The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze Lisa Loring 83 Ken Weatherwax 86 “Addams” memorabilia 88 Al Lewis 92 Butch Patrick 95 Pat Priest 98 “Munster” memorabilia 102 TV ’toons 106
THE GENESIS Foreword 4 Introduction 6 Harbingers 10 “Shock!” 12 John Zacherle 16 Vampira: TV pioneer 20 Horror hosts 21 Famous Monsters #1 22 James Warren 24 Forrest J Ackerman 26
MOBILE MONSTERS MOVIE MONSTERS 8mm and Super 8 films 47 Veteran horror stars 50 Boris Karloff remembered 52
Jitters ’n’ jalopies 108 Ed “Big Daddy” Roth 110 George Barris 114 Tom Daniel 117 Weird-Ohs 118 The stigma is kaput 121
MAINSTREAM INVASION Monsters meet rock ’n’ roll 28 Bobby (Boris) Pickett 32 Aurora monster models 34 James Bama 38 Controversial kit 42 “Naked” monsters 44 Chaney Sr. and Jr. characters 46
Mars Attacks 58 Ugly Stickers 62 Trading cards 64 Monster Old Maid 66 Monster iron-ons 68 Monster masks 70
TERRORVISION TV anthologies 74 Spooky sitcom broods 76 John Astin 78 Felix Sila 82 Addams vs. “Addams” 82
Inset images, from left: “Phantom of the Opera” and “Dracula” © Universal Studios; Freddy Flypogger © Monogram Models
MONSTERS IN PRINT Warren renaissance 122 Russ Jones 124 Angelo Torres 127
in America 1957-1972 Creepy, Eerie, Vampi gallery 128 Frank Frazetta collage 130 Basil Gogos 132 Greg Bazaz 134 Famous Films 136 Castle of Frankenstein 138 Monster magazines 139 Monster comic books 140 Marvel Comics monsters 142 Funny monsters 144
Written and designed by: Mark Voger Publisher: John Morrow Front cover: Shock Monster art by Keith Ward (redrafted and colored by Mark Voger); Barnabas Collins © Dan Curtis Productions; “Phantom of the Opera” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon” © Universal Studios; Herman Munster © Kayro-Vue Productions and ™ Universal Studios; Famous Monsters of Filmland © Warren Publishing; “Ugly Stickers” art by Norman Saunders © the Topps Company Back cover: Vampirella art by Frank Frazetta © Warren Publishing; “Frankenstein” and “Creature From the Black Lagoon” © Universal Studios; “The Munsters” © KayroVue Productions and ™ Universal Studios; Uncle Fester © Filmways TV Productions; “Planet of the Apes” © 20th Century Fox
THE FINAL CURTAIN
BARNABAS AND FIENDS “Dark Shadows” 146 Jonathan Frid 148 Kathryn Leigh Scott 149 Lara Parker 150 David Selby 151 “Dark Shadows” ensemble 152 “Dark Shadows” memorabilia 156 “Dark Shadows” novels 158 “Dark Shadows” comic books 159 Ken Bald 160
“Planet of the Apes” 162 Eerie Publications 164 That old gang of ours 168 Monster Memory Lane 170 R.I.P. 1972 182 Epilogue 184 Acknowledgments 190 Bibliography 190 Notes 190 Index 191
For my big brother Bud (1939-2013), who bought me vampire fangs and told me all about Roland “Monster Mash: The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze in America 1957-1972” © 2015 Mark Voger ISBN (NUMBER HERE) First printing, (DATE HERE) Printed in (COUNTRY HERE) All rights reserved under international copyright conventions. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from Mark Voger, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. Inquiries should be addressed to Mark Voger c/o: TwoMorrows Publishing. Photos credited to Kathy Voglesong © the estate of Kathy Voglesong.
Published by: TwoMorrows Publishing 10407 Bedfordtown Drive Raleigh, North Carolina 27614
Inset images, from left: Barnabas Collins © Dan Curtis Productions; Basil Gogos art © Warren Publishing; Reed Crandall art © Warren Publishing; Norman Saunders art © the Topps Company
Introduction I believed in monsters as a kid. The evidence was everywhere.
said? These are vampire bats! Any one of these bats could suddenly take human form, smile to reveal long, sharp fangs, and go for our throats! One of them could be Count Dracula himself!” We filed out of the bat area, and proceeded to the snow owl.
When I was 8, I could cartoon a little, and my mom enrolled me in a summer art course in Haddonfield, New Jersey. The year ATTENDING CATHOLIC SCHOOL ONLY ADDED TO was 1966. My very first day in class was a field trip to the my confusion. If you’re a fan of old vampire movies, I don’t have Philadelphia Zoo. And since it was my first day, I didn’t know a to tell you that they frequently feature Catholic rituals, iconograsoul — not a student, not a teacher, no one. I don’t think I uttered phy and characters. There’s always a funeral procession for some a word that day. I was just this little stranger, on a trip away from blood-drained victim, led by a priest in a high hat, as black-veiled home by myself for the first time, crossing the Ben Franklin women blubber and an ominous church bell clangs. Bridge in a bus full of unfamiliar faces. This is especially true of Mexican vampire movies — the We toured the zoo and saw almost every kind of animal. cheezy, black-and-white ones dubbed into English by K. Gordon Unfortunately, the monkeys were “mating” (as a zoo lady Murray of Coral Gables, Florida. The Mexicans took their explained it), and they didn’t vampirism (not to mention their come out of the monkey house Catholicism) to new heights. If to entertain us, preoccupied as Dracula’s castle was cobwebby the they were. night Renfield arrived, the cobwebs Near the end of the trip, we in Mexican vampire movies were as were led into a large enclosed thick and plentiful as cotton candy area that contained many variat a carnival. The fangs were longer, eties of . . . bats. almost tusk-like. The higher, wider I knew two things about cape collars would have delighted bats: Batman and Dracula. James Brown. Dracula had three Batman had that clean, stylbrides and a slave; Count Subotai in ized logo on his chest, and the “El Mundo de los Vampiros” “bat ears” on his cowl looked (1961) had dozens of curvy, tan, kinda friendly. The bats in negligee-clad, high-haired brides Dracula movies were likewise and an army of fuzz-faced batmen. sleek, black, streamlined Did Dracula ever entertain his minthings. ions? Count Subotai made like So I wasn’t prepared for Liberace, playing a gigantic pipe what ugly little creatures bats organ festooned with skulls. This is are in real life. They are misCount Subotai at his skull-festooned pipe organ. © Azteca-Columbia some serious vampirism. shapen miniature monsters, But just let a priest whip out a with dark, demonic eyes on horrible, fuzzy faces. crucifix in a Mexi-movie, and suddenly, you’d hear a shrill church The bat area at the Philadelphia Zoo was dark and humid, most organ, juxtaposed against a closeup of the cross, light gleaming likely to mimic the bats’ natural habitat. The bats were behind from some heavenly source. The vampire recoiled. If the cross but floor-to-ceiling windows, somewhat like Hannibal Lecter in touched his flesh, he sizzled like pork roll on a boardwalk grill. “Silence of the Lambs,” fluttering on branches and perches. Panels This is what confused me. Every classroom at Holy Rosary separated the varieties. A zoo man, eager to demonstrate his School in the diocese of Camden was equipped with a crucifix. knowledge, identified the varieties and their predilections. He These were each hung, front and center, atop the blackboard, right came to one window and said five words that sent a chill down my above Sister’s head. You can’t blame me for thinking that, if vam8-year-old spine: pires ever attacked Holy Rosary School, we were ready for them. “These are the vampire bats.” I was freaking out. I looked at everyone around me. No one ANOTHER REASON MONSTERS WERE SUCH was alarmed. What was wrong with these people? plausible creatures is that there was always a plausible scientific My internal monologue went something like: “Are you all explanation for them. In the monster movies, doubters were crazy? Let’s get out of here! Didn’t you hear what the zoo man assuaged when a pipe-smoking, bespectacled professor drew a
