In the 1970s, fanzines were in wide circulation among horror and science fiction fans, and American Godzilla fandom was no exception. While most Godzilla fans tend to think of The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal and Japanese Giants as the most popular fanzines of the era, there was another one that deserves attention. Richard Campbell edited and published The Godzilla Fan Letter, which later became the more in-depth Godzillamania, in the late ’70s, which is still fondly remembered by its readers and contributors to this day. It is also the subject of this January 2022 interview with Brett Homenick.
Brett Homenick: When and where were you born, and where did you grow up?
Richard Campbell: I was born in 1959 in Latrobe, PA.
BH: How did you discover Godzilla movies?
RC: I discovered Godzilla and other monster movies on WIIC’s Chiller Theatre in the 1960s. It was hosted by “Chilly Billy” Bill Cardille, who was in Night of the Living Dead (1968). The first Godzilla film I saw was King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962).
BH: How did you discover Godzilla fandom in the U.S.?
RC: The first monster magazine I found was Famous Monsters of Filmland #100 in 1973. I found out about Godzilla fandom through FM issues.
BH: What led to the creation of The Godzilla Fan Letter?
RC: My friend Wayne Smith and I liked monster movies and horror films and created our own Godzilla fan club in 1975. We were the only two members! But we had Godzilla pen pals. Around January of 1977, I put a free ad in a Famous Monsters announcing that I’d like to start a fan club/letter. I put in the ad that it cost $1.00 to join, but FM left that out. I also put to include a SASE, which they did print. I’m not kidding when I say I got about 2,000 letters! That’s because they thought it was free.
About half those letters included SASEs, so I only answered them, telling them it cost a dollar to join. I thought I’d get about 1,000 letters back, each including a buck. I had just turned 18 and was still in high school, so this seemed like a fortune to me. Sadly, about 900 people decided they didn’t like Godzilla if they had to pay a buck! So I only got about 100 responses. That’s how The Godzilla Fan Letter came into being.
BH: Around this time, what were your favorite kaiju movies?
RC: I liked them all, but Destroy All Monsters (1968) was my favorite. DAM was set in 1999, so the Godzilla films made after that — from 1969 to 1975 — were prequels, not sequels, to DAM.
BH: Did The Godzilla Fan Letter ultimately evolve into Godzillamania, or were they separate fanzines?
RC: I did five issues of TGFL but never made any money from them. I didn’t have free use of a printer like some others did. I had to pay a print shop. I just couldn’t keep on losing money, so I quit around May of 1977. At the start of 1978, I decided to bring TGFL back as Godzillamania, so, yes, it’s a continuation of TGFL. GM lost money as well, so I only did two issues of it. There was to be a final issue, about Gamera and Majin, but I just couldn’t afford to print it.
BH: How did you decide on these names?
RC: I don’t know why I called them TGFL or GM. As good as anything, I guess!
BH: Could you generally describe the process of how you edited and published the fanzine?
RC: I typed them up on an electric typewriter and just glued in photos.
BH: How long would it take to create a single issue?
RC: Not long — they were pretty easy to put together.
BH: Who were your key contributors?
RC: Contributors included Damon Foster, David Milner, Kevin Grays, Wayne Smith, several others. I wrote a lot myself.
BH: What were some of the standout articles?
RC: Damon did a great one about Japanese TV shows. David did “Milner’s Mind.” Wayne did a comic strip about space aliens landing on Monster Island. Kevin did a comic strip about Hedorah’s return.
BH: What was “Godzilla versus Nuklo”?
RC: “Godzilla versus Nuklo” was a short story I wrote that appeared in GM #7 and #8. It was about Godzilla fighting a monster that could keep exploding itself. I decided to write it after I gave up trying to write a novel called “Conlan Cross Demon Hunter.” That never would have been published even if I had finished it, as it ended with the hero having sex with the corpse of his girlfriend. No way anybody would have published that!
