Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Triple threat magazine showdown

For our 100th post on Warning Signs, we bring you

TRIPLE THREAT HORROR ZINE SHOWDOWN

Now entering the ring, the legend, the icon ... FANGORIA.

Please welcome, hailing from Canada, the reigning champion ... RUE MORGUE

Last, but not least, the upstart, the challenger ... HORRORHOUND.


Thanks to Borders going out of business sale, Warning Signs picked up all three magazines for 40 percent off the cover prices, thereby enabling this showdown. Ring the bell, it's about to get messy.


Fangoria pretty ruled horror magazines for most of my life. (I'm too young for the heyday of Famous Monsters of Filmland.) Like any aging champ, Fangoria has taken its knocks lately but is still the standard bearer. For this 'zine challenge, we're looking at issue #305, for August 2011.

The issue is themed around a tribute to British horror, covering everything from penny dreadfuls, to the latest offering from Hammer titled "Wake Wood," and a good portion (including the cover) to Amicus, a challenger to Hammer's reign in the 1960s and '70s.

With this theme, issue #305 is surprisingly international. The issue has pieces on "Saint," a Santa Claus horror from Holland; "The Dead," a zombie movie lensed in Africa, and Korean flick "I Saw the Devil" as its DVD of the month.

In his opening salvo, editor Chris Alexander challenges those who say he is choosing coverage based on what HE likes and who HIS friends are. This is similar to the argument against Tony Timpone, his predecessor, that he was covering films no one would ever see because the were made by his friends and/or bought ad space. Alexander states that is is directing coverage to those films that he hopes people will want to see as much as he does. Alexander, a former staffer at Rue Morgue, is obviously still a fan, something that it felt Fangoria had lost, so kudos to him.

My biggest gripe with this issue is the softcore porn fold out poster. I don't mind an ad for www.satanic-sluts.com somewhere in the back, but the poster ruined my vibe. Thankfully, the other side featured Elvira with, surprisingly, more clothes on than the girl on the other side. I'd rethink this feature in the future. It could be the one thing that could prevent teen boys from being able to by the mag.

Overall, Warning Signs gives Fangoria #305 a threat level of YELLOW. Unless you really love British horror, this is an average offering, which is still pretty good.

Rue Morgue's July 2011 edition, #113, features the Norwegian mockumentary "Trollhunter" on its cover. Rue Morgue has mostly had painted covers, something Fangoria has been leaning toward recently. This is a poster-worthy cover, especially if you are a fan of trolls. The big, stinky mean kind, that is. The feature delves into the origins of the film, the lead actor, and the design in a well-crafted and lengthy article. The power of it is that I really want to see "Trollhunter" after reading it.

The cover story is paired with a piece on the men behind cryptozoology's biggest moment. Writer Lyle Blackburn spoke with Bob Gimlin and Philip Morris for a story on the Patterson-Gimlin footage of Bigfoot. Gimlin was one-half of the team that supposedly captured 40 seconds of film featuring a female Bigfoot strolling through the Northern California wilderness. Morris, a famous costume maker, has claimed he made the suit for the now-deceased Roger Patterson. It's a fun and interesting read that does a decent job of capturing almost 45 years of conspiracy into about four magazine pages.

I, for example, did not know that Patterson, Gimlin and Bob Heironimus (the man who claims to have been inside the suit) were from Yakima, Wash., near where I currently live. It makes me wonder why there isn't a Bigfoot museum here. (If there is and I don't know about it, I'm going to be mad.)

The rest of the issue is Rue Morgue's usual take on horror in culture, including a piece on artist Elizabeth McGrath and a column by John W. Bowen calling out directors who made their bones in horror but deny they are horror directors.

Rue Morgue has always done a good job of balancing photos and illustrations. Issue 113 is no different. Even if you don't like the writing, Rue Morgue is always fun to look at.

That said, issue #113 of Rue Morgue earns a high ORANGE threat level.

Up to bat (sorry for mixing sports metaphors) is Horrorhound and it's July/August issue, number 30 of this publication.

With fewer pages and publishing bi-monthly, Horrorhound still manages to hold its own. There isn't as much ad copy as in the two bigger magazines, which is just fine with me. The cover price is also $6.99 compared to $9.95 for Rue Morgue and $8.99 for Fangoria.

Issue 30 splits its pages between to themes: the soon-to-be released "Fright Night" remake and horror comics.

The "Fright Night" material is good enough to challenge either of the bigger 'zines. When speaking about the new flick, Horrorhound scored interviews with all the majors players except Colin Farrell. There is even a standalone interview with David Tennant, the remake's Peter Vincent. A retrospective on the original film and its sequel features director/creator Tom Holland and Horrorhound's traditional spread of movie stills.

As for horror comics, Horrorhound gets pieces on everything from "I ... Dracula" to sidebars on "Darkman," a centerpiece on "The Walking Dead" and a "Creepshow" retrospective.

Always a highlight of Horrorhound is its spreads on the latests releases in horror collectibles and toys. Even if you never buy a horror toy, it's still fun to know what is out there.

While no one is perfect, Horrorhound's biggest weakness remains in its copy editing. Check those typos, folks.

Horrorhound's 30th issue is going to pull in an ORANGE threat level based on its unabashed love for the genre. Its lack of professional polish, while distracting at times, is also charming.

It's not enough to unseat Rue Morgue as the winner of this Triple Threat Horror Magazine Showdown, however.

(This post has been brought to you by Borders. Because if they weren't going out of business, I wouldn't have been able to buy all three of these fine horror magazines at the same time. I also snagged a copy of "Bride of Re-Animator" so expect to hear about that soon.)

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