Author Archives: Paul O'Connor
We made it!
After a year-long hiatus, Longbox Graveyard enjoyed a month of (mostly) new content, all revolving around the wonderful holiday of Halloween. We crowned a winner of the Tournament of Terror; took a tour through my personal Book of Sins, the Marvel Value Stamp Book; and blew the dust off some archival Longbox Graveyard blog posts celebrating and reviewing classic horror comics of the past.
I had a blast, but … alas, like Brigadoon or dread R’lyeh, it is time for Longbox Graveyard to once again sink into the dreamless realm of indefinite hiatus. Perhaps Longbox Graveyard will return again, when you least expect it, but for now, throw some dirt on the coffin.
But before I go, a thank you or two.
First up, big thanks to Billy King. Billy and I go way back — we first worked together on Darkwatch, and we’ve been colleagues and pals at a number of video game companies since. Billy and I have a long-standing work tradition of “The Treehouse,” where we read comics over lunch together. Often, it’s the only thing that’s kept me sane through some pretty dysfunctional companies. Billy’s always been a great supporter of Longbox Graveyard, and this month he really outdid himself by offering up all the banners and supporting graphics for Halloween Month, including those groovy Marvel Value Stamp horror stills.
Here’s one I didn’t get to use …
And here’s another!
(And a Longbox Graveyard No-Prize goes to the first reader who can correctly identify the film from that last image).
Anyway, there certainly wouldn’t have been any Longbox Graveyard revival if Billy hadn’t cheerfully and selflessly leaped in to support my blogging efforts. Thanks, Billy … and I might even take you up on your longstanding offer to redesign this funky site and migrate Longbox Graveyard over to SquareSpace someday!
Next, and just as importantly, I want to thank the many Longbox Graveyard readers who supported the blog with their views and comments all through the month of October. It was gratifying and enormously humbling to see so many old friends swarm out of the cyber-woodwork to comment on Longbox Graveyard, both here and on Twitter. Some of you guys have been with me for nearly a decade, now, and that’s just amazing. Community is the feature I most value about Longbox Graveyard and it has been ghoulish good Halloween fun engaging with you all these past thirty-one (thirty-two?) days. It has come and gone all too quickly, but that is also what makes it sweet.
As this day winds toward a close, I hope you are all getting ready for parties, or a night in alone watching monster movies, or getting your kids into costume or getting the house ready for trick-or-treaters. Whatever your holiday tradition, I hope it is appropriately scary and fun. I will be on the loose in a gorilla suit this evening, and no, there will be no pictures.
(But because I can’t imagine when else I’d use it, here’s a video of me fighting Godzilla at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con)
I will leave you with an article I’ve printed here before, though it actually dates to before the birth of Longbox Graveyard. It is an obituary for another pivotal figure from my youth, who featured prominently in the summer of 1974, the self-same year I first got into comics, and the year I scissored up all those books for Marvel Value Stamps. I am a comics kid, to be sure, but I am also a horror movie kid, and it has been a particular joy bringing those two obsessions together with a month of monster goodness at Longbox Graveyard.
As the clock strikes midnight for Longbox Graveyard, join me in remembering the late, great, Forrest J. Ackerman …
Originally published December 5, 2008
Sad word comes today that Forrest Ackerman has died. He was 92. Ain’t It Cool News had noted several days ago that Forry was in poor health, so this doesn’t come as sudden news, but it is still a sad day for Sci-Fi fans everywhere.
Forry was a life-long science fiction fan, credited with coining the term “Sci-Fi.” He was editor of the greatest magazine of all time, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and the keeper of a renown collection of genre memorabilia.
The last line of his (no longer online) obit at Sci-Fi Wire read,
Ackerman, who had no children, was preceded in death by his wife, Wendayne.
And here I think the obit gets things wrong.
Forry had lots of children. I’m one of them, but far from the most distinguished. Forry was father to much of the popular culture of the last half-century. If you could see Forry’s guestbook I’m sure it would read like a Who’s Who of the great imaginative minds of our time — Ray Bradbury, Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Peter Jackson and more will likely pop up on the web in the coming days and weeks with stories of how this kind and generous man touched their lives in some pivotal way.
I have a story of my own.
In 1974 I was twelve years old and living in Hollywood. I had been inculcated into the tribe of Famous Monsters by a school friend. I had a vague idea that Forry lived in the neighborhood, so one lazy day I took down the phone book and looked him up. Sure enough, there was Forry’s number. Somehow I summoned the courage to make the call.
A voice answered on the other end, and I started to stammer something, before I realized that I was listening to a tape recording. This was the first time I had ever encountered an answering machine (remember, this was thirty-four years ago). The message had something to do with a rocket countdown, telling me to leave a message … the voice counted down to zero, and the sound of a rocket leaving the launch pad filled my ear.
After the beep I resumed my stammering, now blubbering something about being a fan, and loving the magazine, and just wanting to say, “hi,” and then the phone picked up and Forry was there, saying, full of enthusiasm, “Hello young reader!”
