Calling All Cryptozoologists…
…& For Monsters Only: The Unloved Monster Mag
Having been a lifelong reader of all things cryptozoological, and having had the great & grand privilege of at last meeting and dining with one of my all-time favorite cryptozoological writers, Loren Coleman, just two summers ago (with my pals G. Michael Dobbs and Joseph A. Citro), I’ve been paying close attention of late to the trials and tribs Loren has been suffering online. Well, he cleared that logjam, and I’m happy to report today that the great Loren Coleman has set up a new site for his cryptozoological info, reporting, musings, updates, etc. He’s the man for cryptozoological anything in the US, so mark this change of venue and visit often!
See you in the funnies, Loren…
Next, I’m going to dedicate a couple of Myrant installments (starting with this one) to singing the praises of cartoonist Jerry Grandenetti, specifically his late 1960s work for the much-maligned (most often ignored) monster magazine For Monsters Only…
The 1965-66 boom in newsstand monster magazines was a bountiful harvest. With James Warren and Forrest J Ackerman‘s venerable Famous Monster of Filmland in its prime and Calvin T. Beck‘s Castle of Frankenstein the up-and-coming favorite, kids like me were increasingly having to seasonally mow lawns, shovel driveways, and/or beg, bottle (as in cash in returnable soda bottles), and/or steal the necessary funds to keep up with the 35-to-50 cent titles sprouting like mushrooms after a summer rain.
Left & below, right: John Severin art, opening splash and final page, “A MonStar is Born,” For Monsters Only #1, 1965.
I never had much trouble passing up the Charlton titles Mad Monsters and Horror Monsters—though I purchased a few, they were always the shoddiest looking and reads of the bunch—and Stan Lee’s Monsters to Laugh With was a waste of everything (what a useless monster magazine!), but I was a sucker for FJA and Warren‘s companion to FM, Monster World, and talked my dad into buying me the first issue of Modern Monsters I laid eyes on. Russ Jones‘s pro-Hammer Films (a lone voice at that time) Monster Mania was a favorite, too, though it’s run was brief. One-shots like 3D Monsters I eagerly purchased, when I stumbled on ‘em and could afford ‘em—I particularly loved that oddity—and The Munsters monster mag was in my bedroom stack of monster magazines, too.
Then there was the debut of Warren‘s classy black-and-white horror comics Creepy and Eerie, and the lurid temptations of Eerie Publications‘ Weird… but those were something different altogether (though they vied for diverting the same 35 cent expenditures every month). The fact was that Monster World whet my appetite for the fusion of monster magazine and monster comics between singular titles, and as an already-lifelong Mad and Cracked reader (Sick, not so much), I couldn’t resist coaxing 35 cents out of my mom to take home Cracked’s For Monsters Only #1 (November, 1965; cover uncredited, though I strongly suspect it was by Gray Morrow, who did one more cover for the magazine before it folded).
Its fat 68 pages of almost completely disposable monster—well, mash kept my attention and prompted a few rereadings. It wasn’t FM or CoF, not by a long shot, but it was a lot more fun than the Charlton rags, and it was such a peculiar creature in and of itself.
I was already hooked by John Severin‘s cartooning at age 10, and Severin‘s rather inspired Bela Lugosi career spin “A MonStar is Born” was accompanied by not-as-inspiring monster cartoon foolishness like “Monster Mother Goose” by “Bill McCartney” (I’d soon suss out that “McCartney” was actually Bill Ward, whose name was appearing in Cracked material that sure looked like this “McCartney” fellow; below, left, from a later issue), Don Orehek‘s “Orehek in Orbit” (above) and so on.
The articles, such as they were, were ephemeral shadows of articles: “Mucho Monsters from Mexico” was my favorite piece, along with pix from the Ray Harryhausen opus First Men “In” the Moon (the first non-Disney science-fiction movie I was able to convince my family to take us all out to see), but both were weak-tit slivers next to the coverage the same subjects had already garnered in Famous Monsters (that two-part “MexiMonsters” coverage in FM #30 and #31 really rocked my little world!).
Still, eh—it was okay. Sort of like Cracked, I guessed I liked it. I kept it, and looked for another issue.
Meanwhile, I found myself gravitating to some weird artists in the Warren black-and-white horror comics and four-color newsstand comicbooks—and one of the weirdest of ‘em all, circa 1966-68, was Jerry Grandenetti. I didn’t know it at the time—Grandenetti‘s name wasn’t on his first quintet of stories for Warren, but Joe Orlando‘s was!—but the most unsettling individual stories in the Warren horror comics (other than Steve Ditko‘s collaborations with writer/editor Archie Goodwin) were the work of Grandenetti.
Grandenetti‘s artwork really creeped me out—and that was a good thing. His Warren work for Creepy and Eerie really stood out, with a dark, disorienting, disturbed and deeply disturbing vibe that set it apart from all of Grandenetti‘s peers. He didn’t bother to seduce my eye, the way the rest of the Warren stable of high-class artists sought to. Grandenetti‘s art was, well, messy and oddly assaultive, in a way unlike anything else in 1960s comics.
The same was true of Grandenetti‘s art for the four-color spinner-rack comics from clean-as-a-whistle, ever-conservative DC Comics. As the 1960s unwound (literally), Grandenetti‘s presence in DC‘s lineup was perhaps the sole iconoclastic note, a disruptive presence that enlivened any comic his work appeared in. Have a look sometime at Grandenetti‘s collaboration with writer Denny O’Neil on Nightmaster in Showcase #82 (May 1969):
Then again, the singularity that was Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti‘s Prez (a singularity in comics, but a rip on the AIP movie hit Wild in the Streets in pop cultural terms) was unlike anything DC had ever published before (or, for at least a decade, after), which somehow made even Joe Simon (and the uncredited Sick artist Al Bare)’s Brother Power, the Geek seem even more astonishing by comparison.
