“I am eleven and a half years old and I am your reader – Forrest Ackerman, make me laff.” [sic] So, begins an article from the august 1973 100th magazine issue of “Famous Monsters of Filmland” produced by the great Forrest J. Ackerman, which he ran from 1958 to 1983. Although, slightly older than 11 ½ at the time, I was very much a member of his target audience, and owe a large debt to him for his efforts at getting this material into my young and impressionable hands, much to my mother’s dismay. Fortunately for me, my dad enjoyed them almost as much as I did.
As you can see here, I have a couple shoeboxes containing 53 issues of original purchases. Each one is packed with photos from his massive personal collection of loved and forgotten films of horror and fantasy. They gave me laughter, and wonder and inspiration for many years to come. I’ve seen the other reincarnations of this magazine and others like it over the years, but hand me a faded brittle old newsprint copy of FM and see a tear of joy roll down my crusty cheek.
Artistically, what inspired me tremendously as a child was the graphic quality of the printed images in each issue, such as this photo of Peter Lorre from the film “Mad Love.” The high contrast and often slightly overexposed prints had a powerful affect on me and my developing style of drawing. Many of these were from a period of post-expressionist films and early film-noir that fed the work of other graphic artists who had been in print for awhile by this time; mostly found in the old EC comics, but also on pulp magazines covers or interior spots. I ate it all up, not just for the taboo quality of the imagery, but their visual power. For a young kid learning how to draw in ink, these were the ideal reference materials, and many of my copies haven’t survived well from all that rough handling.
Look at these two images scanned from this 100th issue showing Hurd Hatfield in “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” The one on the left is an uncredited Basil Gogos painting, and on the right is the publicity photo he was undoubtedly given from Ackerman’s archives to use for the magazine cover. As a child I would use these pictures to create my own artwork; although, not nearly as nicely done, and it never dawned on me to use color. All the great horror films are in black and white. I’ll try and hunt down any of those drawings I may have buried in storage, if they still exist. They’ll be awful, but in a charming sort of way.
Forrest J. Ackerman passed away in December of 2008, but has left behind a great legacy. Rest in peace, sir. You will always be remembered.