dusty old volume from a shelf in his well-stocked library. “Ah, yes, the legend of the vampire,” he would say. Or, “Ah, yes, the legend of the werewolf, or, as we men of science call them, lycanthropes.” The professor would theorize that there probably weren’t really such things as werewolves, but some men are so profoundly insane that they literally transform into beasts — fur, fangs and all. It sounded like solid science to me. Why wouldn’t a body made from sewn-together parts of other bodies, and then jolted with electricity, come to life? Research only confirmed my position. I found “lycanthropy” in the dictionary. I found out that vampire bats existed. I found out that Transylvania was a real place. It’s in Romania. I found out that there was a real-life Dracula — someone named Vlad who earned the nickname “the Impaler,” and not for his luck with the ladies. I found out that mummies existed. A “pharaoh” (a fancy word for a mummy king) named Tutankhamun was a real-life mummy. I found out that dinosaurs, like the ones in “King Kong,” once trod the Earth. In science class, I was taught evolution, from which I concluded that monkey men and the Creature From the Black Lagoon likely existed centuries ago, before we humans were fully evolved. I reasoned that one of those pre-evolution monsters could have been frozen in ice, entered a state of suspended animation, and now awaits the day when it is thawed and revived. Right? Monsters are real. I FIRST LAID EYES ON REAL MONSTER movie footage watching an episode of “Hollywood and the Stars,” an early-’60s TV series about old Hollywood movies narrated by an old Hollywood star, Joseph Cotten. The Jan. 13, 1964, episode began with Cotten saying, “Now, don’t send the children to bed.” (Maybe this is why my folks let me watch it, bless ’em.) The episode was all about monster movies. I saw the weirdest stuff, and it creeped me out. At one point, Cotten talked about this monster that, in my childhood memory, he called “Junior.” There was footage of this weird guy Junior attacking a lady on a bed. I didn’t know what in the world I was watching! All I thought was: Monsters are scary, and Junior is the scariest. (Upon reflection over the ensuing decades, I concluded that Cotten must have been talking about Lon Chaney Jr.) I have vague early monster memories beyond that. I’m little ... I’m hanging out with a bunch of kids outside somebody’s garage ... the oldest kid is building Aurora’s Dracula model kit ... I haven’t yet heard of this guy Dracula ... I sound out his name from the box cover ... “Drac-yoo-la” ... I ask another kid: “Who is Drac-yoo-la?” ... “Oh, man,” the kid says, “he’s the scariest monster of all!” ... just that bit of suggestion makes me
“Teen-Age” werewolves are the worst kind of werewolves, according to kid logic. Shown: A Monster Old Maid card. “Werewolf of London” © Universal Studios; Monster Old Maid cards © Milton Bradley
afraid, very afraid, of this guy Drac-yoo-la on the box . . . he looks really mad and mean ... he’s looking right at me. I’m 5 ... I see a Frankenstein bubble-bath toy in the supermarket ... “Please get it for me, Mommy!” ... “Maybe another day” ... a week goes by ... my well-meaning mom presents me with a bubble-bath toy ... but it’s Cecil the Sea-Sick Sea Serpent, not Frankenstein ... I decide to try to transform Cecil into Godzilla . . . with a Bic pen, I draw what I think are Godzilla-type scales all over his face ... but it just looks like scribbles ... that night, I take Cecil to bed with me ... (I’m only 5, remember) .. . Cecil keeps smiling at me from beneath my scribbling ... I start to cry . . . I believe I have hurt Cecil’s feelings ... I sing “Put on a Happy Face” to Cecil until I fall asleep on my tear-stained pillow.
Boy, did the Beaver (Jerry Matthers, below) get in trouble when he wore one of the monster sweatshirts above to school in a 1962 episode of “Leave It To Beaver.” As the decade ensued, the Monster Craze “mainstreamed” monsters. © NBC Universal Inc. REMEMBER THOSE TORCH-WIELDING villagers in “Frankenstein”? That’s how adults felt about monsters in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Adults, by and large, hated monsters. At best, they feared monsters would give their children nightmares. At worst, they regarded monsters as false idols that glorified the occult. The Monster Craze would one day achieve the unthinkable; it would “mainstream” monsters, make them family-friendly. But before that accidental revolution took place, monsters were frowned upon by parents, educators and clergy — not to mention, the politicians who sought their vote. There’s an episode of “Leave It To Beaver” that encapsulates adult attitudes toward monsters at the time. In “Monster Sweatshirts” (Season 4, Episode 35), which aired June 2, 1962, Beaver (Jerry Mathers) and three of his buddies purchase — you guessed it — monster sweatshirts. The shirts cost $3.75 each at Tilden’s Sporting Goods in downtown Mayfield. The monsters on the shirts are generic; Beaver buys the one with three eyes. While the boys wear the shirts on a bustling street, a woman shoots them a look of disgust. This is only the beginning.
In an early, pre-adolescent act of rebellion, the boys make a pact to wear the shirts to school the following day. Alas, when the big day comes, only Beaver honors the agreement. He is promptly sent to the principal’s office, and later, his dad grounds him for the weekend. (You could say Beaver’s dad, Ward Cleaver, didn’t have a leg to stand on. The actor who played him — Hugh Beaumont — was a star of “The Mole People.”) BUT PRIOR TO THE MONSTER CRAZE igniting in 1957, monsters — and adult discomfort with them — had been in a state of slumber. For the most part, there hadn’t been movies about conventional Gothic monsters for a long while .. . unless they were meeting Abbott and Costello. (The final film to feature classic Universal monsters Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man was, in fact, 1948’s “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”) Thereafter, the monsters you saw onscreen usually fell into two categories: aliens from outer space or irradiated giant bugs that attacked entire cities. No less a body than the United States military fought them off.
The man in the long black coat
“SHOCK THEATER” SOUNDS COOL, DOESN’T IT? But actually, the title of the horror-movie show that debuted at 11:25 p.m. EST on Oct. 10, 1957, over Channel 10 in Philadelphia was a bit more of a mouthful: “The Million Dollar Movie Presents Shock Theater.” The film shown could scarcely have been more appropriate: “Frankenstein.” And neither could the host: Roland (accent on the “land”), played by John Zacherle — Presbyterian, Philadelphian, World War II veteran, former cowboy actor. Roland became a local phenomenon, but before long, Zacherle’s national profile would emerge. There was the little matter of a Top 10 novelty song, “Dinner With Drac - Part 1,” which peaked at #6 during its seven weeks on the Billboard chart in 1958. Suddenly, the “Cool Ghoul” — as Dick Clark nicknamed Zacherle — was rocking out on “American Bandstand.”