Pretty much everything after that is a blur. To say I was thrilled is putting it too mildly. It was more like I wet my pants. I mean, here was a guy who’d been friends with Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff and Ray Harryhausen and he was talking to a kid like me on the phone. Amazing.
Back at school my geek pal cross-examined me, then went ballistic when I reported that Forry had said I was welcome to come up to the house sometime.
“You got invited to the Ackermansion??”
“Well, yeah, I guess. I think he was just being polite.”
“What did you say?”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You’re calling him back and we’re going!”
And so, when I got home, I swallowed hard and called again, and I’m sure Forry didn’t remember who I was (he got thousands of calls, through the years), but he said, sure, come on by.
When that Saturday rolled around, my mom drove my friend and I up into the Hollywood hills to tour the mansion. Forry was a gracious host, showing us what he could of the collection, apologizing that much of the display was still disorganized from the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. I remember the famous things, of course, the Dracula ring, the make-up masks of the master horror actors, the Metropolis robot, the Ymir and Mighty Joe Young. And I remember more books, magazines, and stills than I could hope to catalogue in a lifetime. Forry left us to wander while he worked on the magazine and took phone calls. When it was time to go, he happily granted my wish for an autograph (and it remains one of only three autographs that I’ve ever sought), thanked us for our interest in Famous Monsters, and sent us on our way.
Looking back, I recognize what an opportunity this could have been. Forry lived up the street from me, he was deeply into the things that I loved, he was a kind man who welcomed visitors into his home, he needed somebody to clean up and organize the collection … if I’d had the wisdom to offer up my help I might have forged a life-long friendship and met all sorts of interesting people, leading who-knows-where. But I was a shy little kid and as fate would have it, I wouldn’t talk to Forry again but once more in my life.
This would be at WorldCon in 2006. Forry was there, of course, being the founding father of fandom, and he was given an award at the Hugo presentation. He was frail but obviously delighted to be there, and he received warm applause from the crowd.
After the show broke up, there was a crush in front of the elevators in the Hilton lobby, and for some reason I walked around the elevator core looking for another way to get up to my room. Off to the side I saw Forry, in a wheelchair, with his aide close by but otherwise alone, and I thought — yep, now is the time. So I walked over, and shook his hand, and said:
“Mr. Ackerman, you won’t remember me, but when I was a kid I gave you a call and you invited me up to the Ackermansion. And I had a great, great day there. But the most important thing was that you took time to take an interest in me when I was just a little kid. That made a great impression on me — it showed me that no matter how important or busy a person might be, that they should always make time for kids, and it showed me that a grown man that I admired could make a living for himself dreaming dreams and being a part of imaginative things. Looking back, now, I can see what an influence you’ve been — thanks to your example I’ve gone on to do wonderful things in my life, writing comic books and making videogames, creating supernatural worlds and characters and stories, and I’m not sure I would have done any of those things if not for you. And to this day I remember the time you took for me, and whenever I get a call or a letter from a kid that wants to learn about videogames, I remember how you picked up the phone for me when I was twelve, and I arrange to take the time and show that kid the same courtesy and encouragement you gave to me. So thank you for that, and bless you.”
He held my hand the whole time (and I remember how old and frail that hand looked, the age spots that reminded me of my father, near the end), and he cocked his ear a bit, probably not catching every word, but his eyes were warm and his smile was genuine, and I could tell that he’d heard this story before, many times and from people far more important and accomplished than me, but I could also tell it was a story he never tired of hearing.
Then the elevator doors opened, and he was on his way. I knew I’d never see him or speak with him again, but I also felt a satisfying sense of closure — that I’d said everything that needed saying.
And now that he is gone, I can wish Uncle Forry farewell, and thank him one last time, on behalf of all the children he never had.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Wow! That went down to the wire! The compressed voting schedule of our tournament final made for an especially frantic contest, with Swamp Thing jumping out to an early lead, but Ghost Rider gradually reeling him in in the closing hours, thanks in no small part to friend-of-the-Longbox (and Ghost Rider fan) Sam King working Twitter overnight!
So impressed was I with Sam’s ballot-box stuffing that I left the polls open until this morning … but when I closed them just shy of 10:00 AM Pacific, Swamp Thing still took the win. By a single vote!
So there you have it. Swamp Thing triumphs (survives?) by the thinnest of margins, 51/49.
It is a fine time to celebrate Swamp Thing. Halloween is tomorrow, and the 27th of this month would have been the 71st birthday of the late, great, Bernie Wrightson. Go read a Swampy comic to celebrate! The indefatigable Mars Will Send No More showcases a bunch for you if you don’t have an original or reprint close to hand.
Thanks to everyone who voted in the tournament, weighed in through comments, and stumped for their candidates on Twitter. In the end, the favorite won … but we had some twists along the way, and you couldn’t have had a more thrilling final. I don’t know about you, but in the midst of a news cycle more terrifying than any Halloween horror, I appreciated the chance to get worked up about goofy comic book monsters a couple times every week. You guys are the best.
All hail Swamp Thing!
(And Ghost Rider, and Hellboy, and …)
The Final Bracket:
TOMORROW: Happy Halloween!