MAGMA THE MAGAZINE INDUSTRY REVIEW • FEBRUARY 2011
CARR D’ANGELO’S STARLOG DAYS CAN ESQUIRE STILL DESIGN COVERS? THE LAST OF BOB GUCCIONE THE GUEST-EDITOR & OTHER FOLLIES ANNA WINTOUR’S MAGIC & OTHER CONDÉ NAST NEWS
ON THE COVER One magazineâ€™s never enough. A power reader, our model Camille catches up on her magazines. For the completists among you, thatâ€™s Milk, Stern, and Future Life. Photo by Steven Bowles.
MAGMA THE MAGAZINE INDUSTRY REVIEW
ZIPPY The editor speaks
PROFILER Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé
FORWARD THINKING Esquire covers, Out magazine’s Daniel Radcliffe goof, a new home for Discover, fashion’s Photoshop controversy, & more
THE DISAPPEARING GAY MAGAZINE MARKET Challenged by the internet and growing acceptance
STARLOG: QUO VADIS? The rise and fall of a science-fiction powerhouse and its entrepreneurial publisher
STARLOG DAYS Interview with former managing editor Carr D’Angelo
THE LIFE & DEATH OF BOB GUCCIONE Remembering a publishing impresario
THE CONDÉ NAST POWERHOUSE Where would we be without the publishing giant?
THE FUNNIER PAGES American humor magazines, from Judge and the original Life to National Lampoon and its followers
WHO’S IN CONTROL OF YOUR MAGAZINE? The annoying and troubling trend of guest editors
THE LAST GOLDEN AGE OF THE SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE An excerpt from an ongoing, online effort to chronicle two science-fiction magazines
THE ALL-SEEING EYES Judge and jury for the latest magazine trends
STANDOUT COVERS We rate the award winners
REVIEWS The iMag, Famous Monsters, New York Review of Books, etc.
STATE OF THE UNION The Wal-Mart 1,000
KEEP READING Online resources
PHOTO BY STEVEN BOWLES
FEBRUARY 2011 • Volume 1, Number 1
ZIPPY MAGMA The Magazine Industry Review weimarworld.blogspot.com
Editor & Publisher John Zipperer firstname.lastname@example.org
In Print or Online: Enter the World of Magazines
n the early 1970s, magazines such as TV Guide, National Lampoon, Playboy, and others reached their circulation heights. Since then, for many publishers, it has been an exercise in awaiting the coffin, of letting either declining readership or increasing online viewership give last rites to their print product. I for one don’t believe the print industry’s death spiral is necessary. As you’ll read in this inaugural issue of Magma: The Magazine Industry Review, I think print magazines still do something great that online publications and information sources don’t do as well. A lot has happened in the publishing world in the months since this issue first began to come together. Tina Brown took over Newsweek. Bob Guccione passed away. Playboy Enterprises radically revamped its business model and has – at press time – agreed to a buy-back offer from founder Hugh Hefner. And gay magazines (adult and non-adult alike) have been dropping like flies. If there is a second issue of Magma, I could fill it with articles on the highly successful trend of custom magazines, digital publishing, and more. Stay tuned. Starlog. Newsweek. Vogue. Der Spiegel. Fangoria. National Lampoon. Omni. Playboy. Winq.
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Esquire. GQ. And so many more. They’re all in this issue, which is a tribute to magazines done well, done not well-enough, and done just plain terribly. Above all, I intend this publication to be of interest to magazine readers and magazine professionals – anyone who enjoys the medium of publications that are designed and edited for the pleasure and edification of their readers. It’s my tribute to magazines. Magazines have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m the child of magazine and newspaper editors, and the coffee table in our living room was always well supplied with copies of magazines ranging from The New York Times Magazine to Omni to Newsweek to Sierra. I was probably the youngest-ever reader of Folio:, the magazine industry bible, which I’d read when I visited my mother’s office. I got involved with creating publications starting with my high school newspaper, then the daily Badger Herald student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin (that’s me in my official Herald t-shirt in the photo above, circa 1987), and for the past two decades writing and editing for mostly business-to-business magazines (Internet World, Affordable Housing Finance, and
so on.) Currently, I head up the media and editorial department of a non-profit in San Francisco called The Commonwealth Club of California, where I have great fun putting together a regular print magazine and overseeing internet, radio and video operations. If Magma magazine is a love letter of a sort to print magazines, it is not because I dislike new media. On the contrary, I have been involved in internet operations for about 15 years at for-profits and non-profit organizations. But I love print magazines for their ability to deliver a reading experience that is simultaneously personal for the reader and formed by the publishers and editors. A magazine is not a bulletin board that allows everyone to have a say and determine what will be presented. It is the worldview – on whatever the purview of the magazine, whether it be news commentary, music, travel, films, sex, science, Christianity, or something else – from and by the editors and publishers, based on their understanding of the topic and the market. Welcome to Magma. Let me know what you think: E-mail me at email@example.com and visit my blog (http://weimarworld. blogspot.com), where I frequently cover topics of interest to magazines and where the origins of this magazine are. –John Zipperer Editor & Publisher
Art Director & Design John Zipperer Contributors Steven Bowles Francesco Chignola Penny Eardley Flickr user/titlap Camille Koué Wendy Wanderman Printing Issuu.com Magma: The Magazine Industry Review is published by John Zipperer. This is issue Number One, Volume One. All content is copyright © 2011 John Zipperer, except where otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Reprint or reproduction of any part is strictly forbidden without written permission. Magma accepts no responsibility for unsolicited submissions, but if they are submitted with self-addressed, return postage, they will be seriously considered and, if necessary, returned. Similarly, with e-mail submissions, they will be considered and, if necessary, returned. All articles in this issue are written by John Zipperer, unless otherwise specified. Please address all communications to Magma magazine to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traditional Chinese characters for “magazine.”
PROFILER Magazine Person of the Year: Monocle’s Tyler Brûlé
don’t know how to pronounce his last name, but Monocle magazine founder Tyler Brûlé is right on the money when it comes to building a global magazine brand. I’ve enjoyed his Financial Times columns for years (just one of the many pleasures of the weekend edition of the FT), and though I’ve never read his earlier periodical claim to fame – Wallpaper – I’ve been very impressed with his current hit, Monocle. In the UK’s Independent newspaper, the Canadian-born Brûlé was feted not too long ago with a nice article pointing out the success of Monocle in print, in podcasts, and now in retail. Laughed at by many for his ambitious plans for this hybrid global monthly (10 times annually) magazine covering business, culture, and design, Brûlé can enjoy its success. The magazine currently has a circulation of about 150,000, and subscriptions are low (12,000) but growing – and subscribers pay more than the cover price. Monocle is filled with reports and insight from around the world. The production quality is high. The writing is intelligent. But here’s what I really liked from the Independent article: Then there is the magazine itself, the very core of the business and a wonder to touch as well as to behold thanks to its five different paper stocks. Worth every penny, says Brûlé. “Media owners around the world are scratching their heads, asking why magazines and newspapers aren’t selling anymore. Why? Because you’ve downgraded the experience. When you are competing against digital, which can zoom in and animate, then your print experience needs to be tactile and exciting and, for magazines, a bit collectible.” Exactly. Brûlé understands that reading a print magazine is an experience. It can compete very well with online media products if its creators know what magazines can do best and they don’t try to do what online does better. Print magazines can do long, richly illustrated articles better than the Web, and when they do a highquality tactile
presentation (as does Monocle) – it’s great. I’ve said it before on my blog, but it bears repeating: Magazines need to be upgrading their experiences for the reader, not cutting paper quality, trim size, and frequency. Give people something better to pay for, and they will. A negative example illustrates the point. Recently, I almost bought a magazine at Borders because a friend and former colleague writes for it. Standing there in the store, I paged through the magazine, looking for bylined articles by my friend. I found many, but I didn’t find any article by him or by anyone else longer than a page, and most were sidebar-length. I didn’t buy it. That just isn’t enough content to make me take out my wallet and make a purchase. The magazine seems to be trying to compete with the web by being short and sweet, but that’s a competition it can’t win. If I want 400-word synopses of someone or something, I’ll get that from the web at no cost. The internet is very good at delivering that. But I look to print magazines to give me 4,000 words or more on a topic, with reporters on the ground, aided by photographers and illustrators and professional editing. Monocle knows that. So hats off to Tyler Brûlé. However the hell you pronounce his last name. –John Zipperer February 2011 | MAGMA | 05
FORWARD THINKING THE ROUNDUP OF NEWS AND OPINIONS ABOUT THE WORLD OF MAGAZINES
SFX Publisher Future Publishing Ltd. Rolls Out New Comic Heroes Title
n 2010, large UK-based publisher Future launched a comics magazine called Comic Heroes. With a title like that, an obvious question was whether the magazine would cover more than just the superhero-based comics that were being touted in the previews of the new magazine. The good news is that it does cover other comics topics, ranging from Japanese manga to French comics. So, after many years, we once again have a large newsstand magazine dedicated to the broad comics world The move to create a comicsfocused magazine came after a superhero special issue of SFX,
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which proved to be one of the most successful issues ever, according to The Guardian newspaper. Twas just a matter of time. Future, which produces the 150page science fiction media magazine SFX, among other popular titles, unveiled its newest publication in the UK in mid-March 2010; it took the slow boat to the colonies and then showed up on magazine racks here. The new magazine is about 132 pages and sells in the UK for £7.99. Now, a normal issue of SFX costs just £3.99 and retails in the United States for about $9.99, so Comic Heroes is a wallet-killer
that probably will severely limit its readership in America. The cover price here is more than $18, which puts it out of the reach of lots of potential readers. Sales in the United States are largely gravy to a UK publisher, but we wonder if it’s even worth distributing an $18 magazine. Another drawback of the quarterly magazine is the journalism, which all to often reads as if a writer sat down at the computer and just poured out everything he knows on the topic, rather than doing research and interviews. That might not be a fair criticism; the writers might well be hiding their research behind a chattier style, but it doesn’t come across in the articles. (We’re referring to the historical and topical articles, not the articles that are clearly interviews or reports on new projects.) Having knowledgeable comics historians write some of these articles would be a good move. That was always a strength of Comics Scene magazine (which was published in three different iterations: in the early 1980s, 1987-1995, and a brief three-issue revival in 2000). When you’re charging readers $10 or $18, they expect quality, and not just quantity of pages and color. Otherwise, you’re just (ahem) putting a blog on page.
U.S. Newsmags: Buy Us, Suckers
or years we’ve been watching American media deal with corporate consolidation, closings of magazines that didn’t meet public companies’ margin needs, and assimilation of online media into the printand video-dominated world. Lots of jobs have been lost because of this, and many grand old magazines have been butchered because they didn’t meet some half-baked ideas that people don’t want intelligent content anymore. But sometimes it helps to break out of our provincial worldview here in the United States and see that we’re being sold a bill of goods. American magazines have been getting thinner and thinner for years, yet UK publishers roll out giant, high-gloss mags filled with ads and edit pages. Or look to Germany for another case in point. Here in the United States, our news weeklies publish every week and deliver us – what? 68 pages? 72 pages? maybe 88 pages when they stuff in an advertorial? A couple years ago, Newsweek revamped its design and laudably promoted the fact that it would target readers. But how many pages were in its first redesigned issue, the one that should draw extra ads because of the publicity surrounding the redesigned mag? We believe it was something like 68. How many pages did Germany’s newsweekly Der Spiegel have that week? 206. And Der Spiegel’s not the only game in town in Germany; its competitor,
“We’re going to spend this hour asking questions about the media itself – TV, blogs, social networks and also something called magazines, which, for you kids, is a kind of blog that they print on paper.” –Peter Sagal, host, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” January 1, 2011
the newsweekly Focus, was also thicker than 200 pages. In fact, Der Spiegel and Focus (as well as Stern, a news/ features/personality weekly magazine read by something like one out of every nine Germans) are larger than 150 pages almost every week; on their “thin” weeks, they’re only about 130 pages, which would be banner, bumper issues for an American newsweekly. So if Germany can produce big weekly newsmagazines, why are we being sold short here in the United States with thin magazines that act as if they don’t have enough content to fill a 100-page magazine? They add an awful lot of fluff about celebrities to accompany their often very good political and national news reporting. But Der Spiegel puts out a desk-thumping huge magazine every week, with few celebrities in sight, with lots of excellent (and deep, and famously wellresearched) news on politics, national events, international events, commentary, trends, and even extremely readable history. (We still remember filling a cross-country flight reading a great report on the Enlightenment “revolution” in Prussia.) American magazines can do better. They can also deliver a better value to their readers. However, until they do, we’ll find that value in the European press. The ball’s now in Tina Brown’s court. With the takeover of Newsweek magazine by her Daily Beast web site, she has the opportunity to show American newsmagazine readers that they’re not suckers. They’ve just been acting like they are.
Studies: Magazines remain popular: “I’m not dead yet ”
ike the dying patient who’s brought out for disposal in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, magazines have been defying predictions of their death. In the film, the dying man is claiming to still be alive, and the man carrying him and trying to get rid of him says it doesn’t matter if he’s not already technically dead: “Well, he will be soon; he’s very ill.“ This refusal to roll over and die even led a coalition of major American periodicals publishers last year to launch an ad campaign touting the vitality of their industry. The full-page ads noted that the reality was far different from the dying industry forecast by digital competitors: In fact, readership of magazines had increased during the same time that social media services from Facebook and Google and others were growing fast. Now comes more welcome news that might help address the incorrect perceptions among the hoi polloi.
Nearly 190 million American adults read print magazines, and the magazine landscape is beginning to recover from the vicious recession that saw an increased death rate among periodicals, according to two new reports issued near the end of 2010. That might not be good news to the digital villagers seeking to drive a stake through the heart of print periodicals, but it should hearten the rest of us. More than 188 million American adults read at least one print magazine, according to the American Magazine Survey from Affinity. Men slightly outnumber women among readers – 84 percent to 80 percent – and the average American adult reads 6.1 different magazines. The Affinity study involved interviews with 34,000 adults in 2010. Luckily, they’ll have plenty of magazines to read, at least judging from the demolition derby that has been the magazine publishing industry in recent years.
After taking a big hit in 2009, when 596 magazines closed up shop, only 176 magazines ceased publication in 2010, according to MediaFinder, a database for the magazine industry. During that same time, there were 193 new magazines launched, notes Matt Kinsman, writing on Foliomag.com. There were 28 new food publications produced in 2010, with regional and health magazines also producing many new launches – 15 and 10, respectively, Kinsman reports. The cloud around this silver lining is that the news isn’t good across the board. Publishing niches that did not do well last year included home magazines, which lost 13 titles, and the large business-to-business professional sector, where 47 titles ceased publication while 34 launched. The digital world could take a club to the head of print to finish off the job, but until that happens, “I feel happy. I feel happy. “ February 2011 | MAGMA | 07
Daniel Radcliffe & the Half-Blooded Cover Photo
ell, the ol’ tubes of the internets are buzzing with mostly complaints about gay lifestyle magazine Out’s recent cover featuring actor Daniel Radcliffe.
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The image, as you can see above, makes the handsome young actor look either crazy or strung out after a night of drugs. The story inside the magazine is at least somewhat interesting; it concerns Radcliffe befriending a transgendered musician. It also plays up the fact that Radcliffe has become a very public champion of equal rights for everybody, including the LGBT population. Gay magazines love to play up gay-friendly actors or other performers – especially if they’re gifted in the looks department – because there’s only so many times you can put Rupert Everett or Adam Lambert on the cover. And, let’s face it, some folks love to fantasize about the gayfriendly-but-straight actors like
Radcliffe. Hell, even Mel Gibson used to be a gay icon, and he’s barking mad in his homophobia. We’re glad to see Radcliffe being unafraid to identify himself with the LGBT community. But what does this Out cover photo convey? That he needs to get out in the sun some more, despite his natural Britishness? That no one – no one – should ever wear a tank top? That you can make even Daniel Radcliffe look unattractive if you try hard enough? In short, the photo is horrible. It was chosen, no doubt, to give some edge to an actor associated with a wholesome young-adults movie series, but it was still a bad choice. That’s not to say that you can’t dirty up Radcliffe. Esquire’s UK edition did so a little while ago, and it looked fine. The cover photo showed the roughed-up actor in a way that supported the editorial content inside, and it didn’t make you speculate about the magazine’s professional judgement. Another UK magazine, the gay lifestyle magazine Attitude, had Radcliffe on the cover and didn’t think he needed to look vampiric. American mag Details (is there any gayer straight magazine?) had a very good-looking Radcliffe on the cover. Dumbledore should have gotten this love from the gay publishing world, and maybe he would have, if that dastardly old Snape hadn’t offed him ....
