Friday, August 2, 2013
MONSTER MAGAZINES AS CULTURAL ICONS
I BELIEVE IT CAN BE SAFELY SAID with a high degree of certainty that without monster movies there would be no monster magazines. It is unlikely that anyone would take a chance on publishing a magazine dedicated to what would amount to the print version of a horror book club or cover exclusively the monsters of the stage, neither which would fill many issues, much less pages. Nope, without monster movies, many of us older folks who were Monster Kids would have had to have found something else to obsess over (oh, there was plenty -- but it was monsters by preference), and there would never have been the Monster Craze that began with the Shock Theater TV package and its progeny and the subsequent monster magazines that suddenly popped up on the newsstands like so many matango from that point forward.
Which brings us to the present. I find it singularly amazing at the sheer number of monster 'zines being published today, don't you? While there have been periods since the 1960's where only a few titles on the racks could have truly called themselves monster magazines, these things have been persistent in our popular culture for decades. For that reason, they should not be seen merely as cultural artifacts, but instead as current reflections of a segment of the entertainment industry that influences society. After all, isn't is said that "fear is a great motivator"? If you think I'm wrong, take a look at the recent box office reports. Despite its immediate predecessor, PACIFIC RIM tanking, THE CONJURING (a film based on a true story of a family that moved into a house and didn't realize it was haunted by not one, but numerous malevolent spirits) beat the pants off of it's closest competitor by almost twice as much. The fact that its director, James Wan, has already spawned two long-legged mini-industries with SAW, and INSIDIOUS is not withstanding; a haunted house movie released in the middle of summer blockbuster time stands to be easily crushed between Iron Man and Superman. But, no, it drew crowds that were interested in the film's premise, even more so than the promise of a second round of cotton candy comedy from DESPICABLE ME 2. These examples only bolster the near-legendary resiliency and -- dare I say it -- the legitimacy of the logical marketing offspring of these films that call themselves monster magazines.
I know that most prefer to call them "horror magazines" or "horror film magazines", but these rogues of mainstream publishing can't escape their roots, when they were called simply "monster magazines". The relationship between these periodicals and the films that supported their existence was, and still is, symbiotic, if not entirely necessary. Movie studios like American International Pictures were only too happy to send heaps of material promoting their newest drive-in double feature starring the latest werewolf, sea monster or martian, and any monster magazine editor would be foolish not to use it to fill their next issue.
So, while monster magazines are today enjoying an impressive incarnation and flaunt some of the most creative design and graphic art on the stands, they are still very much considered low-brow by most of the reading public. Should we care? There's obviously enough of a fan base to keep them going, and you know that fans can be as rabid as a horde of Walkers shambling towards their next feast. In the final analysis, I think the answer to the continued popularity of monster magazines is pretty simple: Much like the Photoplay books of the 1920;s and 1930;s, what makes them unique is not only their subject matter, but their persistence, since their inception over 50 years ago, in their ability to supply the need of many a' reader to relive their favorite films through the printed page. And that, somehow, seems enough.