Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Early Influences

I'm frequently asked about early influences. I was religiously watching monster movies by first grade, particularly "The Creature Double Feature" on WLVI channel 56 out of Boston. My friend James, and I would draw the monsters from every single feature shown. Sadly, all of these drawings are now gone, the victims of mice, except for Reptilicus, which once I can locate it, I will post.

What probably cemented the monster bug in me was not the movies, Kirby and Ditko monster comics, or even the few issues of "Famous Monsters" that I had collected by then, no it was the book pictured here. "Movie Monsters" by Alan Ormsby (who would later go on to direct "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things") was published by Scholastic Books in 1975. I got my copy via the Scholastic Book Club in 4th grade, and read it over and over again.

The book, as Ormsby points out, has three parts: The Greatest Movie Monsters, a section which covered not only all the classic Universal monsters, but Mr. Hyde (Fredric March) and Blacula, as well as a page on Lon Chaney. The second part was a bunch of recipes for recreating these monsters in make-up using household ingredients such as paper bags, cornmeal, and shoe polish. The third section was how to put on a monster show, including a script you could use.

I never put on the show, but did attempt a few of the make-ups. Basically though, it was the first section that captivated me. I still have the same copy of that book, and it's in exceptional shape, considering how many times I read it.


scottra said...

I say we put the show on this weekend!

Who was the host of
"The Creature Double Feature"?


John Rozum said...

I say we do that show for Halloween this year.

The CDF didn't have a host. It had an announcer who introduced the shows over an edit of the song "Toccata" from Emerson, lake and Palmer's "Brain Salad Surgery" LP, and solarized footage of a bunch of the kaiju from "Destroy All Monsters." I think the announcer's name was Cecil. I can still here his voice in my head today.

He tells me to do things. Terrible things.

scottra said...

By all means listen to Cecil!

Anonymous said...

Funny coincidence! Just earlier I dug up my copy of this same book from the garage and searched it on google just now. This was also a very inspirational book for me at about the same age.

Phill Weber said...

Hi John. Your posting the cover of this book is the equivalent of Luke Skywalker firing a photon torpedo down the base of my brain stem. Like many males our age I had a copy of this book as well (sadly lost in the sands of time). The b&w illustrations still lurk in my memories. Another relic of that time (also lost) was an amazingly detailed jigsaw puzzle depicting a haunted house with various monsters visible through the windows and cavorting on the lawn. Anyway, thanks for the blast from the past. I plan on perusing the rest of your blog on tomorrow's lunch break.

John Rozum said...

Mr. Norton, nice to see you outside CHFB, Phil, thanks for stopping in.

I came very close to doing a book much like the first section of the Ormsby book, only more indepth a couple years ago, but had to pull it from the publisher because they didn't have the legal staff to obtain all of the likeness rights. If I can find a new publisher, I'd still like to do it, hoping to have the same effect on a new generation of kids that the Ormsby book clearly had on many of us.

If you go to the art section of my website you can see some of the monster portraits I created specifically for my book.

Phill Weber said...

More thoughts on the Ormsby book: That thing definitely planted some seeds in my brain, perhaps most prevalent was the page you mention on Lon Chaney. I remember that it referred to him "The Man of a Thousand Faces," a phrase which has reverberated in my head ever since. Years later I would read Philip K. Dick and become fascinated with matters of identity, specifically with the notion of the self as a mask. Erving Goffman, the man who pioneered the field of social psychology, theorized in his book "The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life" that the self was little more than an illusion. What we think of as a self, Goffman states, was in fact a series of interchangeable masks that we wear to suit various social situations. I have my slight disagreements with the idea but found it fascinating. Anyway, when I got into all this stuff it made me think of Lon Chaney and the description of him as a master of disguise in Ormsby's book. Funny how those things get set in your head so early.

I checked out the new art. I see you've put up a bunch of great new stuff since the last time I swung by. The Vlad pic is lovely. And the Xmas/Hanukkha is clever. Yeah, I'd love to see you do a full book of the stuff, updating Orsmby for a new generation.

John Rozum said...

Phil, I had Erving Goffman as a Professor at NYU for a "Psychology of Art" class.

Unfortunately, my greatest memory of that class, was a second hand report I received from my then roommate, who was also in the class.

I finished the final in under 15 minutes of furious writing, handed Goffman the test, and left. Apparently, as soon as the door closed behind me, there was quite a bit of snickering at my expense. Everyone figured I must have bombed badly, not possibly answering all the questions. Goffman, read through my exam and announced to them that I got an "A" every answer was right.

That stopped the snickjering right away, and produced some unease instead. It's the only time I knew my grade immediately after class.

I think Martin Scorcese's daughter was in that class as well.

Phill Weber said...

That's a great story. Another mind blower actually. I would have loved to have sat in on that class. Goffman teaching the Psychology of Art. Wow. I'd love to know what was on the curriculum.

P.S. If you have the time and inclination, check out "The Motionless Movement" on my blog. I wrote it about five years ago when I was infatuated with Borges and deliberately trying to be influenced by him. These days I'm no less infatuated but have given up on the emulation. I mention it remembering that I first came across the name John Rozum several years ago on TheModernWord.com, listed alongside Garcia Marquez and Umberto Eco, as a writer influenced by Borges.

Anonymous said...

Funny...I ran into your blog doing a google on this book. My wife picked it up for me at a library sale.

The b&w interior drawings are brilliant, and were all executed by the author. Incidentally, I don't think anyone has mentioned that Alan Ormsby was the writer/director of the cult classic "Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things!," which came out a couple of years before this book. He's directed a couple of other movies, and has written screenplays for several films that have been made.

btw, my interest in the book is similar, I too am a comic artist (a new one who is just starting to get published.) What a small and strange world. ^_^

Anonymous said...


I had this book as a kid, got it when I was in 5th grade (1981). Made the brown bag Frankenstein for Halloween of that year (*wish I had pics still). I ended up trading the book to a kid in my class for his set of Remco Mini Monster action figures.

I still have the figures today :)

Perhaps I'll be fortunate enough somehow to obtain the book again eventually.

Anyways, thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

I also got this book from the Scholastic book order but it was given to me by my sister as a birthday gift. I still have the book till this day and both of my kids love it just as much as I did back then. I'm a 37 year old, mother of two! I always wished I would have put the play on!