FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND
Editor: Michael Heisler
Publication Date: July 2010
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Color covers/full color interior
132 ppg. (including covers)
Cover price: $12.99
The cover blurb declares, "The Return of the World's First Monster Fan Magazine!" Little can be denied in this vainglorious but true pronouncement. But, is FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine, now in its third reincarnation with the publication last month of issue #251, the best, or, as the late Forrest J. Ackerman and first editor of FM would put it, the beast? Follow me, fellow monster lovers, while I attempt to answer that question.
Now, before we go any further I have to say that I have the bar raised higher for FM than any other monster magazine being published today. Why? Let me count the ways: Because FM is the King Kong of Monster Movie Magazines, because FM symbolizes to this day, that core readership of monster 'zines, the wunderkind of the weird, the "monsterkid", because FM is foremost in representing the eternal legacy of monsters and monster movies as a pop culture phenomenon -- and lastly -- because it just HAS to, dammit!
Outside of Richard Corben's striking cover depiction of Nosferatu on the direct edition that I obtained from the phenomenal folks over at EVERETT COMICS, the first thing I noticed was the hefty weight of the thing. With 132 pages including covers, this is one serious tome, fellow bibliophiles. Paying thirteen bucks for it, however, hurt a bit. The only other magazine that I consider paying even close to that much is my monthly dose of conspiracy theories and cryptids from FORTEAN TIMES, which is twelve bucks, and that comes from across the pond. I also couldn’t figure out the weird looking stucco texture used to fill the cover logo. It looked like a PhotoShop design idea that didn’t work.
FM is published by IDW, who primarily publishes comic books, and which might explain the irritating marketing ploy of shoving four – count ‘em – four different “variant” cover versions in front of us to buy as “collector’s items”. The Basil Gogos cover, hands down the sentimental favorite, is only available from the FM website. The Corben cover is the direct market choice, the Bill Stout cover is the direct market incentive cover, and the Predators cover by artist Vince Evans, a.k.a the “exclusive” FM convention cover, showed up recently for sale on their website as well. Right now, the tab for purchasing all four of these issues is over fifty bucks!
Just a few pages inside the issue it seems obviously (and maybe a tad bit painfully for me) clear that this is not your Old Uncle Joe’s FAMOUS MONSTERS. A full page ad for Bela Lugosi Wine and another full page devoted to DJ and tattoo advertising make it abundantly clear of the demographic that Kim and Co. are shooting for. And, rightly so, I suppose. While Monster Boomers like me may have the dough to fork out for stuff like this, there are unquestionably more younger people to attract in order to sustain sales (makes me think of The Doors’ tune “Five to One”, where Morrison intones: “They’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers”).
So, is there anything marvelous to say about the issue? By all means! I found every article to be expertly written and with a palpable substance that was sometimes lacking in its early predecessor. Topics covered from Robert Aragon’s “The Importance of Fear”, David Alex Nahmod’s “The Visual Journey of Karl Freund”, April Snelling’s review of indie film company Dark Sky, Jessie Lilley’s chat with artist Bill Stout, and material on PREDATOR, TRUE BLOOD and RESIDENT EVIL were presented with a touch of the professional journalist. A kind nod to the days of monster yore was an interview with Ray Bradbury which was accompanied by a never-before published story of his. Also tipping the pointy hat to the vintage FM was a 26-page Forry tribute, including a reminisce by yours truly on page 110! The oodles of color photos are of high quality and the paper stock is substantial.
Putting it all together, I can honestly say that I have mixed feelings about the “new” FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. If it wasn’t for the familiar logo, the use of the Captain Co. name, and references to FJA, I would be hard pressed to say it resembles anything like the original. While Warren Publications were noted for their familial nepotism and pretty much stuck exclusively to their publications and products within their pages, the new FM evokes feelings of today’s propensity towards inclusion and world community by publishing numerous ads for products other than their own. In these days of fierce market competition, I can’t say that I blame them for taking funds wherever they may come from and have no problem with that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that FM seems to have lost a chunk of its traditional identity, despite the editorials in this issue that testify to the fact that they are trying to maintain a balance between the old and the new. For that, I am willing to see what happens and will support Phil Kim’s, Michael Heisler’s and IDW’s efforts. I just hope that in future issues things will become more increasingly evident that FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND is destined to be once again the undisputed King Kong of Monster Movie Magazines!