Friday, February 5, 2010

FANGORIA: A New Beginning

When 'Uncle' Bob Martin exited the ranks of FANGORIA in 1986, it came as an out-of-the-blue shock to readers. For myself, as part of the first generation of Fango fans - someone who was among those splatter-happy Gen-Xers to embrace Fango as "their" monster mag as opposed to the baby boomers who had been raised by 'Uncle' Forry and Famous Monsters - to have Martin abruptly depart the magazine that he had instilled with his quirky sensibilities was a rude jolt. As a reader, I felt crestfallen - abandoned, even. But while I didn't know what to expect from newly appointed editor Tony Timpone back then, I could only hope that the magazine had been left in capable hands.

As it turns out, it was. To later day Fango fans, Tony Timpone has been the face of Fango for their entire lives. While Martin was brash, creative, and innovative, Timpone was a level-headed but passionate steward of the biggest brand in horror journalism. While Fango would not have existed as we know it without Martin's eccentric touch (with credit for its distinctive edge going also to Martin's co-editor for much of his run, Dave Everitt), neither would it have lasted for over thirty years now without Timpone's dedicated guidance. Martin had the good fortune to be Fango's editor during one of the biggest boom periods in horror history. Timpone, on the other hand, was dealt a much tougher hand. As Timpone took the reins of Fango, horror was under assault by the MPAA with new releases regularly being censored of all but the most timid acts of violence. On top of that (or perhaps because of it), the slasher boom had passed and horror's commercial fortunes began to dry up. Horror, which always had a shaky reputation even in good times, was now really unwelcome. But Fango doggedly rode out these lean years, with Timpone and managing editor Michael Gingold tirelessly waving the flag on behalf of horror fans.

While horror had rallied as a commercial force as the new millennium dawned and the genre was flush with hits again, another force was on hand to frustrate Fango's future - the rise of the internet culture. Whereas for years horror fans who wanted to stay informed needed to turn to Fango and other periodicals, now information and opinions were instantly accessible. But under Timpone's direction, Fango has managed to persevere through this challenge as well.

Whether the magazine could've met these recent challenges better than it has is a matter of debate but the fact is, Tony Timpone has steered FANGORIA through thick and thin. But now his stewardship of the magazine is ending. And whereas in 1986, the changing of the guard was something that was sprung on surprised fans in the pages in the magazine itself, in our internet age information travels much differently. While we are not privvy to all the details behind the upcoming change, what is known is that the April issue of FANGORIA will be Timpone's last as editor with writer Chris Alexander taking the helm afterwards.

I have mixed feelings about this news - but mostly very positive feelings. By 'mixed' I mean only that it's strange to know that the man who has been the keeper of Fango's flame for so many years is finally stepping aside. Some of my greatest memories as a fan were attending Fango's annual Weekend of Horrors with Tony always there in his familiar suit and tie (will we ever see another editor for a horror mag stick with such a conservative image - probably not, but I loved that Tony always stood out among the sea of pierced, tattooed, and black T-shirted fans) orchestrating the event as master of ceremonies. And when horror was under fire from conservative groups, Tony was a regular fixture on talk shows, calmly defending the genre's right to be provocative, edgy, and offensive. Regardless of whatever ups and downs have occurred during Timpone's tenure, editing Fango must've been very good for him because twenty four years later, he somehow looks exactly the same. That's either the sign of someone who's in love with their work and their life, or it's a case of uncannily blessed genetics, or both. Either way, I think it's safe to say that FANGORIA and Tony Timpone have been very good to each other.

But while I'm sad to see Timpone go, I'm extremely excited to see what Chris Alexander will do as Fango's first new editor in almost a quarter century. This will truly be a new era for the magazine and that's a wild thought to consider. I love Chris' writing - it's passionate, free-wheeling and not cynical in the least and it's the main reason I bought Rue Morgue when he was working as a writer there - and I always felt that his talents hadn't been properly put to use at Fango. What 'his' Fango will be like is something that only time will reveal but I have a feeling that Chris will be more of the Uncle Bob mold than of Tony Timpone. Besides being a fan of his writing, what interests me most about Chris taking charge of Fango is that for the first time, the magazine will be helmed by someone who grew up as a fan of the magazine, who's sensibilities were shaped during its golden era. As such, I hope his tenure as editor will be a combination of renewed risk-taking along with a respect for tradition. His early thoughts on his new position - as expressed to Shock Till You Drop - have me encouraged. Name-checking Chas. Balun is never a bad thing.