Turmoil at China’s Science Fiction World
n her 1992 science-fiction novel China Mountain Zhang, American author Maureen F. McHugh depicts a China-dominated world in which the U.S. has dropped into either second- or thirdclass status while China powers ahead in innovation and economic and military power. The global financial troubles that began in 20072008 have arguably fueled the relative rise of China and the relative decline of the United States. So if China is the future, what can we learn from looking at its sciencefiction pioneers? It is going to be bumpy ride. The Science Fiction Blog recently passed along a Chinese news report about a conflict between editors and the president of the company that publishes Science Fiction World, reportedly the world’s largest SF magazine. According to the article, the editors rebelled against drastic costcutting that had forced them to try to write the stories themselves, and for the art staff to do the illustrations themselves, rather than pay professional fiction writers and artists to do the work. In addition, the magazine’s stunning cover art was replaced with advertisements. The company’s president looks pretty bad in the report, but frankly this is too far away and the reports too unclear at this point to know if it’s as bad as it seems. After all, the president would have to be a dunderhead to expect editors to write the fiction, unless they just happened to be accomplished fiction authors in addition to being editors. So, while reserving judgment, we’ll call him guilty. (Ain’t
summary judgements great?) We’re not the only ones judging the president, however, The whole staff of Science Fiction World demanded that the magazine’s leader leave. Science Fiction Blog reports that the leader in question was soon fired. Needless to say, the blogger is correct to note that such a unified act by employees of resisting authority is rare in China. Their experience might be quite a bit different from Chinese author Chen Guanzhong, who wrote a novel called The Prosperous Time: China 2013. In Foreign Policy magazine, writer Xujun Eberlein describes the book as a pretty rough critique of the Chinese communist political system and the people’s acquiescence and complicity in the authoritarian system. A rare social science-fiction story in a country where SF tends to shy away from commenting on political matters, The Prosperous Time was first published in Hong Kong and then offered by the author free of charge to mainland readers (it’s banned there). While we ponder the ultimate fate of Science Fiction World, the ongoing reception in China of The Prosperous Time might tell us more about how the world of the future – and China’s vision of the future – is shaping up.
oesn’t anyone have consumer education classes in school anymore? Did those die out in the last right-wing attack on education? We assume most high schoolers are no longer learning about how products are marketed toward them, or how articles are written, or how television programs are designed to influence them – because people are getting very overworked about things that should not surprise them one bit. In a high-profile example, The New York Times recently reported on the shockedyes-shocked reactions of people to the amount of photo retouching that goes on in fashion magazines. The article refers to some egregious examples of cover models who have been Photoshopped to hell and back in attempts to make them look thinner. (Notice how they never Photoshop them to make them look smarter? Now that would be a nice touch. Er, retouch.) But most of the slant of the Times piece seems to be that showing more “real” women, untouched by a designer’s effort, will enhance women’s selfesteem and body-image. Phil Poynter, a photographer and/or designer (hard to tell from the Times’ description of his work), said that “the big discussion in the fashion business has always been about should we retouch girls, should we create a portrait of a girl that is not achievable by a real girl.” Two things: 1) Yep, the fashion (and showbusiness) magazines present an unrealistic image of women and girls. They do the same for men, of course, but that’s usually ignored in the discussion. 2) People flock to the newsstands to buy these magazines. No one that we know of has been forced at gunpoint to purchase Vogue, Elle, or Us Weekly (though that’s the only way you would get
some people to buy Us Weekly). We don’t write that as a libertarian whatever-the-consumer-wantsmust-be-right statement. No, we mean that they could change their approach completely, but women would just start buying different magazines. People buy those magazines because they want to see the perfect, the unachievable, the unattainable, for the same reason people buy car magazines featuring expensive Porsches and Jaguars. Other people may not like that, but it’s human nature and fact. There was another flare-up of this controversy a while back about magazines altering the skin color on their cover images, making African Americans look either darker or lighter. That could, indeed, be a reprehensible practice; one would have to know the exact details of the situation to make a judgment (but when did that stop the instantopinion morality police?). But we should also make the obvious point – at least it’s obvious from the perspective of anyone who’s worked in magazines: All magazine photos are Photoshopped or altered to some degree. Portions of them
are made darker or lighter (often for reasons normal readers would never suspect, such as the need to offset the effects of the particular paper the publisher is using or the printer’s likelihood of printing darker or lighter than it should). Images are cropped to focus on a portion of the picture. Blemishes are removed, even if they’re not trying to make the person look “unattainably beautiful,” because if there is a prominent blemish – a pimple, a scar, a rash, whatever – on a person’s face that is featured on a magazine cover, it doesn’t look real so much as it looks like you’re trying to feature the blemish. A magazine cover is not a capture of a split-second of reality; it’s a framed highlight that focuses the viewer’s attention on the cover image, and on any noticeable feature on that image. But then, a little consumer education would have told people how the real world works. An educated viewer/reader/consumer doesn’t need to overreact when they are told that Vogue is trying to get them to buy a magazine or that Bank of America wants them to accept a credit card offer. No kidding, Sherlock. February 2011 | MAGMA | 09
Discover Mag Purchased by Kalmbach
Esquire Magazine Struggles with Covers
e like actor Daniel Craig, but we do blame him, in a way. His September 2006 cover of the American edition of Esquire magazine was the first of what has become a tiresome image/text treatment for the magazine. There, in the center of the cover, stands the handsome Bond actor, with giant text filling up every available space on the cover behind him, even running behind him. Once, that treatment is nice. Twice, it’s too much. But Esquire is still showing up in our mailbox more than four years later with the umpteenth consecutive iteration of this design. Esquire was once known for its great covers. We still remember a UW-Madison journalism professor dissecting a 1960s-era Esquire cover, pointing out the genius of the design, the text, the actual words used and how they conveyed what the mag thought of its readers and the high level of subject matter inside. No magazine is the same as it was 45 years ago. But cover design is often the single most en-
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joyable part of putting together an issue of a magazine. Coming up with the right image and text, trying something new, getting it to reflect (and, let’s be frank, oversell) the interior content, eagerly awaiting its appearance on the newsstand so you can smugly note how much it stands out from its competitors. Looking at a good cover is also one of the most enjoyable parts of reading a magazine. So why the heck does Esquire stick with a cover design treatment that makes each issue look so similar that newsstand browsers are likely to mistake the new issue for last month’s? What passes for Esquire innovation these days is saved for gimmicks, the latest being “augmented reality.” The December 2009 issue featured a vaguely lewd pose by actor Robert Downey Jr. (above) atop a box that reveals who-knows-what under the right conditions. Samir Husni, aka “Mr. Magazine,” found the Esquire experience interesting and useless.
We found it unfulfilling, because when we finally received our copy in the mail, the mailing label covered up part of the special box that was supposed to be the “augmented reality” gimmick. We’d heard that you hold up the image to a web camera and something is revealed. Not quite. Luckily, the idiotic mailing label came off without ripping or disfiguring the paper beneath it. But then we were instructed to turn to page 21 of the magazine, where we learned we had to go to a web page, download a zipped file, then view the cover of the magazine in front of a computer webcam. No. We refuse. That’s stupid. We mean, bravo, hooray, all that nonsense for a magazine that is trying new (albeit useless) gimmicks to get attention. But we have to go download some software that we will never use again just to watch what apparently is an ad for the magazine we already hold in our hands? We give up.
almbach Publishing, located in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has bought Discover Media, which produces Discover magazine. Discover will become Kalmbach’s 17th periodical. Kalmbach is a respected publisher of “enthusiast” magazines such as Astronomy. It’s a great fit; Kalmbach’s a good publisher, and it should take good care of the magazine, its 700,000+ readers, and the brand. Kalmbach’s not a buyand-sell type of company. Discover will remain headquartered in New York, reports Folio:, which will make the staff that works there happier, no doubt, but it’ll be a waste of money. Perhaps the location will shift in future years, but for now it probably helps the company retain staff. (Publishers often say they need to be in Manhattan to get visibility among large advertisers and to get media “buzz,” but there are plenty of successful publications produced outside of the Big Apple, so we can dispense with those rationalizations for paying sky-high rents.) Discover was founded in 1980 by Time Inc., and it was then in the vanguard – along with Science 80 and others – of a new movement of science writing for popular audiences. The articles were written by scientifically literate professional journalists who were able to bring science to mass, non-expert audiences. The magazine has been owned by many companies since then, including the Walt Disney Company and a company that included magazine entrepreneur Bob Guccione Jr. One happy ending in the magazine world.
The Disappearing Gay Magazine Market BY JOHN ZIPPERER
he audience for gay magazines has never had greater acceptance in Western society, and it arguably has never had more economic power and visibility. Yet magazines catering to this audience have been closing up shop at a rapid clip. What is happening? There are, if you will, two types of magazines serving the gay market: adult and non-adult magazines. The magazines targeting gay males with photos of men who have forgotten to get dressed have been dying off at a faster rate than the nonadult titles, but there’s plenty of worry to spread around in the publishing world. Last year, blogger and Pop Star editor Matthew Rettenmund shared the word that adult titles Men and Freshmen were ceasing publication, or would go to newsstand-only distribution as quarterly themed magazines, which, as
Rettenmund correctly points out, is pretty much death for a magazine anyway. (Few advertisers consider quarterly magazines to be magazines, and readers tend to forget about a magazine three months after the last issue.) Rettenmund knows the turf. Before his current gig as editor of a teen celebrity periodical, he had served as an editor at Mavety Media Group, which published a string of gay (and some straight) periodicals that were all abruptly shuttered in 2009: Mandate, Torso, Playguy, Honcho, and others, such as, um, er, Inches. The same thing is true about Men and Freshmen that was true about the Mavety magazines. For years, gay skin magazines have launched with the
promise to be the “gay Playboy,” but they never delivered. If they had non-sexrelated material in them (travel articles or interviews), those very soon disappeared so they could devote more pages to what they assumed their readers were buying the magazines to get: erotic stories and nude photos. I’ve got nothing against either, but I do note that Playboy is still around – bowed and challenged, yes, but still publishing with millions of readers – while competitor Penthouse threw away its millions of readers when publisher Guccione ramped up the sex content in a last-ditch, futile effort to save his crumbling publishing empire (see page 25). The nudity and sexual content can be gotten easily
Challenged by greater acceptance and by the internet, gay magazines have been dropping like flies.
and endlessly online, so at best it is an added spice to a print publication. But the print publication needs to offer something that is much rarer online, which in my humble (and constantly repeated) opinion should be long-form journalism, good writing, and good reader service. Playboy still does that. Winq, as we’ll see, more or less does that. Mandate and Freshmen didn’t. Dwindling Ranks of Gay Magazines an’t say I am surprised. Can’t say it’ll make much difference in the publishing world. Can’t say they’ll be much missed, probably even by their regular readers. But I can say that when Rettenmund announced that Mavety Media Group was cancelling all of its gay magazine titles, “gay magazine titles” meant magazines that were made up of nude pictures of men, erotic fiction, and porn ads ad nauseum. And that’s it. So the publishing world has lost such venerable titles as Mandate, Inches (and Black Inches), Playguy, Honcho, and Torso. But before you sit shiva for these magazines, just think that they didn’t really have anything to offer. As nothing more than porn mags, they really lacked anything with which to combat all of the free online porn. Rettenmund, also the author of Boy Culture and Blind Items: A Novel, is full of interesting background both on life inside the Mavety publishing family (stuff you couldn’t make up, such as the porn publisher’s Christian ad sales rep) and on the gay magazine industry. It’s almost enough to make one sorry to see these magazines go. But no. They were a disappointment for
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anyone who’s interested in what magazines can be when they really try. In August 2010, Rettenmund announced on his blog (http://boyculture.typepad.com) that the Mavety skin mags were returning to the print world. It was a “done deal,” according to his source. But if they take the same path they took before to serving their audience, then they’ll just be back on the path to going out of business. Adult magazine publishers are not known for editorial wisdom and quality, but they are known for being sharp with a dollar when it’s their own. These magazines need to be reinvented, not relaunched. How are non-adult gay titles faring? They’ve been decimated. A combination of the brutal recession, the spread of quality reporting on gay topics in mainstream magazines, and some already weak publications has resulted in a steady decline in the ranks of gay periodicals. But decimated doesn’t do justice to the decline. The word comes from the ancient Romans, whose military commanders would punish mutinous or disastrously performing troops by killing one out of every 10 troops under their command (the deci- root comes from the Latin for ten). A brutal form of punishment, yes; but the rate of loss in the magazine market is likely much more than 10 percent. Just by checking one online list of gay magazines, I found that of the 10 listed, five have ceased publication – six if you count The Advocate, which officially became a special section of sister mag Out. One could quibble with my counting; there are
additional surviving and dead magazines not listed, and gay business title Echelon is counted as having ceased publication, but it apparently is still alive as an online-only magazine. An online-only magazine is, to me, by definition an internet product. But such quibbles are what make life worth living, and a disagreement on that title doesn’t appreciably alter the calculation. I’ve long maintained that print has a healthy future, if it does what print does best and lets the internet do what the ’net does best. I suspect that the gay market niche is kind of uniquely vulnerable to the internet. That part of the magazines’ coverage that was about building community and interaction is exactly what the internet does better than print. And those magazines that offered little or nothing more than adult content have obviously lost their reason for living, in a world where the internet makes videos and pictures of any- and everything ubiquitous and often free. Still Some Life Left in It ope springs eternal, however. Some venerable titles still survive, including non-adult magazines like Germany’s Männer or the UK’s Attitude and Gay Times. Meanwhile, Playgirl (the ostensibly femaleoriented but gay-friendly skin publication) is back and is trying to buck the trend, though not well, if you ask me. On the non-adult side, we’ll see how relatively new titles such as the wonderful Winq from the Netherlands fare. When I first saw the Fall 2008 issue of Winq magazine, I thought its title was “wing.” Look at its title
on the covers reproduced on these pages; I’m sure I wasn’t alone in that mistake. But that doesn’t matter much. The real title is “Winq,” and that makes as much sense for an international gay magazine as “wing.” I bought the magazine and was impressed. It’s been a long time since I’ve found a new magazine that actually impresses me with its quality and originality. Yes, it’s a new magazine. The issue I purchased was actually the second American edition of a Dutch magazine. The foreign edition has been around for twenty-something issues, so it’s a new/old magazine, but nonetheless, as a print magazine launch in the recession-rocked United States, it was
new to us, as they say. sical music aficionados, comics readers, This is a magazine that could teach Catholic social workers), there’s the danger American magazines a thing or two. At that the publication will be overly narrow $7.95 and about 130 pages (including cov- in viewpoint. The topics aren’t narrow; the ers), it’s a good value and it sports some sol- viewpoints expressed in articles usually are, id advertising support (but not overpow- because there simply isn’t a large enough ering; it’s ad-edit ratio must be very low): pool of writing talent on staff. So Winq Lufthansa, Dsquared, Dirk Bikkembergs, solves that by being the magazine of “global Adidas, Giorgio Armani, Paco Rabanne, queer culture,” and it’s an approach that can Wrangler, and others. The next thing you probably be used by other magazines, gay notice about Winq is that its interior pages or straight. In fact, it is being used by a nonare high-quality, uncoated, full-color paper. gay monthly news-and-business magazine The layout, design, and production appear called Monocle, which brings to American to be top-quality, and the articles are an in- audiences ideas and news and culture from teresting collection that range from the po- around the globe (see page 5). litical (a look at Obama and equal rights) There are other attempts at bringing to the surprising (a profile of a gay prince American gay readers something different, in India) to the expected (an overview of but distribution seems to be a challenge to famous rich gays around the world) to the them. Mate magazine is a German nonjuvenile (a look at how people use sex talk adult gay publication that also produces around the world). an English-language edition. It’s high qualThere are also a couple photo spreads of ity, and it features a lot of good coverage of lightly clad men, but there’s no nudity. This style and travel, but the magazine is hard to is a magazine that can be left on the coffee find. And British publications such as Gay table, unless you are having Miss California Times aren’t really global magazines; they over for dinner. are thoroughly British in outlook and just Overall, its quality and originality caught happen to distribute in the United States. my eye. It is doing something that other gay So, welcome to Winq. I don’t know how magazines are not doing, either by choice long it’ll survive in the United States, but or from lack of vision and abilities. Ameri- while it does, I hope it encourages other pubcan gay periodicals are either all-sex-and- lishers in niche markets to aim high. nudity, or they’re aimed at a very small portion of the gay audience, which Mithly: A New Gay Magazine takes narrow-casting to an extreme. Any time – Where Homosexuality Is Illegal you take a small enough It’s probably a little difficult to imagine here in the audience (gay men, clasUnited States. Say you wanted to create a magazine for something that was illegal. Naturally, your mind goes to things that are prurient and disgusting. (Shame on you.) Because so much is legal here that is illegal in less advanced nations, right? But what if it was simply illegal to love someone, to be intimate with them, and you wanted to make a magazine about that? No, it’s not Texas. It’s Morocco. Britain’s The Guardian reports on a new gay magazine in Morocco. Gays might be frowned upon there, but they’ve got a print presence in Mithly magazine (http:// mithly.net). It might supplant my previous prediction of the shortest-living magazine alive today, but I wish Mithly (and the magazine Gay: Good as You from Belarus) a long life. But its editors might want to sleep with one eye open.
