(Photos ala Quang Le)
With almost a year under my belt researching and developing the FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND / GALLIGANTUS project, I realized that I’m so immersed in the process that there are probably some people out there that don’t even know the backstory about the creature, where it originally came from, etc.. I thought I’d share some of the history of this two-headed beast and what I’ve learned about it’s origins over the last year.
Galligantus, as we know him, originally appeared on the cover of the 1968 Yearbook edition of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. This cover monster actually wasn’t named GALLIGANTUS until I named him for the purposes of this project (based on the fairy tales)…. It was quite literally “The Monster With No Name” as no title to the piece or notations were printed in the magazine or anywhere else. Forrest J. Ackerman needed a cover and asked legendary Ron Cobb to produce a monster aka “Make a Monster” for it, and out came the legendary two-headed beast. For reference, Ron Cobb worked as a production designer on CONAN THE BARBARIAN and as a concept designer on STAR WARS, ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, TOTAL RECALL, DARK STAR (and lots of others you’ve heard of before). I implore you to seek out any book by him, including COLORAMA which focuses on his film work, or any number of books that include his political cartoons.
Ron Cobb's painting was based off of the character from the fairy tale JACK THE GIANT KILLER which is the “sequel” to JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. (Yep, the magic beans one.) But, the painting is not concept art for the 1962 film as a lot of people (and myself) initially assumed. The cover art that Ron Cobb produced (published in 1968) was done well after the movie was released (1962). It’s also not a Ray Harryhausen creature, which is also a fair assumption considering the 1962 film version of JACK THE GIANT KILLER was jokingly referred to as THE 8TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, as they were literally trying to copy the movements and style of the popular Cyclops and other creatures from Harryhausen films.
I’ve read every magazine, interview or article I’ve been able to find related to the film, and I’ve devised a theory on how this cover came to be. A company called PROJECTS UNLIMITED did the special creature/ stop motion effects work on the 1962 film, including producing the GALLIGANTUA creature. Several two headed beasts were sketched, but only one was used in the film. Fast forward to 1967 or so, and PROJECTS UNLIMITED was closing up shop and decided to have an auction to make some of its money back by selling props from the shop. It was advertised for months in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and apparently the turnout and response to this “prop auction” was so huge that they were literally digging items out of the dumpster that they thought were worthless and selling them for big bucks.
With knowledge of Forrest Ackerman being a legendary collector and the fact that this auction was promoted in FAMOUS MONSTERS, it makes sense that some of the materials from the JACK THE GIANT KILLER production ended up in the ACKERMANSION (Forrest Ackerman's house). My theory is that Ron Cobb was at the Ackermansion when he was asked to create a cover and found an image from the auction in Forry's collection and was inspired by the unused designs/ two headed beast images as a basis for the cover art we all know and love today. Of course, this is just my theory on the subject based on the information I’ve found. I'd welcome anyone who might have more knowledge on the matter to contact me! But what happened to the original art?
Along with the FAMOUS MONSTERS project, I had other ideas for toys using different monsters…. One of them being TARMAN from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. When I emailed the creator of TARMAN, William Stout, to talk about doing a toy and other products, I sent him the GALLIGANTUS sculpt as an example of what I was wanting to do. He wrote back, “Looks great! I have the original!” and I thought “Sure. He has the magazine.” I was wrong. Bill wrote back with clarification, “I own the Cobb original. It’s on my hallway wall!”
Bill and Ron Cobb have a long history together and on Bill’s 50th Birthday, Ron presented him with the cover art as a gift with the inscription, “To Bill- From Long Ago- Ron Cobb” The piece is gorgeous and walking into Bill’s house and seeing it on the wall was surreal. When I visited Bill to see the artwork I taped our conversation, which you can listen to here. We talk about a lot of stuff: Jack Kirby, how he broke into movies, Return of the Living Dead, Moebius, Masters of the Universe, and he gives more background on his memory of how the painting came into existence plus some incredible stories about Ron Cobb and their time in Yugoslavia on CONAN: THE BARBARIAN.
I hope this helped shed some light on this creature and the people and events that shaped it!
*****A few notes about the William Stout interview…. There will be “audio issues” throughout including wind chimes, phones ringing, dishes being washed, coughing, cameras clicking, me saying “Ya know” a lot and a ton of other things one probably isn’t used to when listening to a podcast or other produced audio media. Please use these “audio issues” to enhance the listening experience. Try to picture yourself in Bill’s house at his dinner table just like we were. There is a 1:1 dinosaur head replica sitting behind us amongst a sea of other amazing original art by Ron Cobb, Frank Frazetta, Mike Mignola, etc. It was an honor to be taken on a tour and able to visit with Bill and I hope a fraction of the fun we had comes off in the photos/ interview. Enjoy!