Often times, when the name Forrest Ackerman comes up, the standard response from the crowd is “who’s that?” But, to those of us in the know, who first began collecting comics and monster stuff in the 1970’s, it is a name that will most often draw a smile and a fond memory.
For me if it were not for Forry Ackerman there would be no ‘Back to the Past Comics’ today and you would not be reading these words. My involvement with him first began in 1973 when, at the age of eight, I made one of the shrewdest deals of my life: trading two (or was it three?) Hot Wheels cars to a classmate for his copy of Famous Monsters #108. It was the All King Kong issue and the info and photos on the 1933 classic film had a spellbinding effect on me. Ackerman was the founder and editor of the magazine (along with James Warren), and he helped to create for me what would become a lifelong affair with monsters, science fiction and fantasy…I was hooked from page one.
In addition to being the editor of Famous Monsters, Forry also had one of the largest collections (100,000 + Items!!!) of movie posters, photos, original movie props and all things cool in the world, which he somehow managed to crowbar into a 21-room mansion in California. Always a gracious collector, Ackerman opened his house and his collection up to thousands of fans over the past 50 years; all you had to do was ask to see it!
I found him listed in the phonebook when my pal Kevin and I ventured out to California in 1987. I still remember calling his house and setting up a meeting for the following Saturday. We arrived around 10am and there was Forry at the door to greet us. He gave us the short tour of the house allowing us to be amazed at the incredible collection he possessed (how many people can say they have worn Lugosi’s ring from the original 1931 Dracula?) and then told us that he had an appointment that he had to keep. We were disappointed that we would have to cut our visit short until he announced that his assistant was around somewhere if we needed anything, just don’t bust anything and otherwise feel free to handle or look at anything we liked! We spent the next 6 hours digging through his collection and it was truly a site to behold! Somewhere in my dusty archives I have the photos of my visit, I will try to locate them and we will get them posted on the site.
Sadly, Forry Ackerman passed away this past December 4th at the age of 92. He spent his professional life as a literary agent to the likes of Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and a host of other well-known authors. Ackerman was also involved in early fandom including being an attendee at all of the early World Science Fiction conventions in the 1940’s (he was most likely the first fan to ever wear a costume to a convention!). Though he became highly successful behind the scenes in the science fiction publishing industry he never forgot the fans and made several cross country trips in the 1960’s to visit with fans in small towns all across the country…often staying at their houses spending hours talking about his experiences and meetings with Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney and all of the other original Universal Monster stars!
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg both credit Famous Monsters as an early influence in their choice of careers…though not (yet) as successful as them you can certainly add me to the list of people who owe a great deal to Forry if for nothing else helping to add the magic to my childhood! So long Forry…you will be missed.
For more information about Forrest J. Ackerman and his life, check the Wikipedia entry.