Saturday, January 23, 2010
While many Web sites have posted interviews with other Godzilla fans, no Web site has ever interviewed THE fan, the one and only Greg Shoemaker. The Godfather of Godzilla fandom, Mr. Shoemaker created the seminal Japanese Fantasy Film Journal in the late 1960s and continued publishing it into the 1980s, leaving a legacy of high-quality reviews and retrospectives from some of fandom's most knowledgeable writers.
Last fall, I contacted Mr. Shoemaker about doing an interview on JFFJ for my blog. He was happy to do it. However, Mr. Shoemaker's answers were so detailed and fascinating that I felt the entire interview should be showcased in G-FAN magazine. (Look for the entire interview in G-FAN #91, due out in the spring.) For now, here's a sampling of the interview. Enjoy!
Brett Homenick: How did you become a Godzilla fan?
Greg Shoemaker: I’d say I’m more an Eiji Tsuburaya fan. As a youth, viewing Battle in Outer Space in a theater on a large screen in 1960 was quite an experience! It blew my socks off. Never before had I encountered a movie so over-the-top with respect to visual effects and use of color. Tsuburaya and his technicians have to be thanked for persuading me to learn more about Japanese effects films and the personnel that worked on them, which ultimately led to discovering Kurosawa, Mifune, and so on.
BH: What led you to create The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal?
GS: My movie-going preferences as a youngster were fantasy and science fiction films, which included the works of George Pal, Ray Harryhausen, and Disney, among others. When nothing on the big screen intrigued me, to feed my interest in science fiction and fantasy films – and to a lesser extent the early horror films from Universal – I subscribed to quite a few fanzines (more often than not a fanzine was purchased a single copy at a time since the release schedule of fan-produced publications was inherently irregular), which included Photon, Gore Creatures, and FXRH, as well as prozines like Famous Monsters of Filmland and Castle of Frankenstein. I was a loner kid. Wasn’t much interested in sports and rather naive about things. So these magazines were important to me, offering an outlet for escape.
By 1968, I had the opportunity to watch a large selection of Toho genre films either through theatrical showings or television broadcasts, and I had made a judgment about them: I thought they were pretty cool. And I had come to the realization that whenever a Japanese tokusatsu film was previewed in TV Guide or reviewed in fanzines and prozines, negative adjectives usually littered the writer’s comments. And the films were never discussed in any detail. Coincidentally, I was envious of the editors of the fanzines I collected. An editor selected artwork, articles, and photos, expressed opinions in editorials, and manipulated these elements into a product to be shared with others, hoping the combined efforts of all who participated in the process would be appreciated. Being complimented for a job well done is a gratifying feeling, and possibly I was seeking the accolade, as well as being recognized as a unifying force behind a project. The Ed Wood syndrome, if you will. Situations in my home – which I won’t go into – and my lack of friends, probably explain some of this motivation. So with a cause under my arm and an egotistical drive to see my name in print, a determination arose to publish a fanzine devoted to the honest discussion of science fiction, fantasy, and horror films produced in Japan.
Naming the fanzine took little effort. Don’t know why. I jumbled a number of words around and settled on The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal. Combining the first letters — minus the article — resulted in, TADA!, JFFJ, a palindrome.
BH: Please describe the process of creating the first issue. In other words, how did you conduct research, how did you recruit contributors, what were your initial ideas, etc.?
GS: An article on Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was chosen to be the feature of issue #1. I wrote a filmbook of the movie and followed that with professional reviews of the film from books and magazines I owned. Lacking enough material on Japanese movies to fill the issue — there were no contributors on board — I fleshed out the eleven-page filmbook/review section with news of upcoming Japanese motion pictures I had obtained from Unijapan Film – a quarterly English-language magazine promoting Japanese motion pictures – and added editorial ramblings, my musings on rock music, and an article on my experience with 8mm moviemaking, with which I had been experimenting for several years. I must have thought myself some sort of cultural guru, but this material sprang from experiences that were important to me at the time.
The issue was a whopping 16 pages in length.
A junior in college in 1968, the year I began publishing JFFJ, I was drawn to psychedelia, which had been gradually insinuating itself into music and art since 1964 or 1965. The anti-Vietnam War effort also engaged me, and on several occasions I joined protesters on campus demonstrating against the war. There was a growing desire to challenge the status quo among some of the students at that time, and I decided to be a part of it. I wasn’t a radical, but the changes in politics, culture, and social mores taking place in that time colored some of the non-Japanese content of the fanzine’s first issue which I had written.
