Fangs for the Memories

Earlier this week, word spread that Fangoria, the second greatest horror movie magazine of all time, was shutting down once and for all. Sadly, it seems current writers are getting stiffed on payments owed them. The current owners have done a fine job running the once-great franchise into the ground through a combination of arrogance and neglect. Horror fans are all the poorer for it.

I owe my career to Fango. In the spring of 1980, I was applying for jobs in publishing and on a lark, popped a note to Kerry O’Quinn, co-publisher at Starlog Press. I had been a loyal reader of Starlog since its 1976 debut and thought it could be tremendous fun to work there. By that time, Fangoria had just launched as had Future Life, so the company was growing.

Of the nearly four dozen outfits I contacted, only Kerry wrote back with an interview offer. I showed up in my one suit, some Pipe Dream clips on hand, and waited for him. He breezed into the offices about 20 minutes late, clad in denim and boots, totally unlike my picture of a publisher. We spoke at length in his spacious office and he seemed suitably impressed with me and saw I could be a good fit.

A few weeks later, I had just graduated from college when Bob Woods, then editing FL, called with an offer: Managing Editor of Fangoria. The gig paid $200 a week and when I did the math, held out for a $10,000 a year starting salary and he agreed. I was then informed the job would begin in September. (Thankfully, my old friend Paul Levitz brought me to DC Comics as summer help, laying the groundwork for the future.)

As you might imagine, we got some pushback from retailers over this cover.

I showed up in mid-September and was ushered into a two-man office packed with papers, photos, and layouts, the office door showing all eight covers printed to date. At the window desk was Uncle Bob Martin, who succeeded Ed Naha as the magazine’s editor. He shook my hand, pointed to the desk and I began proofreading pages for issue #9 which was going to press that week. The magazine was bimonthly at the time so once the deadline was met, he and I could actually talk working relationships and long-range strategy.

I was a traditional horror fan, fond of the Universal movie monsters and a handful of the 1950s offerings, but the then-current trend towards splatter films, kicked off by Halloween and Friday the 13th. Bob was giddy over getting great stills of the exploding head from David Cronenberg’s Scanners. This became our tenth cover and helped the magazine get noticed. After its quasi-SF/Horror content moved towards all-things supernatural and scary, the title gained an identity all its own.

Every few days, co-publisher Norman Jacobs would stroll by first thing in the morning as Bob and I settled in with our coffees. He’d gesture at various covers and announce the latest sales figures. Bob would nod a lot but it was also clear the numbers fluctuated more than made sense but we never argued and just let Norman blabber on.

I learned a lot from Bob: how to deal with studio publicists, arranging for photos and interviews, how to work with freelancers and then edit their work. I’d figure out how Cheh Nam Low and the design team (including Bob’s girlfriend Laura) took words, pictures, and a bookmap and turn them into magazine pages. It was a terrific training ground and Uncle Bob had strong opinions and instincts which is what put Fangoria on the map, just as Famous Monsters of Filmland was on its last legs.

The screenings were fun and working with the idiosyncratic talent (in person and by phone) kept every day interesting. Many of the writers also contributed to Starlog, our next office over neighbor so they’d visit for hours on end.

After contributing a few short news squibs and captions, Bob felt I was ready for an article so I set out to write a few. The highlight was my interview with actress P.J. Soles, a story for another time. And while I was having fun and learning a lot, my heart wasn’t in the subject matter. The current crop of films were not my definition of good horror and I found myself longing to do more for Starlog. I also saw the publishers were keen on growing so the winter of 1980-81 saw me propose a magazine to cover the growing comic book field.

When Comics Scene was approved and put on the schedule, it was agreed I’d move away from Uncle Bob into an office of my own. He went out and found David Everett as my replacement (issue #17 was out handover for those keeping score) and the two became quite a dynamic duo, making the magazine the legend it became for 20 years.

I rarely saw Bob after leaving Starlog Press for DC in January 1984 and in time stopped reading the magazine as well. Health issues plagued Uncle Bob ever since and he now needs help with medical expense so there’s a GoFundMe page for those interested in paying him back for countless hours of entertainment,

Once Kerry and Norman sold Starlog and Fangoria to new owners, the media landscape changed and the magazines were allowed to wither, barely resembling their once mighty selves which is a true shame. Both had brand currency that should have been carefully cultivated but, instead, were mistreated and now are gone.

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