For a while there, it looked like we’d lost her.
After a rocky period of unfulfilled subscriptions and digital-only issues, Fangoria — a horror institution as venerable as Rick Baker, Jason Voorhees or Stephen King — appeared to be gone for good. Former editor-in-chief Ken Hanley threw the last shovelful of dirt on the coffin in early 2017 when he Tweeted, “For those wondering: there will likely never be another issue of Fangoria, especially in print, unless there’s new ownership.”
But we should have known, right?
We know what happens in horror movies. A beat after the monster is declared dead and the heroes turn their backs on it…there’s a sign of life.
Sooner or later, the monster always comes back.
I’m Gonna Give It to You Straight About Fangoria: The Backstory
In late summer 1979, a new magazine hit the newsstands, its cover adorned with a picture of Godzilla chomping on a train and the tagline “Monsters. Aliens. Bizarre Creatures.” The name of the magazine was Fangoria, a play on the magazine’s original title Fantastica, which publisher Starlog Group, Inc., was unable to use for legal reasons. Among its contents were an interview with Christopher Lee and previews of upcoming movies like Alien and Dawn of the Dead. That first issue of Fangoria was well received, particularly that Dawn of the Dead article, which highlighted the efforts of special effects master Tom Savini. That article was a sign of things to come.
Through the first year-and-change of its existence, Fangoria’s cover stories alternated scary subjects like Prophecy and The Shining with sci-fi fare like The Empire Strikes Back and Star Trek. With its ninth issue, however, Fangoria fully embraced its “the gore the better” approach by featuring the chainsaw-wielding, pig-head-wearing killer from Motel Hell on its cover. From that point on, Fangoria became the common thread that bound horror fans and horror professionals together.
“We were the go-to source for horror news, reviews and interviews,” said former Fangoria editor-in-chief Tony Timpone. “There really was nothing else in the pre-Internet era for horror. We inspired makeup artists, directors, writers and actors because Fangoria made horror cool — and, in the process, became cool itself. We were the bible of the industry. It was the dream of rising directors like Eli Roth and James Gunn to be on the cover of Fangoria.”
For decades, Fangoria stood as the unwavering cheerleader for the genre, using informative, passionate coverage to showcase horror as an artform while unabashedly celebrating its more exploitative aspects. In Fangoria’s pages, there was room for the fans of the literary and the lurid, the quiet and the in-your-face. Thus it continued for years, through the heyday of the slasher, through the explosion of home video, through the zombie craze and the found footage craze and the remake craze. Through it all, Fangoria was a mainstay.
And then….it wasn’t.
Sometimes, Dead is Better: The Death of Fangoria
So, what finally drove a stake through Fangoria’s heart? Depends on who you ask. It could have been an inability to navigate the new world of entertainment coverage, which was (and remains) dominated by the Internet’s ability to provide horror fans news and updates at a rate no print publication could hope to keep up with, as well as an unprecedented level of access to the artists and creators behind their favorite projects. It could have been mismanagement. It could have simply been that its time had run out, and that it was time for newer blood like Rue Morgue and Scream to stand watch.
Whatever the reasons, things began to deteriorate. Editors-in-chief came and went; print issues never came at all. Then Hanley sent out his Tweet, and we pulled out our sackcloth and ashes and went into mourning. Fangoria had not been itself for quite some time, and now it was gone. Time to stop thinking about what might be and start celebrating what once had been.
It’s Alive! It’s Alive!: The Return of Fangoria
In February 2018 — almost a year to the day that Ken Hanley Tweeted Fangoria’s eulogy — word began circulating that Fangoria was coming back. Its savior was a company called Cinestate, which had purchased the magazine and had already begun engineering its resurrection. It was apparent right away that Cinestate CEO Dallas Sonnier had a solid, savy plan to bring Fangoria back — a plan that began with luring Phil Nobile Jr. away from Birth.Movies.Death to act as Fangoria‘s new editor-in-chief and brand director.
“Dallas Sonnier called me out of the blue in January (2018),” Nobile said. “It was really a surreal surprise.” A Fangoria reader since the early ‘80s, Nobile was quick to make the “bittersweet decision” to leave his online home of seven years for a chance to work on the legendary magazine. Together, he and Sonnier began putting together a team that would take Fangoria into the future.
“We approached it the same way we approached the design of the mag, and the marketing, and the cover — it has to balance legacy with evolution,” Nobile said. “Some are trusted associates, some are writers I’ve long admired (and who in some cases reached out to US!), and some are folks who came to us with an amazing pitch. It’s a really great array of voices and I’m proud of the list.”
“Legacy,” you say? No wonder one of the first calls the pair made was to Timpone.
“The executed contract selling the company was less than a week old when Dallas and Phil reached out to me,” Timpone said. “I was shopping in Costco when they called and offered me a regular gig and consultancy agreement with the reanimated magazine. If Costco had sold champagne, I would have popped one open and celebrated right there in the aisles. I was honored and overjoyed that they reached out to the ‘old guard.’”
