Friday, July 1, 2011

LET'S MAKE MONSTER MAGAZINES -- MY FIRST 'ZINE! (PART 1)


"THIS IS NOT THE MAGAZINE WHAT YOU THINK IT IS. THIS IS A MAGAZINE OF MONSTERS."

I guess you could say it’s all Forry’s fault.. It all started with him, though I suppose sooner or later it would have been somebody else. But for me, he was "Ackerman", he was THE man. You could say that I became his “Ackolyte”.

The fateful seeds were sown when I saw for the first time Lugosi's DRACULA on Ellison's aptly named "glass teat". But it was that vile tome, that bane of many a’ confused parent, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND magazine that, fertilized my Donovan’s brain with an unquenchable thirst for a sense of wonder.

After that, it didn’t long for my interest in all things horrific to ignite like the afterburners on the DESTINATION MOON rocket ship. I was so enthralled with the images of The Count from Transylvania that I tried imitating what I had viewed the night before by drawing (or more accurately, attempting to draw) his famous rising from the coffin scene in my own "TV frame" comic panels ... comic books of course being the natural progression from picture books as a young lad's primary source of literature in those days.

To further fan the hall of flames, a neighbor who lived across the street was an avid reader of Burroughs (Edgar Rice, not William, ya Beatnik!), "funny books", and best of all ... monster magazines! Jeff, a few years older than I, was the product of a failed 50s marriage (not everything was "Ozzie and Harriet" back then, you know), and lived with his grandmother. His Dad lived in another room in the same house and was around a lot, too (i.e. probably unemployed and living off the goodwill of a mother’s love for her son). He was the one that took him down to the liquor store every couple of weeks or so to load up on reading material from the newsstand and the spinner racks. In retrospect, it must have been terribly embarrassing having a 9-year old screaming across the street, "Hey, Jeff! Ya get any new MONSTER magazines?" after barely getting one foot out of the car. But, hey, monster mags were verboten in our somewhat socially strict domicile, and Jeff was my solitary pipeline to horror heaven. My sister and I would spend long, lazy days of summer in his "clubhouse", otherwise known as the garage, where we could read, "spaz off", or do whatever we damn well pleased away from the prying, judgmental eyes of the real monsters ... our parents!

Unfortunately, childhood is but fleeting and the imaginary paradise that seemed to go on forever probably only lasted for about a year. When I was 10 we moved from the South Bay area of L.A. to the San Fernando Valley. It was summer again and, outside of it being about 30 degrees warmer than what I was used to, I had a mission -- find new friends -- preferably new friends that liked monster magazines. That's not to say I was single-minded. I liked the rest of the stuff that most boys did back then, including playing baseball, army, and whatever else became the pastime du jour. It didn't take long to find a group of guys my age with common interests, which wasn’t difficult in the days of white, middle-class America when real kids hadn’t yet been replaced with dogs as children of the household like they are now.

Our main feeding frenzies of the printed word were comics. Marvel had just exploded with the Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko triumvirate that spawned such legendary titles as FANTASTIC FOUR, SPIDER MAN, X-MEN, SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS, and my favorite, THE MIGHTY THOR. DC Comics was desperately trying to keep pace with re-introducing "Silver Age" versions of SUPERMAN, BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN, THE FLASH, HAWKMAN, and the rest, as well an excellent line of science fiction and mystery titles.

That is not to say, however, that we were not acutely aware of those hitherto forbidden tomes called "monster magazines". My new friend Doug (yes, the selfsame individual whose column, HALL OF FLAME appears occasionally here at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD) had parents who also happened to be voracious readers. That meant they had to frequent bookstores on a regular basis to support their habit, including what became our Mecca for monster magazines, the Owl Rexall Drugs outdoor newsstand. The Owl Rexall newsstand was right off Sherman Way in the city of Canoga Park and occupied damn near half a block with its long racks displaying hundreds of various publications under the shade of its peppermint striped, scalloped-edge canopy. The newsagent on duty was generally a corpulent, oily and unshaven cigar-chomping ex-wrestler type that stank to high heaven of B.O.! They would usually ply their trade from the middle of the racks where the cash register was, perched on a rickety stool, chewing on a stogie and fanning themselves with the Daily Racing Form in the mid-summer valley heat. Unfortunately for us, the kiddie section wasn't too far down wind from this wince-producing icon from a bygone era. It was worth enduring every second, though, because this concrete and canvas palace had what seemed like every monster, science-fiction, fantasy and pulp fiction title that was being distributed in the mid-sixties. And one fateful Sunday morning after coaxing my Dad to take me over there under the pretext of spending my allowance on the usual Marvel comic fix, he uttered the magic words when I was nervously flipping through the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS #31: "Go ahead and buy it, son ... but don't let your Mother catch you with it."

