Wednesday, February 2, 2011
DAVID HORNE ON COLLECTING WARREN AND PUBLISHING GATHERING HORROR (PART 2)
This post concludes the interview with David Horne, the man behind the curtain of GATHERING HORROR. Today, David talks about putting his massive undertaking into book form and getting it printed. He also discusses what he considers to be the rarest and hardest to find of the Warren-produced material, as well as providing a few tips on collecting Warren publications and memorabilia.
MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD: Tell us a little about the process you used to turn the final draft of GATHERING HORROR into a completed book. What did you use for page formatting software, how did you go about finding a printer, etc.?
DAVID HORNE: Page formatting, or paging, as I’m used to calling it, was done with Adobe InDesign. I was around when book publishers first started doing things electronically, and for a long time the standard program in the field was QuarkExpress. But people have been migrating to InDesign over the past few years. I think it’s a great program—it’s pretty easy to use once you figure it out, and it’s very flexible and even forgiving (meaning it was easy for me to fix the countless screwups I kept making!). It also, of course, has a smoother compatibility with the other Adobe programs, Photoshop and Illustrator and so on.
I did all the scans at high resolution and in color, and saved them into separate folders similar to the text files. It was very easy to import them directly into InDesign when I needed them, and I did no adjusting or fixing up of them at all, other than to size and grayscale them (make them black and white). Bigger things that couldn’t fit into the scanner, like the posters or record albums, and some of the large-trim books, I photographed with a digital camera, and a few of those I had to clean up a little in Photoshop, but not too much.
Getting the book printed was the big hurdle, as you can imagine. Up until that point, for all those years, it was just me pecking away at it in my home. It didn’t cost anything, other than time, computer maintenance, and occasional ink or paper for whatever I printed out. Now, for the first time, I was going to take it out into the world and drop some serious money on it. It’s like running up to the edge of a cliff—as long as you’re just running, you’re fine, but once you step off, there’s no turning back. From my experience in publishing, I knew a few things. First, I preferred to do it locally, for three reasons: I believe in supporting local vendors, I wanted to be close by in case I was needed for quality control, and I didn’t want to pay for shipping the printed books across the country. Being in the Bay Area helps, as there’s a decent-sized publishing industry here that you wouldn’t find in other parts of the country. Because I had very little money, I knew I was going to have to do a small print run, but I still wanted to keep the retail cost of the book low, because I knew that the kinds of people who would be interested in it wouldn’t pay above a certain price. That meant I had to keep the printing cost low as well. (The one thing I’m not any good at is business, so I’m not really making any money on this overall, but it does need to at least pay off the costs.)
I would have liked to have gotten it done by one of the mainstream book printers, the kind with the big web presses, but those big companies just can’t do a little run like this cost effectively. For the heck of it, I went to a big printing company that’s local—they were friendly, and didn’t laugh me out of the joint, but the quote they gave me to print 300 copies was somewhere in the range of $65 per book—it just wasn’t worth starting up their machines for less than that. I really almost gave up at that point—300 copies would have been over $19,000, which I would have had to pay upon delivery—believe me, I don’t have that kind of dough!! Also, I would have had to price the book much higher, which wouldn’t have worked. But there are other options. Instead of web press, I found a small local outfit called Minuteman Press (and there are places all over the country like this) that does what’s called docutech, which means essentially printing it from PDF files on a machine that’s similar in principal to a giant Xerox machine. They were very enthusiastic and eager for the work, and they gave me a good rate, one that would allow me to keep the retail price low. I was concerned about quality, of course, but you can see for yourself that these guys did a wonderful job. The printing is crisp and clear, the paper is nice, and the binding seems pretty solid. They told me afterward that this was the biggest thing they had ever printed, and that it took a whole week just to run all the pages out for it. When I went over to sign off on it, several of the employees came out of their offices to meet the weird guy who did the monster book. It was an interesting experience, and I was lucky to find them. By the way, for any of your readers who are interested, here’s a great website with a list of, and guide to, printers around the country:
MMW: In your opinion, what 3 Warren publications are the rarest?
