Wednesday, April 20, 2011

FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND NO. 255

FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND
No. 255
Editor: Jessie Lilley
Publication Date: May/June 2011
Publisher: Philip Kim (Kong)
Color covers/full color interior
80 pages
Cover price: $9.99

FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND is getting better all the time! While I had my doubts immediately after the Phil Kim (Kong) relaunch of issue #251, my worst fears and trepidation have since been assuaged. And, while Mr. Kim may be responsible in part by his oversight, I believe that a certain Jessie Lilley might be the one who is putting the spice in the stew, as it were . . . or perhaps more appropriately, the eye of newt in the bubbling cauldron. Indeed, it appears to me that FM has been -- dare I say it? -- reinvented in mid stride. From the newly designed (and much more eye-catching) table of contents to the "Famous Last Words" feature on the last page, whatever the reasons, it is evident just a few pages in that the folks behind the scenes at FM are serious about their work in attempting to achieve monster magazine greatness.

This issue seems to be about an even split between current and classic material. There's several features on the next-to-the-last installment of the sensational Harry Potter film franchise, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, a piece on the new DC Universe Online gaming experience, coverage on the remake of Michael Jackson's Thriller, plus a few words on the George R. R. Martin phenom, Game of Thrones, as well as a talk with writer Jim Butcher.

But, what really blew my kilt up was a ginormous section featuring one of my most favoritist horror writers of all time, the inimitable Howard Phillips Lovecraft -- that's HPL to those of us especially chosen by the Old Ones to worship in the eldritch rune-inscribed circle of the cognoscenti. For me it starts off with the Bob Eggleton cover illustrating Lovecraft's longest work, At the Mountains of Madness. While nothing new to seasoned Lovecraft-aholics, the bio penned by Charles A. Coulombe (Wikipedia describes him as "a prominent American Catholic historian, author, journalist, lecturer, and occasional researcher into the supernatural") is substantial enough to serve as an introduction to potential new readers of Lovecraft with his rather odd life and even stranger weird fiction.

Now, before I go any further, you may be wondering why I effuse over all things Lovecraftian. Like many of us of the original monster kid vintage, I was "turned on" to Lovecraft in the late 1960's, in particular by the reissuing of his writings in the Ballantine Books "Adult Fantasy" series, edited by Lovecraft biographer and fantasist extraordinaire (sometimes called "hack" for his pastiches of Lovecraft, Burroughs, and others), Lin Carter. That, and a furtively appropriated (I shall go no further here) Arkham House edition of Dagon and Other Macabre Tales got me hooked like an Innsmouth gillman gnawing on chum off Devil Reef. In my opinion, since then, and especially more recently, Lovecraft has gone on to unprecidented popularity. While it is true that he is regarded as still somewhat of a cult figure, he is no longer merely lurking on the fringe, and has most certainly gained tons of cred in the world of horror literature.

I have been an on again off again devotee of Lovecraft since reading said Arkham House tome, as well as the aforementioned Carter-edited paperbacks The Doom That Came to Sarnath and The Fungi From Yuggoth. Add Carter's HPL bio, A Look Behind the Cthulhu Mythos and L. Sprague de Camp's Lovecraft: A Biography, and I became hopelessley immersed in Cthuhlu Culture. So much in fact that, at present, I am a member of the H. P. Lovecraft Amateur Press Association moderated by the pre-eminent Lovecraft scholar, S. T. Joshi. One of my essays, "Lovecraft and the Polar Myth" found its way into Joshi's The Lovecraft Annual (Hippocampus Press) a couple of years ago.

Coincidentally, Jessie Lilley interviews Joshi as a part of the special feature on Lovecraft in this issue of FM. Artist Bob Eggleton is also interviewed. When asked what it is that captivates him about Lovecraft's work, he replied, "He used sentences and descriptions like: 'They died with the screams still in their throats'. If that doesn't get you, what does?"

And you could say exactly that for this issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS. Along with several added features on Lovecraft in films and the theatre, and the welcome and familiar Fang Mail, You Axed For It, and Mystery Photo, FM seems well back into the fold in re-establishing itself as the King of Monster Magazines!

HPL Lives and FM rocks! Go ahead and scream.

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