With little money at my disposal, I located the cheapest duplication method available, Ditto printing. The system used two-ply “spirit masters” or “Ditto masters.” The first sheet could be typed, drawn, or written upon. The second sheet was coated with a layer of wax that had been impregnated with one of a variety of colorants. The pressure of writing or typing on the top sheet transferred colored wax to its back side, producing a mirror image of the desired marks. (This acted like a reverse of carbon paper.) The two sheets were then separated, and the first sheet was fastened onto the drum of the (manual or electrical) machine, with the waxed side out. As the paper moved through the printer, the solvent would be spread across each sheet by an absorbent wick. When the solvent-impregnated paper came into contact with the waxed original, it would dissolve just enough of the pigmented wax to print the image onto the sheet as it went under the printing drum. This was a low volume method, as eventually the colorant would disappear to a point where copies were illegible. (I have to thank Wikipedia for the definition.)
I designed a tacky, black and white cover – I never claimed to be an artist – indicating a price tag of 25¢. The cover was printed by a cheap offset company. Onto one side of sheets of 8.5-inch by 11-inch, yellow paper, two publicity photos for Godzilla were also offset printed. The blank reverse allowed for the continuation of the remaining sentences of the Godzilla filmbook, which were reproduced by Ditto. The text was typed onto various color Ditto masters — using my two-finger method — and I drew amateurish illustrations and headings onto these same masters. It was an issue of many colors. Talk about psychedelic!
Twenty-five copies of JFFJ #1 were printed. The Ditto masters did not allow for additional legible pages to be replicated. Most of the copies, if not all, were submitted free to other fanzine editors. It was common practice at the time for an editor to publish reviews in his or her fanzine of fanzines received in the mail, and I was hoping mine would receive similar treatment.
That was the genesis of JFFJ #1. But the issue was unfocused, and my desire that the fanzine be a voice for the Japanese genre film failed to materialize because of insufficient planning and inexperience in publishing. I was in over my head, and it showed.
BH: How did you advertise the magazine?
GS: By using the method of obtaining free publicity for JFFJ as detailed in the previous answer and purchasing classified advertising in several prozines, the word was spread about JFFJ.
BH: One of your most notable contributors was Horacio Higuchi. Please talk about Mr. Higuchi, how you came in contact with him, and the sort of material he contributed to JFFJ.
GS: I believe Horacio’s initial contact with my fanzine was the review he submitted for Lake of Dracula which was published in issue #10. An intelligent and literate citizen of Brazil, Horacio attended a university there, studying ichthyology at the time of his first submission, if I remember correctly. Interestingly, his heritage was part Portuguese and part Japanese. Over a century ago, the Japanese began to immigrate to Brazil, and in that country resides the largest Japanese population outside of Japan.
Our correspondence lasted many years. But by the time JFFJ ceased publication, Horacio no longer responded to my letters. Yet later, he mailed me a copy of a magazine which had published an article he had written. In addition, the magazine had an article on an obscure Japanese film — we shared an interest in relatively unknown Japanese science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies. So, I believe, as his fascination for the obscure evolved, Horacio moved on to other genres, which may explain his eventual silence. This assumption is based upon his published article in the magazine he sent me which discusses Jose Mojica Marins – also known as Coffin Joe — a filmmaker of a series of outre horror movies filmed in Mexico.
Horacio visited me three times, twice staying overnight, once spending part of one day, only to be whisked away on a Greyhound bus on a cross-country tour to visit friends and correspondents. His visits were short but informative and stimulating.
In addition to the Lake of Dracula review, Horacio supplied a filmography of the Supergiant (a.k.a. Starman) films as well as Toei’s Man in the Moonlight Mask series for a follow-up to the Japanese superhero article I had written for JFFJ #11. He also contributed a review of Terror of Mechagodzilla for issue #13 and one for Mighty Peking Man for issue #14.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Haruo Nakajima replenishes a thirsty Jay Johnson at G-FEST 2008. Mr. Nakajima's daughter, Sonoe, looks on.
