Horror Mags of the Late 80’s
There have been many horror magazines throughout the years, going way back to 1958 with Famous Monsters of Filmland. As for me, the pinnacle days of collecting these horror mags was in the late 80’s, where a slew of these were on newsstands and in bookstores and for a kid that was just getting into horror films, this was a great time. Of course, the big one at that time was Fangoria, which also had many spin-off mags at that time. Other publications started to pour out to compete with the big dog. Some of them lasted a few years, others lasted a few issues. For me, the more horror magazines they had in stores the better.
I started my horror magazine collecting in 1988. A year before, I started to get into horror movies, watching them on TV and renting videos out, I was hooked on horror. I also stopped collecting comics in 1987, so in some way this filled the void. The first horror mag I bought was Fangoria. It was in the Fall of ’88, the October issue #78 with Pinhead from Hellraiser on the cover promoting Hellbound: Hellraiser II. My friend, Craig had bought his first Fango early that summer and he even had a special issue that was their popular poster edition. I remember looking at his magazines and I was thrilled that I discovered a new medium of the genre that I loved. Right after that, I bought my first Fango and the rest is history.
Back then Fangoria was the shit! The magazine debuted in 1979 and was a spin-off of sorts to the sci-fi mag, Starlog. It did however, have articles on sci-fi, fantasy and horror movies when it began, but towards the early 80’s, when horror was really hot, it was mainly just about horror movies. It delivered and filled up my horror cravings. Not only did it have articles on current films, but it also had articles on classic films going as far back to the 1950’s. So, Fango help me discover old gems and kept me up to date on what new horror was coming out. It also had tons of interviews with genre actors and directors. I would finally put a face with the name of many of the directors I was following at that time. It was a great resource, because the interviews with the filmmaker would talk about how they got started and their inspiration to making their films. For an inspiring filmmaker like myself at the time, this was very helpful.
My collecting was almost short-lived, because I was actually banned from buying any horror magazine at one time. My grandfather saw I started collecting these magazines and thought they were disgusting and didn’t want me reading them. He thought they would corrupt my mind and turn me into a serial killer or something. So, I couldn’t buy any horror mags anymore. This lasted about a month or two. I saw the latest issue of Fango and it had news on the death of Duane Jones, Ben from Night of the Living Dead. Being a huge NOTLD fan, I had to buy it and I did. This time I just kept all my horror magazines hidden like they were porn mags. After that, my collecting went into overdrive.
Fangoria wasn’t just the only mag I collected. When getting my first issue of Fango, I discovered an add for another horror magazine that Fangoria’s parent company Starlog was publishing. This magazine was called Gorezone. The magazine came out in 1988 and was kind of like a spin-off the way Fango was to Starlog back in 1979. I’ll always remember this add, because it had the cover of the premiere issue that had Leatherface on it from Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. I never got the first issue of the mag, I believe the back issue was always sold out. Gorezone was similar to Fango, but it had more articles dealing with special effects and of course, the gore in horror films. It also had at one time a horror short story section, which I actually enjoyed, but it didn’t last long. I started to collect Gorezone in late ’88 and stopped around ’93, I believe it ended its run around then. I liked the magazine, but thought it wasn’t as good as it’s counterpart.
1989 was a pivotal year for horror magazines. There were at least seven or so active magazines out at that time and most of them debuted in that year. Going into Walden’s Books and finding brand new horror mags was exciting and it showed that there was a wide variety to choose from. Since I was all ready collecting two magazines I couldn’t really afford collecting another one or two. The good thing was that there was two months out of the year, Fango didn’t put out an issue and GoreZone was every other month. So, on those off months I would buy a different horror mag and see if they were worth collecting over the other ones.
One of these new mags was called Slaughter House, which started in 1989. I collected a few of these that year and liked the magazine very much. It seemed to be a bit more edgier than Fangoria at times. Showing more pics of gore and even some nudity from the hot scream queens of that era. The magazine mainly wrote about current films and didn’t have that much retro in their pages, but it often talk about more independent horror than mainstream. The cover was even different from others because of the kind of paper they used. It was a glossy cover rather than the matte ones the others had. Nowadays, mostly every magazine, horror or not has a glossy cover. I guess it was something Slaughter House wanted to show that they were a more stylish magazine then the others, at least on the outside. I remember inside, lots of the pictures from some of the articles were in black and white, so most of the printing cost probably went into the cover. Unfortunately, Slaughter House only lasted a few issues and I believe never even lasted a whole year.
