Like many in my age cycle, I was bit by the monster bug big time during the classic monster rebirth of the 60's. In no small part due to the nudgeing of my mom who would encourage my monster endeavors.
Fully emmersed in monsters it is no small wonder that when I discovered Famous Monsters of Filmland it would be an immediate 'love at first site' scenario.
The Land of the Giants cover of #55 smacked me right across the face and I was hooked forever. I vividly remember standing there at the mag rack and checking out each department. Even the ads in the back were awesome! How cool is that!!
Major memories involving FM envelope my childhood. I remember my brother coming home one day with a copy of the 1970 Fearbook, flashing that beautiful Gogo's Lugosi in my face. Finding the 72 annual at a grocery store in Franklin, North Carolina while on vacation. Or the time I road my bike to Dales Book Store and discovered the find of finds: mucho copies of old FM's in great shape! And at a quarter each!!
Awaiting each monstrous issue was almost too much for a young kid caught up in the land of Universal Monsters. There were two stores up the street that had them, Magic Market and Curry's Pharmacy, and they would only get a few copies of each issue. Naturally I wasnt the only kid in town crazy about monsters, and having issues scarfed up before I had a chance to get there only heightened the expectation and excitement when FM was available.
Born from a partnership with a 50's mag entitled 'After Hours', Jim Warren and Forrest J Ackerman brought this iconic rag to the planet earth in February of 1958. Intended as a 'one shot' publication with a working title of 'Wonderama', Famous Monsters of Filmland disappeared from magazine racks across the country at speeds even a tranforming Dracula could appreciate. It became so popular in fact, that its initial run lasted until March 1983...ending on Issue # 191. Ackerman left the publication after issue #190, though it's demise was due in large part to a sudden debilitating illness to Jim who just couldnt keep up with his many responsiblities.
One of the many endearing qualities to FM is the classic covers. Many a monster fan would confidently proclaim that FM has the greatest assortment of monster art , found in the covers themselves. With masters such as Gogo's and James Bama providing the landscape. Who could argue.
While JW kept himself out of the fray, Forry remained active in the monster/sci-fi con circuit and contributed to numerous publications during FM's absence. He was also very kind to his fans. I "still" can't beleive he actually responded to two of my emails. This is the man who rubbed shoulders with Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney...and he has time for me!! What a guy.
Before he decided to scale down his living arrangements, he always opened his home "THE ACKERMANSION" to anyone who has cause or desire to enter and be witness to arguably the greatest collection of sci-fi/horror memorabilia on the planet earth. Even near the end of his life , he was graciously letting fans not only come by, but call him to chat.
Two men who shared a common goal, who are today legends in the area of fandom and publishing. Two men who helped shape the imaginations of countless children, and foster a generation of fans.
As the years passed, Famous Monsters of Filmland found itself mired in limbo. Doing so led to the trademark being tagged as 'Abandonned' by the US Patent and Trademark office. But for long suffering fans of FM, the mag was about to bust out of the sulpher pit like the Frankenstein monster himself.
Like FM#55 before it, I was completely taken aback when I stumbled into Barnes and Noble in Auburn, Massachusetts sometime in 1998, looking for a sports mag when there, on the stand, staring back at me, was Famous Monsters of Filmland #223. I had no idea my favorite mag had risen from the grave.
Fresh in mind is my snatching up that issue and seeing, rather happily mind you, that it was more than up to snuff to my ideal of FM's legend. Once home, I called the back issue department and purchased every issue available at the time, filling it out with ebay purchases. Within no time I had the complete new run. It was like 1968 all over again!!
Brought back to life by Ray Ferry sometime in '93, Famous Monsters once again spread the horrorific ideals of its predecessor, vastly improving on the overall quality of the publication. Smooth, sleak, and jam packed with classic monsters big and bold, FM crept across the country introducing a new generation of kids and Monster Kids to all the great things Famous Monsters has to offer.
Just like in the golden age of FM in the 60's, the covers were graced with classic portraits of the legendary actors of that bygone era of Horrorwood.
For FM's relaunch Publisher/Editor Ray Ferry got Forry to be part of it all naming him Editor with issue #200; brought to life for the now legendary 1993 Famous Monsters of Filmland Convention.
Unfortunately the relationship was short lived, as Forry ended up leaving the magazine a second time, and filed suit against Ferry for libel, breach of contract and misrepresentation. The lawsuit dragged on for what seemed like an eternity of the damned, until eventually the Superior Court of Los Angelas found for Ackerman who was awarded $382,500 in compensatory damages and $342,000 in punitive damages. The court took Ferry's assetts, which included the FM trademark and placed it in the hands of the court trustee; at the time David Gottlieb. This stagnated the publishing of FM for a time, but with the court finding difficulty to sell the mark, Ferry was free to publish once again.
Jim Warren and Forry Ackerman
Ferry continued to assert to the public that he owned the mark due to legal inconsistencies at the trial and continued to publish the mag at will. Given that the US Trademark and Patent office noted Ferry as owner of the mark who could argue. But in 2007 Philip Kim purchased the trademark of Famous Monsters from the bankruptcy trustee assigned the mark during Ferry's bankruptcy trial. Ferry balked at the sale, claiming it unjust, and another legal tussle was on.
Publisher Phil Kim has proven to be both hands on and very keen on fan interest, welcoming constructive criticism in hopes of making FM better. Going forward FM will be closing the gap by releasing the missing issues from #70 to #79, and #192 to #199. All while continuing to deliver Famous Monsters on a regular basis. The FM website is loaded up with info on all things horror, sci fi and fantasy.
During the relaunch comic writer/editor Michael Heisler and Mondo Cult creator Jessie Lilley continued the pulp tradition in a more than grand way kicking off this endeavor with #250, which is a loving tribute to Forrest J Ackerman and his film career.
The forward to #251 was written by Forry himself shortly before he passed and has a beautiful tribute to everyone's favorite uncle! What a way to kick off the new era having our beloved Uncle draw back the curtain and point to the future.
As FM purists understand, there just isn't anything close to holding a new copy of FM in your hands. That opportunity, like the spirit of Uncle Ack himself, continues to live on. Better yet, Famous Monsters of Filmland conventions have returned to the Universe!
It's enough to pop an electrode.
The FM future is now at the NEW FM.
One thing is clear.
Regardless of time and distance.......
Famous Monsters of Filmland will persevere.