Prez is celebrated today, in its way, but believe you me, it sucked back then. I mean, somehow, even Jerry Grandenetti‘s art looked—tamed. Fettered. Sedated. With the exception of its insane “legless-Dracula-wheeling-himself-around-on-a-cart” issue (I’m not making that up), I didn’t care much for Prez, then. I don’t care much for or about it now, either.
Well, ahem. So, back to Cracked’s For Monsters Only.
I kept buying the damned magazine, though I sometimes wondered why when I got it back home. What a peculiar monster mag it was.
Almost a year passed between the first issue and the second (September, 1966), which was an irresistible purchase on the power of John Severin‘s diorama-like color cover art (reprinted inside as a two-page spread, “The Greatest Monster Battle of All Time!”). Man, I stared at that Severin piece for hours at a time, and tried to copy it with my amateurish skill-less hands more than once. It was glorious.
But what a dumb-ass monster magazine! Severin was joined inside by more of Don Orehek, Vic Martin, (editor) Joe Kiernan, Bob Schochet, and others, including a cartoonist whose work obviously was still Severin‘s but was signed, variously, “Power,” “LePoer,” and “Niveres,” which didn’t fool 11-year-old me (after all, I’d seen Son of Dracula, mind you: Count Alucard, my ass!).
The articles, such as they were, were a little meatier, especially “The Bela Lugosi Story” and the photo piece on the ABC-TV special Hercules and the Princess of Troy (even then, Castle of Frankenstein‘s was better, though that saw print some time after the special had aired).
The best addition to the lineup was writer Richard Bojarski‘s article—the first true article to appear in any Cracked anything.
For Monster Only #3 came out eight weeks later (November 1966) and was more of the same, really. Bojarski‘s overview of Boris Karloff‘s career was welcome evidence For Monsters Only was easing into more familiar monster magazine turf, but to the deficit were two reprints from Cracked that I at the time recognized as reprints (“School for Monsters” by Severin and “Transylvanian TV” by “McCartney”/Ward).
Only three issues in, and they were already reprinting material?
Not a good sign.
Severin‘s “Dungeon Dan-Dan-Dandies!” gag two-pager was amusing, and precursor to his later Cracked staple “Ye Hang-Ups,” so I reckon it’s a trade-off in hindsight (what did I know of “hindsight” at the time? Nothing, really).
For Monsters Only #4 (March 1967) was more of the same. Sigh. Bojarski‘s article on the “Two Kings of Terror,” Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, was welcome, but there’s no denying I was speedily outgrowing Cracked, period, as the age of 11 was about to give way to my turning 12. My sophistication was becoming boundless!
Besides, there were other problems. I mean, there were more reprint comics and gags in this one—lifted from Cracked, Zany, and even a reprint from For Monsters Only #1 (“A Transylvanian Family Album”)—what? Why??
This pissed me off so that I didn’t even bother to buy the FMO Annual later in the year.
Reprints—phhhaa! I didn’t need any stinking reprints! Besides, it was 50 cents! I still had the earlier issues. I hope I wasn’t completely thankless when my Dad surprised me by buying me a copy of the Annual—but how polite is a 12-year-old?
Besides, I had now grown into Castle of Frankenstein—even Famous Monsters of Filmland seemed increasingly childish by comparison—and Monster Mania, which blew my mind completely with the Frank Frazetta wraparound cover for the eagerly-anticipated One Million Years B.C. (Monster Mania #2, below).
Well, hell. The Castle of Frankenstein 1967 Annual left FMO‘s crappy annual in the dirt—and Mrs. Chase helped me purchase the life-altering $15 hardcover book An Illustrated History of the Horror Film by Carlos Clarens. Now, there was a game-changer.
For Monsters Only, farewell, forever!
Or so I thought…
I was sucked back to FMO when I saw this bizarro cover staring out at me from the newsstands:
What is that? A “snail man”?? Wearing a collared shirt? Who drew that?
This wasn’t looking at all like any monster magazine I’d ever laid my peepers on before.
And inside—oh, my God, inside—was a completely new, original, truly whacked horror comic story by none other than Jerry Grandenetti.
The cover for For Monsters Only #6 (January 1969—yes, I’d skipped buying #5 completely) also promised something else: a “Special Chilling 16-page Terror Feature,” a new monster comic story!
“Frankenstein ’68″ was a clumsy, clunky, drunken-looking monstrosity of intoxicating excess, printed on off-putting yellow newsprint, so that it even felt, to the touch, unusual, uncanny, unsavory (Taboo fans, take note: this was in part the fuel for my eagerly reprinting Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud‘s classic “Les Yeux du Chat/Eyes of the Cat” on its close-as-we-could-come-to-its-original-publication yellow paper—I kid you not.)
Oh, man, this I had to buy and read and take home. This I had to study. This I had to copy images from. This—this was something different.
To Be Continued…
Sasquatch drinking image ©2012, 2013 Stephen R. Bissette, all rights reserved, from my work-in-progress on S.R. Bissette’s How to Make a Monster. All images ©original creators/proprietors, their original year of publication; all artwork and images are posted for archival and educational purposes only.