FANGORIA was first planned in 1978 under the name FANTASTICA, as a companion to the science fiction media magazine STARLOG. Just as STARLOG covered science fiction films for a primarily teenaged audience, FANTASTICA was intended to cover fantasy films for a similar readership. The publishers were anticipating a groundswell of interest in that genre owing to plans, first announced in 1978, to bring Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian to the screen. The CONAN film did not arrive until 1982—and before FANTASTICA was even launched, other factors intervened to change the magazine’s focus and direction.
The first issue was assembled under the editorship of “Joe Bonham,” a pseudonym (taken from the quadriplegic hero of Dalton Trumbo’s pacifist novel JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN) for Rolling Stone contributor and screenwriter Ed Naha and writer Ric Meyers. Shortly after the publishing trade press announced the coming launch of FANTASTICA, the publishers of a STARLOG competitor, Fantastic Films, brought suit on the basis of “unfair trade,” contending that its young audience would be confused by the magazine’s similar title.
The launch of the mag was delayed by several months as the court deliberated the issue. When, in early 1979, the decision was made in favor of the plaintiff, the publishers of FANTASTICA were without a usable name, and facing the pressing need to get the long-delayed issue to the printers. Some quick brainstorming resulted in the name FANGORIA—over the objections of Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin, who was hired as editor during the delay.
The first issue of FANGORIA was entirely designed around the original fantasy concept—and proved to be an abysmal failure, as were several issues that followed, all continuing with the same approach. By the time issue #4 was on the stand and #6 was in preparation, the publisher confided to Martin that the magazine was losing approximately $20,000 per issue, not an amount that the small company could sustain for much longer.
Two phenomena allowed Martin to reshape the magazine and bring it back from the abyss of debt. The first was the immensely positive reader response to an article in FANGORIA #1 that celebrated the craft of special makeup artist Tom Savini and his groundbreaking FX for DAWN OF THE DEAD. The second was the palpable stench of defeat that surrounded FANGORIA. With its demise all but certain, senior employees and the two owners of the publishing firm allowed the untried young editor to take the lead, reshaping the entire mag according to what he believed would work.
Issue #7, with a cover story on Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s THE SHINING, was the first issue of any national magazine to wholly concern itself with horror cinema as produced in the closing quarter of the 20th century, with no trace of daintiness about its subject matter. It also was the first issue of FANGORIA to achieve a profit. Subsequent issues would sharpen the focus, and by issue #12, the formula was well-set. Martin continued as editor through 1986, with co-editor David Everitt coming on board in the early 1980s, and in 1985 hosted the first of numerous FANGORIA Weekend of Horrors conventions, which were produced in various cities by Creation Entertainment and allowed fans to meet their heroes from the fright media world. After leaving FANGORIA, Martin worked with film director Frank Henenlotter on the screenplays for FRANKENHOOKER and BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY, and wrote the novelization of Henenlotter’s BRAIN DAMAGE. Everitt left the magazine shortly after Martin’s departure, and was replaced by STARLOG editor David McDonnell, who handled both magazines for several months before turning over the reins to managing editor Tony Timpone in 1987.
Timpone, who also succeeded Martin as host of the Weekend of Horrors conventions, presided over FANGORIA through the horror-franchise boom of the late 1980s, and the concurrent rise in popularity of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films’ Freddy Krueger, whose visage on the cover was virtually a guarantee of big sales. As a result, several new magazines appeared to challenge Fango’s place at the top of the horror heap, and the publishers responded by creating “competition” of their own in 1988: GOREZONE, which had a stronger focus on foreign and independent cinema, and showcased popular columns by Tim Lucas (who launched the “Video Watchdog” brand in GOREZONE’s pages before creating his own magazine of the same title), Chas. Balun and Steve Bissette. After it ceased publication in 1993, the attention to esoteric cinema was folded over into FANGORIA, making up for a dearth of domestic/studio horror product in the early-mid ’90s.
In 1990, Timpone brought current managing editor Michael Gingold on board, having been previously introduced to his horror-themed fanzine, Scareaphanalia. In addition to his editorial duties at the magazines, Gingold took on the majority of the posting and updating at FANGORIA.com, which was first launched as Fangoria2000.com before the correct URL could be reclaimed from a fan who had appropriated it. Gingold also produced five annual FANGORIA Chainsaw Awards events at Los Angeles Weekend of Horrors conventions from 1991-95, in which the winners of a readers’ poll of the previous year’s best films, filmmakers and actors (based on nominees determined by FANGORIA’s editors) were announced and awarded. Although these ceremonies—the first two of which were hosted by EVIL DEAD star Bruce Campbell—were discontinued after ’95 (a different CHAINSAW AWARDS program was staged by the magazine and the Fuse network in 2006), the Chainsaw Awards continue to run annually in the magazine and at Fangoria.com.
