction for subsequent sales?

CLATTERBAUGH: Starting with the second issue (1,800 copies were printed), the magazine was picked up for distribution by Diamond Comic Distributors; then Capital City Distributors came on with the third issue (1,300 copies were printed). With issue #4, MFTV really took off after Ingram Periodicals picked us up, and the magazine began to show up in Barnes & Noble, Borders, Tower Records, and many other newsstands. At our peak, we were printing 8,000 copies per issue. That was before I determined that getting bigger came with significant financial risk, and after issue #11 I decided it was no longer financially viable to use Ingram Periodicals as a distributor, which significantly reduced my print run to 3,500 copies an issue.

(To be continued . . .)

Jim with Greg Mank and John Weber - each holding their own.


Jim gets his Forry at Monster Bash 2009


Jim with Richard Gordon

Rack 'o monster 'zines at Harrison's Comics, Salem MA 2002

The out-of-print and collectible Shock! Theater: An Illustrated History

1 comment:

Mike Scott said...

Thanks for the BTS history! The print runs were interesting!

I think #2 was the first issue I got? (Got #1 soon after, though.)

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