Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Say It Ain’t So, Fango!

So, like the rest of our plastic surgery-obsessed culture, Fangoria magazine has apparently decided to give itself a facelift. Seemingly gone is the iconic 35mm film strip image running along the left-hand border – complete with near-satirical captions – replaced by one center image flanked on either side by generic blurbs about what’s inside the magazine. It’s like someone hit the snooze button on the magazine’s cover design. Visually, it’s boring and the design does nothing to set it apart from its competitors.

Now, in the interest of disclosure, I have to admit my bias in considering the new cover. Like many horror fans in their mid-life years, I grew up with
Fangoria. I have vivid memories of the anticipation of the bike ride over to the local comic book store – snowy afternoons and summer mornings alike – hoping beyond hope that the latest issue had arrived. I remember trying to guess which film from the previous issue’s “Things To Come" would warrant the coveted central cover, and which films would earn a place in the filmstrip. I remember the joy over arriving at the comic store to find the magazine stacked a dozen deep on the shelf and the disappointment when I didn’t. I remember the build-up during the bike ride home, simultaneously torturing myself with the delayed perusal and willing my feet to pedal faster with the expectancy of that glorious feeling once I allowed myself to fully delve in. I remember how I savored each and every full-color shot of Tom Savini’s latest gore effect, how I gazed in awe at the lavish four-page spread reverently bestowed upon the latest obscurity-destined Canadian slasher film. It would be no understatement to say that Fangoria shaped my love for horror, cultivating my particular tastes within the genre.

But one of the central aspects of this thirty-year love affair with
Fangoria has been its staunch refusal to change even when everything else around it did. Horror magazines came and went, trends in horror films were born, died, and were resurrected. Yet Fangoria has, in large part, been the one and only constant in the horror genre’s cyclical evolution, as reliable in its distinctive look as in its mission, focus, and content. The Fangoria cover has long been the proud bearer of the magazine’s unique brand, one it took great pains to create, nurture, and sustain for thirty years. The magazine’s cover spoke to that, telling the market and its competitors that it was a force to be reckoned with and that the loyalty of its readers could sustain the consistency of its product. Maybe it’s a sign of the times when a business seeks to redefine itself, and perhaps it should be no surprise that Fangoria appears to be doing just that.

But it’s damn sad. Sad because the magazine has bucked the trend for so long. Sad because the magazine has never needed to, its reputation as the premiere horror entertainment magazine remaining intact for three decades under the steady, guiding hand of longtime editor Tony Timpone and crew.

Tweak the cover to keep it fresh, but don’t change its essence. The new logo with its fang-slanted bottom tips, for example, is particularly effective because it builds on what preceded it; it doesn’t throw the baby out with the dishwater.

Maybe this is a test to gauge reader reaction, a temporary design nightmare from which we’ll all wake up to find ourselves safe and snug in our own beds. Let’s hope so because the
Fangoria cover spoke volumes for thirty years. Now, it’s a mere whisper of its former self.


Ryne said...

It's too bad I couldn't grow up with Fangoria like you describe. My grocery stores never carried the magazine, and the only time I found out about it was a few years ago when I saw it in Barnes and Noble.

Vince Liaguno said...

It was such a great era. Looking back, it's hard to believe that mags like Fangoria were the first source of breaking horror movie news in those pre-Internet dark ages!

Penh said...

Awww... I'm gonna miss those little film frames. I first encountered Fangoria at issue #8, with that awesome worm-dripping zombie head. I was instantly addicted, and after some intense negotiations with my horrified parents, I've been buying it at the newsstand since issue #26, which suddenly makes me feel horribly old.