Famous Monsters of Filmland  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Famous Monsters of Filmland was a genre-specific film magazine started in 1958 by publisher James Warren (see Warren Publishing) and editor Forrest J Ackerman. The magazine stopped publication in 1983 after a run of 191 issues.



Through his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958–1983), Forrest J Ackerman introduced the history of the science fiction, fantasy and horror film genres to a generation of young readers. At a time when most movie-related publications glorified the stars in front of the camera, "Uncle Forry", as he was referred to by many of his fans, promoted the behind-the-scenes artists involved in the magic of movies. In this way Ackerman provided inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, Billy Bob Thornton, Gene Simmons (of the band Kiss), Rick Baker, George Lucas, Danny Elfman, Frank Darabont, John Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists and craftsmen.

Magazine History (1958–1983)

Famous Monsters of Filmland (which quickly became known to fans as simply FM was originally conceived as a one-shot publication with no discernible future, published in the wake of the widespread success of the "Shock" package of old horror movies syndicated to American television in 1957. But the first issue, published in February 1958, was so successful that it required a second printing to fulfill public demand. Its future as part of American culture was immediately obvious to both men. The success prompted spinoff magazines such as Spacemen, Famous Westerns of Filmland, Screen Thrills Illustrated, Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella.

FM offered brief articles, well-illustrated with publicity stills and graphic artwork, on horror movies from the silent era to the current date of publication, their stars and filmmakers. Warren and Ackerman decided to aim the text at late pre-adolescents and young teenagers.

In the pages of FM, Ackerman promoted the memory of Lon Chaney, Sr., whose silent works were mostly beyond the accessibility of fans for most of the magazine's life, but were a great influence on his own childhood. He also introduced film fans to science fiction fandom through direct references, first-person experiences, and adoption of fandom terms and customs. The magazine regularly published photos from King Kong (1933), including one from the film's infamous "spider pit sequence", featured in Issue #108 (1974) which, until Ackerman discovered a photo of a spider in the cavern setting, had never been proven definitively to have actually been filmed.

FM's peak years were from its first issues through the late 1960s, when the disappearance of the older films from television and the decline of talent in the imaginative film industry left it with a dearth of subject matter acceptable to both editor and fan. During the '70s, the magazine came to rely heavily on reprints of articles from the '60s. In the early 1980s, the magazine folded after Warren became ill and unable to carry on as publisher, and Ackerman resigned as editor in the face of the increasing disorganization within the captainless Warren Publishing Company. The magazine stopped publication in 1983 after a run of 191 issues.

The magazine directly inspired the creation of many other similar publications in the ensuing years, including Castle of Frankenstein, Cinefantastique, Fangoria, The Monster Times, and Video Watchdog. In addition, hundreds, if not thousands, of FM-influenced horror, fantasy and science fiction movie related fanzines have been produced, some of which have continued to publish for decades, such as Midnight Marquee and Little Shoppe of Horrors.

Revival (1993–Present)

The magazine was resurrected in 1993 by a New Jersey portrait photographer and monster movie fan named Ray Ferry. Ferry decided that the trademark for the title Famous Monsters of Filmland had not been "maintained" under law, and he eventually filed an "intent-to-use" with the trademark office without notifying Ackerman or the trademark's owner and creator, Jim Warren. Ferry approached Ackerman with a suggestion of his (Ferry's) resuming publishing FM on a quarterly basis with Ackerman as editor-in-chief for a fee of $2,500 per issue. Starting at issue #201, the new Famous Monsters acquired subscribers and over-the-counter buyers who believed they would be reunited with Ackerman in print. In fact, Ferry wrote many of the articles himself in the style of Ackerman, and heavily edited and even rejected contributions from Ackerman.

In an effort to help Ferry finance his full-time efforts on behalf of FM, Ackerman agreed to a reduced editor's fee of $1500 per issue. But Ferry failed to pay Ackerman for his services on four consecutive issues, continued to reject Ackerman's contributions, and Ackerman finally quit his association with Ferry and the magazine. Other than removing Ackerman's name from the masthead, Ferry did nothing to advise readers that they were no longer reading material by Ackerman or written under his aegis, and instead adopted Ackerman's style and trademarked (and well-maintained) pun-names. Ordered to desist by Ackerman, Ferry refused and a bitter feud ensued, leading to legal action by Ackerman.

Libel Lawsuit

In 1997, Ackerman filed a civil lawsuit against Ferry for libel, breach of contract, and misrepresentation; Ferry had publicly claimed that Ackerman’s only connection with the new FM was as a mere hired hand and that Ferry “had to let Forry go” because he didn’t do any writing or editing for the magazine. Ferry also claimed rights to pen names and other personal properties of Ackerman. On May 11, 2000, the Los Angeles Superior Court jury decided in Ackerman's favor and awarded him $382,500 in compensatory damages and $342,000 in punitive damages. This verdict was appealed by Ferry, but the verdict was upheld by the Appellate Court of California, on November 12, 2002. Faced with judgements in Ackerman's favor, Ferry quickly filed for bankruptcy. It has been rumored that massive legal bills contributed to Ackerman gving up most of his famed collection and beloved "Ackermansion". Actually, immediate health issues made it impossible for Ackerman to maintain his 18-room house at the time. At 86 years old, Ackerman moved with a small portion of his collection to the "Acker-mini-mansion" in the Hollywood foothills.

As of 2007, Ferry has been allowed to continue to publish issues of FM due to lack of efforts on the part of bankruptcy trustees and Ackerman's lawyers to force the sale of the trademark or any of his personal assets, or to attach his income. He has also not paid any of the $720,000-plus cash judgment against him, and the court shows no evident interest as of the end of 2007 to force him to do so. Ferry has additionally established a website on which he periodically posts outrageous and incredible attacks on Ackerman and (largely unnamed) supporters. At one time shortly after the final Court ruling against him, he posted that he was being forced into hiding by a dangerous group consisting of Ackerman, Ackerman fans, and al-Qaeda, which remained online unchanged for about six months. More recently, he has posted that he may be unable to continue publishing the magazine, which he now calls "Filmland Classic Monsters", pending outcome of a lawsuit he plans to file on his own, representing himself, against his former lawyer, the judge in the original lawsuit, and the bankruptcy trustee, accusing them of a conspiracy to harm with specific torts accused to each of them on the site.

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