The Great Monster Magazines (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, July 13, 2008
If you didn’t grow up in the 60s or 70s you probably don’t have a sense for just how big monster magazines were back then. The kids who grew up on these magazines were part of the culture who watched Shock Theater films hosted by those great horror movie hosts like Zacherley, Ghoulardi, Chilly Billy Cardille, and The Ghoul. This was the era of those great Aurora monster model hits as well and the monster mags of that time were like a gathering place for fans.
Robert Michael Cotters book promises a critical look at monster magazines. Yes! The same magazines that our mothers hated is now getting a critical look! In a lengthy introduction, Cotter gives a history of magazine and that era that fostered them. The Shock Theater package of films and the horror hosts were really the seeds of monster magazines. Films that previously were only seen in theaters were now showing up on late night TV and kids ate them up.
The grandfather of monster magazines was Warren Publishing’s “Famous Monsters of Filmland” which began publishing in 1958, edited by legendary historian and collector, Forrest Ackerman. Famous Monsters, or FM as it is referred to, spawned numerous imitators. Heck, Warren Publishing even put out a few imitators of its own such as the short-lived Monster World. Cotter’s book provides a history of these magazines providing the years they were published and giving details about select issues.
Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee decided to start up his own line of monster mags first with humor magazines Monsters to Laugh With and Monster Unlimited. These were no more than black & white photos from horror films with funny world balloons added. They didn’t prove to be all that funny and quickly folded. Monsters of the Movies. A virtual FM clone, proved to be a bit more successful lasting 8 issues and an annual.
Cotter does a nice job of covering these magazines, hitting on some of the very insignificant magazines like Mad Monsters, Movie Monsters, and Monster Mania, as well as some of the unique publications like The Monster Times, which was a newspaper format mag, England’s Halls of Horror, and the mercurial Castle of Frankenstein.
Cotter however greatly veers off course. He does mention in the introduction that he includes comic magazines as well and Marvel put out some great B&W horror comic magazines like Monsters Unleashed and Tales of the Zombie, but Cotter lingers far too long on Marvel’s magazines. More space is afforded to the above-mentioned magazines than those that were infinitely superior, namely Warren’s Creepy and Eerie, who featured some of the most talented artists of the time. Even worse, Cotter goes on to devote a great deal of space to magazines that were decidedly NOT monster mags like The Savage Sword of Conan, Heavy Metal, Planet of the Apes, Epic illustrated, and The Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu. Cotter gives an insufficient explanation for including these publications. The entire book ends up being way too Marvel-themed, especially considering their contribution to monster magazines pales next to Warren Publishing’s offerings.
Monster magazines are stronger than they’ve been in thirty years today yet Cotter manages a mere ten pages to mention the new breed likes of the long-running Midnight Marquee, the gorgeous Monsters From the Vault, or the zany Scary Monsters Magazine.
The Great Monster Magazines doesn’t quite provide the critical study that it claims. Truly wonderful mags are dismissed in favor of magazines that are not even true horror mags. It’s a nice book for reference but falls woefully short of a true critical analysis.
Mania Grade: C-
Book: The Great Monster Magazines
Writer: Robert Michael Cotter
Publisher: McFarland Publishers