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Lee Lambert and the History of Don Post Studios [Part 2]

We’re back with more from Lee Lambert, author of The Illustrated History of Don Post Studios.

Tell me how the new deluxe edition of your book differs from the original. And tell me about that cool Frankenstein collectible cover.

Lee: The necessity for a second edition really arose out of something that had happened last August. As I was nearing completion of the writing of the book, the publisher had made the arrangements to have copies printed in both hardcover and softcover versions to appeal to different budgets.

We had also committed to have the book launch at Mask Fest, and in exchange the promoter of Mask Fest gave us some valuable assistance in promoting the book. Everything was on track until 5 weeks to the day before the launch of the book. That was when the printer contacted my publisher to say they underestimated the size of the book and they would not be able to print it.

We were left with three options:

  1. We could have split the book into two volumes, which would have doubled the cover price.
  2. We could have broken our agreement and cancelled Mask Fest, taken our time to find another printer, and launched the book elsewhere at a later date.
  3. We could have frantically scrambled to find an alternate printing source to make sure we could keep our commitment to Mask Fest.

Halloween 2 MasksWhile the second option would have made the most economic sense, my publisher and I discussed it at length and we both felt that honoring our commitment to Mask Fest was more important than profit, so we went with the third option and were able to find someone who could print the books for us. The downside was that we had to trim some content, we could only have the book done in softcover, they would only be able to have 50 copies for Mask Fest, and our cost per book was substantially higher which limited us to 500 copies.

Fortunately, nobody seemed to mind as the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The only criticisms we heard repeatedly were that people had wanted it in hardcover and that we sold out so quickly. Well now you know why.

The big question facing us in doing a second run of books was whether to reprint the first edition or do something different. Since the release of the first edition, a lot of people have come forward offering additional material if we chose to do a second edition. We were grateful for the support and wanted to expand the book with this new material, yet we were also cognizant of the fact that there were people who spent their hard earned money on the first edition and that they might feel slighted if we were to release what was essentially a better book a year later.  It wasn’t a decision we made lightly (or quickly), but we ultimately decided that we should release the best version of the book that we could produce. If that meant upsetting some of the customers who bought the first edition, it would be unfortunate and regrettable, but we were willing to accept that. The new edition has just over 100 additional pages of new photos, plus a number of mask photos were replaced with photos of better copies.

Don Post Original CoverAs I had said earlier, to me the Glenn Strange Frankenstein mask sculpted by Pat Newman is the one mask that’s most representative of Don Post Studios during the golden age. That’s why I wanted it on the cover of my book. I had thought of a painting and I knew if I did, I’d want to have it done by Daniel Horne. To me, he’s the best classic monster artist out there and I knew he would be able to give it the feel of an old Famous Monsters cover. I figured there’s no way I’d be able to afford to hire him to paint the cover, so I automatically set out upon Plan B, which was to track down a good blank pull from the mask’s master mold and have it custom finished to match the mask that was pictured in the 1966 Calendar. I got lucky and was able to find a master mold blank. These copies are larger and have crisper details than the recast copies you see floating around the hobby.

I sent it out to my good friend Pete Infelise who spent a lot of time matching the color just right and then spent two weeks with a detail brush matching the wrinkles to the calendar copy. Once he finished the paint, the mask was sent to Dante Renta for the hair. The finished piece was absolutely stunning and I had planned to photograph it for the cover. Fate intervened when I ran into Daniel Horne at Monsterpalooza shortly after and he asked me how the work on the book was coming. We got to talking about the book and how I had originally thought he would be the perfect person to do the cover and I took a chance and asked him if it was something he would be interested in doing and, if so, would I be able to afford it. Despite being such a renowned artist, he is such a nice man and very down to earth. He was genuinely flattered that I wanted to involve him and he offered to paint the cover at an extremely generous price. I jumped at the opportunity and you’ve seen the result. The books looks as good as it does solely because Daniel Horne is an incredibly nice human being. That’s all I can really say about the original cover.

Don Post Illustrated BookWhen my publisher and I originally met to discuss different options for marketing the book, one of the things we had discussed was having a deluxe edition of the book coming in a box with a bas relief design in latex. As much as we loved the idea, designing and producing boxes for them really was impractical and costly so we dropped it. Fast forward to our discussions regarding the second edition, and we decided we really wanted to do something neat for a limited number of special edition copies. That was when we came back to the idea of a latex slipcase for the book. After discussing various artists that we could commission to produce them, I suggested a friend named Greg Duffy. Greg, along with his wife Jennifer, run their own mask company called Creature Revenge Studios and they have a very talented staff. We began discussing ideas for the latex slipcover design and Greg sketched them out for us. Initially, we had planned to use the design of the Tor Johnson mask for the slipcover because it was Don Post Studios’ best selling mask of all time. After a number of Tor designs that frankly looked excellent, my publisher had the suggestion to try doing a design using the Glenn Strange Frankenstein from the original cover painting. Greg went back to the drawing board and the design he came back with just blew us away. Needless to say, that’s the design we went with.