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Starlog: Quo Vadis? OR: We could have saved the magazine.
An examination of the weaknesses and missed opportunities that led to the demise of a market-leading magazine. What are the chances for a resurrection? By John Zipperer
he beginning of the new year is as good a time as any to address the matter of my long-promised review of Starlog magazine. But I want to review the magazine as a whole, as a brand. I know that if someone had proposed to review any of the magazine brands for which I’ve worked, I’d have a mixture of curiosity, bemusement, and a chip on my shoulder. For the editors and publisher of a brand such as Starlog, you could probably add “weariness,” because people are always airing their opinions about the magazine and how it should have been run. That’s the burden of being an iconic magazine in its field. Playboy gets the same treatment. Whenever Playboy Enterprises reports a quarter of bad earnings, the blogosphere fills up with people saying the company should ditch its print edition, ditch its executives, adapt to the internet age, etc. And so it is with Starlog. For more than three decades, this magazine covered science fiction
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films, television, books, plays, theme park attractions, comics, and much more, and at its height (arguably in the early 1980s, but possibly in the 1990s) it was the flagship of a small but thriving publishing group that produced titles on everything from horror to teens to movie tie-ins to baseball and wrestling (and astrology and cars and cat calendars and soap operas and military history and women’s magazines and bodybuilding and obviously much, much more). For a lot of that time, Starlog magazine dominated a field that included weaker competitors such as Fantastic Films, Cinefantastique, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Movieland, Sci-Fi Universe, Questar, and others. But in recent years, it fell behind, both technologically and competitively. I’ll write more about the competitive landscape below, but first let’s take a look at Starlog-the-brand’s many aspects and how it did with each. In Print he May 1980 issue of Starlog was the first edition of the magazine I ever purchased. Even now, without thumbing through
February 2011 | MAGMA | 15
a copy to refresh my memory, I can recall most of the articles in it. (Interviews with two of the new actors in Galactica 1980; a report on a backyard production of Alien; an editorial reviewing Galactica 1980; a column by David Gerrold in which “Harlan Ellison,” “litchi nut,” and “sex” all figured prominently in the lead; and on and on....) That issue made me a lifelong reader. But being a reader from “way back when” doesn’t make me qualified to critique a magazine, for which a small merry band of individuals spent a lot of time writing, editing, designing, and marketing. As a professional editor myself, I respect their work and dedication, but I offer this constructive criticism of Starlog magazine in the hopes that they or their successors are listening. The magazine remained timely until its death in early 2009, including coverage of all of the big – and many small – science fiction media projects. They got the big interviews, they asked the good questions, and they stayed on target, which is reporting on films, books, and television programs; thankfully, they did not do what so many other film publications do and report on the bedroom details of the actors or directors. If you want that, there’s plenty of such reporting elsewhere. Instead, we learned about projects that are of wide interest and others that are targeted at niche-audiences, which is a great way to attract new readers and retain older ones. (If you’re the magazine where readers can be certain to find interviews with every star of a small WB fantasy-oriented TV series, that makes it a must-buy publication for the show’s fans.) It also featured excellent film historians Tom Weaver and Will Murray, who provided frequent must-read articles. Editor David McDonnell is a well-known comics fan (having worked on three different iterations of sister publication Comics Scene) who gathered a large number of onepanel comics for each issue of Starlog. There were also book reviews, DVD previews, a monthly overview of changes to science fiction television programs, short updates on upcoming media programs, and photos of science fiction and fantasy celebrities at public appearances. All well-and-good. The drawbacks of Starlog were not in what was there. McDonnell and his team produced a slick magazine each month (10 times annually at the end of its life, down from 12 a few years earlier, but that’s par for the publishing world these days), and reading it will kept any science fiction fan wellinformed and entertained. No, the drawbacks were what was not in Starlog. First, there were no editorials or columns, either of which (preferably both) can give a magazine personality and, perhaps more important, can give readers a reason 16 | MAGMA | February 2011
starlog missed the boat – and a great many opportunities to promote its brand – by ignoring the internet.
issues, such as anniversary issues, seasonal previews, and other special features or editions that don’t appear each month but give the reader something to look forward to (and a reason to plan on buying the next issue of the magazine). I remember well how much I anticipated each July’s special anniversary issue of Starlog back in the 1980s. No, my life wasn’t so empty that this was all that I looked forward to; but it was something that in the context of my reading and purchasing of magazines was very important. Not only does this sense of the calendar help sell the magazine, but it helps define the genre for the reader, and that makes the magazine that much more of an indispensable buy.
to buy a magazine even if they’re not particularly interested in the articles blurbed on the cover. The examples are many: David Schow in Fangoria in the 1990s; David Gerrold in Starlog in the late 1970s to the mid-1980s; Harlan Ellison in Future Life for the second half of its short life; Howard Cruse in Comics Scene’s first iteration. Or – in the non-Starlog Group world – the late Asa Baber’s column in Playboy, William Safire in The New York Times Magazine, and many other examples. The reader doesn’t have to agree with everything or even a lot of what the columnist writes, but the reader does have to be served a column that is provocative and interesting. A good column doesn’t have to be more than a page or two in the magazine, so it’s not taking up too much real estate. But it should help sell the magazine and help define its character to readers who pick up the publication for the first time. Editorials can be even shorter in length, but they accomplish a lot, as long as the editor or publisher writing it is allowed to say things and not just highlight articles in that issue. Editor McDonnell has written tons of these over the years for all of the magazines he’s edited, but he did not in the final years of the magazine’s life. Nor was there a publisher’s letter in Starlog, as there used to be when publisher Kerry O’Quinn really set the tone for the magazine in the 1980s. The magazine needed an editorial voice, something to show that the magazine has a voice of its own, to help point readers to things not covered in the magazine, to give the magazine a personality with which the reader, one hopes, identifies and thereby makes it more likely that the reader will continue reading. The other thing missing from the magazine is more difficult to define, but I believe it to be very important. That is a sense of the calendar, something to make the magazine the reader’s guide through the year. This can be done best with annual special
The Design ith the redesign of Starlog’s longtime logo a few issues before the magazine’s cancellation, there was an assumption by some people that the magazine would itself undergo a redesign, but none was forthcoming. None was called for, necessarily, because the publication’s designers did a good job, and covers were quite good. (Any magazine that has published more than 370 issues is going to have some great covers, a lot of good covers, a ton of so-so covers, and more than a few boners. Starlog is no exception.) The magazine had lots of color, but it long ago learned the advantages of letting the color photos speak for themselves without needing to overload the reader with colored backgrounds to the text. One of Starlog’s strengths had always been that it was a readers’ magazine; even with a lot of sharp color photos in each issue, most of the magazine was text, and that plays to the strength of print publications in the internet age: You get a headache after reading text on the web for too long, but a good print magazine is something you lie down on the couch or sit in a chair and put your feet up while you read for extended periods, which gives the reader more commitment to spending time with the magazine and the brand. Make it a pleasurable experience.
Online Missteps tarlog was never at the forefront of the internet revolution. Sure, one of its editors had a Compuserve address in the 1980s, and it (along with sister publications Fangoria and Comics Scene) had a presence on the early MSN network in the early 1990s. But when the World Wide Web exploded and became the obvious platform for communication and dissemination, Starlog lagged, relying on its print presence and only belatedly creating a web site. The web site the magazine had for much of its final decade was underfed in terms
of content or even attention. It also went through not-infrequent periods without any updated material, as well as crippling downtime following the purchase of Starlog and Fangoria from its previous, bankrupt owner. There was no e-mail newsletter, no podcasts (video or audio), no blogs (until the very end of its life). There was an online forum, as well as short reports on news of the day, excerpts from print articles, and an online store. Missing was any regular presence of the print publication’s editorial staff, as well as anything substantive. In brief, Starlog missed the boat – and a great many opportunities to promote its brand – by ignoring or giving short shrift to the internet. I believe that needed to change, and I have some ideas below on how that could have been – and might still be – done cost-effectively. Competitive Landscape n the early 1990s, there appeared within a very short timespan several new newsstand competitors to Starlog. My thought at the time was that, though Starlog remained strong and a favorite of mine, competition would be good for it and would perhaps impel it to step up its game. But the competition proved unworthy; Sci-Fi Universe, published by the Hustler group of magazines, remains the only magazine I’ve ever seen to publish an interview with provocative writer Harlan Ellison that was boring. The magazine died an early death, unbemoaned. Sci-Fi Entertainment and Cinescape offered nothing new, trying to play in Starlog’s yard but beating it only in terms of color pages, not in quality or new ground broken (to mix metaphors). But the real competition has come from England, where the economics of magazine publishing clearly are different from here in the United States. SFX magazine (which often manages to cover the lower part of its logo so it looks like “SEX”) offers lots of pages and attitude, but it has no connection to the soul of the SF fan the way Starlog did in its early years. In the past couple years, Sci Fi Now and Deathray emerged from England, both of them, like SFX, at nearly 150 oversized pages, all color. In terms of paper quality and quantity, energy, and attitude, these magazines have raised the bar in a way that Cinescape and its sisters could never do. How did Starlog react? In the past decade, the magazine went through one bankruptcy and another implosion (which saw the former Starlog Group close something like a dozen of its other magazines when financing ran out in 2001). Not too long before it ceased publication, Starlog cut its page count from 92 pages (including
The Starlog Bunch: Publishing Entrepreneurs Starlog Group did something very well: identify a market and exploit it. Some were hits (such as Starlog), others not so much. Here’s as close as we were able to get to a complete list of the regular publications produced by Starlog Group (under its various names)*: Action Heroes: The title says it all Action Wheels: An umbrella series title for various vehicular-focused irregular magazines: Radio Control Models, Muscle Cars, Monster Truck, Custom Cars, Lowrider Pickups, Big Trucks, BMX Mania, Skateboard USA All-Time Baseball Greats: Profiles and reports Allure: Playgirl wannabe American Astrology: You knew this would be on the list, right? Baywatch: Official magazine of the hit series Belle: Fashion for plussized black women Black Elegance: Women’s fashion magazine Car Design: The magazine that keeps the hood shut Cinemagic: Do-it-yourself filmmaking guide Comics Scene: New and old comics creators Country Rhythms: Country music Country Spectacular: Country musician profiles and pinups Crosswords Galore: The title says all Cybersurfer: Web news and reviews Daily TV Serials: Soap opera news & interviews Fangoria: Horror films, TV, books, and other media; the only surviving Starlog Group title Fantasy Modeling: Modelmaking tips Fantasy Worlds: Fantasybased films and books Female Bodybuilding and
Weight Training: Pretty self-explanatory title Fight Game: Boxing news Future Life: Science and science-fiction Game Play: Video games Gorezone: Really gory films Hair: Hair styles Inside Boxing: Boxers Latin Teen: Latin teen stars Military Technical Journal: Historical reports and schematics from military history Modern Black Men: Men’s fashion magazine Moonlight Romance: Book-length fiction in magazine format Pencil Hunt: More mind games Rhapsody Romance: More book-length fiction in magazine format Ringside Wrestling: Professional wrestling Rock Video: Video music stars Screen Greats: The legendary personalities of the film world Sci-Fi TV: All SF-TV, all the time Sci-Fi Teen: SF for the ‘tweeners Spice: AfricanAmerican music and film stars Starlog: Sciencefiction film, TV, books & comics Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Licensed TV magazine Star Trek: The Next Generation: Licensed TV magazine Star Trek Voyager: Licensed TV magazine Stock Car Spectacular: NASCAR before NASCAR was big Sunrise: Pop-Christian features digest Superstar Wrestlers: Professional wrestling Teen Girl Power: Teenage
star profiles Teen Idols Mania: More teen stars Top: Teen stars Toxic Horror: Real and reel horror TV Showpeople: Television personalities TV Wrestlers: More wrestling TV Toons: Cartoons Wrestling All-Stars: Wrestling all-“stars” Wrestling Scene: Yet more wrestling Your Cat: Meow Your Dog: Woof * This list does not include foreign editions.
covers) to 84. How should it have reacted? Here are some thoughts. My Suggestions for Starlog irst, don’t not do what the magazine and its editors, writers, and designers did so well, which was offering that broad coverage of science fiction media past, present, and future. But much more attention needs to be paid to a basic magazine need: Advertising. Time and effort need to be spent to increase the advertising. Even if the mag’s circulation won’t again reach its peak, it’s still a good vehicle for advertisers to reach readers. Second, address the lack of “a sense of the calendar,” as I call it above. Do something special for the anniversary issue each and every year. Have a couple special articles (featuring a special layout/design), a self-laudatory editorial (that’s not as selfish as it sounds; any such editorial is doing two things: It does praise the home forces, but it also praises the readers for being a part of this great enterprise and lets the readers know they are part of a very special breed of readers and thinkers), maybe a bust-theeditorial-budget special report on some aspect of the science fiction universe. Other options could include devoting a portion of the December issue to a yearend review, which also lets you devote a good-sized article in January to a new-year preview. Both can be produced with little extra cost (i.e., time-willing, they could be staff-produced and not require freelance talent) and can even draw in the sorely lacking reader involvement: In October, tell readers to write in with their top-10 lists of the year, with a selection to be printed in the December issue, or with a tally to be taken and published, along with selected
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The first and last word in science fiction. Above left: Starlog’s premiere issue in August 1977. Above right: The final issue, #374, April 2009. Center: The cover of the never-published Starlog #375.
