If you are a bibliophile with a yen for vintage paperbacks from the less respectable side of the tracks – men’s action novels, horror books, tabloid cash-ins and the adult paperbacks kept in “the back room” – then Justin Marriott is a name you should get to know. As writer and editor, he has published over forty issues of his popular The Paperback Fanatic ‘zine since 2007. He has also spun off a series of satellite publications that go deeper into related niche interests like The Sleazy Reader, Men Of Violence and Pulp Horror.
If all that activity isn’t enough for you, he just published the first issue of yet another spin-off title. This one’s called Monster Maniacs and pitches itself to the reader as “The Journal Of Vintage Horror In Magazines, Comics And Fanzines.” It’s 68 pages with full color illustrations throughout and its mixture of focused content and clean design gives its private press brethren a run for the money.
Marriott breaks his enterprise into three key sections. The first is called “Monster Media” and it focuses on current publications. Its biggest feature is an interview with friend of Schlockmania Bill Van Ryn, publisher of Drive-In Asylum. It’s a fun chat about how his love of vintage horror movie ads in the newspaper grew into a zine about vintage horror films. Marriott did the interview and gets Van Ryn to open up about some of his favorite pieces from the ‘zine’s run. Also included in this section is an in-depth review of the recent Bill Warren biography Empire Of Monsters that weighs its pros and cons in a clear-eyed manner and a quick roundup of other current zines.
The second section is called “Monster Microscope” and goes deals with older publications of a monster-maniac ilk. This is the biggest section of the ‘zine and Schlockmania’s favorite. It begins with another Marriott-conducted interview. This time, the subject is Peter Normanton, the man behind long-running horror comics zine From The Tomb. It covers how his passion for horror comics developed into writing about them and gives an intriguing insight into the highs and lows of self-publishing.
The biggest piece in this section is “The Legends Of Atlas,” in which horror comics blogger Peter Enfantino runs down his favorite pre-code horror stories from comics published by Atlas (the predecessor to Marvel). He does a nice job of synopsizing the stories, pointing out what makes them unique and/or campy and what future Marvel personnel were involved. Best of all, it’s copiously illustrated with covers and panels from the stories.
Elsewhere in the section, you get an overview of For Monsters Only, a short-lived kiddie riposte to Famous Monsters from the creators of Cracked Magazine, and a nifty overview of horror-themed comics that appeared in National Lampoon. Author Tom Teserak does a good job tip-toeing through the mine field of content that might be offensive to modern sensibilities in the latter piece, carefully clarifying where the satire hits the bullseye and where it veers off the mark. He also points out the classic comics artists used for these stories and shows how skillfully they emulated everything from E.C. Comics to underground titles (again, illustrated with plenty of color scans).
The final section of the ‘zine is “Monster Gallery,” a ten-page collection. It collects an array of eye-catching items, mixing comic scans and related illustrations with reproductions of paintings used for covers and even a few photo-and-print features from magazines and newspapers. Highlights include a series of scans for horror-themed German pulps, a great Berni Wrightson full-page panel from a famous Plop! story and a charmingly goofy/sleazy set of pics from an adults-only party where topless models wear monster masks(!).
All in all, this is a strong first issue that shows off the skills Marriott has developed toiling in the self-publishing mines. Monster Maniacs #1 delivers a nice blend of thoughtful text and eye-popping visuals. It costs a few bucks more than the usual zine this size because it is full color throughout but the frequent, skillfully-reproduced color scans make it worth the price. If you’re into vintage horror publications, particularly comics, this is a smart investment that will send you prowling comics stores and EBay for the publications it covers.