By David F. Kramer
When it comes to the short list of faces that should be carved into the Mt. Rushmore of horror artists, few names are as sacrosanct on the lips of horror kids worldwide as that of Basil Gogos.
For more than 20 years, Gogos contributed dozens of gloriously gruesome interpretations of horror monster icons for the cover and interior pages of Forrest J. Ackerman’s legendary Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, and other Warren magazines such as Creepy and Eerie. He’s represented Frankenstein’s monster in four terrifying flavors – Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Glenn Strange and even Fred Gwynne. He’s plumbed the murky depths with the Black Lagoon’s gillman, honeymooned with Elsa Lanchester’s Bride, made beautiful music with Chaney’s Phantom, ran wild with Reed’s werewolf, and embodied evil incarnate with Linda Blair’s Regan MacNeil.
There were men who laughed, women who screamed, and so many aliens, creatures, and Kaiju that you’d need a high-powered, fully-automatic laser to hit them all.
When a new era of horror beckoned, Gogos answered by creating album covers for nocturnal-themed bands like The Misfits, Rob Zombie, Electric Frankenstein, and Necrophagia. Sadly, this malevolent resurgence ended with his untimely death last September at the age of 88.
While many coffee table books and collections have been dedicated to Gogos’ visions – FantaCo Publications, which celebrates 40 years in the horror biz this month, are planning what might be considered the most ambitious Gogos project yet.
The Basil Gogos Book of Monsters is the brainchild of FantaCo’s evil mastermind Tom Skulan, who has partnered with Gogos’ longtime partner Linda Touby, and researched by managing editor Kaz Sanchez, to create what might be the pinnacle volume featuring Gogos’ wonderfully grotesque visions.
The project is slated for more than 200 pages, and will include lavish illustrations, many of which have never been seen outside of the studio, much less in book form. The volume is currently in the Kickstarter stage, with both hardcover ($99.95) and softcover ($40) editions available to fans that want to get their orders in early. The Kickstarter campaign begins the first week of September, and will run for 25 days. During that time, fans can pick up the book for a reduced rate, and hardcover versions can be signed by Touby. After the Kickstarter ends, the price of the book will increase, and the project is slated for publication in late spring of 2019. Additionally, the hardcover version will feature 16 pages of material that will not be available in the softcover editions. Variant covers for the softcover edition are being considered, but are still in the planning stages.
From the outset, this project has clearly been a labor of love.
“Originally, Linda and I wanted to produce a small, inexpensive ‘sampler’ of Basil’s art for fans that didn’t want to spend a lot of money,” says Skulan. “That book was to be priced at $24.95 and probably would have been only 54 color pages.”
But soon, the project began to take on a life of its own.
“However, once Linda started going through Basil’s studio, it became apparent that there was SO much unpublished material that doing a large book just made sense. Ultimately, we decided to make this book the testament to Basil Gogos’ talent. It will be all encompassing of Basil’s monster art creations,” says Skulan.
Skulan had been in contact with Touby on and off since 2014, when he asked she and Gogos to be guests of honor at the 2015 FantaCon in Albany, NY. The trio continued to work together through Gogos’ contribution of the cover to FantaCo’s Famous Monsters of Filmland Chronicle book.
After Gogos’ death, Touby was eager to create a large-scale book that would catalog Basil’s long and storied career as a horror artist.
“This book is unlike any previously produced. Because of Linda’s involvement, we have access to Basil’s studio and everything he has ever worked on,” says Skulan. “We have preliminary sketches, character studies, and alternate version of well-known pieces. Basil was a brilliant illustrator as well as a painter, and we have many of his illustrations. We will also have a gallery of candid and personal photos.”
Or as Skulan phrases it, this book is by Gogos fans for Gogos fans.
“I definitely count myself as a huge Basil fan. I distinctly remember seeing his very early Famous Monsters covers in the back-issue pages of FM and just dreaming of holding them in person,” Skulan says. “The first Basil cover I actually got to see was his first FM cover ever — issue number 9. I must have looked at the details of that painting for hundreds of hours. It literally seemed like magic.”
“When we did the first edition of the Famous Monster Chronicles, I got to meet Basil and interview him as well. He was extremely personable, and might I add, quite humble. One couldn’t help but like him.”
Touby’s expectations for the book are equally as heartfelt and sincere. “This book is really important to me. I would like to see the legacy of Basil Gogos go on forever like all great artists before him … and he was a great artist. I hope his art will inspire all who come after him. Not to copy, but to find their own voice,” she says.
It’s no secret that print has been taking a beating in this high-tech age, and the horror genre is certainly no exception. But as the adage suggests, if you hang in there long enough, you just might find that everything old is new again. And we’re not talking about endless Hollywood remakes of classic horror. Recent times have seen the return of Fangoria, the Gideons’ bible of the field – as well as the resurgence of other Warren publications. Grassroots funding efforts such as Kickstarter have been a boon for creative folks of all stripes chomping at the bit to infuse some new blood into what’s now lying on the slab.
“We have run 12 successful campaigns on Kickstarter thus far. Setting up the campaigns is FAR more time consuming than people think. A lot of effort goes into creating a successful campaign that draws in many people,” says Skulan.
“I do recommend that new artists and companies try crowd fundraising to see if it will work for them. Not all will be successful, but it is definitely something that all should try. Just be prepared for a lot of work!”