comments on the best/worst/whatever science fiction films/TV/books that make the collective list. It’s free content, but it lets the reader become a part of the magazine and maybe even see their name in print – a notto-be-dismissed plus, and it can be a fun use of two or three pages. For several years in the mid-1980s, Starlog produced an annual end-of-summer issue that included reviews of the summer’s movies. The theory the editors offered was that by then everyone’s had a chance to see the movies for themselves, so they weren’t straying from the magazine’s mantra of letting the readers make their own judgments. Starlog could revisit this type of an issue, perhaps making the special section a collection of reviews by science-fiction writers, readers, and its own collection of the top genre journalists. With the dominant role that DVDs now play in the success of a film or television program, having a review issue that comes out after most of the big films have made their debut but before they have hit DVD (and before the new TV season gets really going) could be perfect
The Land of One-Shots Starlog magazine started life as a one-shot devoted to Star Trek. When the publishers ran into skepticism from potential distributors, they added some non-Trek material and launched it as a regular magazine. But the company that became known as Starlog Group was already the master of the one-shot, as evidenced by this we’re-sure-incomplete list of their limitedrun titles over the decades: One-shot or limited-run magazines: 25 Years of Sci-Fi Movies 100 Years of Automobiles 100 Years of Baseball 100 Years of Comics 100 Years of Science Fiction Academy Awards Alabama & Five Other Country Superstars America at War Baseball Scorecard Baseball Superstars Batman & Other Comics Heroes The Beatles Forever The Best of Stallone
Boy George Corvette Classics D-Day Official 50th Anniversary Magazine Dinosaur Dracula Duran Duran & Five Other Supergroups Eerie TV Elvis Fangoria Postcards The Fab Fifties Frankenstein Hanson, Spice Girls & Friends Heavy Metal Mania Pinups Hollywood Musclemen Inside the Mafia James Dean John Wayne & The Great Cowboy Heroes Just Tay! KISS Kissable Pinups Marilyn Mickey Mantel: His Glorious Years New Kids on the Block ’N Sync & Friends Pearl Harbor Official 50th Anniversary Magazine Rock Post-cards Rock Poster Magazine Rock Stars Scrapbook
Rock Stickers Roller Coaster Fever Science Fiction Trivia Sci-Fi People SF Posterbook Series SFX Sinatra Spice Girls & Friends Spice Girls, Hanson & Friends Spider-Man & Other Comics Heroes Spring Break Starlog Scrapbook Starlog Poster Magazine Star Trek 25th Anniversary Magazine Star Trek 30th Anniversary Magazine Star Trek 30th Anniversary Crossword Puzzles Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Journal Star Trek: The Next Generation Makeup FX Journal Star Wars Technical Journal TM: The Postermag for Teens TS: The Postermag of Teen Stars Untold Stories of the Civil War Untold Stories
timing for readers and advertisers. If not those ideas, then something needs to be done to have a schedule in the year that offers the reader a map of the genre and milestones along the way. Make them a part of that calendar, and make the magazine their official guide through it. Other ideas for the print magazine would be (as I noted much earlier in this review) the addition of a regular opinion columnist and monthly editorial. And the publication of the occasional TV episode guide wouldn’t hurt, either. (I always thought Starlog missed the boat by not doing a complete episode guide when the new Battlestar Galactica ended its celebrated run.) But it’s on the online front where Starlog can do some exciting but cost-effective things to build brand loyalty, market the magazine (and its related publications, such as Fangoria), and get the reader involved with the magazine in the weeks between the release of each new print edition. First, produce a free weekly e-mail newsletter that people go to the web site to subscribe to. Sell banner ads for the e-newslet-
of Vietnam Vietnam Walt Disney’s Dinosaur Warplanes Warplanes of the Middle East Wizbang Wrestling Poster Magazine Licensed movie tie-ins: 1941 2010 The Addams Family Aliens Annie A View to a Kill Battlefield Earth Conan the Destroyer The Crow: City of Angels Explorers
Something needs to be done to have a schedule in the year that offers the reader a map of the genre and milestones. ter, and come up with newsletter content that can be produced relatively easily but is still valuable to the reader. Some ideas: Short synopses of the next week’s science fiction TV programs; release dates in the
Fame Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare Freddy vs. Jason Godzilla The High Road to China The Island of Dr. Moreau Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday Joanie Loves Chachi Living Daylights Lost in Space Masters of the Universe Mortal Kombat Nightmare on Elm Street 5: Dream Child Octopussy Over the Top The Phantom Rambo (II, III) Rocky (II, III, IV)
The Shadow Spaceballs Spawn Species Superman (II, III, IV) Stargate Starship Troopers Star Trek (II, III, IV, V, & VI, Generations) Staying Alive Street Fighter Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight Terminator 2: Judgment Day Tomorrow Never Dies Total Recall The Untouchables Wes Craven’s New Nightmare The World Is not Enough Willow
next week of any science fiction, fantasy, or horror film, a short opinion piece (first paragraph only in the newsletter; link to the web site for the full article), an excerpt from an article in the current or upcoming issue of the print magazine, reader letters, a couple noteworthy reader posts from the bulletin boards, and maybe an original news report. I’d enjoy writing something like that. More important, I’d subscribe to it and read it, and I think thousands of other science fiction fans would, too. Second, add a blog or two to the web site. One could be an omnibus staff blog, as Playboy did for a while with its editorial team. In that case, no one person is tasked with writing a blog posting every day, but every day still sees a new posting from one or another editor from a variety of perspectives and on a variety of topics. Another blog might be a movie and TV program review blog. Coming up with topics for possible blogs is not a difficult challenge. Third, add audio (and, even better, video) podcasts. With the technology available today that ships with any new iMac, you can create audio and video podcasts and distribute them through your web site and/or through iTunes. Do movie reviews, short excerpts of talks with science fiction creators, and genre news – it’s a free or lowcost way to produce and distribute great content, and it again serves the bottom line of getting people involved and invested in the brand, helping sell the online content and the print content, which all crosspromote. Distribute the video through an embeddable widget that readers can put on their own web sites and blogs, thereby spreading your reach. Fourth, take some of those brands that kept getting resurrected as special sections of Starlog magazine (Future Life, Comics Scene, Fantasy Worlds) and relaunch them as web sites. It’ll keep your foothold on the titles and logos, and it’ll also let you crosspromote all of your brands to the betterment of all of them. The Future of the Magazine don’t know the source or sources of Starlog’s fatal lethargy. I’ve pointed out that it had many strengths and behind-the-scenes talent, not to mention a valuable brand name. Whether it’s a lack of manpower, a lack of editorial vision, a lack of direction from the company’s executives, or something else, it’s simply not an excuse to let things go undone and let markets slip out from under them. As of early 2011, Starlog is dead, at least for now. Its web site has been put out to pasture. If someone revives this magazine, let us hope that they are ready to make the most of their time and effort.
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quarter century ago, magazines had not yet been knocked off their business models. Large mass-market magazines still counted many millions of copies sold and many millions more readers each issue. Smaller publishers filled up the remaining space on newsstands with niche publications and oneshots as they chased trends. 20 | MAGMA | February 2011
There were many of these smaller, entrepreneurial publishers, but one of the most successful and visible was the Starlog family of periodicals. Known for much of the decade as O’Quinn Studios (after co-publisher Kerry O’Quinn), and later as Starlog Communications International and eventually Starlog Group, its products included dozens of magazines in nearly every genre (see pages 17 and 18). Like many independent publishers, Starlog kept costs down and profits up by
having its staff work on multiple titles. To learn more about life in this scene, we interviewed Carr D’Angelo, who had served as an editorial staffer for science-fiction film magazine Starlog – when he wasn’t busy writing captions for wrestling magazines or putting together rock specials. If the 1980s were the last great decade of the magazine industry, it was also a time of big changes. Competition was fierce; and by the latter part of the decade, desktop publishing was pushing into the
Long before he became a movie producer and an award-winning comics retailer, Carr D’Angelo was an underpaid junior staffer at Starlog. By John Zipperer
publisher’s offices, resulting in changing processes (good-bye, typesetters) and new page design fads (hello, bright pastel colors and over-designed text treatments). D’Angelo explains what it was like in the Starlog offices during those times. ZIPPERER: How – and when and why – did you get involved with Starlog? Had you had a journalism background before you joined the company? D’ANGELO: It was the fall of 1984, the year
I graduated from college. My journalism background was the high school newspaper and fanzines. In college and post-college, I was working for a public relations firm where I discovered my talent for proofreading – via press-releases – and copy-editing – via transcribing conferences and turning them into a readable dialogue. In terms of job-hunting, I would go through the ads for editorial assistants in The New York Times. Mostly I was looking for publications where I was interested in
Far left: Carr D’Angelo at the Starlog offices in 1986. Center: Starlog #126, D’Angelo’s final issue. Top right: One of the special issue anniversary editions during D’Angelo’s time at the magazine. Below right: D’Angelo was proud of the report in Starlog #112 about a Galileo shuttlecraft from Star Trek, only to learn that the magazine had already reported it.
the subject matter. I think the Starlog ad said something like movie, TV, wrestling magazines. It might have mentioned science fiction or horror specifically, but I don’t remember. It also mentioned the low salary. The ironic part is that [Starlog editor] Dave McDonnell had also placed a notice via an article in the Comics Buyer’s Guide, of which I was essentially a lifetime subscriber going back to the TBG days when Dave was doing his Media column. The notice in CBG emphasized working February 2011 | MAGMA | 21
for Starlog and to a lesser extent Fangoria. I sent in a resume and letter with a full court push. When I was called for the interview, Dave mentioned that I was the only person who applied twice. I guess that fit their profile: someone who read both The New York Times and the Comics Buyer’s Guide. When I heard that, though, I really hoped they were not the ad that listed the absurdly low salary. They were. ZIPPERER: A question you might not want to answer, but if you do: Starlog’s former staffers have occasionally noted online that they were paid ... terribly. Care to tell me what your salary was as managing editor? D’ANGELO: As editorial assistant in 1984, the salary was $9,000 a year. That was less than $175 a week. It was crazy, but it was the only job I was offered at that time, and I really wanted to work for a magazine that covered science-fiction movies. The PR gig was part-time and didn’t really lead to what I was interested in, which was the entertainment industry. I think when I got the promotion to managing editor in 1985, I got bumped up to $11,000; by the time I left, I think my total annual salary was closer to $14,000, but that also included a few freelance payments here and there for some of the spin-off magazines. But I was also supplementing my income with other freelancing and even teaching SAT prep courses. Dave McDonnell knew the staff was overworked and underpaid, so when extra magazines like the Aliens movie magazines or Star Trek IV books were added to the schedule, he would include additional editorial payments into the budget, since those projects would result in us working overtime. ZIPPERER: What were your duties at Starlog? D’ANGELO: When I first started as editorial assistant, the main job was proofreading, proofreading, proofreading. And that was for every magazine the Starlog Group was publishing. In addition to the main magazines Starlog and Fangoria, there were teen magazines, wrestling magazines, soap opera magazines. There was additional copywriting/editing for the wrestling magazines, since it was mostly about the photos and the text pieces that came in needed a lot of punching up. Every now and then, we [editorial] assistants would be tossed a special project. A guy named Max Rottersman and I co-edited a magazine called Rock Stars Scrapbook, which was simply a collection of publicity photos and edited bios of 50 or 60 pop acts. Maybe it also had posters? But it was just about creating another product for the publishers to sell to newsstands. Since Max and I were on salary, there were virtually no 22 | MAGMA | February 2011
Working at Starlog in the late 1980s meant pitching in on a variety of publications. O’Quinn Studios, the parent company, produced everything from movie magazines to wrestling and boxing publications to music titles. As Carr D’Angelo notes, though the
production costs to that magazine outside of printing. Also, we wrote captions. Dave McDonnell had a photo piece for an issue that was the “Women of Science Fiction,” basically an excuse to run another photo of Carrie Fisher in the Slave Leia gold bikini. It got expanded another page or two, and he gave me a bunch of photos to write captions for. Since there was no article, the captions were clever little paragraphs about each actress. Dave had written the first batch, and I figured my assignment was to match his style. Apparently, he liked the job I did on that, and I was given a lot more of that kind of work. As managing editor, the job was really support for what Dave was doing as editor. The magazine at that point was his vision. He assigned writers and articles. He laid out the issue, picked the photos. Mostly, I did the first pass at copyediting all of the manuscripts as they came in. That included titling the article and also writing the copy block/ summary of the article along with the subheads that would break up the copy. Those tasks were fun and were the opportunity to be creative and clever and maybe even funny. At one point, Eddie Berganza – now an editor at DC Comics – and I were given responsibility for a section called Fan Net-
extra publications meant more work, Starlog editor David McDonnell (who headed up numerous publications at the company) built in some extra editorial money in the budgets for the one-shot magazines as a way of compensating his low-paid junior editorial staffers.
work, which I think you mention in your [online Starlog issue-by-issue] overviews. Kerry O’Quinn really wanted that section to be a big part of the magazine, but it was a bitch to put together, as we did not have the massive amount of fan submissions coming in. Digging up fan news that could also be presented visually was not easy. I remember Kerry was not happy with the first couple of pages. He thought there were these great fan stories out there and I just wasn’t finding them. We ran one story about a guy who built a life-size replica of the Galileo 7 from Star Trek and I thought that was cool, but Kerry burst my bubble by telling me that Starlog had already run that story. And of course, proofreading. I would say I read every Starlog article about 5 times, from the first pass, to the copyediting, to the proofreading of the galleys, to the proofreading of the actual paste-up boards – to make sure the art department did not re-arrange the text – and then maybe again when the issue came out. At the time, Starlog was also involved with doing conventions with Creation Conventions, and we would serve as hosts and moderators at those shows. We did a show in Boston once, and one of my jobs was to escort [actor] Robert Englund around. He is an extremely nice guy, and that led to me doing a really cool interview with him for Fangoria.
I also tended to be responsible for comic-book coverage. Starlog had published a magazine called Comics Scene before I got there, and we made that an occasional section in the magazine; but in Starlog, we focused on science-fiction comics only. We wouldn’t run a story on Batman. Eventually, we revived Comics Scene while I was there, and I wrote a bit for Comics Scene as a freelancer over the years. ZIPPERER: Tell me a bit about what it was like to work there. How much control did editor David McDonnell have over the magazine – i.e., did he have a lot of freedom to plan it the way he wanted, or were the publishers heavily involved? How much influence did you have? D’ANGELO: The magazine was definitely working according to Dave’s plan at that point editorially. Generally, working with the possible movies and TV shows that were coming out that would fall under our domain, Dave would assign a writer to do an article or usually a series of articles on the upcoming project. In my opinion, I think we generated too much inventory on certain projects. Since we were always working months ahead, it would sometimes happen that a movie came out, flopped and we still had two or three articles coming out. That sometimes made the magazine feel behind the curve. The magazine was designed to be a mix of the new and the old, and that was its strength and weakness. There was pretty much a commitment to running interviews with anyone and everyone who had anything to do with the original 1960s Star Trek series. Dave loved old character actors, and we would run a lot of interviews with them. There were also things that were not science fiction per se – like James Bond and old pulps – but would find their way into the magazine. The main editorial note from our bosses was to be more visual, and the magazine evolved design-wise in that era. But the magazine was always copy-heavy, including the cover lines, which tried to list everything in the magazine. One of the big changes was to drop the copy over an enlarged photo to jazz up the layout. One thing I’m proud of was an article called “The Other Marty McFly.” It was very unusual for Starlog, as it was an analysis of the time travel plot in Back to the Future. The article was brought to us by David Hutchison, who was the in-house special effects expert and editor of the beloved Cinemagic publications. David was friends with [the article’s author,] Bruce Gordon, who was a Disney Imagineer. It did not fit the typical Starlog format, which was virtually all one-on-one interviews, with the occasional historical overview thrown in.
