Wednesday, March 7, 2012

HEY KIDS -- HORROR!

During the heyday of the 60's Monster Craze, the reigning King of Monster Magazines was the indomitable FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. There were numerous other 'zines that crowed the racks looking for a piece of the action, but FM was most kids' choice. I think it was due in large part to the luridly seductive covers, usually depicting the latest offering painted in high dynamic color by Basil Gogos, and the feeling of a "clubhouse" atmosphere provided by kid-friendly editor, Forrest J Ackerman.

Charlton Publications printed a wide variety of titles, from magazines to comic books. They were unique in that they owned their own printing plant in Derby, Connecticut. The trade-off was that they opted to use cheap paper and lower-quality printing techniques. Combined with the school of slapdash, get-it-on-the-stands method of design, the result often gave their publications a sort of "cheaper" overall appearance.

It didn't take a genius to see how quick FAMOUS MONSTERS was catching on. In 1961, Charlton entered the fray by introducing not one, but two monster magazine titles, MAD MONSTERS and HORROR MONSTERS. Published approximately on alternate months and each lasting for 10 issues, they paled in comparison to the better quality FM. Nevertheless, they had what I call a certain "rough charm" about them, and I recall them fondly as, if memory serves me right, they were the first monster magazines I ever laid eyes on, even before I saw my first issue of FM.

The Charlton monster titles were bolstered by the generosity of AIP's marketing department. Many issues featured AIP films where it was obvious that they had been the recipient of a thick promo pack of stills and pressbooks. They didn't however, have the same sense of comraderie that FM was so good at. Sporting ludicrous names such as Sanzar Quasitoad, the editorial and production staff remained hidden behind a curtain of anonymity that denied a young reader friendlier accessibility.

They were not, however, without their own methods of squeezing out every dime they could of a kid's allowance. The 'Monster Mailman" department was Charlton's version of Warren's Captain Company. They served up some of the usual novelties, masks, films, and the like. They also had the advantage of a wider range of publications from which to advertise their wares. For instance, their comic line offered some of the same monster paraphanelia as their flagship titles. One example can be seen in the April-May, 1966 issue of CAPT. ATOM (Vol. 2 No. 80). Here we see monster movie stills and iron-on transfers.


Many of these items have been lost to the sands (and the accompanying oxidation) of time. But one can't deny that during the day, there was no shortage of monster merchandise to be found!

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