BH: What kind of relationship did you have with Japanese Fantasy Film Journal editor Greg Shoemaker around this time?
RC: I liked Greg, and the first fanzine I ever bought was a JFFJ issue.
BH: How about Brad Boyle, who was editor of Japanese Giants at the time?
RC: Brad was great. I was pen pals with Greg, Brad, and many others. I didn’t want to “copycat” JFFJ or JG, so I never asked Greg or Brad for any advice. We wrote to each other quite a lot. They were both very nice.
BH: What kind of contributions did you receive from Damon Foster, the future editor of Oriental Cinema?
RC: Damon did the article in GM #8 about Japanese TV superheroes. He’s a really nice guy. He is very nice and a true expert on Godzilla.
BH: Who were your Japanese sources of information, and how did you develop them?
RC: I had a pen pal who lived in Japan, and he gave me some information.
BH: I understand that you may have been the first person to report on the plot details of Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) in the U.S. What could you tell us about that?
RC: He’s the guy who told me the plot of Terror of Mechagodzilla. Brad printed it in Japanese Giants, and, yes, it was the first article about the film to appear in the U.S. I don’t remember the name of my Japanese pen pal, but I gave him credit in the JG piece.
BH: In Godzillamania #7, published in June 1978, a person named Naoki Higashiguchi was listed in the acknowledgements. Would he have been your Japanese pen pal?
RC: Yup, Naoki Higashiguchi was his name. I think he responded to the FM ad.
BH: Was there a contributor in particular whom you considered the best or most important for your fanzine?
RC: Probably Wayne Smith contributed the most with his comic strip because we went to school together, and he was my best friend since third grade. He lived here, so he wasn’t a pen pal. He died a couple of years ago. He posted his suicide letter on Facebook.
BH: How did the fanzine change over time?
RC: The main change was that TGFL issues were only four pages long, but the GM issues were more like 20 or 30 pages long.
BH: Through the fanzine, what would you say your greatest contribution to American fandom was?
RC: I think the Godzilla comic strip that Wayne Smith did might have been the first one ever done, at least in the U.S. Wayne died about two years ago. I miss him.
BH: Did you ever have any dealings with Toho at the time, positive or negative?
RC: Never had any communications with Toho.
BH: What kind of feedback did you receive?
RC: Most fans liked what I was trying to do. They understood I was new at this!
BH: At its peak, what was your circulation?
RC: I don’t remember exactly — maybe had 50 to 100 subscribers.
BH: How many issues did you produce?
RC: I printed up the Godzilla fan club card, then five issues of TGFL, then a one-shot fan letter called The Star Wars File, then two GM issues, so nine total. By the way, I lost my copy of The Star Wars File, so, if anyone has one, please send me a xerox copy of it. I’d like to see it again.
BH: Why did you cease publishing fanzines?
RC: Lack of money. I lost a lot on the two GM issues.
BH: Around what year did you stop?
RC: 1978 — April, I think.
BH: What would you like younger Godzilla fans to know about your fanzine?
RC: Young fans today missed out on the fun of reading fanzines that didn’t try to look like real magazines. The fanzines I did looked sloppy, had spelling errors, poor grammar — and that was done on purpose because that’s what fanzines were.
BH: Since your fanzine days, what have been your pursuits?
RC: I wrote TV episode guides in fanzines in the ’80s, like Fanta’s Zine, Inertia, and Media Sight. I created the idea for a book called The Bible on Film: A Checklist, 1897-1980, which I co-wrote the majority of. It was published by Scarecrow Press in 1981. I was the first of the Godzilla pen pals to have a book published. Today, I enjoy collecting books and discs. I like music, movies, TV.
BH: Have you kept up with Godzilla movies since then? If so, what are your thoughts on some of the more recent kaiju offerings, like Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and Shin Godzilla (2016)?
RC: Haven’t seen many of the new Godzilla movies. The last Japanese monster movie I have in my home video collection is Gamera Super Monster (1980).
Thanks for interviewing me. It’s been fun!