Beyond FANGORIA and GOREZONE, the magazines’ staff compiled popular articles into BLOODY BEST OF FANGORIA specials between 1982 and 1994, and combined original articles with pullout posters in FANGORIA HORROR SPECTACULAR magazines from 1990-93. FANGORIA PRESENTS: BEST & BLOODIEST HORROR VIDEO presented hundreds of reviews from the popular Dr. Cyclops column with additional fresh critiques in 1988, and was updated in 1990. The FANGORIA team also produced a number of licensed tie-in magazines devoted to individual films, in conjunction with their studios/distributors. These included several of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films, TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, THE ADDAMS FAMILY, SPAWN, JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY and THE CROW: CITY OF ANGELS. A special DRACULA: THE COMPLETE VAMPIRE magazine was published in 1992 to tie in with the highly anticipated release of BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA; it was followed by DINOSAUR (showcasing JURASSIC PARK et al.) in 1993 and FRANKENSTEIN (celebrating Boris Karloff, MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN and everything in between) in 1994. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, FANGORIA tested numerous international horror markets, releasing editions in several foreign languages. These magazines (released in Italy, Japan and elsewhere) lasted only a handful of editions before being discontinued.
FANGORIA has also branched out from covering movies and videos to producing and releasing them. In 1987, the company produced a pair of SCREAM GREATS direct-to-VHS documentaries, the first on makeup FX legend Tom Savini and the second covering SATANISM AND WITCHCRAFT; a FANGORIA’S WEEKEND OF HORRORS tape featuring convention highlights was issued in 1990. The early ’90s saw the production and release (through RCA Columbia Pictures Home Video) of three FANGORIA Films features: MINDWARP, starring reader favorites Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm, the vampire movie CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT and the Oliver Reed-starrer SEVERED TIES.
From 1999-2006, in association with Bedford Entertainment and such distributors as MTI Home Video, Media Blasters and Hart Sharp, numerous independent and foreign horror films were acquired and distributed on VHS and DVD under the FANGORIA banner, including I, ZOMBIE: THE CHRONICLES OF PAIN, LADY OF THE LAKE, ANGEL OF THE NIGHT, SCHOOL’S OUT, THE LAST HORROR MOVIE, DEAD MEAT and $LA$HER$. 2004-05 saw the Koch Vision release of a pair of FANGORIA’S BLOOD DRIVE compilation DVDs, featuring top short horror films by independent filmmakers. 2010’s FANGORIA Frightfest line, issued by Phase 4 Films, consisted of eight notable indie and foreign fright features, among them FRAGILE, PIG HUNT, DARK HOUSE (which also won brief theatrical play), GRIMM LOVE and ROAD KILL. This year, the company ventures into the disc and VOD field with a new lineup of acquired films, led by AXED, INHUMAN RESOURCES and SIN REAPER.
With the success of SCREAM, THE SIXTH SENSE and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT revitalizing horror in the late 1990s, coinciding with the rise of e-mail and the Internet that allowed for more coverage of the international horror scene, FANGORIA continued strong into the 2000s. Creative Group purchased FANGORIA and STARLOG in early 2005, hoping to branch out the brand identity of the magazine to radio, television, and comics. These ventures met with varying levels of success; the best-received was FANGORIA Radio, a Sirius Satellite Radio program hosted by Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider and cult horror actress Debbie Rochon, which welcomed numerous major names from the genre field from 2006-09.
In summer 2008, FANGORIA and all of its related brands were purchased by The Brooklyn Company, Inc., led by longtime FANGORIA president Thomas DeFeo. Under DeFeo’s ownership, FANGORIA’s brand identity was modified beginning in early 2009. Variations on the cover design and logo were tried out in the ensuing years, but the most notable of his changes was the hiring of Chris Alexander as the magazine’s new editor in February 2010.
Under Alexander’s guidance, and facing widespread competition from numerous websites for current news and reportage, FANGORIA put a stronger emphasis on horror’s history, showcasing more exclusive interviews with the creators and stars of classic and cult-favorite films while continuing its unique coverage of new productions. Previous contributors including Sam Zimmerman, Rebekah McKendry and Robert Feldman were hired on as regular staff, acclaimed writer/horror historian Kier-La Janisse came aboard as website director, new writers for both the magazine and website were brought on and the mag’s cover (reflecting its nostalgic focus) was gradually returned to its original design, including the initial logo.
Read Uncle Bob’s remembrance of former co-editor David Everitt here, which contains a lot of great anecdotes about the early days of FANGO.