HORNE: Everyone wants to tell you that Eerie #1, Heidi Saha, and House of Horror are the rarest, but in truth, all three are available from time to time—they just cost a ton of money, usually. My pick for rarest is Famous Monsters #7 with the lucky 7 stamp—the publishers stamped the number 7 somewhere inside 100 copies of that issue, and whoever got them would win a free lifetime subscription to the magazine. But the deal was that you had to tear out the page and send it in to win! I’ve never heard of any collector or dealer finding one of these intact. I think the FM movie scripts (for a contest in the early 1960s) are also pretty rare—I’ve only seen them for sale once or twice. And of course, the FM #6 with the M.T. Graves sticker on the cover is nearly impossible to find. All accounts I’ve read indicate that there are only five or six in the world. I saw one for sale once and it went for well over $2,000. Needless to say, I don’t have any of these three in my collection, although I do have Xeroxes of the movie scripts and I have a copy of the Filmland Classics reprint of the Graves sticker issue. (And I do have all three of the supposedly “rarest’ issues I mentioned at the beginning!)
MMW: What 3 Warren merchandise items are the toughest to find?
HORNE: This one’s harder to answer, because a LOT of the merchandise is tough to find now. There are certain things that are regularly available on eBay, such as posters, fan club buttons, the Dracula’s soil pendant, and so on, but there are many things that you may never see again, too. In the very early days of Famous Monsters, they sold a glossy black and white print of the guy on the cover of FM #2 in the werewolf mask, who everyone knows now was James Warren himself. I’ve seen one of these for sale, that someone found among the office leftovers when the company folded, but have never seen any others. Another would be the Pilgrim monster briefs that came out in the mid-1970s. I’ve seen the matching T-shirts for sale a couple of times, and even have two of them, but I’ve never seen the briefs for sale. (I’m not sure I’d want one, if it was used!) A third rare item would be the limited-production poster of art by Felix Mas that was reproduced from an early issue of Vampirella. I’ve never seen that available for sale, either. Those are three, but there are plenty of other things, too, that are pretty tricky to locate.
MMW: If you had to choose only one Warren publication and one Warren merchandise item to pry out of your cold, dead fingers, which two would it be?
HORNE: Well, I have some emotional attachment to that FM 44 mentioned earlier, because I think of it as the first. In the years since, I’ve managed to get it autographed by both Forrest Ackerman and James Warren, so it’s pretty special. The merchandise is harder to pick, because I wasn’t as focused on it as I was on the magazines. I really like the three matching Sanjulian posters, for Uncle Creepy, Cousin Eerie, and Vampirella—they make a nice set, and one of these days I’m going to frame them.
MMW: What advice can you give someone who is just starting out collecting “Warrenobilia”?
HORNE: Buy my book! Ha ha, just kidding. Actually, there are two main things I would tell collectors, of anything, not just Warren. One is to determine up front whether you’re collecting for investment or for pleasure. Either way can be rewarding, but with the former, it will cost you more and you have to be more knowledgeable about collecting traditions and very critical about what you purchase; with the latter, you can ignore a lot of that stuff and just have fun.
The other is to be patient; prices fluctuate and, aside from the rarest of items, everything comes around again and again, so you can afford to bide your time and wait for what you want at the price you want, rather than jumping quickly and either paying too much or getting something that wasn’t in the condition you wanted.
MMW: Where can one purchase a copy of GATHERING HORROR?
HORNE: If you’re in the Bay Area, there are copies available at Comic Relief in Berkeley and Flying Colors Comics in Concord (or they can get a hold of one if they’re out). Otherwise, I’m keeping two listings going on eBay (until I run out of books)—go to eBay, then search either “Horne Gathering” (or “Horne Eerie” or “Horne Creepy” or “Creepy Gathering,” and so on) or “Warren catalogue” (or “Famous Monsters catalogue” or “Vampirella Catalogue” or “Warren Index” and so on), and it should come up. I won’t bother providing a link because I keep refreshing the listings and the links change. Finally, if you don’t have an eBay account, you can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work it out—basically, $39.00 covers book and shipping via media mail, either way.
MMW: Any last words for the readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD?
HORNE: Because I work on a lot of academic-level books in my regular job, I’ve always been a bit shy about talking about my hobby, since it seemed kind of incongruous to be working with university professors on one hand and enjoying kid’s monster magazines on the other. Even most of my friends didn’t know that much about my collection or the book, until I finished it. But I’ve come to understand that life is too short to worry about that kind of stuff. My advice is to enjoy whatever you enjoy; follow your passion, whatever it is; and don’t worry about what anyone else says. Get into whatever interests you, and don’t let the snarks or the “experts” knock you off track!
Many thanks to you, John, for having me as a guest on your cool website!
MMW: And thank you, Mr. David Horne. Best of luck to you!
[NOTE: David Horne is right about the links changing -- the one used in the MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD post a week or so ago is dead. Instead of providing the link that's working today, I suggest you follow his advice and Google the book.]