Exclusive: IT’S ALIVE! The Cover Artists of Famous Monsters of Filmland
February 1970, I turned seven years old. That same month, I saw my first copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland while standing next to my grandfather at the IGA grocery store in our hometown of Clinton, Indiana. It was issue #62, featuring a vibrant cover of actor Frederic March as Mr. Hyde. I had never seen anything like it before and never have since. As grandparents do to this day, my grandpa indulged his grandchild, shelling out 50 cents for the cheap newsprint magazine he could little know would chart the trajectory of the rest of my life.
In hindsight, I realized I was not alone in my introduction to Famous Monsters. The magazine’s covers are a major reason FM would achieve the status of American Icon even as the artists themselves remained largely unknown.
Here are three of the foremost masters of the art which spanned the long history of, as editor Forry Ackerman said, “The World’s Best Monster Fan Magazine!”
Among the early Famous Monsters cover artists were Albert Nuetzell, Ron Cobb, and Basil Gogos.
Albert Nuetzell (1901-1969)
Nuetzell was a prolific fantasy illustrator whose work appeared in MAD magazine and many science-fiction digests such as The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. His covers for Famous Monsters can be seen on issues #3 through #8, as well as later Warren publishing magazines such as Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella.
Ron Cobb (1937-2020)
The career of included working for Disney studios on Sleeping Beauty, and as conceptual artist for major films such as Star Wars, Alien, Conan the Barbarian, Back to the Future and Raiders of the Lost Ark. His cover work for FM includes issues #36, #43 and the 1968 Yearbook, among others.
Basil Gogos (1929-2017)
By far the artist most recognized and beloved by fans is Basil Gogos. Following Albert Nuetzell’s run of early covers, Gogos’ first cover was his rendition of Vincent Price from The House of Usher for issue #9. Over the next twenty years, his art graced almost 50 covers of Famous Monsters and became an essential part of the magazine’s now legendary status to monster movies fans around the world. Depicting close-ups of horror movie characters captured in an array of vivid colors as if bathed in multiple light sources was his signature style, often imitated but never equaled. Although Gogos would go on to concentrate more on fine art in the late 1970’s, also working for United Artists in the ad department and occasional movie poster illustrations, he is quoted as saying he enjoyed painting those monsters more than any of his conventional work.
Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker’s painting of his American Werewolf in London appeared on the cover of Famous Monsters #284 in 2016, earning a Rondo Hatton award for Best magazine Cover.
Throughout its over 60-year run ending with issue #291 in 2019, Famous Monsters of Filmland utilized both photographs and illustrations by other talented artists such as Ken Kelly and Vic Prezio on its covers. Whether using illustrations or photographs, the breadth of Famous Monsters of Filmland covers never failed to grab the attention of readers with an indefinable magic unrivaled to this day.