Tuesday, February 1, 2011

DAVID HORNE ON COLLECTING WARREN AND PUBLISHING GATHERING HORROR (PART 1)









David Horne has done something many monster fanatics have dreamed of doing but very few have ever attempted: systematically cataloguing, indexing, and imaging virtually everything that James Warren ever published or produced. He didn't stopped with FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, he hasn't limited entries to just CREEPY, EERIE, and 1984 -- he's covered everything from the magazines to the books, including merchandise, and everything in-between, including material that is inspired by Warren. It doesn't get much more complete than this, folks.

After receiving my 4+-pound package in the mail that contained the object of every Warrenophile's obsession -- the book called GATHERING HORROR -- I took a quick peek and immediately sat down to draft a blog entry on this monumental and, honestly, quite fabulous book. But, to paraphrase a popular advertisement, it's not just a book -- it's an adventure. In fact, it's like THE WARREN COMPANION on steroids!

I liked this book so much, I decided to write this fellow responsible for the work. After exchanging a few notes back and forth, I can tell you Mr. Horne turned out to be quite the amiable and gracious person. I can also tell you he is also a true collector and Warren scholar. You'll know full well what I'm talking about after you read the interview that follows.

MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: Why a work on Warren? What was the purpose of such a massive undertaking?

DAVID HORNE: Well, it was obsessive psychosis, of course! Actually, I had been a fan and collector of Warren publications since I was young. For most of my life, information about the company was relatively hard to come by—there were the magazines themselves, the hard-to-find Famous Monsters Chronicles, and a few articles or interviews about Warren here and there in things like the Comics Journal, and that was about it. Even in the early days of the Internet, there just wasn’t much info to be had. So when The Warren Companion, by Jon B. Cooke and David Roach, came out in 2001, I was very happy to buy a copy and finally be able to learn more about this company that had meant so much to me over the years. And there was that great Warren checklist in the back! Well, I love The Warren Companion to this day—it’s a great piece of work—but as I went through the checklist and compared it to what I knew from my own collection, I could see that there were errors here and there, and items missing and so on (I’m a copyeditor, so I read everything with those eyes now, unfortunately.) It seemed especially unjust that a book called The Warren Companion had almost no information at all about Famous Monsters, which accounted for a sizable chunk of the company’s output and its fan base. I don’t blame Cooke and Roach, of course—they had initially compiled the material for this book for Cooke’s Comic Book Artist magazine, and they were much more interested in and knowledgeable about the comics side of Warren. But it seemed incomplete to me.

Just for the heck of it, I started making a list of corrections and things I wanted to see in such a checklist (such as foreign publications). I initially intended it as a corrections list that I could send to them in case they were ever to do a second edition, but once I started, I couldn’t stop, and it grew and mutated over time until . . . long story short, it turned into Frankenstein’s monster and ended up as Gathering Horror!

MMW: How did you go about selecting the title, GATHERING HORROR?

HORNE: Like anyone putting something like this together, I went through long lists of possible names before coming up with this one. I can’t really remember any more how it first came to mind, but I liked the way that it could be read to mean different things. That is, it’s sort of like horror that is accumulating, in the sense of a “gathering storm,” but it’s also what the folks at Warren did, which was to gather horror stories together and present them to their readers. And, of course, it has to do with collecting these things, too—gathering horror magazines as a hobby.

MMW: When did your interest begin with monster magazines in general and Warren Publications in particular?

HORNE: Both at the same time, with Famous Monsters #44, which I found on the local pharmacy magazine shelf when I was nine. When I look at the dates now, I see that Eerie #6, which I also had a copy of, came out before FM 44, so that must have actually been my first Warren mag, but for some reason the FM sticks in my mind. It was a revelation to find it, that’s for sure—my little brain couldn’t believe that someone actually made something like that! If you read stories by other Warren fans of a certain age, they all describe more or less the same thing—the excitement of first discovering it (it was almost always in a drugstore or a supermarket in those days, unless you lived in a big city with actual newsstands) and the fever of going back week after week, hoping to find another, and another. Poring through them over and over with your friends. There were no VCRs or DVDs in those days, and no books about monsters or monster movies, and no decent horror comics since the demise of E.C., which was before my time anyway, so this was all we had, aside from scratchy black and white movie reruns on TV, full of commercials. It was enough.

MMW: You obviously have a love for all things monsters. Just who is your favorite?

HORNE: Tough choice! How can I pick just one? All of my monster influences come from movies, more than the magazines. I tend to think of them in groups; for example, I’m of the generation that has always loved the Universal monsters, even though they get quainter as more and more time goes by. I was also a huge fan of all of Ray Harryhausen’s creations, and of other 1950s stop-motion creepies such as the crawling and flying brains in Fiend Without a Face. A third big influence (huge, actually), was the various monsters (or “bears,” as they’re known) on the Outer Limits. I can only pick one? Okay, I’m going with Kong, the king (who, oddly enough, was on the cover of that FM #44 I just mentioned!).