As Fango approaches its historic 300th issue (!), I hope its new leadership will be giving fans good reason to celebrate. Oh, and one more thing - BRING BACK THE FILM STRIP!!!

13 comments:

senski said...

Boy, on a certain level, at least it's news, right? That "radio silence" that they were experiencing (what's the parallel magazine term?) was cause for concern. Hopefully this is not a matter of re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but will truly give the mag a boost. (Now I need to figure out why all the horror mags have vanished from my part of Milwaukee!)

I'm nostalgic for the combination of newsprint and clay-baked color of the old days. You could get some nice historical pieces on the pages of the former. Whereas I think that Rue Morgue and HorrorHound both do a nice job with perspectives from the past, I wish that Fango could bring this back, as well as being The Horror Mag of Record.

These last two posts on Fango have really been top-notch, Jeff - definitive. Kudos!

Jeff Allard said...

Thanks, Senski - I'm sorry for Fango's troubles but it's definitely given me something to write about this week!

As for the magazine's future, I have a good feeling that Alexander will revive some of the elements of Fango that fans have been missing while still keeping an eye on the future. And as far as sales go, I do think that right off the bat a lot of lapsed fans will be motivated to take a look at what the 'new' Fango is like. Whether they'll stick around or not, who knows?

Hopefully by the time Alexander takes over, you'll be able to find Fango in your neck of the woods!

The White Wolf said...

Wow. What news. Tony no longer the (ever-smiling) face of Fango?

But if they were to choose anyone within their ranks, I guess Christopher is the most passionate.

Jeff Allard said...

I think so, too. Hopefully he can make Fango into a slightly fresher read than it has been. I think it's always been solid but some change would be welcome. And in the case of the cover design, a change back would be cool.

Planet of Terror said...

Excellent post Jeff. I hope Fangoria comes roaring back and gains more relevance again. I'm anxious and excited to see what transpires.

iZombie said...

i love fango, tony is coolio...
my zombie sad and hopeful...
iZombie

the jaded viewer said...

Nice info Jeff. It gives us more insight into what's the what in Fangoria's world right now.

Definitely going see how this new Fangoria is gonna play out.

Marty said...

Great job on giving me a news outlet where I can keep up, Jeff. Not sure where you're finding your info, but please keep us updated. I prefer to have this kind of changing story parsed through your perspective, and (if you kept track of it), I'm sure you'd be noticing a spike in your hits these past few days.

Jeff Allard said...

PoT, iZombie, Jaded, thanks for the comments!

And Marty, Chris Alexander made the announcement on his site, which I linked to in the post - so there's no special news gathering on my part.

Carl (ILHM) said...

Very refreshing news indeed, although it is a sad day for those of us that have come to know Tony in close circles. Fango has been living in its 1985 glory for far too long, and a fresh and current Fango for 2010 that can figure out a way to reduce cover charge by diverting profits from its online content and advertising may see a new revival in print. Hoping for the best!!

Jeff Allard said...

I agree that it's sad to see Tony step down. I wonder if he'll shed any light on his departure - it seems odd that he'd leave just a few issues shy of #300. But whatever the factors behind his exit, I hope both he and Fango will go on to greater fortune.

Matt-suzaka said...

It's sad to see Timpone go, he was some one who stood up for horror movies when they were considered complete trash by everyone that wasn't a fan of horror. But the magazine and the property need a change, especially after all that has gone on as of late, so I think it is a good thing in th end. I hope Fango can blossom again.

Jeff Allard said...

I think most horror fans are pulling for Fango to succeed. I think Tony's tenure has been an excellent one but twenty four years is a pop culture eternity and inevitably some fresh blood has to come in. A mix of old and new is what I'm hoping for with whatever changes take place.