Friday, December 21, 2007

Book Review: Life Is But A Scream! by Ray Ferry

Calling all Baby Boomers and monster fans, listen up, you don’t want to miss this!

Where you a kid in the sixties who read Forrest J Ackerman’s Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and thrilled to the exploits of Karloff, Lugois, and Chaney on TV’s Creature Feature? But when maturity beckoned, did you replaced your macabre interests with sports, girls, rock music, college and/or a steady job? If so, you probably don’t know the story behind the death … and rebirth of your once favorite monster mag.

Warren Publications, a magazine publishing giant with many horror and sci-fi comic titles, one of which was 1994, put out FM. In the eighties, Jim Warren approaches fantasy writer Harlan Ellis for the rights to the comic version of A Boy And His Dog. The negotiations broke down when they could not agree on an equitable price. So Warren, once confident in his ability to obtain the story rights, had his art department complete the comic artwork. He published the artwork in the magazine 1994 and changed all of the characters’ names and the title of the story. Ellis sued for infringement of copywrited material and won a hefty judgment thus bankrupting the publishing empire. Over the years, many of Warren’s trademarks were not renewed --- enter Ray Ferry.

Ray Ferry, a promoter and fan of the original FM, meets FJA and the two decides to throw a Famous Monster Convention in 1993. (I was there – where you?) The Convention was such a hit that Ferry decides to re-launch FM with FJA as its editor and in rapid succession begins to re-file all of FM’s trademarks under his own name. After a few issues hit the stands, Ferry and Forry part ways after a nasty dispute.

What follows is one of the most vicious and contentious legal battles in the history of fandom. It’s Forry vs. Ferry over the right to use the moniker “Dr. Acula” as fans choose-up sides! Things get so heated that Ferry receives anonymous death threats from fans still loyal to the original FM. This book is a scream and a testament to the truth of an old Universal horror film rule: when two or more monsters meet, they must eventually battle to the death. In this case, it was in a court of law.

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