Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy 300th Issue Fangoria!

I have a confession to make. I’m old. How old you ask? Well, when I was getting into horror movies in the early 90’s (ancient history, I know) and trying to absorb as much info as I could about the vast landscape of terror that was out there, I didn’t have the luxury of the internet. There was no google, no youtube, no bloodydisgusting, dreadcentral, fearnet, or a horror blogosphere. To find out about what was coming out and what was on the horizon, there were very few resources available to my gore starved young mind. There was one tried and true name though. An iconic name. A name any horror fan worth their salt knows. A name that served the generation of horror freaks before me. A name I’ve had an on again off again relationship with for over 15 years now. A name that just turned 300 (and I thought I was old). That name is Fangoria.

I grew up in a strict Southern Baptist household, so horror movies were forbidden. Whenever my mom would go grocery shopping, or to a convenience store, hell, anywhere that sold magazines, I would stare at one in particular, Fangoria. If she was distracted, I’d flip through the pages. Aside from Jason and Freddy, who everyone growing up in the 80’s recognized, I had no idea who these monsters were, but their images alone carved themselves on my young mind. Fangoria was forbidden fruit, offering tantalizing knowledge I wasn’t supposed to have. When I began to find these movies on cable, I was hooked on horror. I wanted to know more about what was out there. There was only one place I knew of I could find out. You guessed it, Fangoria.

Beginning in March 1995, I never missed an issue. I would find my way to the newsstand to shopli…I mean buy every new issue. I would hungrily devour every morsel of knowledge and hide my growing collection under the bed like porn. From the letters page, through Dr. Cyclops’s reviews, The Terror Teletype, the features, all the way back to the ads for the bootleggers, I took it all in with wide eyed wonder. Through Fangoria I learned that there was a vast back catalog I needed to seek out, learned the names of the icons and at the time current masters, and realized that there must be plenty of horror freaks like me out there. Fangoria and I spent a lot of quality time together in those formative years, good times. Fangoria was my horror genre life line.

March 1995: The first issue I owned.

Then the late 90’s hit. Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, and their ilk took over the horror scene. I was not a fan of these films, yet they were all the rage, even in the pages of my beloved Fangoria. I saw the magazine begin to change. The pieces began to be more fluff pieces aimed at the audience for these fluff movies. It almost became Teen Beat for the horror crowd. I also started to notice a lot of non-horror like Jurassic Park, The X-Files, and even Batman being spotlighted, even featured on the cover. By 2000 this was not the magazine I knew any more. This, coupled with the fact that I had discovered the internet by this time, caused Fangoria and I to drift apart. I still cherished all those back issues, but they ended up on ebay during a particularly broke time in college. I sincerely wish I still had those, but then again, as far as “I was young, in college, and needed the money” regret stories, I guess it could be worse.

For the next few years I would pick up an issue now and then, if the cover interested me. Fangoria, in my mind, was too mainstream, and the mainstream horror coming out at that time sucked. I discovered Rue Morgue, and it quickly took over as my favorite horror mag. Fangoria was writing shining semi-propaganda for the anemic big budget studio output. But while they were verbally fellating the stars and director of whatever PG-13 teenybopper slasher or CGI crap-fest Hollywood had to offer that month, Rue Morgue was highlighting the classics and independents. Fangoria had Lord of the Rings on the cover. Rue Morgue had Pumpkinhead. It hurt me to say this, but my beloved Fango was passé. It was the mag I flipped through when I went to buy Horrorhound and Rue Morgue.

A few months ago, I heard that Fangoria had a new editor. It was none other than Chris Alexander, former editor of the mighty Rue Morgue. Should I give Fangoria another chance? After all, hadn’t they just had Twilight on the cover last month? That would have been the nail in any other coffin, but this wasn’t just any magazine, this was my old companion, and I wasn’t ready to give up on it quite yet. Sure enough, in the last few months, Fangoria has impressed me once again. The pieces are starting to have more substance, there are more and more retrospectives, less reliance on the Hollywood studio fare, the independent and foreign films are getting more coverage, and the magazine as a whole seems to have a new sense of vitality. Sure, there are still some problems (Gene Simmons on the cover? REALLY?), but this is much more like the Fangoria I remember from the good ol’ days. I, for one, am glad to see it. It’s like seeing your best friend from when you were a kid screw his life up royally, and then seeing that friend get it together.

I constantly hear people forecasting the death of print media. They say the internet has made magazines obsolete. While these days I do, in fact, get most of my horror news online, there’s still something special about turning those glossy pages. The screen will never take the place of the charm and viability of the printed word. I love my horror magazines. They say you always remember your first fondly, and Fangoria, in this case, was my first. The name itself conjures images of my youth, and as a long time reader every time I see or hear it referenced in a movie (Friday the 13th 3, Brainscan, Army of Darkness, The Simpsons, Seed of Chucky, etc) I feel like I’m part of a big horror genre inside joke. I’m sure there are many of you out there that feel the same way. So, as you reach the milestone of your 300th issue, I salute you Fangoria. Here’s to your rebirth, your withstanding the test of time, and your future looking brighter than ever. Your new issue once again occupies the highest place of honor in my house that a magazine can, the bathroom.

1 comment:

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