Friday, April 22, 2011

It’s a Mad Monster Party, Leave Your Body at the Door

You grow up with the Horror of Party Beach comic/magazine. It has still frames from the film. It has dialogue in comic book word bubbles and an abundance of unimportant filler material framed by a couple clever shots of the monster that are seemingly repeated over and over again. It has a great cover though. You bought it at a comic book show with a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland (which really was for your dad for Father’s day, right?). It’s got a movie on the cover that you don’t recognize. It’s a later issue in exceptionally bad condition, but it smells old and musty like a pulp should. It’s a real turn on for the collector-nerd species.

Fast forward to Gorezone. It’s highly polished and filled to the brim with glossy color pictures of gore and blood and even just a slight bit of almost nudity. Famous Monsters was black and white for the most part, but this thing is full blown, stark raving color. Enter the Fangoria magazine you purchased that very same day alongside Gorezone. It is basically the same as Gorezone with more verbose articles. The focus is less on visual horror and the centerfold poster of Jason Voorhees’s worm-eaten head is missing from Fangoria even though they seem to have the same publisher. Just the facts and advertisement seem to differentiate the two magazines. Fangoria is the Playboy to Gorezone’s Hustler of horror magazines. Like a real horror news reel right before your eyes, Fangoria creates the sophisticated horror viewer.

Come a step closer my dear reader. A few more players enter the fray and magazines like Rue Morgue and HorrorHound jut their noses into the full moon enriched night to howl. They are just as colorful and verbose and Fangoria but with a focus on independently produced films and older genre pictures. These may be movies you’ve never even heard of. The studio is certainly not promoting the pictures in these two magazines as much unless there’s a DVD/Blu Ray/Laser Disc release on its way. Furthermore, these new genre mags include articles about music, comics, toys… they really run the gambit giving each media type special attention and not just a blurb/honorable mention that seemed to accompany earlier literature.

What we are talking about is the evolution of the horror magazine. I can’t say that I was around for all of it. I missed its golden age by at least three decades. My father has recanted numerous times that if he had only kept his Famous Monsters magazine collection, he would be sitting on a small fortune. I think everyone who can appreciate the significance of these magazines has met somebody like that and heard their tale of fortune lost. The golden age went out in the dust bin and each generation has pulled itself farther and farther away from the pictorial history of a genre that is ever dependent on the imagery it creates.

Horror magazines have diversified. Horror magazines tell the whole story the first time and get the interviews and the behind the scenes footage and the down low on the DVD features before the movie is even released into the theatre. Horror magazines are informing us at an alarming rate to the point of overload. Sure, we are entertained by our modern day periodicals. They tell us just about everything we could ever want to know. They’re better than when I was a drooling kid. I can’t wait for HorrorHound to hit my mailbox. I’ll forgo dinner to read it. Fangoria comes to the office with me daily. People haven’t fully gotten used to the somewhat graphic covers, but I’m working on these unbaptized heathens every issue.

Today I received the next evolution in the history of the horror magazine; it’s name is Mad Monster. Mad Monster magazine is… to put it lightly… a revelation. I read issue one from cover to cover, unwilling to put it down for most anything. I forgot to eat. When the smoke cleared from my overworked, undernourished brain frenzying on Mad Monster magazine, I came to realize that I had just read the future perhaps even the silver or bronze age of horror periodical chronology. Here was a magazine that took the visual acuity of the Famous Monsters of Filmland, the narrative of a pulp mag, the intelligence of a scholarly journal and the humor of a E.C. Comics and put them into one tight package. There’s even a dash of your Sunday morning paper. The focus of the movies was historical, true, but Barlow, our host and editor of Mad Monster, has chosen stories from the beginning of horror history and brought it into a context that a genre fanatic can grasp while providing a fresh spin that a seasoned film snob can appreciate just as much as a first time genre goer.

The historical perspective is fresh. It is witty. The humor in Mad Monster ranges from highbrow to hi-jinx. What other magazine in the world will promise you a cut up replica/simile model of the Norman Bates’s house but who’s first act is to teach you about the first horror film, Le Manoir de Diable. The examination is thorough and thoughtful. There’s an article on how the genre might find itself changed if Lon Chaney had lived to play Dracula (as he was cast to play prior to Lugosi). There’s a complete analysis and chronology of the Christine, the ’58 Plymouth Fury from the mind of Stephen King, complete with car club. Fun and games. Movies you’ve never heard, stories you’ve never heard, pictures you’ve never seen and that’s before we discuss the format.

The cover is something out of E.C. Comics… not Tales from the Crypt or Vault of Horror, nay. This is more Mad Magazine, and Mad Monster couldn’t be a more fitting title when taken together with the attachment to this William Gaines classic. The art work, or at least the cover art, suggests that it is an homage to E.C.’s famous magazine, but is actually a re-imaging of a Frank Frazetta work which speaks to its class, charm and perspective on its own place in history. It almost touches more on the Cracked variety of the E.C. legacy, but the cover is an amalgamation of everything you’ll find inside; old classics with new perspectives and humor… lots of humor. Flipping from the front cover to the table of contents feels almost like turning the pages slowly in a flipbook with the title changing color and highlighting but not position. Just you try it. Pay attention to the details when you read this one fans. The borders of the pages. The retro advertising placement and choice of advertising. The non traditional (or maybe anti-traditional) formatting of the text and the font in which the text appears. It’s purty. Real purty.

I feel as though I’ve given something away here like I’m revealing the best kept secret in all of horror. It’s no secret. If you don’t’ have a copy you’ll find out where to get one in a second. The price is/was $6.66. That’s not just kitch. That’s a friggin’ bargain for what you get. If I had anything truly negative to say it would be about the shipping costs to get this beautiful magazine to you. I’m sure it might shock you at first. Please be aware that the magazine you are receiving is on exceptionally high quality paper with the finest craftsmanship and thought put into it. You are getting a bargain at $6.66 and the little bit extra it’ll cost you to get the thing to you is still a bargain.

I can’t wait to read another one. This is the evolution of the horror magazine from visually stunning, to gratuitous and informative to a labor of love that is a thing of beauty to be enjoyed forever.

Order yourself up a copy of Mad Monster magazine.Do it now or bugs will get your tongue just as they got Mr. Pratt's tongue.

Don’t forget to do the crossword… did he just say crossword? Yes, he said crossword. Many surprises await the ready, the willing and the abominable
-Dr. Terror …as gitty as a drunken man over his new favorite mag.

P.S. I still love all my old favorites as well, dear reader. HorrorHound, the original Gorezone, Fangoria, Rue Morgue, even Famous Monsters. This just upped the bar. “Shit just got real”, to quote a certain action picture.

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