“We had a makeup man who tried to make me up to look like Lon Chaney as the Phantom of the Opera,” said John Zacherle. Photo by Kathy Voglesong
Famous Monsters of Filmland made Zacherle its cover boy twice, with issues #7 (1960), in a painting by Albert Nuetzell, and #15 (1962), in a painting by Basil Gogos. Zacherle’s national profile was also enhanced by coverage in Life, TV Guide and The Saturday Evening Post. © Warren Publishing National magazines began to take notice. In 1958, Zach and his fellow horror hosts were profiled in the March 29 edition of TV Guide (“TV’s Newest Rage: The Monster of Ceremonies”), followed by spreads in the May 26 edition of Life (“Night Harbingers of Horror”) and the Aug. 16 edition of The Saturday Evening Post (“TV’s Midnight Madness”). Then Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine put Zacherle on its cover twice, with issues #7 (1960) and #15 (1962). Famous Monsters regularly kept readers apprised of Zacherle’s comings and goings, and its in-house Captain Company marketed a Zacherley mask (crafted by master mask-maker Don Post) and poster. Add to that syndication of Zach’s later New York shows — monster enthusiast Bob Burns recalled watching him on a Los Angeles affiliate — and Zach became the nation’s Cool Ghoul. A quick note on the spelling of Zach’s name: His birth surname is, indeed, spelled “Zacherle.” His final broadcast as Roland aired on Sept. 5, 1958. (Again, the choice of movie shown was appropriate: “The Black Sleep.”) When he relocated to New York to host movies at WABC, a “Y” was added to his surname as an on-air moniker . . . and “Zacherley” was born. The following Q&A with Zacherle (born: 1918) is gleaned from seven interviews I did with him between 1991 and 2014. Q: How did you land your first job in television? ZACHERLE: I had been in a little theater group in Philadelphia. I
was trying to find myself after being in the Army during World War II. I wasn’t in battles — I was behind the lines, in supply. They sent me to England, Scotland, Italy, North Africa. Then I was sent back to Washington, DC. A big shot! I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly one day, big whistles were blowing and church bells were ringing. The war was over. I got home to Philadelphia, but I didn’t know what to do. I had just gotten out of college when I was picked up and put in the Army. I kind of drifted around. I think it was a cousin of mine who got me interested in a theater group near where I lived in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. I went down there and got involved. I enjoyed it, I really did. I worked on scenery. One day, a lady who worked for the Board of Education said, “Why don’t you go out to the TV station? They’re starting something new out there.” The next thing I know, I’m working behind-the-scenes on this live Western soap opera. It was called “Action in the Afternoon.” Q: A live Western soap opera — it’s almost inconceivable. It just goes to show you how different early television was. ZACHERLE: It was a half-hour every afternoon, five days a week. It was really very exciting. The show was set in, I seem to recall, Hubberly, Montana, in the 1880s. They built a lot of outdoor scenery, just false-front buildings, so you could ride in on a horse, and it looked like a town. They’d ride horses outside the studio, and then if there was a shootout, they’d scramble to get inside the studio. There was a barroom, a doctor’s office. They had a horseshoe
A magazine of our own Like a bat out of Transylvania, FM flew off shelves IT WAS SENSORY OVERLOAD: FOR THE FIRST time, kids were seeing classic horror films such as “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy,” thanks to the 52-film “Shock!” TV rollout in 1957 and ’58. And just maybe, they were noticing some cast redundancies among the films. (White-haired, bespectacled Edward Van Sloan, for example, was in all three aforementioned movies, spouting wisdom as professorial types.) Or perhaps they were noticing earmarks in the directorial styles of James Whale or Tod Browning or Reginald Le Borg. Or differences in production values between 1930s and ’40s films. Without realizing it, these youngsters were becoming movie buffs. The more they learned, the more they wanted to learn. So if ever a publication came along at the right time, it was Famous Monsters of Filmland — a magazine all about monster movies. IT ALL STARTED, AS SO MANY THINGS DO, WITH a girlie magazine. James Warren — a fledgling publisher based in Philadelphia (and an admirer of Hugh Hefner) — put out the Playboy clone After Hours, for which Forrest J Ackerman, then a writer and writers’ agent, was a contributor. In Ackerman’s recollection, Warren folded After Hours due to some transgression on the part of a part‘My God, if the kids out there are gonna respond to this like I ner, but had enough financial reserves to publish one more “oneresponded in the movie theaters, we just may be able to take one shot” magazine (perhaps on Marilyn Monroe or Elvis Presley). medium — motion pictures — put it into this magazine, and give “I met Forry through the pages of After Hours, which was a them a magazine of Saturday afternoon at the horror movies.’ shabby imitation of Playboy,” Warren told me in 1997. “He was a “I said, ‘Forry, can you write this thing for literary agent for Hollywood-based writers. He me if I tell you exactly what to write? Are you had submitted some material for After Hours, James Warren parodied Hugh knowledgeable enough about this?’ Of course, I and I bought it. I liked him right away, because Hefner on the Famous was talking to the man who was probably more we got along over the phone and through the Monsters of Filmland #1 knowledgeable about this than anybody on the mail. We both had the same sense of humor. cover with an ascot, shapely planet. That was a stroke of terrific luck, “We met, finally, in New York City in 1957. blonde ... and Frankenstein because Forry Ackerman was the greatest writer He brought back with him, from England, a mask. Above left: Cinéma 57, ever created by God to tell the story of the hisFrench magazine called Cinéma 57. The entire an inspiration from France. tory of horror movies.” issue of this magazine was a pictorial history of © Warren Publishing; The men agreed that a monster-themed pubpast and present horror movies — American as © French Federation of Ciné Clubs lication might sell. well as foreign. I looked through that, and my “We looked at each other,” Warren recalled, eyes just opened up wide, because I went back “and I said, ‘Forry, I can see a one-shot magazine on this. I love to my youth, to my Saturday afternoon movie matinees, when I the subject matter and so do you. I’m going to try and get these saw ‘Frankenstein’ in 1938 or ’39.” pictures from the publisher in France.’ While paging through, Warren had a “Eureka!” moment. “He said, ‘Why go to the publisher in France? I’ve got ’em He recalled: “The more I looked through it, the more I said,
The Hef of horror How James Warren created a publishing empire IF YOU TURN PROFESSIONAL PUBLISHER AT THE WARREN: I designed the logo. I designed the book. I designed the age of 10, is it your destiny to become a publishing magnate? interior pages. I picked the type. I designed the two-column for“I had a newspaper, a neighborhood newspaper, that was printmat. I chose every picture. And I chose the contents of the magaed on a mimeograph machine,” recalled James Warren. “I sold it zine completely. I even picked out the staples. Do you have any door-to-door for 3 cents each. It was stapled together. Four pages. other questions? Some people generally think that the publisher is I did the stapling and the printing and the writing a big, fat guy who sits up there behind a desk with and the artwork and the ad solicitation from the an accounting background and doesn’t know anyJames Warren dressed neighborhood stores — a dollar each for an ad, thing about writing or art or production or printers’ as a devil in a blue suit which was a lot of money in those days. So I guess ink. I came from the creative end; I became a busifor the cover of Famous I became a professional publisher at 10.” nessman. It wasn’t the other way around. Monsters #2 (1958). Eighteen years later, he introduced Famous Q: Please talk about reproduction. The covers were © Warren Publishing Monsters of Filmland, the flagship magazine of exceptional — the “bleeds” (trimmed edges), the Warren Publishing, the prolific company he foundprocess color. Your interior pages in Creepy, etc., ed in Philly and moved to New York. Famous Monsters spawned sometimes blended line art (solid blacks) with “halftones” (grays). a publishing empire — and countless imitators. I spoke with the Philadelphia native, who was born in 1930, in interviews conductWARREN: Those halftones had to be shot in a very special way. It ed in 1997 and 2001. was a process that we developed ourselves. If you’re working with a great artist — if Michelangelo walks into your office — you’re not just going to say, “Okay, we’ll reproduce him the same Q: Give me the nuts-and-bolts — how did you and Forrest J way we do everyone else.” Each guy’s stories were Ackerman put together that first issue of Famous Monsters? shot and burned differently into that offset plate. A WARREN: I picked the categories, laid it out and said, “All Steve Ditko was shot differently from a Jack Davis, right, Forry, this is what we’re going to have. We’re going who was strictly just black-and-white line — very litto have articles on A, B, C, D and E. Write this, but write tle wash, sometimes. A (Frank) Frazetta was shot difit toward an 11-year-old child, because that’s going to be ferently from a Reed Crandall. our reader.” Forry balked, because Forry wanted an adult Q: Why was the reproduction important to you? magazine. All of his life, he wanted to have a magazine on imaginative movies. And here I am putting one WARREN: I always said: If we don’t nail them together for him, but it was not for adults; it graphically, we’re not going to get them was for an 11-year-old. I forced him to get it into the story. The story has to be good-todown to an 11-year-old, because I knew that excellent, but the graphics have to be we had an audience of 11-year-olds. I didn’t great. And the company was sort of built know if the adults would buy it. And thus, on that premise. Because I perceived that Famous Monsters #1 was born. the generation was changing. They Q: You had a background in design, and Famous Monsters certainly had its own, unique look. For the record, how much did you have to do with FM’s look? WARREN: Everything. Do you need anything past that (laughs)? Q: Well, tell me about some of the graphic techniques you employed — for instance, all of that “horrific” hand-lettering.
weren’t reading the Harvard shelf of books. They were watching a little thing in the living room with a tiny screen. It was called TV. And their attention span was getting shorter. They were used to things happening pictorially and graphically. They were doing less reading and more watching. I saw this
Q: But monsters have been good to you.
That’s one time he didn’t say, “You may be right but I’m boss.”
