If you’re of a ‘certain age’ (like me), you’ll immediately recognize the gentleman in the above photo. Forrest J Ackerman (affectionately known as Uncle Forry) was the long-time editor of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, the official magazine for Monster Kids of the 60’s and 70’s. FJA was the world’s #1 science fiction fan (and was given a Hugo Award to prove it!), writer, literary agent, actor, collector, and so much more. He would open his “Ackermansion” to fans who made the pilgrimage to Los Angeles, allowing them access to view his 300,000 piece collection of incredible horror and science fiction movie memorabilia.
Ackerman was born in L.A. on November 24, 1916, and remained a life-long resident. He was enthralled by sci-fi (a term he coined) early on, always stating his favorite film was Fritz Lang’s silent epic METROPOLIS. As a young man he worked as a film projectionist before joining the Army. Returning to the City of Angels, FJA became one of the founders of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and attended it’s WorldCon virtually every year. He became a literary agent representing top names like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, and Charles Beaumont, among others (later he represented the works of none other than Ed Wood! ).
When Universal Studios packaged their horror classics to television under the title SHOCK THEATER in the late 50’s, kids across the U.SA. got their first exposure to movies like FRANKENSTEIN and DRACULA and the Monster Kid Boom was on! Local TV horror hosts popped up everywhere, and the careers of stars like Boris Karloff and Vincent Price were revitalized. Publisher James Warren hired FJA to edit a one-shot magazine called FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND to capitalize on the monster craze. To their surprise, the magazine was a sell-out, and quickly became a monthly publication. FM was a big hit with its rare pictures of scary monsters and filmbook articles on macabre movies, but much of its success was largely due to Uncle Forry. His genial style and groan-inducing puns hit the mark with his adolescent audience, and allowed Forry to turn them on to original horror star Lon Chaney Sr.’s silent masterpieces.
FAMOUS MONSTERS spawned a host of imitators, none of which lasted more than a few issues. It was the cornerstone of the Warren publishing empire, and soon joined by a sister publication MONSTER WORLD. Warren branched out into the illustrated comic magazine business and, unencumbered by the restrictions of the Comics Code, became the heir to the old EC Comics with titles like CREEPY and EERIE. In the late 60’s Ackerman co-created (with Trina Robbins) a new character, penning the origin tale for the iconic VAMPIRELLA. But FAMOUS MONSTERS began losing steam in the 70’s to more serious, scholarly publications such as CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN and CINEFANTASTIQUE. The Monster Kids had grown up, and by the 1980’s FAMOUS MONSTERS was no more.
FJA contributed to mags like CULT MOVIES and FILMFAX, and continued to be a high-profile figure on the sci-fi/fantasy convention circuit. His run on FAMOUS MONSTERS helped influence future artists like Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Tim Burton, John Landis, and Joe Dante, all of whom grew up reading FM on a regular basis. Uncle Forry made cameo appearances in a number of films, including QUEEN OF BLOOD, Al Adamson’s DRACULA VS FRANKENSTEIN (with his idol’s son Lon Chaney Jr), Landis’s THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE , Dante’s THE HOWLING, TRANSYLVANIA TWIST, and the superhero spoof THE DOUBLE-D AVENGER. He even pops up in Michael Jackson’s THRILLER video as a movie patron. Prince Sirki claimed Forrest J Ackerman one minute before midnight on December 4, 2008 at the age of 92. Tributes from celebrities and everyday fans flooded the internet and fantasy fandom mourned, as our beloved Uncle Forry was gone. He was instrumental in introducing a new generation to classic horror/sci-fi films, and we the fans of fantastic cinema will be forever grateful.