“Famous Monsters of Filmland” covers, part two: Issues 6 through 10

I gave all the blah blah blah last time. Let’s get to it!

Famous Monsters of Filmland #6

Fm6Albert Nuetzell‘s third cover for Famous Monsters is a fairly steep drop from his excellent War of the Worlds alien portrait that graced issue #4 (see last entry), though the relative mediocrity here is not entirely on the shoulders of the artist.

On the positive side, he chose a strong color palette for his King Kong, mostly earthy tones with a touch of green for balance, and the reds highlights help sell the great ape’s fury. The overall technique, though, does not seem as refined as his previous covers and looks more cartoonish than painterly.

More offensive than the so-so artwork are the giant blocks in the sidebar. Instead of teasing the contents, they nearly push Kong off his own cover. No wonder he’s annoyed. Fewer plugs, with black and red text to match the masthead and no blocks of background color would have gone a long way toward improving the general design.

Overall: 3.5/10


 

Famous Monsters of Filmland #7

fm7James Warren and Forrest J. Ackerman brought Albert Nuetzell back for yet another cover, this one featuring a likeness of TV horror host Zacherly.

Again Nuetzell proves his strength at choosing a color palette. Against the solid black background, Zacherly’s yellow face with red accents pops out and was likely to grab the eye of someone browsing a newsstand. The light and shadow on the face is rendered schematically instead of modeled in a sophisticated way, but at this point in the short life of the magazine, they were about grabbing the attention of kids, not art critics. The composition is pedestrian but sufficiently lively.

The graphic artist did well in tying the yellow and green of the masthead to the highlights in the figure’s face. On the other hand, those giant blocks in the sidebar once again threaten to overwhelm the image. At least this time they align with the color palette of the figure, including the whites of the eyes.

Overall: 4.5/10


 

Famous Monsters of Filmland #8

fm8Albert Nuetzell’s minimalist cover for issue 8 can be appreciated or derided, depending on your view of minimalism. The stark, uncluttered composition is eye catching from a distance (or set among a bunch of other magazines on a newsstand), and the Rothko-like red-to-orange background fade is strikingly unusual. I do really like the patch of unbroken red in the upper right area.

That said, the figure itself is, to put it politely, primitive. Less politely, it’s not a very good illustration, at least not for a standalone character. It’s like they just went with a preparatory sketch instead of the finished product.

From a graphics standpoint, I still don’t love the sidebar blocks, but they tie nicely to the limited color palette and are appropriately sparse. The wavy shapes also evoke a ghostly quality to align with the overall cover concept. This would be a pretty knock out cover if the figure illustration weren’t so rough.

Overall: 3.5/10


Famous Monsters of Filmland #9

fm9If you are a Famous Monsters reader of even the most casual variety, you should still know the name Basil Gogos. This isn’t a biography story and space doesn’t permit anyway. Suffice to say, Gogos was born to paint monster magazine covers.

Gogos’ rendering of Vincent Price so captures the essence of his tortured “Poe” characters, it’s as if he had been on the set and had Price sit for him. Like with Nuetzell’s cover for issue 5, Gogos uses the hourglass form, but this figure dominates both in cover space taken up and gravitas.

Fortuitously, FM’s graphics took a great leap forward the same times as the skill of their cover artist. Gone are the sidebar blocks that vie for attention with the character image. Now they are merely lettering that shares a background with the figure, and the red and black color mix ties directly to the figure’s garment at the bottom, leaving the green-tinted gray face to captivate the viewer. The complete layout is geometrically pleasing and harmonious.

Overall: 9/10


Famous Monsters of Filmland #10

fm10For the fourth time in 10 issues, FM went with a red backdrop, although the choice was not ideal on this occasion, for the masthead gets fairly lost in the details of Gogos’ Claude Rains portrait, and the general feel is too busy.

That said, the artist’s beautifully modeled figure is mix of textures and stylish colors and, even without the eyes visible, conveys intelligence and purpose. Not quite as dynamic a pose as the Vincent Price portrait, this image of the Phantom is still somewhat activated by the wavy hair and lighting effect that prefigured Mario Bava‘s innovative cinematography for Black Sabbath by a few years.

Some black tracing around the masthead lettering and a simplifying or reduction of the sidebar plugs wold probably have limited the clutter and bumped this cover up in the rankings.

Overall: 7/10

 

 

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