The rest is history. I was hooked. FM could have come out weekly and it wouldn’t have been enough. These cheaply printed, garishly typset and morbidly illustrated periodicals were coveted as if each one had been discovered in the reliquary of some divine being. It's true, we damn near worshipped the blasted things! I still chuckle out loud when I have the occasion to remember an event that couldn't have illustrated this fact better. I suppose I was about 12 or 13 when I came home from school one afternoon and saw my Mom and a neighbor standing together on the front lawn. As I made my way to the front lawn, Mom called out: "Don't go in there!" I quickly learned the reason ... our house had been burglarized sometime during the day. Horrified, I ran over to my bedroom window and peered in. I could see a couple of things strewn on the floor. I whirled around in panic and exclaimed "What about my monster magazines?" The look on my Mom's and the neighbor's face was priceless. Being good Mothers they both looked at each other and didn't say a word. Under any other circumstance, I'm sure they would have broke out laughing to beat hell!

But, you see, that was the power that Forry and FAMOUS MONSTERS had over me. At that moment, I couldn't have cared less for my toys, models, even my clothes, for godssakes! Hell, I knew what was valuable. And, in case you're wondering, the bastards did take some valuables out of our house, but my room was virtually untouched. My treasure had remained untouched and intact!

It was only inevitable that, at some point, I would try my hand at making my own, homemade monster magazine. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I wasn't out to flatter anybody. What I think I really wanted was the first hand experience of creating something similar that thrilled me so.

So I gathered what I could for materials to use for my mad experiment, doubles of my monster cards, tracings, drawings, etc. and got to work. First, I had to come up with a name. That wasn't too difficult as I recall. I went right for the obvious -- how about . . . MONSTERS MAGAZINE!

It really was a dark and stormy night when I when I started it. I got most of it completed that evening, but was ordered to hit the hay before I was done. I barely slept. The next morning I finished it up. I wiped the sweat from my fevered brow and put the staples in the upper right had corner . . . and immediately cornered my Dad, who was getting ready to go to work. I strongarmed the 15-cents from him and it was his -- for a while anyway -- until I confiscated it to be added to the rest of my newly-grown monster trove.

Of course, it was a one-of-a-kind magazine. Heck, they were still using mimeographs at school. And copy machines? Ask for one of those and the clerk would have thought you were from Mars -- they were photostats.

So here, for the very first time, released upon the unsuspecting world at large, "warts and all", is my very first homemade monster magazine, entitled, what else? -- MONSTERS MAGAZINE!


When nothing else comes to mind for a cover illo, always go for the spider!

Good lord! What an editorial page! As you can see, grammar and proofreading
were not skills that I had fully grasped as yet. You can tell that this page was completed before the cover, as the original price was only 5-cents. But, 10-cents more would get me two more packs of monster cards to make up for the ones I hacked up! As for the drawings, I thought I had "messed them up", so I went ahead and did what any kid would do, cover up the mistakes with
glasses and a moustache!






Archival tape was not easily come by in the early 60's. I think the bleed-through adds a bit of an artsy design touch, though, don't you think?




So, have you started crying yet? Those scissors of doom I showed you a while back are responsible for cutting up, oh, maybe a hundred bucks or two of Leaf's Spook Stories cards ...
 
... and an original Aurora monster model box.




This was done on tracing paper. Pretty cool for a rip-off, huh?
 
This is "all original" art. The bottom panels are from my earliest attempts at
recreating scenes from the monster movies that I had watched.


Captain Company, eat your shorts!
 
Turn your computer monitor upside down for the answer.



The end of the first issue of MONSTERS MAGAZINE!


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I cut up those Leaf cards, too! Those first few issues of FM thatI bought or traded for back in the early 60s were magical to me. Have you checked out Gathering Horror by David Horne? Grab yourself a copy before they are all gone!

tom said...

That's great, I love the ad for the Captain Company stuff.

Yellow Phantom said...

Love the Dracula's Castle renderings John!

Urban Wild said...

Those were the days, brother! You were a little Forry in the making.

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