ACKERMAN: Oh, absolutely. I’m not going to turn my back on monsters at all, any more than Boris Karloff did. No. It’s brought me a great amount of satisfaction. It may seem kind of strange in a magazine devoted to death, doom and dismemberment that I would sneak in little morals like, “Hey, kids, don’t smoke, and don’t dope, and don’t drink.” Now, the bread cast upon the waters is coming back to me. Almost daily, I’m getting letters from readers who have children of their own who say, “I never would have paid any attention to anything my dad or mom said, but if Uncle Forry said don’t dope, that was gospel.” So I guess I must be rather hated by the tobacco industry and the liquor industry for all the customers I lost them.
Q: What was the perfect issue of FM for you?
Q: You’ve said there was a refrain that James Warren used … ACKERMAN: Yes. “You may be right, Forry, but I’m boss.” So we did it his way. Q: But you two had a delicate chemistry. You needed each other. ACKERMAN: I felt that if at any time I walked out on him, there would go 100,000 stills, that he never seemed to realize was an important part of it all — that not only was I providing the memories and the words and revising things that other peoFamous ple wrote and so on, but Monsters along with all that editorial editor came all of these stills. It’s taken Forrest J me from 1930 onward to collect Ackerman all of those — and special in 2001. behind-the-scenes things Photo by Kathy from foreign countries Voglesong and so on. The magazine never would have been as rich without that treasure load.
ACKERMAN: Well, I kind of think the one that had the “Werewolf of London” on the cover (#24) and said “A Forbidden Look Inside the Ackermansion.” Also, I liked the Boris Karloff tribute (#56), although it was very sad and I was very mad at Jim Warren. When Boris Karloff was still alive and getting along in age, I said, “Jim, you know, shouldn’t we do an issue devoted to him while he’s still here and can appreciate it?” And his answer was: “Let me ask you one question, Forry. Which will sell more copies, Boris Karloff alive or Boris Karloff dead?” I said, “But, Jim, do we have to be that crassly commercial? Can’t we have both? Can’t we do something now while he’s alive, and hope he lives four or five more years, and then do a memorial?” But in the end, we had to wait for dear Boris to die on February 2, 1969. Q: Have you thought about what your epitaph might be? ACKERMAN: I think just a simple statement: “Science fiction was my life.”
Q: Sure. Famous Monsters was so visual. Did you have any input on the covers? ACKERMAN: I had no input whatsoever on the covers. They were always a surprise to me. Aside from, I think, on something like the third cover. Warren wanted to go out to a magic shop and pick up a Halloween skull and put it on the cover. I said, “But, Jim, that has nothing to do with films. It’s not a classic monster. By God, if you want a skull, let’s put Lon Chaney as ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’ ”
Monster hit songs
The unholy alliance of rock ’n’ roll and monsters
THE TWO REVILED DEMON CHILDREN BEGAN TO The song itself seemed like an irrevocable call-to-arms for this mate almost immediately. new music: “We’re gonna rock, rock, rock ’til broad daylight.” We’re talking about rock ’n’ roll and the Monster Craze, which So — if you’ll accept for the moment my theory that rock was exploded around the same time — the middle 1950s. born in earnest in 1955 — the Monster Craze followed by a mere Wonderful things happened in the 1950s: TV dinners, the Hula two years. Neither phenomenon exactly won universal parental Hoop, Marilyn Monroe. But it’s no exaggeration to say the ’50s approval. Ed Sullivan famously wouldn’t allow Elvis Presley’s was also a time of social paranoia. hips to be seen on his Sunday night variety show. Monsters, as The decade’s defining event, what history calls the Red Scare, we’ve discussed earlier, were pointy-teethed, neckbolt-wearing fostered an environment in which mainstream Americans were pariahs among the Parent Teacher Association set. It’s no wonder often mistrustful of anything different, anything that was “other.” rock ’n’ roll and monsters formed their little unholy alliance. As the Army-McCarthy hearings drilled into the proletariat: You are either one of us, or one of them. ANOTHER QUESTION FOR HISTORIANS: Above: John Ashley This atmosphere created the perfect storm for the when was the first song to combine monsters and and dancing girls birth of rock ’n’ roll, which was all about rebellion rock? Certainly, “Monster Mash” by Bobby (Boris) have “ee-ooo” to and sex and crazy dances. Pickett — that freaky-funny novelty hit with referencspare in “How to When was rock ’n’ roll born? That’s a toughie. es to “Wolf Man, Dracula and his son,” which went to Make a Monster” As you watch the 1938 Andy Hardy movie “Judge #1 in 1962 — is the one we remember best. (1958). Hardy’s Children,” and Andy disrupts a boring But there are many precedents. © American cotillion by coaxing the band into playing swing, the As more and more living rooms became TV-setInternational Pictures resulting joyful chaos sure looks and sounds an equipped during the 1950s, families were vanishing awful lot like rock ’n’ roll. from movie theaters so they could watch their tiny, Historians have their theories, and their disagreements, as to blurry screens at home. Fine and dandy for Daddy, Mommy and the moment rock ’n’ roll was hatched. As for me, I point to July 9, the tykes, but teenagers needed to get away from their square rela1955, the day “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the tions. Drive-in theaters became the perfect modern surrogate for Comets became the first song of this embryonic type to hit #1 on Lovers’ Lane. Cars provided cover for fumblings in the dark, and the Billboard sales chart. Not just because of the Billboard thing. movie soundtracks handily masked any heavy breathing.
Building model citizens
“SHOCK!” BROUGHT MONSTERS TO TELEVISION. FAMOUS MONSTERS of Filmland brought them to the printed page. But young monster fans yearned for something more tangible. And marketeers hadn’t yet caught wise to this need. So when, in 1960, the Aurora Plastics Corporation of West Hempstead, Long Island — manufacturers of car and airplane model kits since 1952 — conducted its first-ever survey to determine what new kits might attract customers, the answer surprised them: monsters. That old bugaboo, fear of parental outrage, gave Aurora pause. The story, whether veracious or embellished over time, goes that the company consulted psychologists on the issue, and said psychologists suggested monster models might even be a healthy thing for kids. Aurora’s concerns weren’t about backlash alone. There was a substantial financial investOpposite: The cover of Mad #89 ment to consider as well. (1964). Above: A 1962 ad. Right: Bill Bruegman, author of “Aurora History and Aurora’s first monster kit (1961). Price Guide,” recalls speaking with Aurora exec© Universal Studios; © EC Publications; © utives about this period. As Bruegman told me in Warren Publishing; © Aurora Plastics Corp. a 2014 email: “The gist of it was, the tooling for these kits was expensive and involved a lot of stages involving other companies, etc., and they wanted to make sure it was worth the initial overhead. The biggest psychological concern, of course, revolved around how the children were going to react to the Creature, King Kong and Godzilla — the naked monsters.” Hmmm ... hadn’t thought of that one. (Well, Frankenstein, at least, wore pants.) Famous Monsters publisher James Warren said he, too, pushed the idea to Aurora. “I sat down with them and they saw what I was doing in the magazine,” Warren said. “I told them that if they would come out with model kits of Frankenstein, Dracula, the werewolf, the Mummy, the Creature From the Black Lagoon — these would be phenomenal. They were skeptical. They looked at me like I was crazy, because they didn’t know what I
Then there was Aurora Plastics Corporation’s infamous guillotine model kit. Aurora had been enjoying great success with its model kits based on movie monsters, themselves often based on classic literature. Its Hunchback of Notre Dame set depicted a scene of outright torture — a chained Quasimodo with whip marks on his exposed back — but no one batted an eye. After all, the Hunchback was a character from classic fiction (Victor Hugo, yo!) and the kit was based on a relatively recent Hollywood hit. Buoyed by its monstrous success, Aurora brought out a decidedly gruesome kit: a working guillotine. “Victim loses his head! Really works!” proclaimed one ad. Added another: “Harmless fun!” The kit worked like this: The blade came down; the head of the bound man was “cut off”; it landed in the basket. Kids across America painted blood stains on the kit’s blade, head and basket with generous dabs of Testors red enamel. A colleague of mine built the kit, way back when. Said he of the reliability of the guillotine’s function: “It worked fine except that I covered and re-covered that poor little man’s head in so much red paint, it did occasionally stick.”
