Basil Gogos Painted Monsters That Inspired the Greatest Living Filmmakers! Just Ask Steven Spielberg, Guillermo Del Toro, George Lucas, Peter Jackson and Other Household Names.
In 1958, a monster magazine intended to be a one-off hit the newsstands – and sold out! This specialty mag was Famous Monsters of Filmland, and would go on to become the longest published, and one of the most influential entertainment periodicals, ever! Throughout the 1960s, publisher James Warren and editor Forrest J Ackerman’s FM did something no other magazine of the era had. It turned the spotlight from the stars in front of the camera to the artists behind the camera. The people who actually made the movie magic that captured the imagination of audiences. Basil Gogos’ vivid cover paintings became the freaky face of and “gateway” to the magazine. A magazine that was a vessel for the exciting, creative world kids dreamed of being a part of. Gogos created hallmarks of the “big bang,” that inspired legendary careers. A Basil Gogos FM cover painting is impossible to find…until now.
Basil Gogos’ (1929-2017) paintings brought black and white monsters to vivid, colorful life. Many kids of the 60s and 70s had only ever encountered these fascinating creatures in spotty images in books, newspapers, and the midnight movies we could barely stay awake to watch. Gogos captured the iconic characters our dreams and nightmares were made of. A Gogos Famous Monsters of Filmland cover on a newsstand drew us past the Time, Newsweek, Life, and even MAD magazines, to explore the pages behind the fearsome faces that captivated us. Steven Spielberg read FM, then wrapped his sisters in toilet paper to shoot his first “Mummy” movie. Through FM, Rick Baker realized it was the makeup artist, not the mad doctor, who created the monsters and gave up medical school to become a seven-time Oscar-winning FX artist. Guillermo Del Toro wrote a letter to FM’s editor, “Uncle Forry,” begging to be adopted. Add Stephen King, Gene Simmons, Tim Burton, John Landis, and on and on. Basil Gogos’ art was a graphic symbol in the creative awakening in so many artists.
At 16, Basil Gogos and his Greek family immigrated from Egypt to the U.S. From the start, Gogos knew he wanted to be a fine artist. As a youngster, he worked hard and informally studied art every chance he could. Gogos then attended the National School of Design, the Phoenix School of Design, and the School of Visual Arts. Eventually, Gogos found an influential mentor in American painter, illustrator, and muralist Frank J. Reilly while studying at the Art Students League of New York. After winning a competition sponsored by Pocket Books, Gogos began his professional career by painting the cover for a 1959 Western paperback novel called Pursuit. As most illustrators of the era, Basil Gogos was prolific, providing art for pulps and periodicals from War mags to Cheesecake rags. But it was his work with Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine that would elevate Gogos, affording him the freedom to express his unique, almost impressionistic style, while creating commercially successful work.
How much are Basil Gogos paintings worth? Browse the Basil Gogos Artist Page for past sale prices.
The magic of a Basil Gogos FM cover was in his stylish interpretation of the iconic monsters he painted. He imagined these otherworldly faces bathed in multiple colors from different light sources. This technique created an image and impact that transcended reality to reveal his subjects through a highly theatrical filter that couldn’t help but attract a viewer to look deeper. In bringing black and white characters to life, Gogos achieved more than just portraiture. He imbued familiar imagery with color that never was, celebrated the iconic monster makeups that were burned into our collective consciousness, but always maintained the essence and humanity of the actor beneath. In a panel I hosted for Basil Gogos at Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett’s “Fear FestEvil,” (San Francisco, 2014), Basil was all about color. He said it was his inspiration and point of departure on any painting he endeavored to create. Late in life, when illness prevented him from painting portraits, he continued to create his colorful backgrounds, right to the end.
Producer Kevin Burns was one of a handful of notable collectors of Basil Gogos cover art. Through Kevin’s close friendship with FM editor Forrest J Ackerman, he was able to kill two bats with one stake. Over the years he helped Uncle Forry when he most needed it, and in return, Forry sold or gifted Kevin some of the pieces he loved. Aside from being the foremost collector of The Munsters memorabilia, Kevin had quite a collection of Famous Monsters cover art. Among them are three Basil Gogos pieces. First, Elsa Lanchester as “The Bride of Frankenstein” from the cover of FM issue #17 (1962).
Second, Boris Karloff as the Ghoul from the cover of FM #110 (1974). Finally, a Kevin Burns commissioned piece, Fred Gwynne as Herman Munster, from the cover of FM #264 (2012).
Gogos cover paintings are near impossible to come by and the last thing a collector would part with before they themselves depart this earth. These paintings from the Burns collection are sure to cause fireworks in fandom.
I was fortunate to have known all the players in this story. I’m friends with FM publisher James Warren, was best pal with FM editor Forrest J Ackerman, knew Basil Gogos, and was close with the late, great, Kevin Burns. I found these fellows all shared a perpetual, youthful sense of wonder and spirit of generosity. All but Jim Warren have gone now. If they were all here today, they’d be good-naturedly bidding against each other for these Gogos gems. But, as they’re not, I’m confident they’d be satisfied in knowing these treasures are being made available to the people who will love them most. Folks who will preserve them and share them with new generations. Kevin Burns said many times that his collection only belonged to him temporarily. He believed we were merely custodians of these relics until the time came to pass them on to the next lucky caretaker. Being one of those kids of the 60s, impacted by FM and all of its contributors and ripples in our cultural pond, it’s been a profoundly moving experience revisiting these beautiful Gogos paintings while cataloging them. It is gratifying to know they’ll soon haunt new houses where they’ll continue to be celebrated and cherished.
Happy bidding, fiends!
– Joe Moe
Cataloger, Music and Entertainment
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