Innovative US publisher of fantasy, sf and horror magazines.
James Warren (1931- ) studied at the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, and worked as an assistant advertising manager. Inspired by the example of Playboy entrepreneur Hugh Hefner (1926- ), he formed his own company, Jay Publishing, and produced After Hours (4 issues 1957), a cheesecake and fiction magazine. In #4 was a feature entitled "Scream-o-Scope is Here", made up of photographs of movie monsters with humorous captions by Forrest J Ackerman (1916- ). The remarkable popularity of this feature (JW received more than 300 fan letters) inspired Jay Publishing's next project, Fantastic Monsters of Filmland (1957), whose publication happened to coincide with the release to tv of 52 classic Horror Movies by Universal. Following the format of the tv show, in which the movies were interspersed with light comedy, the project was a great success and Ackerman and JW were able to get finance, from Kable News, to begin publishing a regular magazine of this type. Famous Monsters of Filmland had cover paintings depicting monster portraits by Albert Nutzell and later by Basil Gogos. A very important factor in the magazine's long success was JW's dogged insistence on maintaining a high quality of both picture and text.
In 1965, he began publishing Comic-strip magazines using the proven format popularized by The Mysterious Traveler and other such radio shows of the 1940s and 1950s: short horror tales introduced and rounded off by a "horror host". The first of these magazines was Creepy, which featured some remarkable full-colour covers by Frank Frazetta and internal b/w art by many leading comics artists. This was followed by the very similar Eerie later the same year, and by a short-lived horror war title, Blazing Combat. A long-running success was Vampirella (from 1969), followed in 1978 by the highly original adult sf magazine 1984 (renamed 1994 from Feb 1980). Other projects included The Rook (1979-1982) and The Goblin (1982), both capitalizing on popular features that first appeared in other WP titles.
In his continual search for quality features, JW approached European and Philippine comics creators, including José Ortiz, Luis Bermejo, Esteban Maroto, José Gonzalez (1943- ), Victor de la Fuente (1927- ), Alex Niño and Paul Gillon, and reprinted many high-quality European comics series. These proved too sophisticated for the average US comic-book reader. Despite some remarkable cover paintings by some of the world's finest fantasy artists (Manuel Sanjulian, Patrick Woodroffe, Ian Miller, etc.), sales figures were anyway low when agreement was reached with Harlan Ellison to publish an adaptation of "A Boy and his Dog" (1969). Ellison then withdrew his permission, so JW commissioned Niño to draw a rather similar tale written by Bill DuBay (as Alabaster Redzone) featuring a young woman and a dog-like mutant monster, and published it as Mondo Megillah (in 1984 #3 1978). Ellison went legal. At this time, sales were also being badly affected by the introduction of the new quality colour sf/fantasy comics magazines Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated.
WP ceased in 1983 and all its properties were sold. [DR/RT]