“Harmless fun!” proclaimed a 1965 ad for Aurora’s Chamber of Horrors Guillotine model kit. Parents begged to differ. Photo courtesy of Polar Lights
Disturbing as the guillotine kit was, Aurora seemed to think it had an “out.” The company hedged its bet by naming the kit “The Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors Guillotine.” In other words, this kit didn’t depict an actual beheading — it was a depiction of a depiction. And that depiction was from a famous attraction at a respected wax museum. Madame Tussaud’s originated in London, you know. And London is a classy place. It didn’t work. Parents freaked, and Aurora discontinued the product. Not that Aurora exactly dialed down the nightmarish thereafter. The Witch cooked rat stew. The Forgotten Prisoner of Castel-Maré kit implied torture of a most insidious kind — a poor soul chained by the neck and ankles to a prison wall, defenseless against non-human visitors (there’s a nearby snake and a rat), who apparently starved to death over a lengthy period. Compared to that, a beheading sounds downright merciful.
Castle Films’ “Doom of Dracula” made it possible to watch Boris Karloff remove a stake from Dracula’s heart ... over and over. “House of Frankenstein” © Universal Studios; photo by Mark Voger
WATCHING A MONSTER MOVIE WHENEVER YOU want? Without consulting your local listings for time and channel? Without your parents driving you to a theater? Sweet. In the days before home video made such a luxury so common that it is taken for granted, companies such as Castle Films, Ken Films, Columbia Films and Blackhawk Films brought moving monsters into your very home. All you had to do was turn down the lights and crank up the projector, and you could watch actual classic monster movies — albeit, versions that were silent and heavily truncated. The 8-millimeter (and later Super 8) prints were generally 200 feet — about 15 minutes long each, according to the ads. The films could be purchased in department stores or via mail order. Castle Films is the best remembered company, for two reasons. First, Castle had a lock on most of the Universal classics, thanks to a decades-old backstage business deal. Castle was founded by Eugene W. “Gene” Castle, a former newsreel cameraman, around
1918, and the company penetrated the home-movie market in the ’30s. In 1947, Castle was gobbled up by a division of Universal Studios, hence, Universal’s library was ripe for the picking. Still, it took Castle a long while — 12 more years — to release its first monster movie: “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.”
King Kong trampled New York. Godzilla blasted Tokyo. Quasimodo poured molten lead on Frenchmen. But let a Martian kill one dog, and there’ll be hell to pay. This axiom was proven when the Topps Company released its infamous “Mars Attacks” trading card set of 1962, which presented blood ’n’ guts, torture, mass slaughter, giant bugs — even leering sexual suggestion. The Martian shown groping a terrified blonde in Card #21, “Prize Captive,” looks like he’s enjoying himself a bit too much. But Card #36, “Destroying a Dog,” was the final straw. It depicted a Martian blasting a famil pooch with a ray gun as a boy looks on in horror. Such was the outrage in testmarket areas over the series’ visceral — albeit, beautifully painted — images of gore, panic and sexy babes, that Topps yanked the series just as national distribution was imminent. The controversial 55-card set was conceived, co-plotted and written by Len
Above: Card #36, “Destroying a Dog.” The mailbox is a homey touch. Opposite: Card #21, “Prize Captive.” Um, do Martians like Earth girls that way? “Mars Attacks” © the Topps Company
Brown, a longtime Topps employee who believed the set’s abrupt cancellation sealed its legend. “It just had a short life,” Brown told me in 1996, “which, I suppose, added to the mystique. They were always hard to get. The people who saw them, talked about them.” How did “Mars Attacks” come about? Brown, a Brooklyn native born in 1941, explained that Topps earlier released “Civil War News,” a tradingcard set that was wildly popular with the Beaver Cleaver generation. Was this due to kids’ abiding interest in American history? Hardly. The artwork for “Civil War News” was downright gruesome. (The card titled “Death at Sea,” depicting an 1862 contest off the coast of Norfolk, is like something out of a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie.) “We were trying to brainstorm another (non-sport) card set,” Brown recalled. “In those days, we didn’t put too many out.” He and Woody Gelman, Topps’ president, briefly considered a World War II set. But Brown had another idea. “I was a big fan and collector of the
PAUL IS THE CUTE ONE WHO PLAYS guitar. No, not Paul McCartney of the Beatles. Paul with the two eyeball-y heads, from the Topps Company’s hairraising “Ugly Stickers” set of 1965. The set — which mixed comical and repugnant imagery with aplomb — is often assumed to be the work of artist Basil Wolverton, the Picasso of freaky cartoon monstrosities. It’s true that Wolverton contributed 10 of the 44 creatures — his work is eminently identifiable — but other artists, chiefly Norman Saunders and Wally Wood, did the bulk of the set. However, Wolverton’s artwork was the set’s springboard, and he might have played a larger role but for a dispute with Topps. David Saunders — the son of Norman, who published the gorgeous 368-page hardback “Norman Saunders” (Illustrated Press) — told Pete Boulay that Topps engaged his father to design creatures in Wolverton’s style, which was a wakeup call for the elder Saunders. “They look simple and crude, but they are incredibly well designed,” said Norman (as quoted by David). “It’s really hard to make something like these.” But the real wakeup call for Saunders came when Wood pushed for artist solidarity in Wolverton’s dispute. That’s when Saunders found out Wolverton’s freelance rate was 10 times his. Topps eventually came to an agreement with Wolverton, and “Ugly Stickers” uglified the world.
Be the monster Masks made fans into instant Frankensteins IF YOU LOVED MONSTERS; WATCHED THE ing hands. (A Wolf Man needs his claws, you know.) movies; studied the magazines; painted and glued the model kits; Due to the high price tag, Don Post masks weren’t sold in the how could you take your fandom to the next level? average department store. (Back then, the masks could be found, By becoming a monster. for instance, in the gift shop at the Movieland Wax Museum in This was possible thanks to manufacturers — Los Angeles.) Likewise, Captain Company offered chiefly Don Post Studios and the Topstone Rubber them via mail order. Above: Topstone’s Toys Company — who found a niche making monDon Post’s masks were dead-on likenesses of gallery of generic sters out of young monster fans. movie monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein, the monstrosities. Prices varied wildly, especially in 1960s money. Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Phantom, the Creature, Opposite: Don Post Connecticut-based Topstone’s monster masks, the Hunchback and Mr. Hyde. Post went off-road Studios masks, from some of which predated the Monster Craze, were with masks of the Metaluna Mutant from “This sold in stores and via mail order (including Warren Island Earth” and — though one can scarcely imaga color 1965 ad. Publishing’s ever-enterprising merchandising arm, ine the demand — the Mole People, eh, Person. © Topstone Rubber Toys Company; © Universal Studios; Captain Company). The hand-finished masks took around four hours © Don Post Studios Topstone’s masks of more or less generic monto complete, and the results were veritable works of sters (Girl Vampire, Lagoon Monster, Horrible art. But the claim “exactly like the actual masks used Melting Man) sold for an eminently affordable $1.49 each. in the famous Universal movies” was somewhat disingenuous. But quality doesn’t come cheap. Universal makeup master Jack P. Pierce utilized appliances, but For a mask crafted by the artisans at North Hollywood-based not full-on masks, with one exception. (By 1944’s “The Mummy’s Don Post Studios, you’d have to fork over $34 — a veritable forCurse,” Lon Chaney Jr. had grown tired of the makeup ordeal, and tune to the Beaver Cleavers of America — plus $17.50 for matchindeed wore a Kharis mask fashioned by Pierce.)
