Friday, November 11, 2011

HIDDEN HORRORS: THE FIRST MONSTER PARODY?


A precursor (Left) of the Jim Warren and Marion Moore
FAMOUS MONSTERES #1 cover (Right)?
There has been plenty of humor in monster magazines over the years. By their very nature, monsters are fodder for satire and parody, mainly because we like to laugh at things that would otherwise make us shudder in fear. One of my theories about the pop culture phenomenon and its cousin, the entertainment industry, is this: the more a subject can be made fun of, the more success and longevity it has. I'm sure there are some exceptions to blow this thought out of the water, but the corroboration seems to fit for me. After all, some of the most fondly remembered of the 1960's monster product that was heaped onto us Monster Kids were funny things like the "Big Frankie" model, the "Frankenstein Loses His Pants" motion toy, the "Monster Old Maid" card game, and hit TV shows like THE ADDAMS FAMILY and THE MUNSTERS.

The vintage monster magazines were full of humorous horror hi-jinx. In the early days this usually took the form of stills from monster movies with word ballons or captions that consisted of (usually) wince-inducing jokes. Trading cards like Leaf's SPOOK STORIES and Topp's YOU'LL DIE LAUGHING were, of course, intentionally humorous as well. So were later magazines like MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH. Major Magazine's FOR MONSTERS ONLY combined serious monster movie text and photo articles with some of the best gags and comic strip parodies ever put on paper. That it was a companion publication to the mainstream humor magazine CRACKED, is not a coincidence. Even MAD magazine was known to lampoon monster movies and their stars on a regular basis -- so much over the years, that there was enough material to fill a hardbound book called HORRIFYINGLY MAD that was released earlier this year (more on that later).



But, as an overly-inquisitive Monsterologist, I have sometimes wondered, what was the first instance in a magazine of a monster parody? I'm not talking about the odd cartoon with a werewolf or vampire as the subject. I'm talking about a full-length article in a magazine that took movie monsters as a subject and turned them into something that was designed for readers to laugh at.

I think David Horne may have the answer.

You may recall David as the mad scientist with the chemistry set of "Creepy" culture that bubbled and frothed itself into the book called GATHERING HORROR A Completist Collector's Catalogue and Index for Warren Publishing (see sidebar on the right for ordering information on eBay). Folks, I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- if you have the slightest interest in having at your fingertips as much information about the Warren publishing empire as is currently collected between two covers, you owe it to yourself to purchase a copy of GATHERING HORROR. I liked the first copy that I bought so much that I ordered a second to have as an "archive edition", unread and untouched by human hands, as I like to think.

Mentioned on page 474 of this nearly 700-page tome is a 'zine with a cover price of 25 cents that could well contain the very first monster movie parody. The information in the book is based on info gathered from the description of a copy that went up for auction some time ago. Well, David finally landed his own copy so he's got a little more on it. Fortunately for readers of MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD, he's again sharing a bit of eerie esoterica with us. There is indeed, a parody within its pages . . . and even a possible "hidden horror", as well. Read on!


SUNDIAL was a humor magazine published by students of Ohio State University that began way back in 1911 and obviously predated a similar publication, NATIONAL LAMPOON (originally created by students at Harvard U as the HARVARD LAMPOON), and MAD magazine. David says that Harvey Kurtzman, the creator of "Mad," once commented in an interview that he had been partially inspired by the college humor mags that were around then, although he did not mention SUNDIAL or any others in particular. It is not known who exactly worked on it, how often it came out, or how widely it was distributed, but I would venture a guess that anyone in possession of this 'zine could consider themselves the lucky owner of a likely scarce -- maybe even rare -- bit of American ephemera.

David Horne elaborates: "SUNDIAL occasionally did parody versions of other magazines--for example, there was a parody of LOOK magazine and another one of the NEW YORKER. This particular issue, of course, [MOVIE SCREEN]was a parody of the movie magazines that were popular at the time. It came out in 1949, although as my listing notes, there are three different months listed [the front cover states May, the Table of Contents says March, and in the indicia, it's June], so it's hard to tell exactly when. It's numbered volume 37, number 8, for what that's worth. Of course, the interest to monster magazine fans is the cover, which so presciently foreshadows the cover of FAMOUS MONSTERS #1, which came nine years later. The magazine is actually pretty funny, including the cover article (technically about Frankenstein's monster, although it just calls him Frankenstein). The article [entitled, "The Private Life of Frankenstein"] talks about the monster's home life and "acting" career, and includes a picture of him barbecuing in a suburban back yard. As I said in the book, there's no way to know whether Forry or Jim Warren saw this before making their own magazine, but it's an interesting curiosity all the same."


And how, David!

So, could this be the first instance of a feature-length parody of a monster movie star? Until another, earlier dated example shows up, we'll have to assume that it is. And, that's part of what makes Monsterology so much fun -- seeing what continues to be uncovered and discovered from the cobwebbed chronicles of time. At the very least, it could be a tidbit for a revised edition of THE ANNOTATED FAMOUS MONSTERS #1!



2 comments:

Urban Wild said...

Interesting topic!

Doug Brown said...

John, You make a good argument that this is the first monster parody. It is always interesting when old material re-surfaces after many years!

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