Famous Monsters of Filmland #251 (IDW Publishing)

Forrest J Ackerman’s legendary horror magazine returns under new management.

 

128 pgs., color; $12.95
(W & A: various)
 
If you’re any kind of a horror fan, you probably already know about Forrest J Ackerman and Famous Monsters of Filmland (FM to its friends), his groundbreaking magazine which fed the fever of many a young (or not so young) fan and helped bring about the horror boom we are still enjoying today. I remember seeing Ackerman, on a supplement to a DVD of some Universal film or other, referring to the experience of attending a classic horror flick as a feast for the imagination. Well, FM offered a feast to the horror fan as well: loads of illustrations, feature articles and appreciations of classic films whose appearance in syndication on American television in 1957 provided the original impetus for the magazine. 
 
The original FM ceased publication in 1983. It was revived in the 1990s by Ray Ferry, but Ackerman withdrew from the new publication after a few issues and eventually sued Ferry (and won) for, among other things, trademark violation. An unpleasant episode about which the less said the better (although if you’re interested, you need only google the names of the principals).
 
On a much happier note, in 2007 Phil Kim purchased the rights to the FM logo and title as well as an agreement to use the Ackerman trademarks to retain the magazine’s look and feel. The new FM began as a web site (http://www.famousmonstersoffilmland.com/) which preserves the spirit of the original while bringing it into the world of modern technology. Recently, Kim also revived FM as a print publication: the first issue under his stewardship (#251) appeared in July, a choice which is quite an expression of faith in horror fandom, considering that all around us print magazines are going out of print (or, like Newsweek, being sold for $1).
 
Judging from the first issue, it looks like Kim made the right move. FM #251 delivers the look and feel of the classic issues and delivers in best Ackerman style a feast of stories, pictures, and bad puns sure to please almost any horror fan. It’s printed on glossy stock and the high-quality illustrations are a strong point, as always, but so are the stories which provide everything from an essay by Robert Aragon on “The Importance of Fear” (illustrated with, among other things, reproductions of The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, The Nightmare by Henry Fuseli as well as stills from The Golem and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) to an interview (also replete with illustrations) with Todd Masters and Daniel Rebert who do the special effects for the HBO series True Blood.
 
What else is in this issue? A behind-the-scenes look at the new Predators movie, a look back at the original Predator, a feature on the art of William Stout and a look at upcoming releases from Dark Sky films. And an interview and previously unpublished story from Ray Bradbury, two more features on True Blood, an essay on cinematographer and director Karl Freund, a feature on the Resident Evil franchise, and 30 pages of tributes to Ackerman, many by artists and writers inspired and influenced by him. Ackerman had no children in the usual sense of the word but you might say that, like Mr. Chips, he really had thousands of them.
 
There are also quite a few ads but that’s a good thing—it shows that horror is still alive, well, and profitable. No advertising, no magazines.
 
In case you can’t tell, I really like the new reincarnation of FM. The price is high but it’s a quality product and an affirmation of everything the original stood for. And much to my surprise, because I’m a huge fan of electronic publication, I like having a beautifully-designed magazine I can hold in my hands. I hope enough horror fans agree to make the revived FM an economically-viable venture. | Sarah Boslaugh

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