Saturday, April 29, 2017

MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH NO. 2 (PART 1)


MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH
Vol. 1, No. 2
Editor: Stan Lee
Publication Date: 1964
Publisher: Non-Pariel Publishing Corp.
Color cover/B&W interior
36 ppg. (including covers)
Cover Price: 25 cents



Back about a half-dozen years ago here at MMW I offered up a series of posts about Stan Lee's bid for a mid-1960s monster humor mag called MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH. I mentioned that it was the first "monster" magazine that I ever bought all by my nine-year-old self with my own quarter right off the newsstand. It was a thrilling experience and I must confess that I bought it more for the full-page photos rather than the tepid jokes (which I thought were actually pretty funny at the time). While not a direct descendant of Marvel Comics, it was nevertheless published by Non-Pariel Publishing Corp. (meaning no equal!), another company that was owned by "Marvel-ous" Martin Goodman.

The years have not been kind to this funny monster book that was around at the same time as FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, MAD MONSTERS, and HORROR MONSTERS. We know that Forry had his (sometimes clever) way with any photo that struck his fancy and Charlton's MAD/HORROR MONSTERS had entire features devoted to horror photo funnies, but they all used captions instead of the comic book-style word balloons used in Stan Lee's 'zine.

While I still find the photos to be pretty cool (remember movie stills were yet to be available "on-demand" like they are today from any website or Tumblr blog), some of the jokes are way over the line of political correctness and border on the excruciating.

You may gaze in wonder at the pics of our favorite monsters here in this second issue, but then can be just as fast shocked by some of the so-called gags that accompany them. For instance, a still of a hapless victim being terrorized by the monster from THE SLIME PEOPLE is accompanied by the caption that reads: "But I don't believe in mixed marriages!" Another shows a scene of the villagers in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN terrorizing Karloff as he exclaims: "Oh no! Not another civil rights demonstration!" Still another shows a hapless victim being terrorized by the monster from HORROR OF PARTY BEACH, who exclaims: "But I thought the pool was integrated!"

Along with the smattering of socio-political jokes are the usual numerous references to brand names such as, Breck shampoo, Arpege perfume, the Ford Mustang and Hertz rental cars that were all popular and easily recognizable during the time.

Today is presented the first half of the second issue of MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH. You know doubt by now have caught the resemblance to my own "Frankie's Friday Funnies" and "Frankie's Funny Bones" humorous (I hope!) posts, and yes indeed, they are a tribute to the loony legacy of MTLW and its ilk. And while historical revisionists are hard at work attempting to rewrite classic literature such as Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they haven't yet discovered the horror of hidden social crimes in monster humor 'zines. Laugh while you still can.

BONUS: Text from my original posts about MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH #1.

"One of the many methods used to market product during the Great Monster Craze of the 1960's was -- and not always cleverly -- through the use of humor. My first recollection of this monster 'zine "sub-genre" was Stan Lee's MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH. I bought it off the stand and was entranced . . . not because of the pale jokes emitted from the type-set speech balloons, but because there were a number of full page stills from Universal Studios and other horror movies that I hadn't ever seen before! And, maybe it was because of it's flippant treatment of my beloved monsters (which I took very seriously at the time), but I didn't seem to treasure it as much as other items in my slowly growing monster collection. As a result, my 25-cent copy of MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH eventually ended up, along with my SPOOK STORIES trading card doubles and triples (and quadruples), being scissors fodder for my own, homemade monster 'zine. That way I could fill up a whole page with very little text needed . . . just like Forry did! In fact, besides the punch lines themselves there is a noticeable lack of any text in the magazine. This along with 35 pages of one-line jokes makes 5 minutes of reading seem like last voyage of the Demeter.

The jokes themselves were gags of the sort that are typical of slap-dash, get-it-to-press quickies . . . short quips and puns that, in many instances, alluded to popular ads and products of the time. In some cases, one could even say that they teetered on the brink of PC (that's "political correctness" for those of you who have been locked up and forgotten in the dungeon of Castel Mare since back then), and could have even been considered offensive in the 60's. Regardless, there was a certain allowable irreverence during that time that is considerably less conspicuous these days.

While I do not have any evidence to support it, the hand that wrote the jokes must have surely been Mr. Stan Lieber himself, brother to Larry, and known to today's multitude of Marvel Comics fans as Stan (The Man) Lee. It is possible that other members of the Mighty Marvel Bullpen may have taken a shot or two, but these wince-inducing gags are trademark Stan Lee. MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH, which became MONSTERS UNLIMITED with issue #4, would not end up being known as a particularly influential title in the history of monster mags, but it does hold a place as being a reflection of mainstream humor of the times and the media exploitation of monsters in popular culture.

Now I will let you in on a little secret of mine and it may answer the questions that some of you may have been asking, like: "Why is he posting this rag?". This magazine has a more profound meaning for me than most other people. In an odd way, it is a sort of historical benchmark in my pursuit of the pleasures of monster movie-dom. You see, MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH was the very first "monster magazine" that I was allowed to purchase. I suppose it was because it seemed more like a "joke book" than a movie monster magazine, and one could argue the fact that it is just exactly that. In any event, I plunked down my quarter and brought it home, poring through it and staring at the fabulous pictures for hours on end.

I guess when it comes right down to it, MTLW is best discussed in the context of the times in which it was published. Stan Lee didn't write these 'zines for adults. His target audience was pre-teen and young teenage boys -- the same ones who were building Aurora monster models and sat glued to their TV sets on the weekends absorbing the latest serving of SHOCK THEATRE or CREATURE FEATURES. Plus, the jokes were funnier back then. To anyone who knows who Jose Jimenez is, you'll catch my drift. In summation, MONSTERS TO LAUGH WITH is definitely not high art, but it happens to be high on my nostalgia meter. And you know what? That's enough for me."



















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