“We want to shape Fangoria into the kind of magazine that awakens your spirit of adventure and romance – and makes you feel like you can fly…”
– Fangoria publisher Kerry O’Quinn, in his editorial for the debut issue.
As the above quote illustrates, Fangoria was a very different beast at its inception from the blood-streaked mag we all came to know and love. In fact, the magazine was originally supposed to be named Fantastica but that led to a lawsuit by Starlog rival Fantastic Films. Said lawsuit delayed the magazine’s launch for several months and led to the eleventh-hour adoption of the moniker Fangoria. The finished product was initially intended to cover a broad spectrum of fantasy fare, with horror only being one color of a larger palette.
Thus, articles about horror flicks like Dawn Of The Dead are outnumbered almost two-to-one by articles on the likes of Watership Down and Battlestar Galactica in the magazine’s debut. Like many first issues, Fangoria #1 has a very tentative, only partially realized quality to it. At least half the coverage of then-current fare feels like the staff took press kits and repurposed the synopses and stills to create half-hearted “features” that offer little more than story details and cast/crew info. The stories on The Amityville Horror, Wolfman and Alien all give this impression.
However, there is some quality reading in there for the patient fan. A Christopher Lee interview finds the reluctant horror icon grousing about being typecast in his charmingly huffy way and there’s an excellent retrospective article on the making of The Creature From The Black Lagoon that includes some nice interview bits with the original creature himself, Ricou Browning. There’s also a brief but informative overview of the Godzilla series by megafan Ed Godziszewski.
Two other features offer important hints at the magazine’s future. The obvious one is a nice little Tom Savini interview, which doubles as a feature on the makeup effects for Dawn Of The Dead. It’s the most interesting of the horror-centric features and received such an enthusiastic response from the magazine’s early fans that it ultimately led to Fangoria adopting a more horror-centric approach.
The less obviously prophetic article is one that compares and contrasts the films Prophecy and Nightwing by future Fangoria editor Bob Martin. It was obviously intended to be a puff-piece promo like the other glorified plot synopses namechecked a few paragraphs above but Martin cleverly twists the premise of that puff-piece style, using it as a chance to tweak Hollywood studios for imitating each other’s trends. It’s a clever little piece that displays the wit and savvy that would endear “Uncle Bob” Martin to the magazine’s fanbase.
A final note of interest: The ads in this issue are mostly sci-fi oriented but there’s one guaranteed to bring nostalgic tears to the eyes of a horror fan. Said ad is a big one-pager promoting six monster-makeup kits that were created by the godfather of modern makeup effects himself, Dick Smith. To have professional kits like these at one’s fingertips must have been pure horror heaven for monster-obsessed kids of that era. And the most expensive kit was only twenty bucks!