Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Born in Normal, Illinois, this self-proclaimed photographer was anything but. Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s day job was as an optician, but his off-time was spent in pursuit of the perfect shot that would capture the connection of people in an image by depersonalizing them.

And how did Meatyard accomplish this? By having his subjects wear masks. But not just any mask – a Topstone mask! That's right, Meatyard created dozens of images with his subjects wearing Topstone and other Halloween rubber masks available at the time. To say that his photographs are visually arresting is a gross understatement!

After learning of Meatyard from the Ray Castile's last "Tomb of the Topstones" vlog, I did some digging and was astounded by what I found.

Following is an article from the Smithsonian website from 2011 that provides further information about Ralph Eugene Meatyard and his masks.

Ralph Eugene Meatyard: The Man Behind the Masks
The “dedicated amateur” photographer had a strange way of getting his subjects to reveal themselves
By David Zax
Smithsonian Magazine | November 2011

One day in 1958 or ’59, Ralph Eugene Meatyard walked into a Woolworths store in Lexington, Kentucky. An optician by trade, Meatyard was also a photographer—a “dedicated amateur,” he called himself—and he kept an eye out for props. He might drop by an antiques store to buy eerie dolls or emerge from a hobby shop with a jar of snakes or mice cured in formalin. In Woolworths, he came upon a set of masks whose features suggested a marriage of Picasso and a jack-o’-lantern.

“He immediately liked their properties,” recalls his son Christopher, who was with him at the time. Meatyard père bought a few dozen. “They were latex and had a very unique odor,” says Christopher, now 56. “In the summer they could be hot and humid.”

Over the next 13 years, Meatyard persuaded a procession of family and friends to don one of the Woolworths masks and pose in front of his camera. The resulting photographs became the best known of the pictures he left behind when he died of cancer in 1972, at age 46. That work, says the photographer Emmet Gowin, who befriended Meatyard in the 1970s, is “unlike anyone else’s in this world.”

“He picked the environment first,” Christopher says of his father’s method. “Then he’d look at the particular light in that moment in that place, and start composing scenes using the camera.” With the shot composed, he would then populate it, telling his subjects where to place themselves, which way to face, whether to move or stand still.

For the 1962 portrait on the preceding page, Meatyard chose an abandoned minor-league ballpark and arranged his wife and their three children in the bleachers. (Christopher is at left; his brother, Michael, is in the middle; his sister, Melissa, at the bottom; and their mother, Madelyn, is seated top right.) The title he gave the image—Romance (N.) From Ambrose Bierce #3—provides only the broadest hint of what he was up to: In his Devil’s Dictionary, Bierce had defined “romance” as “fiction that owes no allegiance to the God of Things as they are.”

But still, why masks? Well, “the idea of a person, a photograph, say, of a young girl with a title ‘Rose Taylor’ or the title ‘Rose’ or no title at all becomes an entirely different thing,” Meatyard once said. “ ‘Rose Taylor’ is a specific person, whether you know her nor not. ‘Rose’ is more generalized and could be one of many Roses—many people. No title, it could be anybody.” And in the same way, a mask “serves as non-personalizing a person.”

And why would someone want to do that? In an essay on Meatyard’s work, the critic James Rhem quotes one of his sitters, Mary Browning Johnson: “He said he felt like everyone was connected, and when you use the mask, you take away the differences.”

Gowin, who posed for a Meatyard portrait, recalls thinking that wearing a mask would surely erase all sense of personhood. “But when I saw the pictures,” he says, “I realized that even though you have the mask, your body language completely gives you away. It’s as if you’re completely naked, completely revealed.”

Meatyard, whose surname is of English origin, was born in Normal, Illinois, in 1925. He served stateside in the Navy during World War II and briefly studied pre-dentistry before settling on a career as an optician. He plied that trade all his working life—9 to 5 on weekdays, 9 to noon on Saturdays—but photography became his ruling passion shortly after he purchased his first camera, in 1950, to photograph his newborn son, Michael. Four years later, Meatyard joined the Lexington Camera Club. Endlessly curious, he sought inspiration in philosophy, music and books—historical fiction, poetry, short stories and collections of Zen koans. Zen and jazz were enduring influences. “How many businessmen run Buddhist-style meditation groups over the lunch hour?” asks Gowin.

Despite his self-proclaimed status as an amateur, Meatyard soon became known in serious photography circles. In 1956, his work was exhibited beside that of Ansel Adams, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan and Edward Weston. Five years later, Beaumont Newhall, then director of the George Eastman House, listed him in Art in America as one of the “new talents” in American photography. In the late 1960s, he collaborated with the writer Wendell Berry on The Unforeseen Wilderness, a book about Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. In 1973, the New York Times called him a “backwoods oracle.”

His last major project was The Family Album of Lucybelle Crater, a series of portraits of his wife and a rotating cast of family and friends; it was published posthumously in 1974. The project’s title was inspired by the Flannery O’Connor story “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” in which a woman introduces both herself and her deaf-mute daughter as “Lucynell Crater.” In Meatyard’s book, everyone is masked, and everyone is identified as “Lucybelle Crater.” As Gowin says of his friend: “He was so many people all mixed up in one.”

The bookish Zen jazzmeister also served as president of the local PTA and the Little League and flipped burgers at the Fourth of July party. Meatyard “was a quiet, diffident, charming person on the surface,” says his friend the writer Guy Davenport. But that, he added, was “a known ruse of the American genius.”

David Zax, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York, is a frequent contributor to Smithsonian.