Chintzy, cheezy and potentially hazardous, Ben Cooper Halloween costumes were monsterific nonetheless. From top left: Barnabas Collins, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein, Morticia Addams and the Phantom of the Opera. © Ben Cooper, Inc. YOU NEED CHEAPER STILL? There was always Ben Cooper, Collegeville and Halco, manufacturers of super-chintzy — and, admit it, cool in their way — Halloween getups that often didn’t make it through the Big Night. The “costumes” were glorified aprons (in “rayon taffeta”) ... the crackly vinyl “masks” were affixed with a rubber band ... crossing the street while trick-or-treating was a life-and-death proposition . . . every kid stuck their tongue through the mask’s super-tiny “mouth,” despite the likelihood of factory germs. But, after all, Ben Cooper, Collegeville and Halco did monsters. There’s something about that neon-ish, yellow-ish green on the Frankenstein mask that just screams Monster Craze, ya know? Plus, not for nothing, the costumes cost about two bucks each. All this talk of affordable masks brings us back to those cheapo generic monsters from Topstone. (Frankenstein, Topstone’s only mask with a proper name, was in the public domain, though Topstone’s design came dangerously close to that of Universal.) These were no-name, no-origin, no-movie, no-nothing mon-
sters concocted to sidestep costly licensing. (Many credit the designs to commercial artist Keith Ward, which I tend to believe, based on observation of illustrations officially credited to Ward.) Despite their generic status, these orphan monsters became, themselves, classics of the Monster Craze. Their ubiquitous presence in the pages of Famous Monsters assured that they would be remembered by a generation of monster fans. They resonated. The illustrations — if not always the flimsy, floppy, suffocating masks themselves — were chilling. Girl Vampire has a gloomy, hauntingly beautiful visage. She looks angry. She looks evil. What’s on her mind? She’s our Mona Lisa. Another mask, the Shock Monster — originally called, simply, Horror — with its rotting face and hanging eyeball, has garnered cult status. I bought one in 1971, when I was in the seventh grade. It had green skin and blue hair. It was really, really rad. When you put it on, it felt a bit claustrophobic. But the aroma of low-grade rubber was ambrosia. It didn’t matter that you could barely see or breathe. You were a monster.
Peculiar patriarch John Astin fueled his Gomez Addams with a zest for life THE STRANGE, OVAL-HEADED MAN WITH THE jaunty mustache and pin-striped suit sprang from the pen of cartoonist Charles Addams. But John Astin created Gomez Addams. On the 1964-66 sitcom “The Addams Family,” Astin gave Gomez a zest for life not seen in Addams’ droll New Yorker cartoons, upon which the show was based. Astin’s animated Gomez wore piercing eyes ringed in black, and an ebullient smile. He stood on his head and brandished a sabre for exercise, and was arguably the most amorously demonstrative husband on television. Gomez practically devoured his “querida,” Morticia, John Astin, shown in played with a beguil1998, read Charles ing mixture of Addams’ cartoons as gloom and allure by a college boy. Carolyn Jones. Photo: Kathy Voglesong Born in Baltimore in 1930, Astin appeared on Broadway, movies and TV before landing the role of Gomez. (In 1962’s “That Touch of Mink,” he and Cary Grant were rivals for the affection of Doris Day. Guess who won?) Post-Gomez, Astin kept the creepy coming as Edgar Allan Poe in his acclaimed one-man show, “Once Upon a Midnight.” Following is a compilation from five interviews done between 1993 and 2008. Q: Were you aware of Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons prior to being cast in “The Addams Family”? ASTIN: I had been a great fan of the cartoons. When I was in college, I remember when my roommate first came home with (the Addams compilation) “Monster Rally.” We bought another copy, so we could razor out a panel or two and frame it and put it up. We didn’t want to do that without buying a second copy of the book, because we wanted one un-defaced copy in its virgin condition. Q: In creating the role of Gomez, what did you derive from Addams’ cartoons? ASTIN: When I realized that a series was
Poynter Products’ Thing toy bank (1964); Colorforms’ The Addams Family Cartoon Kit (1965); Simon & Schuster’s Charles Addams compilation “The Groaning Board” (1964); Milton Bradley’s Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle (1965). Opposite: Ideal’s expressive Uncle Fester hand puppet (1964). “The Addams Family” © Filmways TV Productions; Thing bank and puzzle photos by Kathy Voglesong; puppet photo by Mark Voger
Everybody’s Grandpa As eldest ‘Munster,’ New Yorker Al Lewis was a droll Dracula WITH HIS LONG BEAK, COMIC MANNERISMS and distinctly Noo Yawk accent, Al Lewis seemed the least likely actor to be cast as Count Dracula. But in some ways, Lewis was a better-known Dracula than his forebears Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine and Christopher Lee. That’s because even non-horror fans know Lewis’ Dracula, thanks to his role as Grandpa Munster. There is confusion over Lewis’ year Lewis with of birth, apparently created by the actor stogie at his himself, who claimed to be older than he New York was (!). Many sources put Lewis’ birth eatery in in 1923, but he indeed told me he had 1989. been a circus performer in 1922. Photo by Kathy Oh, that Grandpa ... Voglesong Lewis died in 2006. I interviewed him at his Greenwich Village restaurant, Grampa’s Bella Gente on Bleecker Street, in 1989. Good conversation ... not to mention, good pasta. Q: What happened during your audition for Grandpa Munster? LEWIS: I never auditioned. They just called me and told me they were doing a pilot, and would I be interested? They sent me some scripts, and then I flew out. Q: Would you say you created Grandpa? For instance, did you elaborate on the character in the scripts? LEWIS: Yeah. Of course I created it. Sure! I mean, there was no previous mold.
Ideal’s Lily and Herman hand puppets; Mattel’s talking Herman puppet (all 1964). “The Munsters” © Kayro-Vue Productions and ™ Universal Studios; photos by Kathy Voglesong
The Rat Fink’s daddy HE WAS CALIFORNIAN TO THE CORE. He put monsters behind the wheel. And he created one of the iconic characters of the 1960s. Cartoonist and car customizer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was a one-man brand who designed a line of model kits; customized cars and motorcycles; created vehicles for film and television; marketed T-shirts; and even recorded surf-rock albums. Born in Beverly Hills in 1932, Roth is the father of the Rat Fink, a ubiquitous character emblazoned on T-shirts, key chains and decals. Beginning in 1963, Revell brought out a series of model kits featuring Roth’s Rat Fink and his drag-racing pals, in boxes decorated with photos of Roth, wearing his trademark goatee. Roth’s band Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos recorded the surf-rock albums “Hot Rod Hootenanny” (1963) and “Rods ’N Ratfinks” (1964), both for Capitol Records, both featuring Glen Campbell. Roth died in 2001 at age 69. I interviewed Roth on St. Patrick’s Day 1990, as we sat in the bleachers of Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey where, Roth was told, Jimi Hendrix once opened for the Monkees.
Rat Fink creator Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in 1990. Photo by Kathy Voglesong
The Munsters’ family car, and the man who customized it. Photo right courtesy of George Barris; “The Munsters” © Kayro-Vue Productions and ™ Universal Studios
Big wheel IN THE OCT. 15, 1964, EPISODE OF “THE Munsters,” Lily Munster hired a used car salesman to combine a hot rod with a hearse as a gift for her hubby. In real life, Universal Studios turned to George Barris. Barris is the man who made Hollywood’s car dreams come true. He customized the Munsters’ head-turning family car the Munster Koach, as well as the Batmobile, the “Beverly Hillbillies” truck, Liberace’s piano-key Cadillac and many other iconic TV and movie vehicles. The way Barris explained it, creating a car like the Munster Koach involves more than one skill set. “It’s not just being a mechanic and it’s not just being an artist,” Barris told me in 1997. “You have to have both knowledge and creativity. Psychologically, you have to look at the person or the character that you’re going to design a car for. Then you have to work with the screenwriter to say, ‘Yes, we can do this. We can spin out here.’ “If somebody hands you a piece of paper and says, ‘Draw it’ — draw what? What are you going to draw? Are you going to draw a car for ‘Batman?’ Are you going to draw a car for ‘The Munsters?’ Are you going to draw a car for ‘The Beverly Hillbillies?’ So to do what I do, that means you become a person who can create a product that follows the whole concept, not just one part.” Barris recalled that when Universal was first developing “The Munsters,” a car had already been selected for the show. Luckily, Barris was called to in look it over. “When they came to me, they came on a Friday,” Barris recalled. “They said, ‘We’ve got a new show coming up over at Universal. It’s called “The Munsters.” It’s kind of a funny, humorous show.’ They said, ‘We have
Uncle Creepy’s papa Russ Jones: Resurrection man for horror comics genre ANGRY PARENTS AND A SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ran horror comics out of town in the middle 1950s. The founder of the embattled genre, publisher William M. Gaines, was forced to cancel the infamous horror titles of his publishing company, Entertaining Comics. Horror comics were dead — or were they (eh, eh, eh)? A decade later, artist Russ Jones had the idea to gather EC’s scattered talent and publish new horror comics in a magazine format, thus side-stepping the censoring Comics Code Authority. The old EC books had horrific “hosts” such as the Crypt Keeper and the Old Witch. For his new venture, Jones decided to revive that tradition — and Uncle Creepy was born. Ontario native Jones was born in 1942 and produced cover art for Famous Monsters (#30) and Castle of Frankenstein, (1967 annual), and contributed plots to the 1967 anthology cheapie “Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horror” starring old-schoolers Lon Chaney Jr. and John Carradine. I spoke with the artist in 2000. Q: What were the circumstances when you first tried to launch Creepy? JONES: Initially, I went to Bill Gaines with the idea. And of course, Bill had had his own problems earlier. He was very supportive. He and (editor Al) Feldstein and the whole group up at Mad helped out a lot. And I was working with Jim (Warren), and I was pushing him on it, but he was very slow. Finally, after months and months and months of, shall we say, arbitration and negotiation, we finally decided to come up with it. Jim gave it the green light, and we did it. Q: Jack Davis drew the cover of Creepy #1, but you drew the Uncle Creepy prototype?
