The second issue of Fangoria is a big improvement on the first. The overall level of writing is much improved and the horror element is becoming more pronounced as this publication inches its way towards its fright-mag destiny. However, it’s still a magazine with a divided soul at this stage – and issue #2 suffers from some noticeable growing pains.
The MVP of this issue is definitely Bob Martin. He kicks the issue off with a trifecta of fanboy-pleasing greatness. The first is an editorial where he proposes a film rating to separate films with shocking non-sex content from pornography (sadly, a wish that has yet to come true). He follows it with a nice feature on Phantasm that mixes a Don Coscarelli interview – who is as personable as always – with interesting descriptions of how the film’s memorable effects were achieved. This is followed by a nice little piece on Nosferatu: The Vampyre that was probably the first exposure many young American minds got to the work of Herzog.
The retrospective articles in issue #2 are also quite good (this remains an enduring part of the magazine’s appeal). The first is the debut installment of a two-part Richard Matheson interview. Matheson is likeably frank, freely discussing his problems with the editing of The Incredible Shrinking Man and his bitterness over The Last Man On Earth (which he reveals was originally to have been directed by Fritz Lang!). There’s also a fascinating interview with Robert Bloch, who waxes eloquent about the why’s and wherefore’s of the horror genre, and a solid making-of piece on War Of The Worlds that goes into great detail on its visual effects.
Elsewhere, issue #2 runs into problems. The fantasy-magazine directive from the front office leads to some boring non-horror content: for example, there’s a Dr. Who feature that feels like a leftover from Starlog and unwanted talk of Saturday morning cartoons in the news section. There’s also some obvious rush-jobs that shamelessly pad out the page count: the features on Dracula (1979 version) and The Humanoid have a sloppy, rewritten-press-kit feel and there is a unabashed puff-piece that promotes the supposed excellence of the infamously lousy Prophecy.
However, the issue finishes with a few nice bits in its closing news section (once you get past that Saturday morning cartoon talk). One of the most fascinating parts of reading old film magazines is the news of projects that never came to be. There are two gems of that ilk in this issue. First, a brief chat with John Landis yields talk of Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Mummy remakes that never happened (his instincts on keeping The Mummy as a period piece were vindicated by the success of the Stephen Sommers version a few decades later). There’s also talk of War Of The Insect Gods, an unmade comedy script about mutant cockroaches invading New York that was penned by Mr. Mike himself, Michael O’Donaghue. Oh, what could have been…
In short, Fangoria #2 is about half of a good magazine. Clearly, the publishers had yet to learn that no one can serve multiple masters and still manage to do a good job. It would take a few more hits to the corporate pocketbook before they’d be willing to take chances in favor of a horror-dominant direction. In the meantime, there would be a few more issues with contents stitched together, Frankenstein-style.