December 31, 2019

Frankenstein Event of 2019


As a new year rushes in, full of promise, we glance back at the year just spent and note that Frankenstein truly is forever. Two centuries into its career, The Monster is as busy as ever on film and TV screens, on stages, in comics and graphic novels, in fiction, cultural histories, and all manners of manifestations. 

The date I choose to remember for 2019 is December 12, when the gavel came down and Bernie Wrightson’s astonishing wraparound cover art for his illustrated Frankenstein book of 1983 was sold at auction. The price was 1.2 million dollars.


This appraisal speaks to the excellence of Wrightson’s art, his passion. It also speaks to the enduring fascination with Mary Shelley’s singular vision. Brought together across time, Mary Shelley and Bernie Wrightson achieved something profoundly original and extraordinary. 

Happy New Year.


Download a pdf copy of the Profiles in History auction catalog.

January 1, 2018

200

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus was first published on January 1, 1818.

200 years ago.

On, now, to Frankenstein’s third century!

October 31, 2017

Basil Gogos, 1929-2017




Halloween is here. This year, I celebrate the life and and career of artist Basil Gogos who passed away on September 13.  

“Basil single-handedly invented the painted monster magazine cover, turning images coined for exploitation into the finest of fine art - feral poses and bestial, skeletal faces splashed with all the colors of fright and passion.”
   Tim Lucas, VideoWatchBlog.

My first Famous Monsters of Filmland was #12, June ’61, the CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF cover. That issue ignited my passion for classic horror and it was Gogos’ painting, howling at me from a magazine stand, that alerted me and invited me in. Growing up, I would spend hours studying his kinetic covers. Focus up close on details and it was abstract art: A fearless splash of vibrant colors and bold, energetic strokes. Only when you pulled back and looked at the whole thing did all the pieces somehow fit together as a recognizable portrait. But Gogo’s supercharged paintings weren’t mere portraits, they were interpretations. His work captured the subjects more vividly than any photograph could, and made them come alive.

“Make no mistake: From Basil Gogos emerged the Aurora models. From Basil Gogos came a new generation of artists and filmmakers. And from Basil Gogos crackled a vision that would forever define the icons that the Universal monsters are today.”
— David Colton, webmaster at The Classic Horror Filmboard.

Gogos painted Frankenstein Monsters — and Bride — to grace a number of covers. Here, at top, is a sombre portrait for FM’s special issue commemorating Boris Karloff’s death in 1969. Below is a 1971 polychromatic rendition of Christopher Lee’s patchwork Monster from Curse of Frankenstein.


I met Basil Gogos two years ago at Monsterpalooza in Burbank. Late one evening, he joined a group of us sitting with Sara Karloff in a hotel restaurant. He sat right next to me and we shook hands. I told him I was a fan of his. I refrained from telling him how very much he meant to me, I could have gone on and on, but I figured it’s something he’d heard over and over again. It was late, he looked tired, and I just said “I’m a fan”, he smiled, and that’s all. And it was fine just like that.

March 19, 2017

Bernie Wrightson, 1948-2017


Bernie Wrightson passed away on Saturday, March 18, 2017. He was 68 years old. Wrightson had been ill for some time and had only recently announced that he was effectively retired, not to produce new art or attend conventions. You can read his obituary on his website: http://berniewrightson.com.

Bernie Wrightson’s work in comics is legendary. As an illustrator, he was truly a giant of his field, one of the best ever. Witness his contribution to the history of Frankenstein as perhaps — and for many of us, undoubtedly — the finest illustrator yet to grace Mary Shelley’s novel.

Working on and off for almost seven years, Wrightson produced forty-seven incredibly detailed illustrations. The 1831 version of the novel, illuminated with Wrightson’s art, was first published in 1983.

Bernie Wrightson was a master of his art and his interpretation of Frankenstein will endure as his masterpiece.

Photo by Tim Bradstreet.

December 18, 2016

Frankie's Holiday




The Monster is a reliable TV pitchman, a Halloween favorite, here making a rare Christmastime appearance. Beautifully done, genuinely touching, this one just might be an instant classic.

Frankie’s Holiday was created by TBWA for Apple, with a judiciously cast Brad Garrett — all of 6’8” and deep-voiced — as The Monster. Garrett is perhaps best remembered for his supporting role in the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond.

The Christmas electrodes are a nice touch.

Happy Holidays!

November 1, 2016

"Good Night, Whatever You Are"

John Zacherle died, having just turned 98, on Thursday, October 27, a few days short of Halloween, a holiday he essentially personified.

First as Roland out of Philadelphia, and more famously as Zacherley, the Cool Ghoul, in New York, he was a pioneering TV Horror Host. He was among those who introduced the Universal Classics to the first generation of Monster Kids. He was a revelator and, through the years, he remained a touchstone, a direct link back to one’s own adolescence and our love of monsters. For those of us who never had the privilege of seeing him as a TV Host, we learned about him from Famous Monsters magazine and his horror-themed novelty records. Right to the end, he was proud of his accomplishments and still wore his long undertaker’s coat to convention appearances.

Zacherle had not seen the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN until he introduced the film on his show. He would go on to present most of the Universal Frankensteins over the years, and he would go on to a cameo as a TV weatherman in a Frankenstein film, Frank Henenlotter’ FRANKENHOOKER (1990).

To understand Zacherley’s impact and enduring importance, I urge you to read David Colton’s touching tribute on the Classic Horror Film Board.

See Zacherley in action on YouTube

Here is an obituary from The New York Times.


October 2, 2016

The Art of Frankenstein : Nat Jones




A splendid illustration by Nat Jones adorns the cover of Rue Morgue magazine, out this week, celebrating Halloween and the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Jones is a renowned for his work in comic books, video games and film.

Nat Jones website. 
Rue Morgue magazine.