Oct 31, 2007

In 1926 at the age of 10, Forrest J Ackerman bought his first science fiction magazine and it altered his life. At 13, he started a science fiction club and as a teenager he was getting letters published in most of the pulp magazines of the day. He attended the world's first Science Fiction Convention wearing a costume (putting him in the running for the world's first hard core fanboy), published the first science fiction fanzine and coined the phrase "sci-fi". (A phrase I happen to love and still use, showing hard SF readers that I am truly a hack.)

In 1957, Ackerman who was working as a literary agent for many science fiction writers had a meeting with publisher James Warren in New York. While this meeting is the stuff of legends, it started as a simple business lunch. Two guys figuring out how to best use one another and make a few bucks in the process.

Ackerman had with him a French film magazine that paid tribute to the old black & white horror films. The magazine interested Warren and the two talked about a one-shot American version of the mag. "Forrey" (Ackerman's nickname) mentioned he had collected somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 thousand movie stills which would come in handy for just such a project. (How's that for understatement?)

The next meeting was in Forrey's 18 room mansion in Southern California which was filled ceiling to floor with unbelievable movie treasures. Convinced they were on to something, Warren stayed in LA as he and Ackerman created the magazine's content in a couple of weeks.

The 2 man team team aimed the writing squarely at kids. They filled the project with the same puns and goofy humor you heard from local horror hosts. Warren chose the pictures and Ackerman wrote the articles filled with the tidbits, he had acquired from 30 years sci-fi & horror collecting. The magazine couldn't have been more authentic. or come at a better time.

Famous Monsters of Filmland was released in January of 1958. For the cover, Warren dressed in a smoking jacket and a Frankenstein Mask in a sort of twisted homage to the "Playboy" lifestyle and two hundred thousand copies were printed. The magazine was so popular it went to press a second time and a magazine legend was born.

There's no way to overstate the impact of Famous Monsters. The magazine became a flashpoint for an undiscovered fandom. Kids who thought they were the only ones who loved monsters found they weren't alone. In their enthusiasm, they wrote stories, made home movies, started clubs, illustrated their own comics and found world wide pen pals. For the monster consumer, ads in the back of the mag offered posters, books, makeup, masks and hundreds more monster products no respectable monster kid wanted to live without. The atomic age of monsters had arrived.

1 comment:

Major Pepperidge said...

Hi, I only just discovered your blog today (via links on Dan Goodsell's site). Fantastic! I love all of the monster stuff, and had many issues of "FM", as well as fond memories of reading them.

My brother and I toured the Ackermansion years ago, Forry was polite and suprisingly unconcerned about strangers wandering around his house. At one point we were in the downstairs "library" (or whatever he called it), and the tour was over...he said "goodbye", and went upstairs. We were standing there (surrounded by treasures), looked at each other, and said, "Er, I guess we should leave?". We did get his autograph on a later issue of FM.

Anyway, thanks for your fun blog, I will be coming back regularly.