It was a fight to get that kind of article approved for the magazine. From the fan mail we got, it turned out to be incredibly popular. I was always pushing for more fun kind of articles that could keep popular projects covered in the magazine. One of my favorite articles I ever read was a Filmfax article that came out after Empire Strikes Back and speculated about what might happen in the next Star Wars movie. It was full of all sorts of crazy theories about what the Clone Wars were about and who the “other” might be. I wanted to get more ideas like that in the magazine. The Marty McFly proposal blew me away, and ultimately the article proves that, parallel to the movie we watched, there is another Marty McFly who is the son of the cool McFly parents, gets Doc Brown killed and finds himself returning to a 1985 where his parents are losers. Basically, the two Martys switch timelines. It was a fight to get that kind of article approved for the magazine. From the fan mail we got, it turned out to be incredibly popular. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale even wrote in and said that the article touched on things they were planning for the sequel, which turned out to be the idea of two time-traveling Martys visiting the same period. After that, there were more articles like that – one about the Aliens in the Cameron movie – as well as sequels to the Marty McFly article about the next two BTTF movies. ZIPPERER: During your time at Starlog, what was the interview or article you wrote that you enjoyed the most – and why? D’ANGELO: While on staff? I think the dream come true was talking to Christopher Reeve on the phone for Superman IV. That was actually for Comics Scene magazine, and it was one of those cases where we needed more quotes than we had in the original interview. Superman the Movie is and was my favorite superhero movie, Reeve was a hero of mine, so that was a memorable moment. It was not a great ar-
ticle, as it was a patchwork piece, but I still can remember the sound of his voice on the phone. I think he was calling from Canada and started the conversation with a mention of how he was tired from flying. I don’t recall if I used that in the article. He said it very off-handedly and I was never sure if it was a joke he deliberately used to break the ice. The Star Trek Cruise article was also a lot of fun. That’s an article I like because I really had to recreate an experience and tell the story of this weekend cruise with the cast of the original 1960s Star Trek. Again, it stood out from the usual interview format of the magazine. And I will always be fond of the first interview I did: actor Peter Coyote, who was a fascinating interview. He was doing publicity for the thriller Jagged Edge. But because he was “Keys” in E.T., we made a point to interview him. He said a couple of things that always stuck with me and taught me how to get a good interview. One was that for him, E.T. was the story of a dedicated scientist trying to save the world from a biological threat that had invaded the planet. The second was how spiritually lifting it was to see one of the disabled actors who operated E.T. greet the world with such joy each day. ZIPPERER: And what did you enjoy the least? D’ANGELO: Can I admit I was never a fan of the 1960s Star Trek TV show, though I loved the movies starting with Wrath of Khan? So all that material was a struggle, because it was in a foreign language to me. I was more of a Twilight Zone guy, but I think we avoided the Twilight Zone because they had their own magazine at the time. The Fan Network section, as I said earlier, was always a struggle. And the one time I got a pic I was excited about – a cos-player in a really cool Robin the Boy Wonder costume – the art director ran it in black and white on a color page. That kind of disconnect between editorial and the art department was always frustrating. ZIPPERER: In his web sites, former Fangoria editor Bob Martin has noted the politics of dealing with movie studios, and how he avoided the worst of their politicking because in his time, Fango was ignored or derided, so they didn’t push him too much. You’ve worked with studios as a journalist and you worked inside Hollywood as a producer. Could you say anything about the challenges of genre journalists working with studios, and how to do it well? D’ANGELO: Not really. Dave had good relationships with the publicists he primarily dealt with, a couple of whom were the primary genre publicists in the field. When there were projects not covered by those February 2011 | MAGMA | 23
guys, it was sometimes a harder battle to make a studio realize that it was important to play to the fan base. Of course, it is hard to imagine that now, when Comic-Con is ground zero for most studios’ PR efforts for everything! ZIPPERER: In a comment on my blog, you explained the “Starlog Process” of assembling a story, in which the editors sometimes had to set up follow-up phone calls with interview subjects to get additional material for an article. That leads to the obvious, juicy question, if you care to answer it: Did you have any interview subject horror stories, someone who was terribly difficult or otherwise a problem to deal with? If so, who, and what happened? D’ANGELO: I actually like the way the article came out, but I remember interviewing Dolph Lundgren was a difficult task. The explanation was that he had tooth surgery or something so he was kind of out of it. I also found it hard to interview and write about people I was not that interested in. And as little as I had to say about He-Man, I think Dolph had less to say. There just wasn’t a lot to talk about. When I interviewed Mandy Patinkin for Alien Nation, he was in his alien make-up and very uncomfortable because it covered his whole head. He was also unhappy that for legal reasons, his character couldn’t be called “George Jetson,” which was the name in the script when he accepted the part. So he expressed a lot of anger during the interview, which made it a great interview but also made me a little uneasy sitting there. I also interviewed James Caan for Alien Nation, and that was a tough conversation. This is a legend who was in The Godfather, and we have to find a couple thousand words about this science fiction movie he signed on for. He liked telling long, wandering stories about his experiences in Hollywood, but at the end of the day, it didn’t leave me a lot of material for a James Caan profile. He kind of argued with the premise of every question, so it was a real cut-andpaste job for me at the end of the day. ZIPPERER: [Former Starlog art director] Howard Cruse told me that he saw changing technology over the years, from when he was pasting up boards as art director to when he would visit in later years to drop off artwork; typesetters, then no typesetters, then different computers, then desktop publishing. What changes do you remember from your time there? Starlog was a small magazine publisher; was it behind the times, current, or ahead of the times in terms of its internal technology? D’ANGELO: When I was there, we were getting typewritten manuscripts, or in some cases, printed on dot matrix printers, which were hard to read. We would handwrite our 24 | MAGMA | February 2011
As little as I had to say about He-Man, I think [star] Dolph Lundgren had less to say. There just wasn’t a lot to talk about. editing notes and a typesetter retyped the articles, and that led to human error. After I left, I do recall that articles were being sent in electronically and copy-edited on computer, which gives the editor much more control, obviously. The big technological advancement while I was there was fax. When writers relied on the mail, they had to be a few days in advance of their deadline. Then they started using Fedex to overnight and then they started faxing articles at the last possible minute. Graphically, there were design improvements as I mentioned, more color in the magazine. And I think that was due to new graphic tools that were available. Word-processing did affect the articles, because it made putting together articles easier. With a computer, you could transcribe your interview, edit the quotes, group them, find themes and then write an article around them. That was a best-case scenario. I had a few writer friends who were a bit lazy and would literally just type up the transcript and add as little additional text as possible. That kind of article would read something like, “Directing on Star Trek is fun, but also hard work, according to Nimoy. ‘It was fun,’ Nimoy says. ‘But also hard work. We would start at 5 a.m., but by night time we’d be laughing from exhaustion.’” And that would be followed by a dozen paragraphs of quotes with no further elaboration. If there was time, I would kick it back to the writer, but occasionally I would just rework the story. By the way, I just used Nimoy as an easy example—I am not citing a particular story. ZIPPERER: You left Starlog after the January 1988 issue, in which you penned a good-bye column on the last page. You have
been involved in the movie business, and you currently have two comics stores in the LA area. How did that come about? D’ANGELO: In a nutshell, I moved to LA knowing I could generate some income as a Starlog freelancer. Ironically, my editorial skills led me to fill out an application at Universal Studios for the script department. I figured there was a division that proofread and published scripts. I was wrong, but that flagged my app for the story department, which is the script library and the department where submissions get read by story analysts who write up reports – called coverage – on each script. I began as a file clerk, but started reading scripts on the side and got a job as a script reader. My magazine background trained me for churning out synopses quickly. That led to becoming a development and production executive, which led to the relationships that led to me being offered the opportunity to produce a couple movies several years ago. Eventually, I did cross paths with people I knew from the Starlog era. I developed an early version of The Incredible Hulk with Gale Anne Hurd. I had met and interviewed her on the Alien Nation set – that was one of those movies Starlog ran about eight stories on – and there I was working with her as the studio executive. Because the movie business is so mercurial, and as a producer you can have lots of time between projects, my wife suggested I find a second business. She noticed I was fascinated with trends in the comic book industry and suggested opening a store. I partnered with Jud Meyers, and we opened Earth-2 Comics Sherman Oaks in 2003. In 2007, we won the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailing Award, which is given out at San Diego Comic-Con each year. In 2009, we acquired a second location in Northridge. I am also active as a member of the board of directors of ComicsPRO, a trade association for comic book retailers. ZIPPERER: I jokingly call my fellow former colleagues from Internet World magazine the “Internet World diaspora,” because we keep in touch even though we’re now dispersed far and wide. Do you keep in touch with your former colleagues from your Starlog days? D’ANGELO: Facebook has been good for that, and I see DC Comics Editor Eddie Berganza when I get to New York or when he comes out for Comic-Con. I occasionally see Lee Goldberg, who has been writing TV shows and novels and has a great blog about writing [http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/]. I follow Brian Lowry’s column and reviews in Variety. I would see some of the gang at conventions, but mostly it’s watching what everyone is up to on Facebook.
The Life & Death of
Bob Guccione “General Media” was the generic-sounding name of the company headed by the late Guccione. But the books it produced – Penthouse, Omni, Longevity, Viva, Forum, Newlook – were anything but run-of-the-mill. By John Zipperer
ob Guccione, creator and publisher of Penthouse and many other magazines, left behind an oversized legacy when he died in October 2010. Much has been made in reports in The New York Times and elsewhere about the seeming contradiction between the boundarypushing media empire he headed and the quiet, very formal life he lived in his Manhattan mansion. But a bit of contradiction can be expected in a man who named his company General Media, a title seemingly chosen for its ability to put people to sleep simply by hearing it. But the boringsounding company produced magazines that were very unlikely to have been produced by any cookie-cutter, corporate magazine firm run by boring MBAs. Whether it was nudity or science fic-
tion, women’s health or photography, Guccione’s company gave competitors a run for their money – and made plenty of money for himself. Estimates are that Penthouse alone brought in between $3.5 billion and $4 billion during his lifetime. The fact that little of that money remained to bail out his company when it fell on hard times is just one tragedy of this controversial and pioneering magazine personality. Out of the public eye for a number of years since losing control of his media empire (following a series of bad business decisions compounded by a changing media market – especially in the adult niche where he made most of his money – and government harassment), Guccione succumbed to failing health and died in Plano, Texas, at the age of 79. Guccione was a very controversial figure in society in general and publishing in particular. He started Pent-
February 2011 | MAGMA | 25
house magazine as a way to supplement his art career in England. The early years of the publication were almost a comic affair, with the editor and a small handful of staffers trying to make the magazine and its impact look bigger than it was, working out of a small office and doing all the work themselves. The Early Years he August 2009 UK edition of Esquire magazine featured two noteworthy articles, each probably aimed at different audiences. The cover story is about cute Harry Potter film star Daniel Radcliffe, and later in the magazine is “A Star Is Porn,” the unoriginally titled article by writer Lynn Barber recounting her years as an editor at the original Penthouse magazine in the UK in the 1960s. There’s not much titillation in the article – sorry, boys – but for magazine geeks, it’s a great behind-the-scenes look at how magazines start, growing from shoestring organizations to large staffs, big offices, expense accounts, and world fame. People who are not in the publishing industry probably labor under the illusion that magazines are published by big companies in skyscrapers and run by normal corporate drones. Some are. But Playboy was started on Hugh Hefner’s apartment table, Starlog began as a one-time publication by two publishers who paid the bills by winning at poker and holding private film screenings, and – Barber tells us – Penthouse began in “a tiny terraced house on Ifield Road” in London: The front room contained a dolly bird receptionist called Maureen and piles and piles of cardboard boxes – these, I was to learn, were the Penteez Panties “erotic gifts” [the magazine sold to pay the bills in its early days] – with another room housing the Penthouse Book Club at the back. Upstairs, the back bedroom was Bob [Guccione] and Kathy [Keeton]’s office, and the front was “editorial,” a largish
room containing the art director Joe Brooks and a very small cubbyhole containing [editor] Harry Fieldhouse. Barber had stumbled upon her job at Penthouse after interviewing the controversial Guccione. During their talk, he off-handedly suggested she come to work for him. Soon she did, and she became one of the first employees of that young magazine, seeing it through its early years in the UK and helping to launch its U.S. edition, which is where Guccione would really hit the jackpot, at one point amassing a fortune of about a half-billion dollars, all of which would be frittered away and the company eventually sold in bankruptcy. Along the way, she did a little bit of everything: I also had to attend some of the Pet shoots, not with Bob [Guccione], but with an American photographer called Philip O. Stearns. My duties at the shoots included putting music on the stereo, squirting scent round the room, and powdering the girls’ bottoms. In between, I did The Times crossword. Her Penthouse editorial duties would also include, at one time or another, begging local shops to let her borrow clothing items (or diving suits) for nude Pet photo shoots, editing sections of the magazine, and smuggling material into the United States to get it to the Milwaukee-based printers of the new American edition of Penthouse. This was definitely not a cubicle job. Barber doesn’t say it in the article, but it sounds like it was a lot of fun to be on the ground floor of a rapidly growing magazine, seeing it add staff, circulation, advertising, spinoffs, and more.
She doesn’t say how long she stayed at the job or why she left, but the magazine and Guccione would go on to huge success in the United States, spawning a magazine empire, including Omni, a science and sciencefiction magazine that reached a circulation of more than a million in the early 1980s, before declining and being canceled in the mid-1990s. The company would eventually founder under the intense pressures of the internet and the religious right. Guccione pushed his flagship magazine into hardcore pornography for a few years, but that not only didn’t save the title, it reportedly lost him a huge number of retail distribution outlets. The fact that he kept on with that approach, nonetheless, tells you something about his questionable business sense. Finding an Audience hen I was in high school in the 1980s, pretty much every boy read Playboy or Penthouse. Yes, even gay kids like me read one or the other, because, I think, it was a way of getting to know what adults were talking about, what was really going on, what was really happening. (And, for the straight kids, there were the nekkid folks, of course.) But we Playboy readers thought the Penthouse readers were weird. That’s probably because Penthouse itself was weird; almost every article was a conspiracy about some deal or another, and there was an unshakable devotion in that magazine to fetishes and oddities. Nonetheless, both magazines were a part of growing up for millions and millions of American boys, and if most of those readers read their copies because they featured scantily clad (or unclad) women and stories of (as-yet) unexperienced pleasures, they also were probably the first place most of those readers were exposed to the articles and ideas of William F. Buckley Jr., John Updike, and Ayn Rand, or where they actually read articles about politics. That’s
Left: Longevity was a women’s health spinoff from Omni magazine. Above: Viva gave the world naked hairy 1970s men, plus future Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
26 | MAGMA | February 2011
often used as sort of a punchline, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Of course, Penthouse grew dramatically, eventually reaching millions of copies in monthly sales and spawning a publishing empire that included everything from Omni and Longevity to Viva. The company also produced television programs, books, videos, web sites, comics, and more. Viva , for example, was a 1970s attempt to do a magazine aimed at women, featuring somewhat nude men (less explicitly than Penthouse showed the women) along with health and political articles. It was a rather odd attempt; if you like Mickey Rourke and want to see him naked, then maybe you’ll like the men in Viva. But Viva did bring to the publishing world something of greater value: its fashion editor, Anna Wintour, who would go on to great success at Vogue. Throughout his career, Guccione careened from successes (such as Penthouse, or the early years of Omni) to failures (such as failed investments in casinos that were never built or in energy schemes that went nowhere). Along the way, he had the expected battles with feminists and the religious Right, winning some battles and losing others. Though his core product, Penthouse, was not aimed at my demographic, that doesn’t mean I’m unaware of his impact on the media world. Guccione is not an icon in the way that Hugh Hefner is; Hefner changed the society instead of just riding a wave, and I think he set (and continues to set) a higher bar for thought and publishing. But Guccione made an impact by being willing to be brave and bold in his moves. Though far too many of Penthouse’s articles were conspiracy-mucking, others could be very brave, such as when they took on Scientology or championed the needs of Vietnam veterans. He also supported some of the top writers and editors in the country, such as Wintour, Ben Bova, Harlan Ellison, Carl Sagan, James A. Michener, Isaac Asimov,
Orson Scott Card, Philip K. Dick, and so many more. Whether one liked or disliked his publications, it’s worth noting that it was possible for one man to conceive of and then build a media empire the way he wanted to do it, to publish the ideas and artists that he wanted to showcase, and even to make the mistakes that he wanted to do. Far from being a bean-counting MBA heading up a soul-less corporate publishing company, Guccione ran his empire from his heart. Again, Penthouse wasn’t my cup of tea (though Omni was), but I hope we haven’t lost the ability for someone to do the same thing. The Next Generation hen Samir Husni, aka “Mr. Magazine,” interviewed serial magazine entrepreneur Bob Guccione Jr., son of the late publisher, he found a kindred spirit. Somewhere in my stacks of magazines I’ve collected over the years, I have the inaugural issue of Spin magazine from the mid-1980s. Spin was a magazine that really had a large impact on the music and magazine industries. But that wasn’t the last we heard of Guccione. He also founded Gear magazine and, for a while, was involved with the science magazine Discover. There were even short-lived rumors that he wanted to revive his father’s Omni, publishing it as a quarterly and bringing his father on board as consultant or in some such role. Guccione Jr. is a true magazine person, which is clear from Husni’s interview. But I’m even more impressed because he seems to think along the same lines I do when it comes to what’s hurting many magazines today and how quality, in-depth
material is what will keep the survivors alive or birth new ones. My father, it was his mission in life to create Penthouse magazine and it was his mission to adhere to principles and freedom of speech, which he manifested far more in attacking the Nixon administration and going after Jimmy Carter, Reagan, the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, much more so than breaking any nudity barrier. That was a pretty simple barrier to break. It was broken, end of game, move on. For years he did fantastic investigative reporting, which is really why he had so many enemies. Those enemies chose to chase him and Hefner on the obscenity issue, but what they were really trying to do was silence the voice that was irritating to them. To take this a little further, how much money is spent on investigative journalism? People think, what the hell, why spend it? They think readers want sex, gossip, cooking, and tips to flatten their stomachs. That’s when publishing is sort of descended into this blandness of just being ink and paper. The thing that was never boring was that it told you stories you didn’t know. It surprised you. I’m sorry, I love food magazines, but I want to startle. A recipe for risotto isn’t going to surprise anybody, yet an article exposing what this or that administration is doing to deprive us of our rights and our lifestyles, that’s something that’s worth reading. Legacies ob Guccione thus left two legacies for the magazine world: His work at the Penthouse magazines, and his son. People will argue over the late publisher’s actions for years, but they should not miss the significance of an individual being able to create and succeed at publishing in his own way even in an MBA world.
