Monster Memories: In Black and White and Everything Else

Note: If these pan out, I'd love to turn them into a book about growing up a horror and metal kid in the eighties. Consider this a rough draft. Hopefully, it will be better than anything I've written about wrestling.

The device I'm writing this on thinks I swear a lot. That's probably true, although I try to preserve those words for rush hour.

I've heard that venting helps. I've also heard the opposite.

That's why it's fun to remember a time before venting, driving, or devices. It wasn't black-and-white (except at our house; you haven't played Yar's Revenge until you've played it in grayscale on a second-hand, twelve-inch Emerson). It was a very colorful time, when monsters were everywhere and everything.

This probably belongs in the last post, but the first time I saw Fangoria magazine was at the grocery store. If I remember correctly, the cover was Rob Bottin's updated gremlin from Twilight Zone: The Movie. Inside those pages was a terrifying array of evil latex beasts and their foam rubber victims. There may have been a photo of a crucified Linda Hamilton from Children of the Corn in there, too.  If you ever want a close look at monster movies back when special make-up and creature effects were at their peak, find a classic issue of Fangoria. It's worth seeing how movies were made before CGI squibs.

And it's pronounced like it's spelled: /fan-GO-ree-AH/, not /fan-GO-ruh/. Come on, guys.

Again, this is before concerned folks - the ones who know better than we do - found it in their hearts to rid most public shopping spaces of such vile trash. It was a more beautiful time than we realized. A freer time.

Jesus, you could find Playboy there, as you could in the corner stores. Those were always wrapped, but whatever. There would be enough unobtainable silicone to go around in later years.

In the meantime, there were comics. A mainstay of the old drugstores of our parents' youth, comic books were the highlight of any newsstand worth its plywood. The X-Men were on fire back then, with all the old standbys in tow. Better still were the black-and-white comic magazines, especially Savage Sword of Conan with its gorgeous, painted cover art and fabulous babes. A few years later, you could find Marvel's black-and-white Nightmare on Elm Street magazine. (Freddy caught on a bit later than the Terminator, Aliens and Predator.)

All roads led to Stephen King, of course. His books were everywhere, especially around our house. My grandfather used to take us to a used bookstore, where I bought my first King books before I was out of grade school. Hey, if the grownups could have them, this made me more grown-up, right? And surely the man behind some of my favorite movies would prove a more scintillating read than those Troll Book Club monster books.

In many ways, yes. Reading The Running Man in sixth grade was a hell of a lesson in what writing could be. I had loved the movie, and was surprised at how much darker the book was. Where was Captain Freedom? And was Ben Richards this much of an asshole in the movie?

Yeah, I went with the sci-fi title first, but most stuff I read back then had to have some connection to a movie I'd seen or I wouldn't fuck with it. I read Skeleton Crew for the same reason, and fell in love with the short story as a form. Again, all of this was in late childhood/early adolescence, followed by Carrie in eighth grade and Christine (my favorite) in high school.  While adults were getting nostalgic about their childhood fears and hardships, I was getting a crash course in narrative, character, and how they swear in New England.

If you're raising children, let them read. Don't be a wimp or a helicopter parent. Give them the opportunity, the freedom, to discover things on their own. Even if it kind of freaks you out.