Marvel’s First Monster Magazine is All Fun & Games
Monsters to Laugh With #1 (Non-Pariel Publishing, 1964)
In the early 1960’s, Marvel Comics was on a role. Their unique approach to super heroes that readers could personally relate to was taking the world by storm. But the Marvel Bullpen was ever alert to trends in pop culture and wanted in on the classic monster wave that was sweeping it’s target audience in the U.S. Never afraid to copy success, Stan Lee and crew blended the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine format with the ever-popular monster joke wax packs like Topps’ You’ll Die Laughing trading cards to launch Monsters to Laugh With magazine in 1964.
The concept behind the magazine was hardly high-concept: take a selection of black and white stills from famous Hollywood monster movies and add humorous captions/speech balloons. That’s it. The magazine featured stills from dozens of different films, including most of Universal’s stable of horror titles (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, etc), as well as images from various Godzilla and King Kong movies and even some science-fiction films. Monsters to Laugh With cost 25¢ and ran around 36 pages.
Marvel’s Editor and head writer Stan Lee received the only writing credit, and even though the gags do display his corny sense of humour it’s likely the captions were the result of a group effort by Marvel bullpen. The magazine wasn’t officially a Marvel title, as it was instead released by one of publisher Martin Goodman’s other imprints, Non-Pariel Publishing Corp, for no historically clear reason other than the fact that all publishers had lost and lots of companies that published under back in the day.
(Back Cover – Issue One)
With issue #4 the comic’s title was changed to Monsters Unlimited and Stan Lee got a cover credit. Apart from that it was business as usual.
Monsters Unlimited was cancelled after issue #7 but the photo still/corny joke format would be revived in the early 1970s with Monster Madness magazine which we will cover in our next article.
This magazine is under the radar for everyone but the most serious of monster magazine collectors. Given its simple picture/joke caption format, it isn’t essential reading (most of the jokes are really bad) but it does capture a certain innocence of the mid-60s monster boom along with the pun-filled writing style of Stan Lee et al. Reader copies of every issue are easy to find in the $10 range and high-grade copies have steadily appreciated over the years but aren’t unreasonable. Current listings on eBay for VF and higher copies are in the $25-50 range.
Monsters to Laugh With / Monsters Unlimited was not the finest monster magazine to be published in the mid-60s by any stretch and better work was yet to come from Marvel in the 1970s, but I recommend this title for its simple fun. Monsters and kid-friendly humor was everywhere in the mid-60s and Marvel contributed nicely with this first effort.