MMW: I understand that a lot of the items cited are a part of your own personal collection. How did you go about obtaining them?

HORNE: Yes, almost everything you see in the book is sitting right here in my office, in boxes and file cabinets in the closets, which made a lot of the research easy, and of course chores like gathering scan images and so on. The core of the collection was bought off the shelves back when they first came out; somehow I managed to hang on to them all these years. Of course, I found a lot of it on eBay, the world’s biggest garage sale, but I would also find issues at comic conventions (not always the best prices!), flea markets, and used-book stores. (I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is rich in these kinds of outlets.) I even tried going to a few estate sales, but that can involve a lot of time investment for little return, not to mention there’s always competition, since the professional estaters know there’s some value in these things. You have to get there early and be prepared to stick your elbows out. Those are too much work, really—unless you find a Famous Monsters #1 for $5.00 or something like that! (Not that I ever did . . .)

Collecting can become pretty addictive, as many of your readers no doubt know. I started out just wanting to collect certain things, like, say, a complete set of FMs. But once you do that, you’ve got the bug, and you think, well, maybe I’ll go for the Creepy's now. Next thing you know, you’re hooked! I’m a freelancer, meaning that I don’t have very much money, so that made it pretty tough—I often would have to let things go by just because I couldn’t afford them. The trick, of course, is to try to buy in lots, when you can get things at a low per-item cost, often a fraction of what they go for when sold singly.

MMW: How long do you figure it took you to compile and complete the draft copy of GATHERING HORROR?

HORNE: Overall, it was about seven years of writing and research, and then another year or so to do the scans and layouts, while also making corrections and updates to the text. Let me hasten to add that I wasn’t working full time on this! It was done during free hours in evenings or weekends, which is why it took so long. There were periods when I didn’t have the time to look at it for weeks or even months, but also other periods when I could devote a few straight days to typing away. For a long time it was in the nature of a hobby—it was fun, rather than work, especially in the research phases, when I was learning new facts about Warren or their artists, or discovering publications I hadn’t heard of. Of course, there was tedious, repetitious labor, too, such as making all those scans—not so much fun!

MMW: Did you use a database for individual entries or just use the conventional manuscript format?

HORNE: I do use an Excel spreadsheet for keeping track of my collection, but the book was written in Word. I broke it up into separate files for each title (Famous Monsters took two files) and separate folders for each chapter of the book, so that I could keep everything straight, but otherwise I tried to keep it as simple as possible, because I knew that would make it easier to import into the paging program. So each file was basically just one big list, with a space between issue entries. No fancy styling or anything like that, other than italics—any other visual elements in the text were added during paging. Of course, with the search field in Word, it was easy to go back and forth to update or correct things as I progressed or as I made new entries that necessitated cross references with ones I had already typed up. (Or to double-check things I had forgotten, if I had typed them a year or two previously!)

MMW: Your endeavor is self-published. Do you have any experience with publishing or was this your first try at it?

HORNE: I was a production editor at Jossey-Bass in San Francisco, a once-small business books publisher that is now owned by John Wiley and Sons out of New Jersey. I was there for eight years, and have spent ten years since then working for myself as a freelance production editor and copyeditor, mostly for Jossey-Bass and for Stanford University Press. The production editor role is different between book publishing and magazine or comic publishing, and it can even be different from publisher to publisher, but in my case, my job was to take a finished manuscript that had been signed by the editorial department and turn it into a book. This meant guiding it through copyediting, author review, design, paging, proofreading, and indexing, right up until it was ready to go to the printer. Our department head once described that position as being the “hub of the wheel”—we PEs worked directly with the authors; hired the freelance editors, artists, and pagers and oversaw their work; coordinated with the design and manufacturing departments; and were responsible for the overall quality, budget, and schedule of each book. When I first began as an assistant, I even did (what we considered) grunt work such as reviewing book contracts and registering copyrights with the Library of Congress. As you can see, this was perfect background for self-publishing, because I had my hands in every aspect of the process.


[To be continued in MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD!]

2 comments:

Joe Monster said...

Thanks for this awesome interview! I was very interested in this book when you first mentioned it, and it's great getting some insights from the author on the book's creation. As a cataloguing fiend, this seems like something I'd love to get my dirty claws on. Eagerly awaiting Part II...!

tom said...

Thanks for letting us know about this awesome-sounding book. I ordered two copies today, one for me and one for me brother. I told Mr. Horne that you sent me.

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