Forrest J Ackerman passed away on December 4, a few minutes short of midnight. It was the 77th anniversary of the release of Frankenstein, a detail you know Forry would have loved. There are bios and obituaries all over the net and I have some links at the bottom of this post. I’d like to share some personal thoughts, if I may.
Forry loved to tell the story of how his life changed when, as a young boy, he came upon a copy of Amazing Stories on a newsstand. He would do the same for me with the magazine he edited, the remarkable Famous Monsters of Filmland.
On a sunny summer day in 1961, I walked into a tobacco shop — that’s where the magazine racks were, back then — and I came face to face with a stunning werewolf howling at me on a bright yellow background. Famous Monsters of Filmland number 12.
I was instantly hooked.
In 1958, fifty years ago last February, publisher James Warren and FJA, in perfect symbiosis, created a magazine that electrified a whole generation, the Monster Kids. I can track my influences, a slew of abiding interests, and the seeds of my career as a writer and artist back to Famous Monsters.
All these years later, as I write for magazines, TV and the movies, I often recall how, as a kid, motivated by FM, I had commandeered my Dad’s big, cast-iron Royal typewriter, taught myself the two-finger keyboarding I still use, and wrote my own FM-style “filmbooks” — a form of novelization — to movies I had seen.
In the early nineties, I edited a humor magazine for young teens called Anormal (“Abnormal”). On the credits page in the first issue, I dedicated Anormal to James Warren and Forrest Ackerman, the men who had instilled in me a love for magazines and publishing. In the mag, I often ran pictures from monster movies with funny captions and one day I got a letter from a reader that said, simply, “I love skateboards and monsters!” and it was signed “Julie, 14 years old”. I remembered that Jim Warren’s mandate to Forry had been something like “I’m 15 years old, make me laugh!”, and how Forry told his young readers that “Monsters are good for you!”.
FM never grew up. It stuck to its juvenile roots and, after a while, it became mostly a reprint magazine, old material recycled for new waves of readers. I turned to the scholarly Midi-Minuit Fantastique, the messy but fascinating Castle of Frankenstein, on to Photon and Cinefantastique and, by then, serious books and magazines about horror and fantasy films had become fairly common. I outgrew FM, but I never forgot that my interest in, and study of horror and fantasy films had been built on the foundation of Famous Monsters.
At a perfect, critical time in my life, Famous Monsters nourished my passion and fueled my creativity. Those first issues, a brief and glorious run in the early Sixties, packed as they were with large photos of cool monsters, with those gorgeous Basil Gogos covers and the wonderful hand-drawn beatnik-font titles are an indelible memory. And all of it was presided over by Forrest Ackerman, a friendly voice, and a model for us then nascent fans and would-be collectors.
I cannot imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t veered into that shop in 1961 and stumbled onto Famous Monsters of Filmland. At the very least, if not for Forry Ackerman, I wouldn’t be writing Frankensteinia, or Monster Crazy. That much is certain.
Thank you, Uncle Forry.
New York Times Obituary.