Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The New Fango

Magazines aren't nearly as pivotal to genre fans today as they were in the pre-internet age so the changing of the guard at FANGORIA, as longtime editor Tony Timpone hands the reigns over to Chris Alexander with issue #293 (on sale now), isn't likely to shake the pillars of the horror community in the way that it once might have (I still remember how crestfallen I felt when Uncle Bob stepped down). However, to see Fango under the stewardship of a new editor for the first time in almost 25 years really is something of a big honkin' deal. I picked up my copy today and eagerly pored over its pages, looking to see how the first issue of the Alexander era shaped up.

Before we get to that, though, how about a standing O for the departing Tony Timpone? As his farewell editorial states, he isn't going that far, just taking on other responsibilities on behalf of FANGORIA. He won't be calling the editorial shots anymore, though, and his abdication of a position he's held for close to a quarter century is a milestone for Fango. Whether it's due to the mag's status in the world of genre journalism as the old kid on the block, or to its coverage of mainstream horror (especially the kind of pseudo-horror, like Twilight, that drives fans into an indignant rage), FANGORIA has unfortunately become an easy punching bag in some circles but I believe Timpone should be commended for guiding the mag through so many ups and downs in the genre's fortunes. It couldn't have been easy to edit a horror magazine during the '90s and make it work, for crying out loud, but Timpone did it. Throughout Timpone's lengthy tour of duty (ably assisted by Managing Editor Michael Gingold, who is keeping his long held position with the mag), Fango remained a indefatigable cheerleader for horror films both big and small and never smacked of cynicism or elitism. That rates as an achievement in my book.

Now, as for how Alexander fares at his first time at bat - the answer is "very good." When Alexander first came into the Fango fold a few years back, taking on the role of Canadian correspondent after leaving his digs at Rue Morgue, I was excited to see how he'd be put to work in the pages of Fango. However, as a fan of his Rue Morgue column, it never seemed to me as though he was utilized enough. Unsurprisingly, in his first issue as editor, his writing is featured much more (go figure!) and it immediately helps make the mag a more lively, impassioned read.

Among the Alexander-penned columns is "Trash Compactor," in which Alexander lauds praise on his favorite low-end genre pics (this month's feature, 1981's estimable zombie opus, Burial Ground), and also "Sound Shock," in which genre soundtracks are discussed (the inaugural column looks at the soundtrack for 1978's Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake). There's also "Monster of the Month," which some might see as little more than a one-page throwaway spent on spotlighting a famous ghoul (the feature kicks off by giving props to Mr. Barlow from Tobe Hooper's 1979 Salem's Lot) but with the old-school design of the page affectionately harking back to the look of Famous Monsters, I found it to be one of the highlights of the issue.

The rest of #293 is pretty much business as usual (set visits, Monster Invasion, Dr. Cyclops, Nightmare Library, etc.), although it seemed to me that Alexander phased out the kind of excessive coverage to zero-budget indie efforts that's been allotted in Fango's pages lately. There's still plenty of attention given to the little guy but the mag's attention is spread nicely among the new and the old and between studio pics and indie horror. I also have to commend Alexander for not going with a Nightmare on Elm Street remake cover, by the way - or with any coverage of the new film (there is an article, however, with interviews with some of the cast members of the original Elm Street films - including Freddy's Revenge star Mark Patton). This total rejection of a major genre film on the eve of its release is, more than anything else, a sign of a new day at Fango. Timpone published an article devoted to the new Nightmare last month but this is traditionally the kind of major release that would've been milked for at least three or four pieces over the course of a few issues. Personally I think the remake could've borne more attention without venturing into overkill but I appreciate Alexander's decision to not go by the established Fango playbook.

As a final thumbs-up, I just want to say I welcome the return of the much-missed film strip to Fango's cover. It's not exactly like the film strip of old, but I'll take it. I just hope a little more tweaking on the design front is planned. That's really all this issue calls for in regards to moving ahead - a few tweaks. Fango wasn't broken to begin with - it just needed some new blood.

5 comments:

Ryan said...

Can't wait to pick this up now.

Jeff Allard said...

It's definitely well worth the buy!

Emily said...

I'm really glad I caught the $50 subscription deal this year. Fangoria isn't the best mag out there, but it is genuinely enjoyable to read on the subway and great for learning about films to keep my eye out for (especially since a lot of them won't hit theatres). On one hand, I think there are plenty of bloggers--yourself included--that are better writers than some of what appears on those pages, but Fangoria still has a lot to offer in the way of previews, set visits, nostalgia, etc.

And Jeff-funny thing. Last year, I bought a pile of old issues at a yard sale. I'm reading the letters to the editor and whose name do I see? One Jeff Allard. You are now on my book shelf.

Jeff Allard said...

Ha - that's awesome, Emily! I hope Alexander decides to bring the Postal Zone back to Fango's pages. Some might say the internet has made the idea of a letters page obsolete but I think a magazine or comic book never feels quite complete without that feature.

Carl (ILHM) said...

Although Im interested in checking out the new changes, man, I just cant bring myself to pay the cover charge when I have so much free Horror at my fingertips online.. Now, if they took a note from the English Horror mags and included a DVD with each issue..