The new edition is going to be released at Don-Con. I’ve been to Monsterpalooza, but Don-Con is new to me.

Lee: When we launched at Mask Fest, it couldn’t have been a better experience. Eric Austin, the promoter, was fantastic to deal with and he gave us everything we could have hoped for. Despite that, the book launch was still a very small part of the event. After we had decided to do the second edition, the next question was how to launch it. We discussed a number of different options, and it always came back to the fact that the book launch would be a small part of whatever show we attended and it could easily get lost in the shuffle. The only way to keep the book launch front and center was if we had our own event around it. We started out with the idea of a book signing with some of our friends displaying their masks. From there, the idea grew into a weekend celebration of DPS. We got the support of the Post family and started planning some events to make it fun and nostalgic for everyone. An amusing bit of trivia is the origin of the name Don Con. When we were brainstorming on names for the event, the frontrunner was Don Post Jr.’s suggestion of Post Apocalypse until I decided to be a smartass and said “It doesn’t matter what we call it, I’m just calling it Don Con“. I meant it as nothing more than a joke, but it just seemed to resonate with the rest of the planning committee and they all wanted to go with it.

Talk to me about the writing experience. I know you weren’t sure you were the person to write this book. How do you feel about it now?

Don Post Studio ShelvesLee: You’re exactly right. I had never written a book before, nor did I have any aspirations to write one. As I’ve mentioned, the only reason I did it was I felt very strongly that it had to be written and nobody else was going to do it. I still say there are other people out there who probably could have done a better job of it but, for whatever reason, they didn’t want to do it.

For the most part, writing the book was a great experience and I just approached it as an opportunity to learn. There were some tough times along the way. For example, once I started letting other collectors know what I was working on  I decided to get some feedback by asking people what they would like to see in a DPS book and what they thought it should look like. Sure enough, asking 20 different people yielded 20 different answers and absolutely nobody described the book I had in mind. I was wise enough to know I would never please everybody, but I wanted to make as many people happy as possible. When nobody described a book that even remotely resembled what I had envisioned, it really sent me into a crisis of confidence. It got to the point where I was contemplating whether or not to just give up. It was actually Cathy Tharp who got me past that and she did so with one simple comment. She told me to just stop worrying about how the finished product would be received and just write the book I wanted. It sounds so simple, but it was exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it.

There were also a few times when I had some time off from my day job and really got caught up in the writing and would just work on the book for a good 20 hrs straight, then go to bed and lie there thinking about the book for a few hours before I’d have to give up on sleep and get back to work on it. After a solid week of that, I became quite entertaining to those around me.

When all was said and done, I still had no clue how the book would be received. Mask Fest was a 3-day event, starting Friday afternoon at 5 pm and going all day Saturday and Sunday. When we found out we would only have 50 copies to sell at the launch event at Mask Fest, I thought we would be able to sell them all. The big question for me was whether or not I would have to use my Saturday afternoon Q&A panel to try and sell the rest of the copies. I think I was probably the last person to know just how much anticipation there was for this book among mask collectors. I started to catch on when all 50 copies were sold within 20 minutes of the doors opening on Friday afternoon. The rest of the first run of 500 copies were sold out 3 months later and copies on Ebay were selling for double and even triple the cover price.

In hindsight, I would say that a book about Don Post Studios is one that everyone wanted to see written, but no-one wanted to write. Whether or not I was the right person to write the book is a question I’ll leave up to the readers. What I will say is I was the one who was willing to write it.


Want to get your own copy of The Illustrated History of Don Post Studios: Deluxe Hardcover Edition with Collector Latex Slipcase? First thing you need to do is get yourself to Burbank for Don-Con on November 7 & 8.

Can’t make it to Don-Con? You can order the deluxe version or the original cover version at the Blacksparrow website.

And remember, The Illustrated History of Don Post Studios makes a terrific Halloween (or other holiday) gift for the monster lover in your life.

Thanks again to Lee Lambert for the interview and photos and to Fong Sam at Blacksparrow for making it happen.

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