While Muscle Shoals had The Swampers, Mike Huckabee's Fox News program has Skinny Molly, whose guitarist/vocalist is none other than Jay Johnson, who has attended G-FEST and G-CON since 1995. This Saturday sees the national debut of Skinny Molly on the former Arkansas governor's talk show.
Sidelong Glances of a Pigeon Kicker does not endorse the views of Mike Huckabee or Fox News, but it does endorse Jay Johnson, who quite simply kicks ass.
Check out the band at http://www.skinnymollyrocks.com/.
More information comes from the band's press release, which is below. Congratulations, Jay!
Skinny Molly will be appearing on former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s show “Huckabee” on Fox News this Saturday, January 16, 2010 (8:00 p.m. EST and 7:00
p.m. CST). The band will be performing their new single “Mr. President.” The
song is the band’s musical commentary on the current political climate. It’s
available for download on Skinny Molly’s website www.skinnymollyrocks.com and
the song’s debut performance will actually be on the Presidential candidate’s
weekly nationally televised show. “Huckabee” is the number one cable news show
in the United States with a viewership averaging 1.7 million people.
Guitarist/Vocalist Jay Johnson (Blackfoot, Rossington Band) will be joining
Skinny Molly on “Huckabee” as well as the upcoming European Winter Tour which
begins on January 28, 2010 in Wales. The tour will take Skinny Molly through the
United Kingdom, Spain, Holland and Belgium and is sure to be one the band’s most
exciting tours yet. New original songs are planned, as are many more surprises.
Management has just informed us (!) that in order to coincide with the kick off of the 2010 European Winter Tour, our performance on "Huckabee" on Fox News will now air on January 30, 2010. To download the band's new single "Mr. President" go to www.skinnymollyrocks.com.
Saturday, January 2, 2010
Chris Scalf's striking cover for G-FAN #90.
G-FAN #90 has shipped, and (as its subscribers always know) is packed with information, enough to make you howl at the sun!
The year 2010 marks the 35th anniversary of Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), and G-FAN celebrates the occasion with a massive tribute to the last Godzilla film of the Showa series. This tribute includes:
An interview with star Tomoko Ai (who plays Katsura Mafune in TOMG) by totorom.
A full-length movie commentary by J.D. Lees.
Cast biographies written by August Ragone, Brett Homenick, and J.D. Lees.
Original comments offered by actors Tomoko Ai (separate from her interview), Goro Mutsumi, and Kenji Sahara about their thoughts on the film's 35th anniversary. SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano and screenwriter Yukiko Takayama offer extended commentary on their memories of the film, all courtesy of totorom.
Apart from the section on Terror of Mechagodzilla, the issue also features:
Daisuke Ishizuka's report on Gundam's unusual involvement at Kamiigusa Station.
Abel Alfonso's article on the new Ultraman movie, Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends.
A world-exclusive look at Koichi Kawakita's new Godzilla project for a series of video games. These photos appear nowhere else in the world ... except G-FAN. Thanks to Daisuke Ishizuka and Mr. Koichi Kawakita for such a wonderful exclusive!
Daisuke Ishizuka follows that up with a report on what the Godzilla suit from Godzilla: Final Wars is up to these days.
Kenji Sahara is interviewed by Brett Homenick about his appearances in the first and last Godzilla movies and everything in between.
Brett Homenick reports on The Green Slime's 40th anniversary reunion in L.A. this past November, featuring Robert Horton and Luciana Paluzzi.
Brett Homenick (busy guy!) interviews Joan van Ark, the star of the ever-popular The Last Dinosaur. The interview includes three photos from Ms. van Ark's personal collection, one of which was signed by Richard Boone himself!
J.D. Lees, Matt Frank, Frank Parr, and Tyler Sowles present Gfantis: Heart of the Beast, Part 3.
Toy dealer extraordinaire James Bond writes "The Rise of Godzilla Bandai." The article is followed by a comprehensive Bandai history and toy listing.
Brett Homenick interviews John Fasano, director of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight and (wouldn't you know) a G-FAN reader. The article features many exclusive photos from the set of Kamen Rider Dragon Knight.
Steve Agin returns and offers the latest news on all the toys coming from Japan.
All this and more! (That's right; I said 'more'!) To order, go to http://www.g-fan.com. While you're there, buy two copies! Get 'em while they last!