Halloween Treats: FANGORIA Flashback

Recently my LCS (local comicbook store) had something interesting tucked away at the end of its new releases rack. A handful of vintage, shrink-wrapped FANGORIA magazines, from their first few years of publication (a time before I had even heard of the magazine, let alone was old enough to buy them)!

Few people outside of its target audience are familiar with Fangoria magazine. But for horror-movie heads in the 80s and 90s, Fangoria was sacred text. In that pre-internet era, it was the ONLY source of horror movie news, special effects features and behind-the-scenes info and interviews.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t always meant to be that way. Originally conceived of as FANTASTICA, it was intended to be a companion to Sci-Fi mag STARLOG, but focusing more on fantasy, freaks and creatures. A legal wrangle prompted the last-minute name change to FANGORIA and cover star Godzilla helped launch issue #1. One year and six issues later, Fangoria still hadn’t caught on, and was losing money with each publication. A creative shift came next that ramped-up the focus on horror (as those were the features that were proving most popular with readers) and that’s when things started to click. And Fango never looked back.

It surged in popularity through the 80s and 90s, and, quite amazingly for such a niche magazine, it managed to survive and thrive in the post-internet era. The Fango empire grew to include such offshoots as: a multi-city series of horror movie conventions (Weekend of Horrors/Trinity of Terrors), an annual horror awards ceremony (the Chainsaw Awards) and a film production/distribution company, (Fangoria Films). Unfortunately, not all good things can last forever and Fango ceased its regular print production in 2015. But the Fango spirit still lives on (mainly through its still-active website Fangoria.com).

Now, back to my back issue discovery. I picked up a trio of these flashback fright mags, and later noticed  they were issues #2, #12, and #22 – each published about a year and a half apart – and noted that taken together, they provide nice little snapshots of how Fangoria found its footing during its early years on the cusp of the modern horror film boom. So, in honour of all the Halloweens and other times of the year that Fangoria provided heaping helpings of horror, join me as I take a look back at the early years.

Issue #2, October 1979

  • Cover – Evidence of Fangoria’s non-horror roots abound, from the tagline “Monsters, Aliens and Bizarre Creatures” to the Doctor Who pull-out poster, to a feature on the fantasy art of Carl Lundgren.
  • New releases – Creature feature Prophecy and the sci-fi tinged Phantasm check off the current horror boxes for this ish.
  • Nostalgia alert – Fango didn’t just cover contemporary movies. In fact a large portion of its page count in the early years came from nostalgia features, as this issue exemplifies. In addition to the War of the Worlds piece featured on the cover, this issue also featured deep dives into ’30s classics Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. 
  • Shape of things to come – In the Postal Zone letters column an editorial reply to a fan confirmed that “Horror will continue as our main concern”
  • Shape of things not to come – Elsewhere in the Postal Zone, Fango confirms that the next JAWS sequel will be titled National Lampoon’s JAWS III, People: 0 and is to be co-produced by the teams behind Animal House and the JAWS films. Obviously that sequel never came to fruition and instead, 4 years later, we got JAWS 3-D.
  • Flashback fun –  Upcoming projects mentioned include blurbs about John Landis’ , American Werewolf in London and acclaimed “young director” John Carpenter’s The Fog, the follow-up to his mega-hit Halloween.

Issue #12, April 1981

  • Knightriders (George Romero’s knights-on-motorcycles flick), Clash of the Titans and a profile of a Warner Bros. animator prove that there’s still a mixed bag of genres being covered.
  • Nostalgia alert – A Roger Corman interview and a look back at the gimmick films of William Castle
  • New releases – Friday the 13th Part II gets the horror spotlight here, with other contemporary fright features spotlighting the Michael Caine thriller The Hand and an interview with director Tobe Hooper, fresh off The Funhouse.
  • Flashback fun – Director Steve Miner on his directorial debut, Friday the 13th Part II: “…even if it were a huge bomb, which I know it won’t be…” (an obviously true prediction, but doubtful that even the confident Miner would have predicted that his sequel would be the first of a franchise that would eventually include 9 sequels, a cross-over and a reboot)
  • Now filming – Announced as “currently filming” is a little film based on a Phillip Dick novel called Blade Runner.

Issue #22, October 1982

  • Cover – Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Friday the 13th Part IIICreepshow – by virtue of the cover alone, you can see that Fango has now pretty much embraced the horror-heavy focus that would remain for the rest of its run.
  • Still room for more – The non-horror spotlight shines it diminishing light on  The Beastmaster and Pink Floyd’s The Wall
  • The hostess with the mostest! – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark gets an “introduction” article, profiling the television host of the then Southern Cal-broadcast-only Movie Macabre.
  • Paging Dr. Loomis – The push behind Halloween III is quite amazing, everyone is all gung-ho on this non-Michael Myers non-sequel as being the start of turning the Halloween movies into an anthology franchise (and we all know how that turned out – HIII flopped, angered fans and caused the series to go dormant for 6 years while Jason and Freddy dominated the slasher scene, until they finally dusted off Michael’s white mask and let him loose in Haddonfield once again)
  • Silver Shamrocks – But still, being able to order the masks that are central to the plot of Halloween III, was a pretty sweet marketing tie-in (obviously aimed at collectors, but I wonder if any parents actually shelled out the dough to get some of these for their kids– especially given what happens in the movies to kids who wear the masks….)

And that’s about it for this FANGORIA Flashback! So, I guess all that’s left to say is…“ ‘Fangs’ for the memories!” (ouch. Sorry.)

Happy Halloween!


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