Above: Omni, a science and science-fiction monthly that reached 1 million in circulation by the early 1980s, before succumbing to increasing new-age content and decreasing readership. Right: Guccione tried to replicate Playboy’s success with Oui by producing a U.S. edition of France’s Newlook magazine. February 2011 | MAGMA | 27
The Condé Nast Powerhouse
If life were a 1930s Hollywood film, Condé Nast would be the stage: Jet-setting editors shooting fashion spreads around the world with large expense accounts, limousine rides for editors, and never, ever discounting the ad rates – until now.
BY JOHN ZIPPERER
PHOTO BY FRANCESCO CHIGNOLA
AS I ARRIVED AT MY DESK ONE
morning, I slowly opened up my Coke Zero (had to be careful that it didn’t explode, because I had dropped it minutes earlier) and took out my Balance bar for my scrumptious, executive breakfast. Then I poured out a small handful of mixed nuts, but a couple rolled onto the floor. I looked around for the button to summon an underling – a butler, maid, vice president of editorial peanut cleanup, anything – until I remembered there was no such thing. Sighing, I reached down and picked up the nuts myself. Such is the life of an editorial executive at a nonprofit. A subway ride to work, bring my own lunch, perform editing and writing and planning and managing chores, write blogs, take meetings, and pick up my own breakfast off the floor. I’m sure Anna Wintour feels my pain. But Wintour and her colleagues at the “Tiffany publisher,” Condé Nast, are feeling a bit of pain these past couple years. Condé Nast has reportedly cut back on its famed perks for the editors of its magazines, as it has reacted to a severe downturn in the luxury goods advertising market. Keith J. Kelly, writing in the New York Post, reported that there have been cutbacks in lunch expenses, tuition reimbursement, and pension contributions. Worse may yet come at a company where top publishers and editors get to zoom around town in their company-provided towncars.
The privately owned publisher of Vogue, GQ, Details, Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, and a slew of others was hit harder than many other publishers in the recession and ensuing slow growth. Those $5,000 wristwatches apparently can be advertised in other magazines for less money, which makes the Swiss happy because they get to keep a tight fist on their Swiss francs. (Yes, that was a stretch, but you get the point.) For many years, Condé Nast has been famous (and envied) in the magazine world for not discounting off its advertising rate card. I won’t pretend to know enough about this successful company’s history or business plan, nor do I think I am enough of an expert on the luxury goods market (my watch is a $55 Skagen bought on Amazon.com) to qualify me as being able to predict its next move. But noting some of what has happened in those hallowed halls does give us a glimpse into how the other half lives, and I will be interested to learn who has the most pull when it comes to seriously depleted budgets: Advertisers with tempting wallets, or spoiled editors with high expenses. Quoting publishing people who say Condé is “overstaffed and overpaid,” Kelly notes, “Much of the problem rests with Condé’s policy of never discounting off the rate card. ‘AdverFebruary 2011 | MAGMA | 29
Condé Nast’s magazines run the gamut on topics – from architecture to high technology to fashion – and they span the world, including the tempting market of China.
tisers are finding that they can buy around them,’ said [a] former executive.” It is pretty easy to change a policy about rate card negotiation, assuming there’s not a big mental block on the matter among the company’s leaders. Serious economic times have a way of forcing change. Kelly’s reports detailed the changes at this Cloud City of publishing: Some Condé
Nast executives are now riding the subway instead of exercising their royal rights of having a car driven for them. This is, supposedly, a big sign of sacrifice by them. But, having ridden the Manhattan subway every day for nearly two years not too long ago, I can report that it’s hardly a place to go slumming. It’s the only subway I’ve ridden that typically fills up its cars with
The September Issues
ver at The Daily Beast, Kim Masters gave us a peek at the man who made the documentary about Vogue and its iconic leader, Anna Wintour. R.J. Cutler directed the new movie The September Issue, the story of the creation of that annual mega-thick issue of the fashion bible, and he tells Masters his impressions of Wintour and her myth. (Just a hint: He seems to be impressed with her.) One can see why. When I watched the trailer for Cutler’s movie, I didn’t see anything in it that makes Wintour look like the dragon lady she’s alleged to be. She doesn’t snap, she doesn’t bite off any heads, and she is decisive. That last bit – the decisiveness – is likely her undoing for some folks. In the run-up to the release of the film, Wintour staged a full-court publicity campaign, including making appearances on 60 Minutes and The Late Show with David Letterman. 30 | MAGMA | February 2011
My general impression is that she’s in an industry filled with people who have very large insecurities, so large that their complaints about her might hardly be objective. When she says she doesn’t like something they do, they take it as a personal insult. When she questions something her staff is trying to put into the magazine, they think they’ve been slapped in the face. But her job is to have the highest standards. An editor should question everything, from the typeface on the magazine’s cover to the various impressions that a model in a photo might give to readers. I once worked with a former U.S. News journalist. As she edited a newsletter I’d created, she noted that the phrasing of one headline created an unintended double entendre. Said she: “Editors have to have dirty minds.” She meant that editors and writers need to be able to look at what they create through the eyes of their
the poor and the middle class and the rich alike, of all races. I suppose if I knew then that I could bump into a Condé Nast editor on my morning commute, I might have kept a packet of resumes in my bookbag. Time to Decentralize n December, Condé Nast employees were given a further hint about the far-reach-
readers and to spot possible unintended impressions the readers might have. It doesn’t necessarily mean you avoid using that photo or wording or design that might be troublesome, but you are aware of it and address it, if need be. Watch the trailer or, better yet, see the entire September Issue film. You will see that Wintour is looking at everything that goes into her magazine. That’s what she’s paid to do. The fact that she must do it very well is the reason why she has been at the top of the magazine profession for two decades. Now, I don’t know Wintour. I’ve purchased a grand total of three issues of Vogue, and I’m not going to be an ongoing reader. I’m well aware that my exposure to her is confined to her public campaign and the work she presents to the world in the pages of Vogue. But if we understand that The September Issue is a documentary and The Devil Wears Prada was not, then shouldn’t we be filled with more respect for all that
she has accomplished and not imagine that she attacks dullwitted models with machetes? Judging from the clothing on the other audience members at the Kabuki Sundance Cinema crowd when I went to see The September Issue, most people who paid to see the film were there because it highlighted the fashion industry. I, however, was there for the fun of seeing just how they put together the magazine. Maga-
ing changes coming to their company. The firm’s publishers and editors received a corporate e-mail outlining a new chain of command for public relations. No longer would PR directors and their assistants report directly to Condé Nast’s senior vice president of corporate communications, Maurie Perl; from now on, those folks would report to the magazines’ editors and publishers for which they are doing work, according to Women’s Wear Daily. “The change reflects the company’s new aim of allowing each publication to manage its own business,” says WWD, which is published by Fairchild Fashion Group, part of Condé Nast. That followed a memo from CEO Chuck Townsend in October, which described how the company’s online division, Condé Nast Digital, would have fewer responsibilities, while individual publishers would assume control of their publications’ online ad sales. There have been other big changes. At the height – or the depths – of the Great Recession, Condé Nast gave the axe to Cookie, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, and – in a move that shocked the publishing and the foodie worlds – Gourmet magazines. Fellow Condé Nast title Bon Appétit zines are my business and my interest. The September Issue focuses on the creation of Vogue’s mammoth September edition. We see the issue come together as editors plan photo shots, discuss which clothes to feature, meet with designers to see their collections, travel to Europe for photo shoots, and much more. Running the entire process is Anna Wintour, the much-feared and much-accomplished editor in chief, and heading up most of the photo shoots is Grace Coddington, the magazine’s
absorbed Gourmet’s 850,000 subscribers. The move followed a review of the company by an outside consultant firm, McKinsey. Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet since 1999, spoke at The Commonwealth Club in Silicon Valley just before the closure was announced, and she talked about some of the major trends in American cooking, such as healthier food and increased international influences. But Reichl couldn’t beat out a different trend in America, that of a precipitous drop in advertising revenue. Not all magazines are primarily supported by ads; some get more of their revenue from newsstand and subscription revenue. But advertising remains the lifeblood of most of the big glossies, and that’s Condé Nast’s field of play. In return for charging premium ad rates, the company’s magazines are known for their high-quality photography, printing, and journalism. By now, we all know from looking at the past year or so of big national glosses (not counting the giant September back-breakers in the fashion niche – see sidebar below) is that advertising pages have begun to rebound from their lows of spring and summer 2009, but it will be some time before publishers are confident again.
legendary creative director. There are additional characters – other editors, magazine designers, clothing designers, photographers, ad sales reps, Ms. Wintour’s daughter, and many others – but it’s when Coddington or Wintour are on the screen that the movie is at its best. This film more than lives up to its hype. Wintour shows herself to be an extraordinarily talented and clear-sighted leader. She knows what she wants, and she doesn’t waste time dithering over what’s right. When she makes a de-
As for Ms. Reichl’s future, it’s still possible her fans will find her within the surviving Gourmet family. According to Advertising Age: Condé Nast didn’t have an answer Monday for the number of jobs that would be lost as a result of the moves, but the titles’ mastheads suggest massive cuts are likely. Gourmet alone lists some 100 staffers, although the company will presumably keep some to help run Gourmet’s books, TV and recipes activities, which will continue. It wasn’t immediately clear whether Ms. Reichl or VP-publisher Nancy Berger Cardone will stay in some capacity or leave the company. Cookie’s masthead numbers closer to 75. More of the Not-Same ollowing that wave of closures, Folio:’s Jason Fell reported that CEO Townsend had declared that they would be the last Condé Nast titles to fold. They were not the first – as Portfolio and Men’s Vogue readers could tell you – but, with luck, they’d be the last ones. The closures of Gourmet, et. al., were re-
cision about a potential cover photo having too much teeth or a model in a billowing dress looking pregnant, she’s quick with her decision. And she’s correct. That’s her job. Such editors are very rare, and I’m sure she’s worth every dollar of the reportedly multi-million dollar salary Condé Nast pays her. Whether the audience likes her or not is likely to depend on the individual audience member’s attitudes about high standards, publishing, strong women, and whether they liked their boss. I’ve worked for some tough bosses. Sometimes I could see the what and why of their behavior; other times, I could comfortably conclude that they were just jerks. My thoughts about Wintour (as are probably already more
than obvious) is that she might not be the most touchy-feely boss, but she’ll make you better at your job and she’s damn good at hers. There’s no villain in this movie, and there’s no drama about whether or not they’ll put together a successful issue of the magazine. We already know they will (it was the September 2007 edition, the fattest edition in Vogue’s history), and we can clearly see that the magazine’s staff is competent and professional. But for me, the drama came from seeing exactly how they made decisions and exactly how the issue came together. It was a rare chance to watch how a magazine at the top of the market is assembled. How they spend tens of thousands of dollars on photo shoots, have large staffs that can pull off anything they deem necessary for an issue, how they can worry about doing the best thing and not just whatever they can afford. The September Issue – and Vogue’s September issue – is worth picking up. –J.Z. February 2011 | MAGMA | 31
Left: Bon Appetit gobbled up the 850,000 subscribers of sister title Gourmet after the food market proved too small to support both of them. Below and right: Details and Vogue have proven to be survivors.
portedly made because those four titles had less long-term growth possibilities than other titles. Without knowing the details, I don’t know if that means they could be expected to be profitable, just not as profitable as other titles in the Condé stable – and therefore it’s really just a matter of highest and best use of company capital – or whether the magazines were so unprofitable they were never expected to contribute positively to the bottom line in a consistent manner again. But I don’t have Chuck Townsend’s e-mail address, and Fell doesn’t go into that, so I’ll have to remain in the dark. Fell’s article does have some interesting musing about other Condé Nast titles that are perceived to be weak; but if Townsend is to be believed, they are going to continue to be published. There will not be a rerun of the Portfolio experience, if that’s true. $100 Million Baby he day after the 2009 announcement that Condé Nast Portfolio magazine was being canceled, the blog and news worlds filled up with people who suddenly noticed the magazine. BusinessWeek had an extended description of the big money behind this ambitious failure. (Condé Nast sunk a reported $100 million into the title.) The New York Observer reported that under different economic circumstances, the magazine might have survived; earlier, it at least had until 2010 to live or die. The anti-print folks had a field day, because the development seemed to support their contention that print was doomed, doomed, doomed I say. But The Daily
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Beast’s Tina Brown, who knows a thing or two about print and online, at least shared my view that the magazine’s demise was a loss, not a reason for print-haters to gloat. Blogger Erick Schonfeld got it wrong, I think. He wrote that no one was reading the magazine and that long-form journalism is useless in an age when “business is about speed.” Well, no; business is not primarily about speed. Certain aspects of it, perhaps; but if no one is reading in-depth examinations about the ways companies fail or survive or how regulation and markets work together, then that’s a very sad (and disturbing and, frankly, three-alarm) danger, because we’re seeing very clearly these days the disastrous results of short-termonly thinking. Portfolio’s different view on the matter was why I liked it. And nearly 450,000 readers is not a small amount. Big magazines typically take three or four years to reach a level of success; we’ll never know what Portfolio could have done in a different economic cycle. Or how our economic cycle might have been better these days had more people paid attention to Portfolio. The magazine’s web site, portfolio.com survived the print mag’s demise. That probably made Schonfeld happy. The magazine was a failure, but it was a grand effort. I remember looking at the cover of an issue of Condé Nast Portfolio featuring a close-up photo of U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the headline, “Lead Us. Please.” It made me want to buy the magazine. I knew that inside the maga-
zine would be some good long-form business journalism, some interesting short columns, and some stuff that would be useless. Actually, that’s a very good mix for a magazine; if there are two good articles that interest me in a magazine, it’s worth buying. But not enough people thought so, and advertisers fled the young magazine in droves. So Portfolio was canceled. At just under 450,000 in circulation, the magazine wasn’t big enough to get the attention apparently needed in the marketplace, despite all of the money poured into it. (And do we even need to note that its survival was made even harder by the economic collapse? Can’t we just add that sentence to the end of practically every article we write these days?) I’m sorry to see Portfolio go. In a world in which journalism has gotten dumber and dumber, in which business journalism has tended to cheerlead for the businesses with the strongest marketing pitches and the least ethics, in which financial writers have had long-term memories of about three months, Portfolio was a refreshingly original and high-quality magazine that deserved a bigger audience. It did solid journalism while all the marketing lemmings say that such journalism is dead (“nobody reads anymore, anyway!”), and it took some healthy whacks at businesses that lied, cheated, or at least deserved scrutiny. There are still some financial publications that have not guzzled down the kool-aid (I’ll tighten my grip on my thin Financial Times and refuse to let go). But Portfolio is a reminder of the achievement that a great and idiosyncratic publisher like Condé Nast can pull off when it wants to. Whether its editors are riding subways or Lincoln Town Cars, in the end, doesn’t matter. What does matter is the quality they put on the newsstands, and Condé Nast does that better than just about anybody.
The Funnier Pages When print was funny: Humor and satire magazines, from Judge to National Lampoon.
BY JOHN ZIPPERER
hat magazines would the Great Gatsby have on his coffee table? In 1925, he probably would have had magazines like some of the ones you see on this page. Back then, periodicals such as Puck (an American magazine that started as a German-language title and then published English- and German-language editions), Judge, Life (the original one, before Henry Luce came out with his unfunny version), England’s Punch, Germany’s Fliegende Blätter and even the early New Yorker and the similar Chicagoan were flourishing, many of them published weekly. These magazines were both part of and mockers of the new modern, sophisticated population in the country that was coming about as a result of urbanization, industrialization, and spreading wealth. They were filled with cartoons and fanciful artwork by the best illustrators of the day, short snarky humorous bits and brief articles lampooning the mores and peoples of the day. Judging from the number and creativity of these magazines, there was clearly a readiness on the part of the reading public to enjoy sophisticated commentary on their lives. The magazines were eventually done in by changing read-
ing tastes, though I suspect it was also a change in the country from the brash optimism and edginess of the 1920s to a more conservative and traditional mindset established by depression and world war. They are worth seeking out if you’re curious either about Jazz Age magazines, or about how different American society was back then. Publishers of humor magazines in more recent decades do not seem to have tried to imitate these early publications, which is a shame, because in many ways an issue of Judge from the late 1920s shows more talent and smarts than a 1990s issue of Mad or a 1985 issue of National Lampoon. In the 20th century, humor and satire has mostly migrated to television and, to a surprisingly less successful degree, online. Today, the champions in the field – in whatever medium February 2011 | MAGMA | 33
Left: “That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of” humor, and thus National Lampoon took over the lead spot in America’s satirical magazine derby in the early 1970s. By the end of that decade, the magazine was being steered by P.J. O’Rourke (right), who is still, three decades after he left the magazine, making waves.
they operate – are arguably Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, The Onion, Bill Maher, and anything written by a British person, who just sounds funny by default. The legacy of humor and especially satire in America today owes a lot to the great humor magazines (and the not-so-great attempts) over the past century or so. Commentators such as blogger Paul Hooson have declared today to be dire times for satirical and humorous magazines like Mad (which has in the past decade published as infrequently as quarterly, though at press time it was on a bimonthly publishing schedule). Is there anything else even in that field these days? National Lampoon, of course, went to online-only more than a decade ago. Its internet efforts are underwhelming and unfunny. The best thing about NatLamp still being around in some corporate form is that the company has reissued a number of book collections of old one-shot specials such as parodies of high school yearbooks or small town newspapers. Other than that, NatLamp is a has-been in the humor world. And it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the likes of International Insanity, Mole, Harpoon, and others, with only a quasiqualifier, The Onion, still around. (Is The Onion a newspaper? A magazine? Your guess.) Obviously, there’s no Fliegende Blätter or Punch being published. For lovers of satirical magazines, the best is, alas, in the past. A Shooting Star n the autumn of 1980, a wide array of writers, editors, and actors from National Lampoon’s 10-year existence gathered for a somber purpose: The funeral of their colleague Doug Kenney, one of the magazine’s founders and a rising star in Hollywood.
