Well, Halloween is two weeks away and until now I have not acknowledged that fact. If I had been more on the ball I would have done a month-long series of posts, each featuring a different artist who specialized in horror illustration. Alas, the ball eluded me. Nevertheless I still have two posts before Halloween and I can try to make up for lost time.
So let me ask you a question: Do you like monsters?
If you’re like me (and a surprising number of people are) then you love monsters. And where would you have come by your love of monsters? Well, I think perhaps this little magazine might have something to do with it:
That’s right, FAMOUS MONSTERS, Forrest. J. Ackerman’s beloved magazine that sported covers featuring wonderful portraits of famous monsters, most of which were painted by artist Basil Gogos.
During the 1960s, Basil Gogos provided a steady stream of illustrations for a variety of New York-based publications. The majority of his work during this period was for men’s adventure magazines for which he painted many scenes of World War II battles, jungle perils and crime as well as cheesecake portraits of beautiful women. However, Gogos’ greatest impact as an illustrator was the work he did for Warren Publishing.
Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, created by publisher James Warren and editor Forrest J Ackerman, premiered in 1958 and was aimed at young readers who were then discovering the classic horror films of the ’30s and ’40s on television. The magazine’s covers were usually eye-catching close-ups of horror movie characters. Gogos’ first work for Warren was the cover of Famous Monsters of Filmland #9 in 1960 featuring an impressionistic portrait of Vincent Price from House of Usher painted in shades of red, yellow and green. Over the next two decades, he created almost 50 covers for Famous Monsters, many of which have become iconic images of that period. Gogos also provided cover art for several other Warren magazines including Creepy, Eerie, Spaceman, Wildest Westerns, and The Spirit.
Basil Gogos’ Famous Monsters cover art featured most of the classic horror characters such as The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, King Kong, Godzilla, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon and popular horror actors like Boris Karloff, Béla Lugosi, Vincent Price, Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, and Peter Cushing. Gogos often captured his subjects in an array of vivid colors using a technique in which the artist imagined the character bathed in colors from multiple light sources. He enjoyed painting monsters more than most of his more conventional assignments because of the freedom he was given and because of the challenge of painting such unusual characters, whom he endeavoured to portray as both frightening and sympathetic.
In the late 1970s, Gogos gave up full time commercial illustration to devote himself more to his original goal of doing fine art. He produced personal art pieces in watercolor and other media, while earning his livelihood as a photo retoucher in the ad department of United Artists. While there, he also did occasional illustrations for movie posters. Gogos later moved into advertising where he produced presentation sketches and storyboards for commercials for a major ad agency.
Due to a resurgence of interest in classic horror films and collectibles, Gogos returned to the horror genre in the 1990s. During this time, new Gogos monster portraits appeared on trading cards, lithographs, and the covers of Monsterscene magazine. He has also painted CD covers for rock stars Rob Zombie, The Misfits, and Electric Frankenstein.
Next week I will profile another artists whose influence on horror illustration and on horror films is considerable: H. R. Giger.