Another magazine debuted that same year, HorrorFan, which was kind of a generic version of Fango. They seemed to try to be a copy of Fangoria with the type of articles and columns they had. Nonetheless, the magazine was a good edition in the growing number of horror mags. I remember it had a lot of articles on retro horror of the 50’s and 60’s. It would often be a good mixture of new and old horror throughout the magazine. I had a few issues of HorrorFan as well and it lasted longer than Slaughter House. I believe it was around for less than two years.
Also, in 1989, Starlog put out a third horror magazine, Toxic Horror. Since there was some competition out there, Starlog felt they had to dominate the market by having three horror magazines. I bought the first issue of Toxic Horror and every single issue after that, which there were only three total I believe. Toxic Horror was the worst of the bunch. It was just a retread of what was in Fangoria or GoreZone. It was a terrible magazine that had a very short life.
Other magazines that were out during this time period were Deep Red and Midnight Marquee. A company out of Upstate New York called FantaCo, which also published many horror books and comics, started Deep Red. The magazine debuted in 1986 and often focused on European horror with likes of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Deep Red was never sold in stores where I lived, so I never got a chance to read it. I say an ad for it in a GoreZone a few times. Fangoria and GoreZone use to often advertise items from FantaCo. I sent away for one of their catalogs, which featured books and comics published from them, such as the novels to Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs and the Night of the Living Dead comics. They also sold horror movies, toys, models, trading cards, you name it and they had it.
Midnight Marquee, which started way back in 1963 under the name Gore Creatures, was also around during that time. Although in the late 80’s they were only doing an issue a year. Its heyday was back in the 60’s and 70’s and started to decline in the 80’s. Actually the magazine is still around and still only does an issue a year, even missing a few years in this decade. I have the 25th anniversary issue that came out in 1988 and published by FantaCo. I sent away for it years after it had come out. It was an actual book instead of a magazine and was a very good read. Not sure if all their other issues were books, but that would explain why they started doing issues once a year. Midnight Marquee mostly covered classic horror and was very Famous Monsters like.
Femme Fatales was a magazine all about scream queens. It came out after the peek of the horror mags in late 80’s and debuted in 1992. Around this time they weren’t many horror mags out, just Fango and GoreZone and that mag was on its last legs. I got the first issue of Femme Fatales, which featured a naked Brinke Stevens, which was a very memorable hot cover for their debut. The first issue had a who’s who of scream queens from Jaime Lee Curtis to Linnea Quigley. The magazine is still going strong today.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Famous Monsters of Filmland. Without that magazine they wouldn’t be a Fangoria or any other horror mag. I have to say I never collected Famous Monsters because they weren’t out during the time when I was collecting. They stopped publication in 1983 and then started back up again in 1993. Probably one of these days when I’m at a trade show, I’ll look for old back issues of FM and pick up a couple. Speaking of back issues, I use to order a few from the back catalog of Fangoria. Wanted to get #1, but it was always sold out, but I did get #2 and #3. I got a few back issues that had interviews or articles on my favorite directors or movies, like Herschell Gordon Lewis (an issue with a 1983 interview with the filmmaker) and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (an issue in early 1988 with an article about the 20th anniversary of the film).
Today, they are still many horror magazines around from Rue Morgue, Video Watchdog, Horrorhound, and many others. Fangoria is still kicking and just celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. I still collect the mag, but it’s not as good as use to be. In fact, the last time Fango was a great horror mag was 15 years ago. I did start collecting Horrorhound, which is pretty good. They focus on retro horror and hardly do any major articles on horror of today, which is good, because most of the horror of today completely sucks. Horrorhound has the vibe of a great classic magazine from the time when I first started collecting. I’m glad it’s around now and I’m also glad to have been a part of a time when horror magazines were at a huge boom in the late 1980’s.