Russ Jones with Creepy #1 in 2000. Background: Uncle Creepy’s inspiration, actor Alastair Sim. Opposite: Jack Davis’ Uncle Creepy art. Photo: Kathy Voglesong; Uncle Creepy © Warren Publishing; “Scrooge” © Renown Film Productions
JONES: That was the original concept drawing that I sent to Jack. That was kind of a style guide for it. I was sort of aping Jack’s style as a joke for me and for him, because we were really good friends.
Cover artwork a’Gogos Artist’s monster covers were museum worthy
“This is my favorite,” said Basil Gogos of his 1969 portrait of Boris Karloff. Photo by Kathy Voglesong
SURE, JIM WARREN AND FORRY ACKERMAN FATHERED IT. And thousands of gruesome stills sustained it. But the secret weapon of Famous Monsters of Filmland was certainly Basil Gogos, who painted more than 40 unforgettable covers of the seminal horror magazine between 1960 and 1981. Gogos’ portraits of movie monsters, though clearly referenced, were interpretive, even impressionistic. His horrible visages evoked pathos as they celebrated the macabre. And Gogos was a fine artist unafraid to use “sensational” colors — bright yellows, eerie greens, blood reds — that high-minded colleagues might have avoided. Gogos played to that cover, played to the magazine rack it would sit on, even as he answered to higher critics with his art. Let’s put it this way: Basil Gogos would paint a Vincent Price or a Peter Cushing with a sensitivity heretofore reserved for portraits of kings or clergymen. All that, plus Gogos’ Famous Monsters covers neatly fulfilled a most fundamental and essential of objectives: They sold magazines. Gogos still remembers his first FM cover, for issue #9: a moody Price from Roger Corman’s then-current “House of Usher” (1960), for which Gogos was paid $125. (His price would reach $750.) Gogos’ initial contact with FM’s publisher, Warren, was “kind of freakish,” the artist told me in 1993. “I had an agent who met Warren, and Warren asked him if he had anyone who could do something that looked really ‘psychedelic.’ He (the agent) came to me and said, ‘Could you do it?’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll try.’ “I did something that I was kind of embarrassed to take into the publisher, to be honest. “But as it turned out, the rep took it in, and I got a call from Jim. He said, ‘Why aren’t you here so I can hug you and kiss you?’ He loved it. That was a real surprise. It was the beginning of a love affair that lasted quite a few years.”
Above: A four-page foldout from Fantastic Monsters of the Films. Right: “Frankenstein ’68” from For Monsters Only. © Black Shield Productions; © Major Magazines, Inc.
CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN isn’t the only descendant of Famous Monsters that was no mere cheap knockoff — that succeeded in doing ambitious editorial. The shortlived Fantastic Monsters of the Films (1962-63) offered magazine-y design, on-set coverage and insider insight, particularly in the realm of makeup. Among its editors were Paul Blaisdell, the makeup artist behind the ’50s bug-eyed aliens in “Invasion of the Saucer Men” and “It Conquered the World,” and Bob Burns, his assistant on those pictures. There were color foldouts on glossy stock, “spot” inside color and fiction, including a reprint of the 1947 Robert Bloch story “Black Lotus.” For Monsters Only, (1965-72) from the folks who brought you the Mad imitator Cracked, was mostly jokey. Still, it featured well-researched profiles of monster movie stars by Bojarski and comics by Creepy contributor Jerry Grandinetti that thrust classic monsters into the groovy 1960s. John Severin, another old EC guy and a founding Mad artist, provided covers and much incidental cartooning. For every COF, there were countless alsorans and outright Famous Monsters knockoffs, among them Monster Parade, World Famous Creatures, Shriek!, Monster Mania, Modern Monsters, Marvel’s Monsters to Laugh At and Monsters Unlimited, Charlton’s Mad Monsters and Horror Monsters and the one-shot 3-D Monsters. But, hey, even the worst of these provided an all-important monster fix.
A verbose giant scorpion in Jack Kirby art from Journey Into Mystery #82 (1962). Opposite: The irrepressible Fin Fang Foom, also by Kirby, from Strange Tales #89 (1961). © Marvel Comics Inc. GORGOLLA IS NOT A CHEESE, IT’S A monster. But you’d know that if you read Marvel Comics’ beloved monster books of the late 1950s and early ’60s — the very books that paved the way for Marvel’s superhero renaissance. Though the Comics Code Authority had outlawed horror comics, Marvel’s monster books slipped through the cracks, presumably because they were usually about giant monsters — the kind you fought with tanks, not wooden stakes. In the pages of Marvel’s Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, Journey Into Mystery, Amazing Adventures and Tales to Astonish, editor-writer Stan Lee worked overtime to concoct exotic monster names. Besides Gorgolla, there was Gorgilla (no relation), Orogo, Orrgo, Rorgg, Rommbu, Bombu, Quogg, Grogg, Grutan, Gruto, Monsteroso, Taboo, Tim Boo Ba and the best monster name of all, Fin Fang Foom. Where on Earth did Lee find Fin Fang Foom? “Believe it or not,” Lee told me in 1993, “I came up with that name because when I was a kid, maybe 10 years old, my father took me to see a movie. It was probably about pirates or something. It took place in China. The name of it was ‘Chu Chin Chow’ (1934). I don’t remember the movie, but I never forgot the name.
“Like, when I was a kid and I read Shakespeare, I didn’t understand it that much, but the rhythm of the language stayed with me. And somehow, the rhythm of Chu Chin Chow — I never forgot it. So,” Lee added with a laugh, “when I was looking for a monster’s name, I came up with Fin Fang Foom because it had the same rhythm as Chu Chin Chow.” The stories were frequently drawn by Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko, Larry Lieber — artists who would soon illustrate the exploits of Marvel superheroes in the very same books. Lee wove monster themes into at least one such superhero: the Hulk. “I had always loved the ‘Frankenstein’ movie,” Lee said. “To me, the monster was the good guy, because he really didn’t want to hurt anybody. Those idiots with torches were always chasing him up and down the hills. I thought, ‘What would it be like if I could create a sympathetic monster?’ I liked that idea, but I wasn’t sure what to do with him. “Then I remembered Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.’ I thought, ‘What if the monster was really a human being who turned into the monster and turned back, and he couldn’t control the change?’ ”
Jonathan Frid BARNABAS COLLINS KILLED DESERVING parties and random strumpets in Collinsport. But he saved “Dark Shadows.” Luckily, the show’s creator, Dan Curtis, was out of town when Canadian actor Jonathan Frid (1924-2012) was cast as Barnabas in 1967. “It was Dan’s idea to have this vampire to begin with, way back when,” Frid said in 1990. “But he wasn’t in New York at the time they actually cast the role of Barnabas. I doubt whether I ever would have been Barnabas if he had been there. Because, he wanted somebody that was very aggressive, very macho and strong and violent, in a sense. But while he was away, the mice played. “The associate producer, with the writers, decided that they wanted to go for a more complex kind of character, to keep it going longer. Because, they were counting on this character to keep the show going. So I had this meeting with them and we talked about the character. We developed it together.” The ploy worked. The overnight popularity of Barnabas sustained “Dark Shadows.” “The press, of course, made it up to be just a guy with a couple of fangs biting everybody,” Frid lamented. “I only did that for about three minutes of the whole five years that I was on the show. Jonathan Frid, “There were many, many scripts who will forever that were terrible, and often, I was be remembered terrible. Never worse. But the varias Barnabas ety of emotions and the complexity Collins, in 1990. of Barnabas made him the most Photo by Kathy Voglesong; interesting character I’ve ever collages by Mark Voger; “Dark Shadows” © Dan played, including Shakespeare. And Curtis Productions it was constantly fascinating and surprising to me what I was called upon to do.” By not playing Barnabas as an outright villain, Frid believes he was able to hold the audience’s interest. “He was not just a vampire, not just a romancer,” Frid told me. “He was sometimes evil, too, but everybody’s got evil in them. He had evil. He had everything. He was always falling in love; he couldn’t stand the woman who loved him. He was passive. He was aggressive. He was angry, and justifiably. Sometimes non-justifiably. He was just like every other human being. He was just another person with a problem — a couple of problems. He had a medical problem. He needed blood in his system all the time. And he had to get it quick. “There are no such things as heroes and villains, you know. And Barnabas was neither hero nor villain.”