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Almost all of the editors who showed up had waged office battles or were still nursing grudges against the other editors. It was not a reunion to warm the heart. It was more a gathering of people who had argued and feuded and stumbled through a seminal magazine’s first decade, doing as much damage as creative good. Soon after the funeral, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, P.J. O’Rourke, would quit his post, saying he was a bad editor anyway – a verdict that likely met with agreement by some of his former colleagues, many of whom looked back on the magazine’s first few years under Kenney and Henry Beard as the golden age, followed ever since with a steady descent. The story of Kenney’s life and death, and the tumultuous and creative experience at the nation’s most successful humor publication, is told in Josh Karp’s A Futile and Stupid Gesture: How Doug Kenney and National Lampoon Changed Comedy Forever (Chicago Review Press, 2006). It’s a fascinating look at how the magazine was created, rode the wave of a generation’s selfabsorption and political awakening, and suffered the effects of immature, unprofessional editors with outsized egos who were nevertheless over-endowed with talent. Though its founders hoped to meld a leftwing sensibility to an irreverent and even anarchic satire magazine, such attitudes occasionally brought readers but also much trouble. By 1980, Karp writes, the publication’s circulation was between 600,000 and 700,000 and it was dealing with about $10 million in lawsuits annually. The magazine
would continue on throughout the 1980s, finally dying a protracted death in the 1990s under new owners and eventually replaced by its current online-only incarnation. For those of us who are obsessed with magazines, Karp’s book gives lots of good inside looks at how creative and business talents can come together to produce a successful periodical. Matty Simmons married his advertising and deal-making savvy to Kenney’s and Beard’s Harvard-bred talents. But there’s one place Simmons’ dealmaking savvy failed him, and that was when he made the original pact with the editors, agreeing to a buyout in five years at an inflated price. From the point at which Simmons had to pay out millions of dollars to the founding editors, the National Lampoon magazine and company were lurching from one crisis to another, occasionally interrupted by successes such as Animal House, Vacation, and the Sunday Newspaper Parody. We learn about the creation of such publishing wonders as National Lampoon’s 1964 High School Yearbook, which was the single best-selling one-shot magazine in history. “O’Rourke was the magazine’s most junior contributor, and was making a name for himself through sheer tenacity and a willingness to shepherd projects that ranged from the extraordinary ... to the ridiculous,” writes Karp. “Everybody said that
roduced for a century stretching from 1844 to 1944, Fliegende Blätter was a weekly satirical magazine published in Munich. If you don’t read German, you can nonetheless get a sense of the magazine’s style, attitude and quality by looking at the images on these pages from the publication. What Punch was to Britain, Fliegende Blätter was to Germany. “Fliegende Blätter” is German for “flying sheets” or “flying papers.” The initial thing that I noticed when I saw my first Fliegende Blätter was the gorgeous logo across the top of the first page. Ornate, over-the-top, fanciful – that logo adorned every cover nearly to the end of its run, when it was replaced by a boring, standard typeset logo (just one of the millions of things that the Nazis ruined). The second thing to attract the reader’s attention is the artwork. There is a lot of it, on every page of the publication, and the cartoons and other illustrations were drawn by some of the leading artists of the day.
they’d help [with the Yearbook]. Almost no one did. Doug [Kenney] and O’Rourke prepared for the project by sitting around the Bank Street apartment, smoking dope and talking about high school.” Such was life at the Lampoon. For Kenney, it was a place he spent a lot of time (and sometimes not, because he took unexpected leaves of absence) and created some great humor writing. A regular theme of his was small-town America, the dysfunctional family life and class divisions that would produce his own inner conflicts and would provide fuel for much satire. Karp’s book is, of course, a tribute to Kenney, a talented but uncontrolled (and ultimately uncontrollable) comic talent, who created a great deal of well-received humor in his time (including co-creating National Lampoon’s Animal House and Caddyshack) but ended his years in a sad cocaine-fueled slide through paranoia and excess. If there’s a problem with the book, it’s probably a problem that would be expected of a book that tries to lionize an individual and an institution: the individual’s contributions are greatly exaggerated, while others – such as P.J. O’Rourke – are diminished. As someone who has appreciated O’Rourke’s writing for decades, I admit to having felt a need to defend him as I read the constant sniping about him: he had sold out to the business side of the
The third thing is the typeface of the copy. Unusually fancy and overdone for modern tastes, it was once common for entire magazines and books to be published with that typeface. It may look like it’d be too difficult to read, but after a couple sentences, the modern reader (assuming he or she reads German) gets the hang of the two or three confusing letters and can read it as well as boring old Helvetica or Times New Roman. Personally, I love it. I think the more we strip down text and design, the more our magazines and books look like there was no attention paid to them and they were just done as economically as possible. That’s obviously my own odd personal bias, but I do think the typeface used in Fliegende Blätter, along with the fantastic artwork, makes it look like every page had a great deal of care and talent poured into it. Though, for all I know, they were slapped together on deadline by a small staff half-drunk on local Munich beer. If so, they worked well drunk. These days when venerable (and not-so-much)
magazine (my reaction was that O’Rourke seemed to be the only editor who was mature enough to know they were running a business); he lacked the talent – his own and his staff ’s – that Kenney and Beard had (as a long-time contributor during the mag’s “golden age” and as a co-creator of the yearbook and newspaper parodies, among many contributions, O’Rourke didn’t need to apologize for any talent deficit of his own, and he’s probably the best-known National Lampoon alumni today; also, he brought in John Hughes, who would write prodigiously for the magazine and spawn the company’s wildly successful Vacation movie franchise, and his stable of writers included such talents as CBS News fixture Jeff Greenfield); he was a turncoat, trading in his previous Maoist allegiances for a conservative-libertarian ideology (thank god; going pretty much anywhere from Maoism is an improvement); he replaced the magazine’s freewheeling creative ethos with a top-down, dictatorial management style (some of that freewheeling style wasn’t really creative bliss; it was often selfish and self-destructive, unconcerned about who else at the magazine was hurt by their actions). And so on. But Karp’s quote from O’Rourke after Doug Kenney’s funeral and his decision to quit as editor shows that O’Rourke realized the criticisms weren’t all
magazines are closing up shop left and right, it’s nice to discover a great magazine that lasted a century, and even then only died because of a world war and a totalitarian dictator. And that’s the way a proud satirical publication should die. –J.Z.
off the mark: “I realized after leaving what a shitball editor I was. ... People skills weren’t in huge supply.” So O’Rourke and the magazine’s other surviving editors and publishers went on to other things in books, magazines, parodies, movies and television. Those of us who grew up after National Lampoon’s heyday – I didn’t start reading the magazine until late in junior high school, something like 1983 – have had to live with being told by baby boomer codgers that we missed the good stuff, the early years of the magazine. I happen to think that there was still “good stuff ” in the magazine in those first few years that I was reading the magazine (though I won’t try to defend the magazine’s later years). But we did have the pleasure of enjoying all of the comedy greats that followed that era. We got Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Onion, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report. And through the magic of digitized magazines, we can now read the magazine’s entire run in the form of the CD collection (produced by GIT Corp., 2004). Today we lack a print edition of National Lampoon, of course. One could still be successfully produced, but it would have to be up-to-date and it would never approach the 1 million circulation of National Lampoon’s single most successful issue – which, by the way, was edited by P.J. O’Rourke. But February 2011 | MAGMA | 35
that’s unlikely to happen in the current climate in which publishing is following a selffulfilling belief that print is dead. During the time that National Lampoon lasted in print, and especially in its first dozen years, we got the pleasure of the world of humor and satire that was heavily shaped by Kenney, Beard, O’Rourke, Sean Kelly, and the rest.
enterprise at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: The Onion, which started out in University of Heidelberg Fliegende Blätter digital archive: the mid-1980s as a couponhttp://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/helios/fachinfo/www/kunst/ supported humor newspaper digilit/fliegendeblaetter.html on campus. National Lampoon cover archive: Dikkers drew his comic for http://lampoon.rwinters.com/ The Daily Cardinal, a left-wing P.J. O’Rourke interview (but not about humor magazines): campus daily that competed http://weimarworld.blogspot.com/2010/11/complete-interwith my own centrist/centerview-with-pj-orourke.html right daily campus paper, The Judge magazine selected covers archive: Badger Herald. (Madison was http://www.fulltable.com/vts/j/jg/j.htm a great city for student newspaper wars and competition. Life magazine circa 1920: selected excerpts: Can We Out-Lampoon And here’s one more fun fact: http://www.fulltable.com/vts/m/mag/life/menu.htmmo the Lampoon? National Lampoon contribulittle perspective: Last tor Jeff Greenfield was the year, I was wondering editor of The Daily Cardinal International Insanity. In the mid-1970s, how the wacky health-care reform debate this was a short-lived competitor to Nation- when he was a student at the University of in this country would change when swine al Lampoon, and it exhibits all of the lack of Wisconsin in 1964.) In those early years of flu was predicted to make its return in imagination you’d expect from a magazine The Onion’s life, the targets of its satire were more-virulent form and infected hundreds that clearly took NatLamp’s two-word title local, including the Herald and the Cardiof millions more people. and just did a riff on it. National Lampoon, nal. I remember walking into our offices I vaguely remember the swine flu epi- International Insanity. Presumably next one afternoon while our news editors were demic of the mid-1970s, when I was grow- they would have tried Galactic Kookiness, moaning about some Onion lampoon of the ing up in Wisconsin. I was but a wee lad at but – thank God – they never got that far. campus dailies. I didn’t moan; the Onion’s the time, but I remember one important Like the Lampoon, International Insanity satirization of us was usually dead-on, hitthing from that health-care crisis: It turned parodied other media, published fumetti, ting us at our obvious weak points, which out that the swine flu vaccine was, um, er, fake news, comics, and more. Unlike the for us included some fairly weak copyeditmaking some people get sick and die. Don’t Lampoon, it wasn’t particularly good. But ing. worry, I’m not going to go all Jenny McCar- before it died, it did offer up an issue that One such satire was a one-column box thy on you; I think parents should get their featured a cover image with a new take on that sought to explain the difference bekids vaccinated. The science is pretty strong swine flu: a nurse giving a shot to her pa- tween the Cardinal and the Herald. One of on the side of, well, science. But nonethe- tient, a pig. the bullet points for the leftist Cardinal was less, when it comes to flu, I never got anthat its staff supported the El Salvadoran International Insanity was designed by nual shots until fairly recently, and it’s all Cloud Studio, a famed New York City de- Marxist rebel group FMLN; as for the Herbecause I remember the failure of that first sign house that also designed National ald, it would misspell FMLN. swine flu vaccine campaign. That’s good. A better bullet point was that Lampoon in its first year of publication, This is all brought to mind (and thank 1970. the Cardinal editors were all rich kids from you for sticking with me while I led up to Anyway, National Lampoon no longer the north shore of Milwaukee; the Badger this) by my discovery of a magazine called exists in print form, and International In- Herald’s editors all wanted to be rich kids sanity no longer exists. We from the north shore of Milwaukee. Perwere spared Universal Nut- fect! There was truth to it, and it played up to the stereotypes of the two papers. tiness. Anyway, The Onion began to widen its circulation and broaden its sights. No lonTruly, Madly, Funny ger was it mainly supported by coupons long time ago in a city for local pizza joints running along the far, far away, a young cartoonist named Scott Dik- bottoms of the pages. It became a weekly kers drew a comic strip for that everyone on campus, and increasingly a college paper. The comic many people off campus, read. A few years strip was a bare-bones, stick- later, it was sold to a New York firm, which figure affair, and it was oc- has continued to expand the company over casionally funny. Then Dik- the years. I was sorry to see The Onion lose its kers got involved in another Madison base, and I’m sure it won’t regain it in any future sales. But while it was based there, it was another great Midwestern humor creation, like Mystery Science Theater 3000 (which also included some UW-MadLeft: Born on the camison alumni, plus my fellow Green Bay napus of the University of tive Joel Hodgson) in the Twin Cities, and Wisconsin, The Onion it went on to conquer the humor world alhas become a multimost as much as National Lampoon did in media satirical powerhouse. the 1970s.
PHOTOS BY STEVEN BOWLES
Who’s in T Control of Your Magazine?
BY JOHN ZIPPERER
here comes a time in the print life of many magazines when the editors lose their minds, or the marketing people have taken over, and the wild thought crystallizes: “Let’s bring in a famous non-editor who will act as a guest editor for an issue of our magazine!”
Putting a celebrity on the masthead for an issue can be a great way to attract attention to a publication, but the cost is paid in the magazine’s credibility.
Please don’t, editors and publishers. Please resist the urge. It is a thankfully infrequent but unthankfully not extinct publicity stunt that some magazines pull. The use of a celebrity guest editor – someone who helps plan, write, design and of course promote the issue – seems like a no-brainer to many print professionals who are eager for their publica-
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tions to attract more attention. I’m tempted to try to come up with some fake guest-editor/magazine pairings, but the reality has been even sillier: Remember Roseanne guest editing The New Yorker? Or how about comedian Stephen Colbert guest editing an issue of Newsweek? Yikes. Now, I love Colbert’s work. He’s not only funny, but I think he’s got real intelligence and rare understanding of the importance of the things he targets with wit. (Count me among those who thought his performance at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a rare act of valuable court-jestering in a country that has come to believe that film and television is only for entertaining, not for actually making a point.) But Newsweek? I also liked the revamped Newsweek. So this isn’t a case of me disliking either the guest editor or magazine. But I think Newsweek undercut its credibility as a serious journalistic enterprise with this stunt. A few more 25-year-olds might pick up that issue, but probably a couple fewer 50-year-olds (you know, the consumers with all the money and power in the world) will do so. Considering Newsweek’s ultimate sale by the Washington Post Company and its takeover by The Daily Beast’s Tina Brown, one could hardly say this exercise in big-name editorial involvement helped right the sinking ship that was Newsweek. The guest-editing trend has been quite popular in recent years, with Will Young guest editing an issue of Attitude, a gay lifestyle magazine. An issue of the UK edition of Esquire had no fewer than four guest editors, including The Office’s creator, comedian Ricky Gervais. Or consider the BBC, which, in addition to producing untold hours of radio and television programming around the world, owns BBC Magazines Bristol, which – as the name pretty much says – publishes magazines. (It even produces them in Bristol.) The next time you’re at Borders or Barnes & Noble or any other store with a big magazine area, scan through the history or science sections, and you’ll find such titles as BBC Knowledge, BBC Sky at Night (an astronomy title), BBC History, and more. Though I’m a history buff, the only BBC magazine I pick up from time to time is BBC Focus, which is a popular-science magazine. With a circulation of only about 68,000 (a level that would not even interest many American publishers), Focus produces a high-quality monthly package of more than 100 oversized (by anemic U.S. magazine page-size standards) pages. The magazine is full of colorfully illustrated, easy-toread articles about science in our lives The December 2009 issue of Focus caught my attention with its reflective sil38 | MAGMA | February 2011
ver logo box, a change from its usual red. The key factor in my decision to purchase the magazine, however, was the cover story package: the privatization of space. It’s a favorite topic of mine, and it promised to be a nice look inside the burgeoning commercial space race. The cover also noted that the issue was “guest edited by Richard Branson.” Branson is the billionaire owner of the Virgin brand of companies, including Virgin Galactic, the leading private space travel firm. I am not, as a rule, a fan of guest-editing gimmicks. In this case, there was at least a compelling link between Branson and this magazine’s topics. Branson’s issue of Focus includes at least five articles (comprising a majority of the special section on private space travel) by or about Virgin Galactic. Now, making all the necessary photo shoots, interviews, and information exchanges happen might well be a big part of what a guest editor brings to a magazine, but it still looks like BBC Focus gave Branson’s company a big free adver-
How important is the magazine’s independence compared to the extra copies they expect to be bought because of Steven Spielberg’s involvement? tisement in its December issue – or make that of its December issue. In a statement by Bristol Magazines, Focus editor Jheni Osman said of working with Branson: “The father of space tourism was a pleasure to work with – full of feature ideas and Focus-esque humour. It’s the first time he’s guest edited a magazine, giving readers an exclusive insight into his world.” As with most BBC Focus magazines, it’s a nice issue. Focus and Branson can be
proud of their work on many levels. But I don’t think they advanced the cause of journalism any, and they should be concerned about advancing the cause of journalism and not propaganda. Empire magazine, a large film monthly also from the UK, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a special issue guest edited by Stephen Spielberg. Again, I have no problem with either the magazine or the guest editor; Empire is consistently a high-quality publication that probably only errs in occasionally giving more attitude than substance; and Spielberg is an extraordinary talent as well as being a man of brave social conscience. But one can’t read Empire ever again and think it’s providing an independent look at the film world. How much can you criticize a film if the director is a potential editor? How much can a reader trust your positive review of a film that was produced by a potential editor? How important is the magazine’s independence compared to the extra copies they expect to be bought because of Spielberg’s involvement?