Another early call went out to Dr. Rebekah McKendry, filmmaker, co-host of popular horror film podcast Shock Waves, and a former Fango staffer.
“I had the pleasure of working full-time at Fangoria for over 10 years, most of it serving as the director of marketing for the company, “McKendry said. “I loved my time at Fangoria! Now, I’m serving as a consultant with the new company. I’m working with them to get the new business set up, coordinate the subscribers, and understand how the prior business worked.”
In addition to these and other familiar names, Sonnier and Nobile have recruited some new blood — names new to Fangoria but known and respected in the horror community, such as Paperbacks from Hell author Grady Hendrix and writer/reviewer Meredith Borders. This effort to balance the old guard with new blood is reflective of the overall direction Nobile and Sonnier plan for the magazine.
“Fango has to earn its spot back, and maybe doing what everyone else is doing, and what the last version of Fango did, isn’t the answer,” Nobile said. “The nostalgia and affection and support has been almost overwhelming, but we can’t just cash in on that. And more to the point, we have to retroactively earn all that goodwill. And all we can do on that front is to pack the magazine with amazing, exclusive content that you won’t find elsewhere.”
“The new owner and editor were very smart in realizing that the web will always be the go-to place for news, ” McKendry said. “The new team is publishing the magazine quarterly and focusing much more on interesting content and features as opposed to hot news items, crafting a much higher quality product. They want readers to be able to pick up Fangoria anytime and still have it feel interesting and relevant.”
In other words, Fangoria will not be competing with the Internet. In fact, it won’t be on the Internet at all. With the exception of a bare-bones website and a robust social media presence, the only way to experience Fangoria 2.0 is by buying an actual, physical copy.
They’re All Gonna Laugh at You: Going Print-Only in a Digital World
“The print-only path was our intent from the start,” Sonnier said. “We’re friends with all the great genre websites like Bloody Disgusting and Dread Central, and they do a great job. Our intent is to create something different, and not focus on the timely nature of digital articles. By going print-only, we can create an analog experience that is a way to slow down the digital locomotive. Jam an ice-pick in the matrix for a minute so you can pause your life, have a great cup of coffee, and read this magazine for several hours.”
“We’re inviting people to turn off their devices for two hours and sit with a PRINTED magazine,” Nobile said. “That experience has to be this gentle balance of comforting and exciting, familiar yet novel. I want you to see the elements of the mag you remember and that meant a lot to you, but I also want to knock you on your ass with content you didn’t know you needed.”
“As horror fans, we are also collectors,” McKendry said. “There is something special about sitting down and reading a Fangoria, flipping through the pages and feeling the paper in your hands. There is also something amazing about having the entire collection sitting on your shelf. I can’t wait to add the new editions to my own collection.”
Sonnier said this early emphasis on producing a physical product does not mean he is ruling out digital initiatives in the future. In fact, he foresees a number of digital supplements to the magazine once the launch is behind them.
“We feel that this is a calculated risk, where we can build a more in-tune audience through the resurrection of the print publication, and then through the success of the magazine expand the tent for Fangoria with movies and books and audio-dramas and all kinds of great content like that,” Sonnier said. “Over time, we will roll out our digital game plan, but, it will never be a rerun of the print articles. Those will always exist in print only, never online.”
We Have Such Sights to Show You: The Future of Fangoria
Although the first new issue has just begun shipping, we’re already getting glimpses of this expanded world of Fangoria. Two novels have been published under the “Fangoria Presents” banner — Preston Fassel’s Our Lady of the Inferno and Michael J. Seidlinger’s My Pet Serial Killer. The new Fango film production arm has already released its first effort, Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich.
“The long-term goal of Fangoria is to be a horror brand,” Sonnier said. “We believe that we can make movies from our books and make movies from the scripts we acquire that are Fangoria friendly and build out an infrastructure of content through the brand that people will identify as uncompromising and not afraid to be R-rated, or push boundaries.”
Grand plans, indeed, but for Sonnier and Nobile and the entire Fangoria crew, it all circles back to the magazine. Months of hard work have gone into producing that first issue, and we’re all about to see the results for ourselves.
The Night Fangoria Came Home
It’s happening right now. Shipping notices have been received. Soon, a black bag will appear in each subscriber’s mailbox. Soon, we’ll have it in our hands.
Fangoria Vol. 2, #1.
Peering at us from the cover, appropriately enough, is another resurrected horror icon. Like the Halloween franchise, Fangoria has faced a bumpy road, but hopes are high that this new incarnation will right the ship.
“If you create something that is undeniably good, and people fall in love with it, you will organically become relevant,” Sonnier said. “And that’s our plan here: put our heart and soul — and money — into the magazine itself, and make it as great as it can possibly be without holding back. And if we succeed — which we believe we will — then today’s horror fans will start to read and fall in love with it.”
Blu Gilliand is the managing editor of Cemetery Dance magazine and Cemetery Dance Online. He’s been a devoted Fango reader since the early ’80s. If you need him, you’ll find him camped out by his mailbox, waiting on his copy of Fangoria to arrive.