Sunday, July 21, 2019

RIP Greg Shoemaker (1947-2019)

I'm very sorry to learn of the passing, two days ago, of Greg Shoemaker - a fellow Ohioan and, for 17 years and forever more by reputation, the editor-publisher of THE JAPANESE FANTASY FILM JOURNAL. Launched in 1968 with an issue devoted to Ishiro Honda's GODZILLA (1954), it was the first English language magazine to seriously document the fantasy films of Toho, Daiei, and other Japanese studios. It also had an initial print-run of only 25 copies, which I did not know when I read an enthusiastic mention in the pages of CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN. It was the first horror-related fanzine I ever sent away for and received in the mail.

I was surprised to find inside the envelope a hand-written letter of apology from Greg, informing me that #1 had sold out (I imagined a warehouse suddenly emptied of boxes by popular demand!) and that he was sending me the latest issue in its stead. It was JFFJ #4, featuring the second half of their FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD coverage. It was printed on white paper, mimeographed with a photo-offset cover. I was initially disappointed (you try reading the second half of an article and imagining what came before!) but, in the days and weeks that followed, I devoured that issue again and again. 

I was one who preferred to exchange my money for items acquired on the spot, so for years, JFFJ #4 was the only issue I would ever see. I've been able to collect the last several issues, when the once-ditto-pressed, hand-stapled mailing had evolved into a handsome offset publication, well-written and -illustrated with a reported circulation of 1,000. It ceased publication in 1985, and I sorely wish I'd supported it all along.

It is hard to express what its example meant to me: it was the first time I'd seen Japanese fantasy films written about without derision, and it also presented me with a very early pre-CINEFANTASTIQUE glimpse of what might be possible to do with my own life. I wish the issues missing from my collection were easier to come by. Individual copies occasionally turn up on eBay with starting bids that are both so much higher than they should be, yet indicative of how cherished they are by the kogunosenti.

(c) 2019 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.