James Warren’s collaboration with uber-fan Forrest J. Ackerman for an article in Warren’s After Hours (see separate entry) sparked an idea for a regularly-published magazine devoted to the subject of movie monsters. Such films were in the midst of being marketed to television stations across the country, introducing a new generation of kids to the delights of Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, et al.; as a result, the popular culture was on the brink of a veritable Monster Craze.
Warren recognized this fact, because he was a fan himself. He enlisted the services of Ackerman again to help him put together a one-shot magazine devoted to the movie monsters. Despite a heavy snowstorm the day it hit the stands, the first printing sold out – as did the second. So Warren naturally decided to make the publication a regular thing.
Over the next few decades, Famous Monsters (as it was more popularly known) provided a focal point for thousands of imaginative kids, indulging their taste for the fantastic and grotesque, while giving them permission to enjoy a form of entertainment that was a bit outside of the perfectly wholesome (and thus a bit boring) mainstream.
The magazine introduced readers not just to the actors and directors responsible for their favorite films, but also to many of the technical people who otherwise rarely received recognition, such as the makeup men and special effects artists. Ackerman’s obsessions became readers’ obsessions too, as actors such as Lugosi, Karloff, and Vincent Price were practically treated as gods among men.
Although the quality of the paper (and thus the photographic reproduction) was rather low, readers nevertheless pored for hours over stills from current as well as classic older horror movies. In those pre-cable TV days, films were glimpsed which readers thought they may never be able to see in their entirety, thus many photos seemed like glimpses at lost treasures. Ackerman’s personal style of humor kept the proceedings light, offering pun-filled or alliterative captions to break up the monotony of so many (admittedly fascinating) images presented one after the other.