Monday, March 19, 2018


Vol. 1 No. 1
November 1968
Western Publishing Company (Gold Key)
Writer: Dick Wood
Pencils: Ted Galindo
Inks: Tom Gill
Cover: Photo cover
Cover Price: 15 cents

LAND OF THE GIANTS was yet another one of producer Irwin Allen's science fiction TV shows of the 60s. Inspired by 50s sci-fi movies like THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, and probably more closely, DR. CYCLOPS, LoTG didn't seem to catch on with viewers and only lasted for two seasons. Gold Key didn't let any of this stop them by capitalizing on the show with their adaptation of the ABC series.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


At the time it disappeared from magazine racks, FANGORIA was my favorite monster mag. It was a smart 'zine, but it didn't condescend with a high-brow affectation. It wasn't a "chummy" fan mag, either. FANGO just seemed to have the right combination of writing and coverage to slake the thirst of any slavering monster fan. It did me, anyway, and I was sad to see it go.

Well, a recent press release has announced that FANGO will again be in print in time for this Halloween. I can't hope that it will pick up where it left off, though. I'm sure there will be a new spin to the overall vibe, and it may be a good thing. I'm also guessing that since it will be published quarterly, that it will be perfect bound instead of saddle-stapled and have a slightly higher page count to justify a $15 to $16 cover price.

No matter how it serves up its "guts and gravy" this time, I'll be happy to see it back.

Michael Gingold, former Editor-In-Chief of FANGORIA.

Here's the full 411 from IndieWire.com:

After an unofficial two-and-a-half year hiatus from the publication world, beloved horror magazine “Fangoria” is returning to print. Texas-based entertainment company Cinestate has acquired all the assets and trademarks of the Fangoria brand, including the magazine, from The Brooklyn Company, and now intends to begin publishing again, just in time for Halloween. The magazine has also named Birth.Movies.Death. Editor-At-Large Phil Nobile Jr. as the outlet’s Editor-in-Chief, and has revealed a number of plans for further expansion into other areas of entertainment.

The last few years have been complicated ones for the publication, which has not published a full print edition since October 2015 and has been beset by employment changes that impacted even some of its most well-known writers. In June of 2016, long-time writer (and then-Editor-in-Chief) Michael Gingold was fired from the publication after 28 years of employment. Art director Bill Mohalley was also let go at the time. Managing Editor Ken Hanley was then named Editor-in-Chief, but he reportedly left the mag in February of 2017.

Yet, today’s announcement indicates that “Fangoria” is eager to get back into business with some of his biggest stars, as both Gingold and Tony Timpone (also a former editor of the mag) will return to pen new columns for the revived publication. The mag has also announced that it’s locked in “excited commitments from contributors,” including director S. Craig Zahler, plus writers (many of them also former Fango contributors) Ashlee Blackwell, Samuel Zimmerman, Grady Hendrix, Meredith Borders, Rebekah McKendry, and Preston Fassel.

“There needs to be a Fangoria,” said Nobile in an official statement. “The magazine was a constant presence in the genre since 1979 — and then one day it was gone. That felt, to us, tragically incorrect. Fango was, for multiple generations, a privileged window into the world of horror. It gave us access to filmmakers’ processes and secrets, opened our eyes to movies we might have otherwise missed, and nurtured a wave of talent that’s out there driving the genre today. I’m proud and excited to be part of the team that’s bringing this institution back.”

In a post on B.M.D., Nobile also added that the mag “will be reborn later this year as a deluxe quarterly edition, a collectible horror film journal featuring voices both new and familiar…It will present smart, fun, exclusive horror film coverage – all in time for the magazine’s 40th anniversary next year.”

A full staff is in place and operating from the Cinestate offices in Dallas, TX. Zack Parker, formerly of Shudder, joins Fangoria as the Director of Brand Management, along with Jessica Safavimehr as Associate Publisher and Ashley Detmering as Art Director. Nobile will be based out of New Jersey.

As part of the arrangement, Cinestate now “controls all material from over 300 issues of Fangoria Magazine, including articles, photos, and exclusive interviews, spanning the past 39 years. The contents of the now-infamous Fangoria storage unit in New York, a veritable treasure trove of horror history collected over decades by former staff, has arrived at the Cinestate offices to be sorted and cataloged.”

Added Cinestate CEO Dallas Sonnier, “We are fully committed to restoring faith in Fangoria with the horror fan community, so many of whom bought subscriptions, but never received their magazines. We have also been reaching out to previous Fangoria contributors to introduce ourselves and invite them back into the tent for future collaborations. This is a process, but we are confident in our ability to earn back trust and be good partners in a brand that personally means so much to so many awesome people.”

The Fangoria website has not published new material since the end of January, but its full archives are available here.

Per today’s press release, “Sonnier was able to complete the Fangoria asset acquisition and fuel growth in Cinestate by raising over $5 million of investment for his company. The primary investor in Cinestate is a member of a prominent Texas family that wishes to remain anonymous. As part of the deal, Cinestate also acquired the assets and trademarks to out-of-print publications ‘Starlog’ and ‘Gorezone.'”

Additionally, “Cinestate will further develop Fangoria into a brand for producing movies and podcasts, as well as publishing horror novels. Cinestate VP Amanda Presmyk will head up production on a slate of Fangoria-presented horror movies that Sonnier will bring to the table for Cinestate’s new label.”

Saturday, March 17, 2018


HELPFUL HINT: Before you run out and spend a ton of money on a corned beef brisket, consider these more economical alternatives!


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