THE BASEMENT BOOKSHELF: Fantastic Monsters of the Films (Gwandanaland Comics)

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I started reading “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine in the late 1970’s. Though I couldn’t always find it on the newsstand, when I did I made sure to buy it. It was a magazine that was easy to fall in love with. Not only were the articles and photos amazing, the magazine gave a feel of being a part of a monster family. And of course there were the ads in the back from Captain Company, that featured every monster-themed item you could ever hope for.

One thing I wasn’t aware of, until later in life, was that in the 1960s there were a bunch of monster magazines on the newsstands, trying to capitalize on the popularity of “Famous Monsters of Filmland.” I can only speak of the ones that I have seen and though they may not have been on par with the original, that started publication in 1958, they did all manage to have some charm to them and I really would love to see more of them in person.

As I got older, and started to research my favorite monster movies, I learned of special effects artist Paul Blaisdell, who created some of my favorite monsters from the 1950s, including the aliens from the 1957 film INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN (see my Filmbook of Fear entry on this film HERE). Eventually I learned that he also produced a short-lived monster magazine, with friend Bob Burns, called “Fantastic Monsters of the Films.” It followed some of the formula that “Famous Monsters of Filmland” had but also added their own touch, which is what made this such a great magazine.

The magazine, which came out in 1962, was supposed to be a more mature monster magazine, but it certainly uses the same kind of jokes and puns that “Famous Monsters of Filmland” is known for. The articles were written and edited by Ron Haydock and Jim Harmon and the photos were provided by Blaisdell and Burns. Most of the issues featured monsters created by Blaisdell on the covers and one of the magazine’s most popular features, called “The Devil’s Workshop,” was often written by Paul Blaisdell explaining how he did some of the effects he achieved in those low-budget films.

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Though it was technically still a black and white magazine, it did feature some color, either in the doctored posters, or by colorizing certain panels on the pages. Though this colorizing wasn’t necessary to add to the overall quality of the magazine, it certainly gave it its own look, not seen in any of the other offerings.

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The magazine only lasted for seven issues. A suspicious fire broke out at the printers when issue eight was slated to be printed and all materials for that issue were destroyed, including irreplaceable stills and lobby cards. The loss was too much and the decision was made to discontinue the publication. Nowadays, these issues command high prices on the collectors’ market, rightfully so. I was so excited when I found out that Gwandanaland Comics released all seven issues in one collection!

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The black and white version of this collection.

As with other Gwandanaland releases, this book is made up of beautiful scans from the original issues. The pages look crisp and are in great shape and the only thing that would be better than this would be having the actual, original issues in fine or better condition. This book is available in two versions, one featuring the colorized pages and one that is in black and white, at a reduced price. Though either version of this book is worth having, personally I prefer seeing these issues as close as possible to how they were meant to be seen.

The quality of the book is excellent. It is 470 pages and even with that thickness, I don’t feel that I have to worry about the book ever falling apart from constant opening and closing. The size of the book is slightly larger than the original magazine was which to me is fine as you get to enjoy every part of the page. I am really hooked on the Gwandanaland releases and truly hope that other monster magazines from the 50s, 60s and even 70s will eventually get the same treatment.

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To order your own copy you can go to Amazon, where all of the Gwandanaland releases are sold. To order the color edition go HERE and for the black and white edition, go HERE. To visit the Gwandanaland Facebook page just go HERE!

If you would like to read others in the Basement Bookshelf series, just click HERE.

~David Albaugh

 

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