"Can you turn all 14 pages?" -- MONSTERS MAGAZINE (1964)
IT WAS EARLY MORNING after a dark and stormy night in the autumn of 1964. The previous day I had worked as feverishly on my creation as I’m sure Dr. Frankenstein had on his. Now, with the completed pages before me I beheld an eerie sight -- the horrifying fruits of my labor.
You see, I was not content with just looking at other people’s monster magazines. Forry’s FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, Abernathy Farquad's MAD MONSTERS and Sanzar Quasatoad's HORROR MONSTERS had initially sparked and fanned the flames, but it was that incessant manster on my back called creativity that forced me into emulating the very things that had so enthralled – no – entranced me, since first laying eyes on them a year or so before. I was Dr. Frankenstein, and I had to create my own monster magazine!
Knowing full well the limitations of my artistic abilities I was perplexed on how to proceed illustrating my brainchild. At the time, monster magazines were still forbidden in my household and it wasn’t until later when my Dad finally allowed me to buy my first (FAMOUS MONSTERS #31) that I could even consider using pictures from them.
Then it dawned on me – something had slipped through the cracks of my parents’ vigilantism against my incessant cravings for pop culture “crap”. They had already let me buy and build monster models with my hard-earned allowance, but magazines that were half the price of the models (and arguably more desirable by a feverish monster kid such as me) were still off limits. But, sitting right in front of me on my desk, in neat little piles, was the answer to my dilemma.
For some reason, it had been okay for me to buy monster cards along with the baseball and other joke cards. Believe me, I bought plenty. Consequently, what was left after trading them out were doubles, triples, even quadruples of numerous cards. With a little snip here and a snip, snip there with my scissors – voila! an instant movie still, just like in the pages of the “real” monster magazines!
I posted images from the first issue of MONSTERS MAGAZINE some time ago HERE at MONSTER MAGAZINE WORLD (erroneously reporting that the first issue came out in 1963 instead of ’64). The fact that it has passed the test of time, multiple moves, and the casual disinterest that leads to throwing stuff like this out, proves the sagacious power of nostalgia! I wrote a few captions that explained what was going on inside the mind of a Monster Kid at the time, but I feel it didn’t quite justify such a galvanizing event in my young life. So, I decided to annotate each page of my monster magazine in an effort to coax out what is left in my memory.
Ultimately, it is the iconography of our lives, in objects such as this, that keep us connected to the good times of the past. I know that not everybody had a great childhood, but mine was, and I don’t mind allowing myself the occasional reverie that takes me back to those halcyon days to remind me of how lucky I was – and gratefully still am. In a way, this blog is a daily reminder and I hope it comes across that way.
After several hours of furiously flailing scissors and yards of scotch tape, my masterpiece was almost complete. I remembered there was just one more thing it needed. A cover, of course! I was so thrilled that I had just made my very own monster magazine that I didn’t want to spend another minute on it. I had to come up with something fast and simple. Why put a picture of a monster on the cover of the first issue of MONSTERS MAGAZINE? Instead, I opted to dash off a drawing of a spider and its web – spooky! The logo didn’t have much thought behind it, either. The irregular lettering would do until I could spend the time tracing the FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND logo, which I did later! One staple in the top left and my monster was alive, alive! My first paying customer was my Dad. I wouldn’t let him get out the door and go to work that morning without paying up 5 . . . no, make that 15 cents, for my first ever monster ‘zine!
Leading off this first issue, a grandiose quote: “THIS IS NOT THE MAGAZINE WHAT YOU THINK IT IS. THIS IS A MAGAZINE OF MONSTERS. IT DOES NOT HAVE ELEPHANT JOKES AS YOU THINK IT DOES. THIS IS A MAGAZINE THAT BRINGS YOU HORROR. CAN YOU TURN ALL 14 PAGES?”
With a pronouncement like that it’s easy to tell I was destined for other things than being editor of a magazine! Hey, give me a break – I was only 9 years old! The reference to elephant jokes may be lost on later generations; they were a pretty big thing in the media for a while, and popular enough to even have their own set of trading cards.
The drawings accompanying this foreboding editorial statement were about as incongruous as one could get. I was just shooting for the best I could at sketching out some monsters. I can’t explain the addition of the glasses and goatee on the image of the wolf man, only to say that’s what kids did when they wanted to be funny. And, why did I go for a serious message with funny monsters? Beats me – ask Dr. Phil!
PAGE 2 I didn’t forget about making up a contents page. The regular magazines had them, so I should, too. Nifty, avant garde design, huh? Take a look at the titles here. Can you tell which big people’s magazine I was attempting to emulate? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two don’t count!
Notice the fancy design change to notebook paper? An unintended artsy-fartsy addition, I must say.
As I recall, “The Merry Munsters” were a take-off from an idea that we got from a picture that us Monster Kids had seen (I think) in LIFE magazine of a music group that spoofed movie monsters. They were called “The Mersey Monsters”, a British group influenced by a conglomeration of the then current monster craze and the Mersey Beat – pop music from the hipsters of Liverpool, London, etc.
Our version included bandmates Doug and I, and one or two various other friends who wandered in an out of our short-lived existence as a pop band. Using a cut-out Fender Strat made from plywood that my sister had done for an art project, a harmonica and a drumset made out of a cardboard box (bass drum) and a couple of ice cream cartons (the ones that drugs stores scooped from), the official Garpax LP recording of Bobby “Boris” Pickets’s The Monster Mash, and a record player cranked up full blast, we took the West End of the San Fernando Valley by strum und drang!
Okay, do what it says – turn the page!
PAGE 4 MONSTERS MAGAZINE was putting up profiles way before Facebook! This one’s me. My stated chief claim to fame was a bit overinflated as friend Doug (on the next page) actually penned the Merry Munsters’ “hit” tune, She’s Got Rigor Mortis, one of the few original songs that we wrote and played. While no recording of this scintillating tune exists, I do remember the lyrics. Ready? Here goes: “She’s got rigor mortis And what do I care? I care a lot because I loved her – And I wanted to kill her myself!” Contrary to the disturbing subject matter, Doug did go on to have normal, healthy relationships and even start a family.
Any 9-year-old that lists “school” as one of his favorite activities has either got to be the ambitious type our plumb out of his skull. I think Doug is a little of both, but I think he’s a better, all-around person for it. I mean, this is the guy that a few years later delighted in running up and down his college dorm, acting out his best Dwight Frye/Renfield shtick. Hmmm, I guess monsters and academia do mix!
And, by the way, Doug really was good at being the wolf man!
Okay, it’s back to the yellow lined writing tablet paper for the next feature, entitled after a brief epiphany of urbane originality, Hall of Flame.
Here’s where my horror card holocaust begins. Stacks of my Leaf Spook Stories cards went under the knife and sacrificed themselves in the pages of MONSTERS MAGAZINE. At one time I even saved up the couple of bucks to buy a whole box of ‘em with the intent of completing my collection with the missing numbers. Well, after feverishly ripping open all 36 packs and a jaw sore from chewing pink strips of bubble gum, I was still short a few cards. What were left were tons of doubles. Ironically, after all that only a precious few survive in my collection to this day.
Oh, and that weird mark under the title? That’s a dead tree, no – wait – it’s a devil’s pitchfork!
Well, we’re a little more than half way through the first issue of MONSTERS MAGAZINE. Can you take the horror?
I’ll give you a chance to catch your breath and come back tomorrow with the rest of this essential artifact of ancient Monsterology!