October 7, 2009

Elvis Meets Frankenstein

The Frankenstein Monster is more popular than the King of Rock n Roll, signing autographs for admiring bobbysoxers as a befuddled Army Elvis looks on.

Monsters were all the rage in 1958, a phenomenon sparked a year earlier when Universal released its catalog of classic horror films to television. The trend percolated into the publishing field, notably with the launch, in February 1958, of the highly influential Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. In my previous post, we looked at Monster Parade, the first of countless FM-inspired titles, but the rise of monstermania was not limited to monster movie magazines in the FM mold.

In April 1958, Headline Publications’ Super-Science Fiction digest proclaimed a “Special Monster Issue!” in bold letters over its title. Stories like Vampires from Outer Space and The Abominable Creature signaled an editorial shift, mixing horror, and more specifically monsters, into its science fiction pulp. Three more issues appeared before the title folded, all of them announcing MONSTERS on their covers.

In May of ’58, a Mad magazine knockoff appeared, complete with its requisite mascot. The magazine, published by Counterpoint, Inc., was called Thimk and its Alfred E. Neuman was Otis Dracenstein, a flattop, scar-faced, bolt-necked Frankenstein featured on the covers and in cartoon strips within. In a reverse gag situation that heralds elements of The Munsters (1964), Otis is a perfect gentleman and his monster friends are “normal”, while regular people act like horrible monsters. In September ’58, the “Special Monster Issue” of Thimk had Otis and his pal Dracula on the cover sharing an ice cream soda.

The magazine’s title is a reference joke mostly lost on us today. In the first half of the 20th century, “Think!” was the motto of the IBM Company. Mad magazine spoofed that as “Plan Ahead! Thimk!” Seems like Mad not only inspired Thimk’s format, but its title as well.

Elvis appeared in Army uniform on Thimk’s December cover. The draft-era Presley had been inducted into the military on March 24 and the U.S.Army’s public relations branch made the most of it, releasing a steady stream of the rockin’ G.I.’s photographs to an insatiable press. The cover would have recalled widely distributed shots of the American star in dress uniform mobbed by fans in Germany, where he was stationed, or on leave in Paris.

Thimk is largely forgotten today, one of countless Mad clones. Glimpses of its contents found online suggest that Thimk, for a humor magazine, wasn’t all that funny. Of course, time and context are factors. Maybe Thimk played funny and cool for youngsters in 1958. Then again, maybe not. The magazine only lasted one year, six issues in all.

Thimk is mentioned, along with its Horror Host connection, Sir Rodger, on E-Gor’s Chamber of Horror Hosts by George Chastain.

Excerpts from Thimk on Jay Stephens’ Monsterama.

Elvis gags from Thimk on the Rare-Elvis site here and here.


rob! said...

Dear Lord, do I love that cover of Frank and Drac sharing a milkshake. That's made of paper, ink, and win.

R2K said...

Poor elvis... : )

Christopher said...

ohhhh Frankie!!..I see you on the late late show all the time..you're so dreeaamy..swoooon

Tor Hershman said...

It's Ed Wood's birthday

Uncle Ernie said...

I did a recreation of the t-shirt offered by THIMK and Magic Carpet Burn posted it last year. You can download it, flop the image, print onto a transfer sheet, and make an iron-on for your favorite old shirt.