You may remember me mentioning on several recent occasions my friend Doug. He and I have been buds for -- eegads! -- forty-five years! It was Doug, who, more than any of my other pals from the vintage monsterkid years, shared my monster mania as intensly as I did. It was with Doug that our first homemade monster magazines saw the light of day, and it was again with him (and because of him) that we got the opportunity to visit the world famous Ackermansion in Horrorwood, Karloffornia. So, it was a no-brainer to ask him what he thought of the newest version of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, and after a minute or two of conversation, I thought, why not write your own official review of it and I'll post it on the MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD BlogSpot? As a result, what you'll read next is Doug's take on FM #251. You will get my version (in what may turn out to be a counterpoint) in a few days. So, here you go -- the very first MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD guest post!
Greek philosopher Heraclitus famously taught that a man cannot cross the same river twice. That thought ran through my mind as I thumbed through the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND #251. Could the latest incarnation of the world’s favorite monster magazine capture the spirit of the original? The magazine certainly LOOKED like FM: a nice Corben rendition of Nosferatu gazing out from the cover, beneath the familiar “Famous Monsters” logo. And while the picture of Forrest J. Ackerman inside the front cover looked more like "Old Forry" than the Forry of old, his farewell comment was vintage FJA. But, as the waters of Heraclitus’s river changed after a traveler passed, the FAMOUS MONSTERS of today is not the FM of yesteryear. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Just paging through FM 251, the reader might think they were looking at any other of the modern horror magazines. The color photos, advertisements throughout the mag, and the dearth of puns alert one quickly to the fact that this is, indeed, a brand new FM. Without exception, each article is well-written, well-illustrated, and interesting. The target audience is clearly older and more sophisticated than that of forty years ago, which is a plus. David Alex Nahmod’s article on Karl Freund was excellent. One might be tempted to call it the feature most in keeping with the spirit of the original FM, but that would be due to the beautiful black-and-white photos from some of the greatest “imagi-movies” of all time—including FJA’s beloved METROPOLIS. But all the articles hearken to FM’s original purpose: expose fans to great examples of the horror genre in all areas of Filmland. Television, movies (old and new), and artwork are all represented here. Television is covered by the TRUE BLOOD articles from Joe Nazzaro and Jeff Mariotte. As a non-HBO customer, my exposure to TRUE BLOOD is limited to hotel stays and DVD rentals, so I benefited from the information in this article. The art realm was wonderfully represented by the interview with William Stout, one of great fantasy artists of our time. The interview with Ray Bradbury was excellent, also. The original FM was renowned for its behind the scenes revelations on make-up and special effects. The tradition continues in the new magazine with “To Create A Predator” by Jenna Busch.
The Ackerman tribute section was outstanding. I believe FJA would be gratified at the mix of professionals and fans whose memorials were included in these pages. Given the amount of material about him published since Mr. Ackerman’s death, I was pleasantly surprised at how fresh and informative the memorial entries were. I had hoped the new FM would pay its respects to Forry in a good way, and it did.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my greatest concern about the Kim/Heisler FAMOUS MONSTERS: the price. While monsterkids (of all ages) in the 21st century have grown accustomed to laying down nearly $10 for their monster mag of choice, will they support one at the $13 level? The title “Famous Monsters” has a certain cache with readers over forty, but I think younger fans may stick with the better established magazines available cheaper (albeit only slightly) at more newsstands and bookstores. Hopefully, I am wrong, as I want to see all the monster/horror/science fiction magazines survive and thrive!
It cannot be easy to take over the editorship of a periodical institution like FAMOUS MONSTERS. Old-time readers may complain about favorite features which have been dropped or changes in familiar writing style. New readers may not identify with the “old” look. All new editors want to put their own stamp on their magazines, improving what was good, while correcting deficiencies. Difficult waters to navigate, but Philip Kim and Michael Heisler have managed to do it well. The look and feel of the new magazine are very different than the original FM. The editor promised to revive some of the “familiar features” in coming issues. I look forward to this—maybe a few “Lon Chaney Shall Not Die” or “You Axed For It” photos. The “Filmbooks” were cool, too. While I don’t mind the occasional joke or pun, I prefer the more adult approach to the subjects. But I would hope the editor and contributors never lose the sense of wonder and enjoyment which Forrest Ackerman infused into every issue of FM—indeed, every project he ever undertook. That is what really made FAMOUS MONSTERS the icon it is.