Lacy as the bad reverend.
When it comes to fire and brimstone, Reverend Trask — the self-righteous witchhunter of “Dark Shadows” — has all the other preachers beat. Clutching a Bible and pointing the finger of guilt, Trask is Collinwood’s meanest citizen. Was he as fun to play as he seemed? “Yes, he was,” said Jerry Lacy (who played several iterations of Trask, but whose first and favorite Trask was from the revered 1795 storyline). “You know, actors sometimes don’t get a chance to play a real mustachetwirling villain like that. And the show was, of course, very melodramatic. So, yes, from that point of view, it was fun.” Lacy’s fellow “Dark Shadows” cast member, Jonathan Frid, played Barnabas Collins as a tragic figure rather than a mere blood-sucker. When Lacy played Trask, was he thinking that this character truly believed he had a sacred mission to punish evildoers?
“Absolutely. He definitely believed it,” the actor told me in 2006. “Of course, almost all actors, with any character they play, have to find the truth in the character to make it work. So, yes, Trask positively believed that he was doing the right thing.” Once he joined “Dark Shadows,” Lacy began getting recognized on the street. “It was my first soap opera,” he said. “You know, the show was already going very strong when I joined the cast. I was forewarned this would happen, and it did. “Surprisingly, nobody seems to hold it against me that Trask was such a bad guy,” Lacy added with a laugh. He said there was a family feeling among the “Dark Shadows” cast. “I think any time you get a good group of actors together like that, that develops,” he said. “Especially if there’s any longevity to the show.” Why, in Lacy’s opinion, is “Dark Shadows” still remembered? “If anything,” he said, “it’s probably the campiness — the flubs and the goofs. And, I guess, Frid’s personality.”
JOHN KARLEN Mix equal doses of Renfield and James Dean, and you get Willie Loomis. The character, as played by John Karlen on “Dark Shadows,” recalled Dracula’s slave Renfield while heeding the commands of his vampire master, Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid). But Willie’s status as a perpetual outsider in a world of privilege gave him something of Dean’s edginess. During a 2005 interview, Karlen laughed when I called him one of the “kids” in the “Dark Shadows” cast. “I was not a kid, I’ll tell you the truth,” he said. “I had been through the mill already by the time I hit ‘Dark Shadows.’ I had done a half-dozen Broadway plays and all that kind of stuff. I was in the Air Force for four years. I was a lot older than I looked.” It was Willie, hoping to find jewels in the Collins mausoleum, who set Barnabas free after nearly two centuries in a chained coffin. Karlen plays down his responsibilities on the show. “I was lucky enough to have been playing Willie, so I was only on once or twice a week,” he said. “I didn’t have to carry the load that Barnabas or a couple of the other people had to carry.” Karlen reprised Willie in 1970’s “House of Dark Shadows.” “The movie was fun,” he recalled. “It was just an enjoyable shoot. I can look back on myself in that film and I like whatever I did. It just fit right into the whole picture of what it was.” Willie may have been a drunkard and a thief, but viewers felt sympathy for him — especially when Barnabas disciplined him. “There are so many loyal fans to this guy still around out there,” Karlen marveled.
Jonathan Frid as Barnabas (top) disciplines John Karlen as Willie (above) in 1970’s “House of Dark Shadows.” “House of Dark Shadows” © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.
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The Creepy, Kooky Monster Craze In America, 1957-1972 Time-trip back to the frightening era of 1957-1972, when monsters stomped into the American mainstream! Once Frankenstein and fiends infiltrated TV in 1957, an avalanche of monster magazines, toys, games, trading cards, and comic books crashed upon an unsuspecting public. This profusely illustrated full-color hardcover covers that creepy, kooky Monster Craze through features on Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the #1 hit “Monster Mash,” Aurora’s model kits, TV shows (Shock Theatre, The Addams Family, The Munsters, and Dark Shadows), “Mars Attacks” trading cards, Eerie Publications, Planet of the Apes, and more! It features interviews with JAMES WARREN (Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella magazines), FORREST J ACKERMAN (Famous Monsters of Filmland), JOHN ASTIN (The Addams Family), AL LEWIS (The Munsters), JONATHAN FRID (Dark Shadows), GEORGE BARRIS (monster car customizer), ED “BIG DADDY” ROTH (Rat Fink), BOBBY (BORIS) PICKETT (Monster Mash singer/songwriter) and others, with a Foreword by TV horror host ZACHERLEY, the “Cool Ghoul.” Written by MARK VOGER (author of “The Dark Age”).
Ken Bald with a favorite “Dark Shadows” page at his studio in 2012. Opposite: A detail from the Aug. 29, 1971, Sunday page. (192-page FULL-COLOR HARDCOVER) $39.95 Photo by Jerry McRea, courtesy of The Star-Ledger; “Dark Shadow” © Dan Curtis Productions
(Digital Edition) $13.95 ISBN: 9781605490649 http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=95_96&products_id=1202
Artist sank his teeth into strip MOVE OVER, CHARLIE BROWN. In 1971, that challenge came from a certain TV vampire. But in the always-play-it-safe world of syndicated comic strips, an undead being didn’t stand a chance as a comic-strip hero. And, as things turned out, Barnabas Collins’ tenure as a contemporary of Beetle Baily, Dick Tracy and Brenda Starr was brief. But for one glorious year, veteran artist Ken Bald illustrated Barnabas’ daily adventures with a dead-on rendering of Jonathan Frid and backgrounds enhanced with Gothic detail. The “Dark Shadows” comic strip ran from March 14, 1971, until March 11, 1972. “I liked doing ‘Dark Shadows,’ ” Bald told me in 2012. “I always did like the occult, so I enjoyed doing it.” Bald was born in New York in 1920; served as a Marine during World War II; drew Captain America and the Sub-Mariner for Stan Lee in the 1940s and ’50s; and had been illustrating the “Dr. Kildare” comic strip for King Features when he heard that a “Dark
Shadows” strip was being contemplated. “Actually,” Bald recalled, “Al Capp’s brother, Elliot Kaplan, was writing ‘Dr. Kildare.’ (Producer) Dan Curtis was thinking of putting out a syndicated strip of ‘Dark Shadows.’ So (Kaplan) mentioned it to me. I saw ‘Dark Shadows.’ (Curtis) interviewed me, he saw my art and thought it would be a good idea. “But when we took the idea for ‘Dark Shadows’ to King Features — who liked me and were happy with what I’d done — they didn’t think that the ‘Bible belt’ or so many other Southern cities would go for idea of ‘Dark Shadows.’ ” Eventually, NEA (Newspaper Enterprise Association) green-lit the strip, and Bald began illustrating “Dark Shadows” using a nom-de-plume at King Features’ request: K. Bruce. Mind you, Bald was still drawing “Dr. Kildare” at the time. “For one year, I didn’t have a day off,” the artist said with a laugh. “I did ‘Kildare,’ six dailies and Sunday, and ‘Dark Shadows,’ six dailies and Sunday.”
Published on Jan 13, 2015
Time-trip back to the frightening era of 1957-1972, when monsters infiltrated America in monster magazines, toys, games, trading cards, and...