The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
Web Magazine and Sourcebooks

Vol 1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006

Non-Fiction Book Reviews
by Ryan Brennan

The Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos
edited by Kerry Gammill and J. David Spurlock
Vanguard Press

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Paperback cover

Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos, a new book compiled and designed by Kerry Gammill and J. David Spurlock, should please the die-hard Gogos fan and surprise those who are only familiar with his work through Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.

Gogos is best known to his fans as an artist of the fantastique. His forte is the realm of werewolves, vampires, aliens, and man-made monsters as depicted most famously on the covers of the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. FM, as it became known to fans, arose in 1958, the year after the Universal horror films of the 1930s and 1940s were being released to the massive television audience for the first time. Monster Mania swept the nation and FM rode that wave as the first regularly published magazine devoted to the cinema screen's greatest screams.

Hardback cover

After several issues, the publisher, James Warren, still hadn't found the look he wanted. Enter Basil Gogos. Warren was bowled over and the artist would create cover after cover for the magazine. His deliriously colorful, even pyschedelic subjects covering Lon Chaney's and Claude Rains' Phantoms of the Opera, Chaney again in London After Midnight, Gorgo, Vincent Price as Poe's Roderick Usher, the Amazing Colossal Beast, Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster, Elsa Lanchester as the Bride and so many more.

But there is much more to Gogos' career as an artist and Gammill, a noted artist and designer himself, gives us a glimpse into this life as only a fellow colleague and insider can. In a relaxed, easy-to-read style, Gammill provides a foreword that spells out exactly what Gogos' art has meant to him. Gogos' kaleidoscopic career is outlined starting with the artist's early years as a cover illustrator for Pocket Books' line of western novels. Gogos was also a renowned illustrator for many of the once enormously popular men's magazines. He spent some time as a photo retoucher for United Artists and was also involved with advertising art.

Through it all, Gogos fulfilled his desires as a painter of fine art, teaching the subject and returning to school in order to paint solely for himself. Eventually, in 1993, encouraged by the reaction of fans at a convention, he returned to the world of the fantastic and has been satisfying the desires of his fans by painting limited editions of famous movie monsters. Of late, he has found favor with the music world, taking commissions from bands such as The Misfits, who use the FM font for their name, and horror movie buff/rock musician Rob Zombie (who wrote the enthusiastic introduction for this book) to provide CD covers.

The artist shares with us the creative decisions that led to those unforgettable FM covers -- a style often copied but singularly his own. Gogos discusses other aspects of his technique as well, the media used and the effects rendered. He discusses the technique common among illustrators of creating scenes with models, photographing them and then working from the resulting photos. He relates that when he could only afford one model, even when the assignment called for several, he would use the same model in different poses. Although he frequently used Steve Holland, the model seen on the covers of the Doc Savage novels [and star of the Flash Gordon 1950s TV series filmed in Germany], Gogos reveals that his favorite model was his father, Steve Gogos.

Rob Zombie provides a colorful Introduction, and quotes from fellow artists and fans in the professional world abound ? Frank Darabont, Rick Baker, Vincent Di Fate, William Stout, Zacherle, Ron Cobb, Forrest J. Ackerman, Sara Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jr., Ron Chaney, Roger Corman, James Bama and more.

But the real meat is in the art. Here on slick paper are page after page of beautiful reproductions across the spectrum of Gogos' career. Incredibly detailed and busy cameos from WWII, pistol-packin' Western action, exotic jungle scenes, underwater exploits, exploitive cheesecake, movie posters and, of course, the monsters, always the monsters. There is an astounding section devoted to his charcoal works, black & white images of three dimensional quality.

Space is also given to Gogos' fine art, wildlife portraits, scenic wonders, and life drawings of great beauty and sensitivity. And there are other wonders that will take your breath away.

It's really almost more than an art lover can take. A feast so sumptuous that it nearly overwhelms the senses. Nearly beggaring belief, the Collector's Edition features a special portfolio of more mind blowing material.

Available in hardback, softbound, and the special Collector's Edition, this is one art book you will want on your shelf -- that is, if you can ever put it down.

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