SFX magazine focuses on science-fiction and fantasy films, television, and books. Last year, it produced an issue guest edited by humorous fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett, whose books have sold more than 45 million copies in 33 languages. I have even more respect and affection for Pratchett than I do for Colbert. Ever since I was introduced to Pratchett’s Discworld novels 15 years ago by my company’s IT director, I have relished each new release. But is he a magazine editor? Well, as a writer, he has more of a claim to be an editor than most big names called upon to temporarily assume the editor’s role. But the same problem exists with SFX as with the other stunt editing examples in this article: Can we expect the magazine to judiciously review or report on Pratchett projects in the future? Not that the magazine was ever overly critical of his work in the past, but it does plant in the minds of many readers a question or suspicion every time the magazine reviews Pratchett’s latest book or visits the set of a movie or play derived from his
books. Did the project really merit the coverage, or is the magazine simply afraid to say no to one of its pals? At its most fundamental level, the practice of using guest editors undercuts the very magazine it’s trying to promote. A magazine is not a public internet forum where anyone and everyone can post their opinions. It is a particular world view designed and shaped by a team of editors and publishers. That’s how they earn their pay. It’s their take on whatever subject matter is the focus of the magazine: news, the music world, science fiction films, whatever. Finally, readers need to be able to think that they’re getting that point of view (however broad or narrow) straight and not filtered through too much whoring for money. Yeah, not through too much whoring – everyone knows there’ll be some. So, what about Meryl Streep guest editing Vogue? Or the Octomom guest editing The Economist? Nah, I just can’t top Roseanne and The New Yorker.
February 2011 | MAGMA | 39
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The Last Golden Age of the
Science Fiction Magazine
Two magazines were birthed in the late 1970s. They left a legacy that has readers still talking about them 30 years later. BY JOHN ZIPPERER
irst came the e-mail: Could I tell this person which issue of Starlog contained the column by sciencefiction author David Gerrold in which he argued that work was like either a sandbox or a catbox? Then came a message to my Twitter account, asking much the same thing. At first, I thought both of the messages came from the same person, but when I was responding to them that I would research the question, I realized they were from different people. A little sleuthing uncovered a Facebook post by David Gerrold himself in which he asked for help finding that particular column, and a response from one of his online friends directed people to my online chronicle of Starlog magazine issues as a possible resource. It was early December 2010, which was a year and a half since Starlog published its final issue. Earlier in 2010, I had begun providing online descriptions of each issue of the magazine for the purpose of providing an easy way for people to find articles they remembered reading years before. It was inspired by a chronicle I had created several years earlier of Future
Life magazine, which was a science and science-fiction magazine produced by Starlogâ€™s publishers from 1978 through 1981. Both of these chronicles have spawned letters to me from former writers and editors of these two magazines, readers who were happy to go down memory lane with their favorite publications, and even academic researchers looking for information. So hereâ€™s a taste. What follows are excerpts from these two chronicles. To read more, check out the links on the final page of this article. Star Wars Arrives Starlog #7, August 1977, 76 pages (including covers and the partially numbered blueprint insert), $1.50 cover price The arrival of Star Wars in theaters changed cinema forever, and it also changed the science fiction media magazine world forever. Numerous magazines (Fantastic Films, Questar, Star Warp, etc.) were launched in the wake of Star Wars mania in the late 1970s, and for Starlog, which had begun a year earlier and rode Star Trek fandom to success, a whole new fan base joined its readership. Starlog would never be the same, and it was for the better. Also com-
February 2011 | MAGMA | 41
ing aboard with this issue is Assistant Editor Ed Naha (who replaces James M. Elrod). Naha would be a big player in the Starlog world for many years, co-editing Future Life magazine, being the founding editor (under one of his numerous pseudonyms, Joe Bonham) of Fangoria, and writing many, many articles and columns. Starlog isn’t the only magazine to use the photo on its cover of a TIE fighter shooting at an X-wing (see page 38), but it is the only magazine that ended up with an iconic cover with it. Go back and look at all of the covers for Starlogs one through six. Nice and colorful, yes, but this number seven had action, space opera, adventure, and drama; the same elements that made Star Wars such a refreshing jolt to the moviegoing public in 1977 also make this cover leap out from other early Starlog covers. The rundown: Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column praises SF fans who put some energy into achieving their goals; censorship, 3-D, holography, and praise from William F. Nolan light up the Communications letters pages; Log Entries has its usual wide variety of short news, including info on the new Logan’s Run TV series, Ray Harryhausen’s Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, satellites and space probes, the space shuttle, giant SF conventions, and more. David Houston writes an excellent and lengthy cover feature on the making of Star Wars. Beautifully illustrated, filled with lots of good detail and background, the article strongly supported the idea that Star Wars was not just another new film but was a game-changer. Also in this issue, Susan Sackett’s Star Trek Report column gives some insight into the ongoing script games with the long-in-development Star Trek movie; Bill
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tures, their dress and architecture, their technology, history and future (if any) are not of our world.” –David Houston, writer, “Creating the Space-Fantasy Universe of Star Wars”
Irvine interviews Allan Scott about the Trek film; Geoffrey Mandel has the center of the magazine, which is devoted to a Space: 1999 blueprint insert and article; there’s a one-page article on the second Man from Atlantis TV film; David Houston explores the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.; in his column, David Gerrold chronicles (with photos) his 1973 experience as a chimp extra on Planet of the Apes; Ed Naha contributes a Rocketship X-M retrospective (illustrated by the great Kelly Freas); in part II of David Hutchison’s SFX department, he gives the history of Robby the Robot; and the Visions column explores the outer planets of our solar system. “The story is set in another galaxy and time and concerns a valiant struggle against a totalitarian empire that is spread among the stars. The characters herein have never heard of Earth. Their alien worlds and cul-
In the Wake of Gene Roddenberry Starlog #175, February 1992, 100 pages (including covers), $5.95 cover price On October 24, 1991, Gene Roddenberry passed away of heart failure at the relatively young age of 70. But you can read all of that on Wikipedia. This February 1992 issue of Starlog explores at length the impact that Roddenberry had while he was alive, particularly in terms of his creation and shepherding of Star Trek, which was, after all, the namesake and inspiration for Starlog magazine itself. Starlog’s staff pulls out all of the stops for a 20-page salute to Roddenberry that includes contributions from many of the actors, writers, directors, and other artists who worked in the Trek universe, bookended by editor David McDonnell and former publisher Kerry O’Quinn, who knew Roddenberry well. In essence, it’s a print version of a wake for the man, and though it’d be overkill in most other magazines, it seems entirely appropriate in Starlog. I do not remember who said this, but it has always stuck with me: The 1960s Star Trek series got worse as it progressed and creator Gene Roddenberry’s involvement was limited; however, Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 1980s got better as it progressed and Roddenberry’s involvement was limited. By noting that claim – and that I agree with it – I do not intend to slight Gene Roddenberry. If anything, it shows that the greater control he had to create Next Generation was reflected
The same elements that made Star Wars such a refreshing jolt to the moviegoing public in 1977 also make this cover leap out from other early Starlog covers. in having a staff and fictional creation that could thrive even as Roddenberry’s health declined. Okay, the cover promises a “special 25-pg. tribute celebrating” Roddenberry, but by my count, it’s closer to 20 pages (starting on page 41 and ending on 60), but there are a few other Trek articles in the issue, so they might’ve been counting those. Maybe they counted the letters pages. Not sure. (Also, in this issue, the mag replaces its usual two-page backissues ad with a one-page ad that compiles all of the past issues of the magazine featuring Star Trek articles. Talk about knowing your audience!) However you do that math, this edition is still a special 100-pager with a high-forits-time $5.95 price tag; but, hey, it’s only £3.50 if you’re in Britain. Next issue, the magazine returns to its regular size but boosts its usual cover price from $4.50 to $4.95, where it will stay (with a very minor variation) for almost a decade. The rundown: The cover copy of “Is this the end of Enterprise?” over a photo of the starship is meant to refer to the new film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, but it ties in nicely with the Roddenberry obit this issue; between the exhaustive coverage of the film and the death of its creator, readers should be able to answer the cover’s question with a definitive “No.” Meanwhile on the contents page, a photo of a hook – just a metal hook – illustrates this issue’s coverage of the Steven Spielberg film Hook. It’s an abbreviated Medialog column from David McDonnell this month, but he does manage to tell us that Tri-Star is planning Taking Liberty, a film about the hijacking of a space shuttle; Dan Yakir profiles William Shatner on his expected
Trek swan song, Star Trek VI – little did they know, you can’t kill Jim Kirk – and Pat Jankiewicz contributes a sidebar chat with Jon Vitti, who discusses Shatner’s famous “Get a life” skit from Saturday Night Live; the five-page Communications section is devoted to letters eulogizing Gene Roddenberry, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features Frankenstein’s monster; the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s fan club and publications directory, plus the convention calendar; David Hutchison’s Videolog column announces the release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, plus other genre releases; and Booklog reviews A Bridge of Years, Mirabile, Dawn for a Distant Earth, The Emancipator I: The Pharoah Contract, The Time Patrol, Voyage to the Red Planet, Dream Baby, and Lunar Descent. Ian Spelling interviews actor Michael Dorn, who plays the best Klingon ever, Worf; Kim Howard Johnson and Hank Kanalz preview the new Star Wars comics from Dark Horse Comics; Ian Spelling next checks in with actress Nichelle Nichols, who discusses Trek classic and new; Kerry O’Quinn kicks off the Roddenberry section with his column, “My Friend, Gene,” which recounts how they became friends and delighted in sharing ideas with each other; Lee Goldberg profiles the late producer in “The Creator’s Tale”; a four-page article, “Celebrating the Creator,” collects statements about Gene Roddenberry from George Takei, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Wil Wheaton, Carel Struycken, W h o o p i Goldberg,
Mark Lenard, Ralph Winter, Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Ray Bradbury, Brandon Tartikoff, and Gates McFadden; “The Creator’s Legacy” features writers from the Star Trek franchise: Howard Weinstein, Carmen Carter, Peter David, J.M. Dillard, Robert Greenberger, Diane Carey, A.C. Crispin, Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Brad Ferguson; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column by noting the impact of Roddenberry’s life and death on the science-fiction universe. In non-Trek news, Lynne Stephens interviews Hook designer John Napier; Marc Shapiro talks with Hook’s produc-
February 2011 | MAGMA | 43
tion designer, Norman Garwood; Will Murray visits the set of Freejack and talks with director Geoff Murphy; Karl Shook chats with actor and former Avenger Patrick Macnee about The Avengers, Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., Sherlock Holmes in New York, and more; Jean Airey interviews actor Nickolas Grace, who portrays the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin of Sherwood; and the dinosaur stampede is beginning (to be increased in future years), as Marc Shapiro reports on the TV revival of Sid and Marty Krofft’s Land of the Lost. “The last time I spoke with him was a few months ago. I called Gene [Roddenberry] at home one Sunday evening with some questions involving philosophy. ‘We’re just going out to dinner,’ he said, and I quickly replied, ‘Let me call you at a more convenient time.’ ‘No, no – let’s talk,’ Gene insisted. ‘I’m so delighted to hear from you.’ And in that single, sincere sentence, Gene summed himself up. He showed that he wanted, always, to be available to his friends – that despite the marvelous aliens who emerged from his head, he cherished above all the companionship of humans.” –Kerry O’Quinn, columnist, “From the Bridge: ‘My Friend, Gene’” Japanese Vision Future #5, October 1978, 80 pages (including covers and poster), $1.95 cover price This is one of the best issues of the early years of Future (or Future Life, as it was soon renamed), and it also has one of my favorite covers, a painting by famed Japanese artist Shusei Nagaoka; the cover painting is included as an oversize poster. A note: The cover price increases 20 cents with this issue. Also, for the first time, the contents page is designed to fea-
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ture an image, in this case a giant painting of Icarus by David Hardy. In this issue: Kerry O’Quinn’s Output column looks at revolting taxes; Input letters include feedback on the Lenny White album article, someone who thought Boris’ cover painting for issue #3 was “trash” (it’s worth noting that a Boris painting for an early issue of Starlog also led to readers accusing that magazine of pornography), a suggestion that the ERA doesn’t belong in Future (in a letter written by Samuel James Maronie – is that the same Sam Maronie who later became a prolific contributor to Starlog?), and more; Databank is filled with short news items on a future-oriented speakers bureau, cloning, a Things to Come remake, Future and Starlog translated into a Japanese edition, a North Pole trek, another article on Kraftwerk, SETI gets Sen. William Proxmire’s Golden Fleece award, and more. Robin Snelson reports on a proposed international space port; Dr. Jeff Elliot interviews Ray Bradbury; Video Images updates the latest on SF and fantasy TV; a two-page photo feature looks at the aliens from Battlestar Galactica; Scot Holton, Bob Skotak
Perhaps only in the time of coke-andReaganomics could many people be tempted to have their cadavers’ heads chopped off.
and Lem Pitkin provide a retrospective of the great Fritz Lang German SF classic Metropolis; the Hardware column looks at a James Bond-like jet water bike; Joseph Kay interviews Japanese artist Shusei Nagaoka (and features lots of Nagaoka’s color paintings); Jesco von Puttkamer’s Science Notebook examines how up-and-coming civilizations would join the “galactic club”; Future Forum asks Marion Zimmer Bradley, David Gerrold, Joe W. Haldeman and others, “What will the next important breakthrough in the entertainment media be?”; Richard Meyers visits a sciencefiction retail store in California; “Freeman’s Rebellion” is the “Civilization in Space” serial episode contributed by Howard Zimmerman; Steve Swires interviews a Close Encounters-era Steven Spielberg; Louis Broadhurst looks at the musical version of War of the Worlds; In Print reviews James Naremore’s The Magic World of Orson Wells, Glen Larson and Robert Thurston’s Battlestar Galactica novelization, Stanislaw Lem’s The Star Diaries, and more; Ron Miller investigates Collier’s classic 1951 space art series; William F. Nolan writes about robots and androids in the Tomorrow column; and editor Howard Zimmerman discusses making positive change. “Deeply [a]ffected by the post World War I atmosphere of Germany, Lang attempted to fit every philosophical trend of the times into his scenario. Following the financial ruin caused by the war, Germany quickly became not only an economically stable country but a visionary nation as well. Future-thought abounded and age-old concepts concerning the master race were mixed freely with hardware-oriented science and an expansive strain of economics.” –Scot Holton, Bob Skotak and Lem Pitkin, writers, “Metropolis: Out of the Past, a Look at the Future”
artist Kevin Ward’s colorful work I Want to Live Forever KEEP READING is featured in the magazine’s cenFuture Life #24, February 1981, 76 terfold; and Michael Cassutt inpages (including covers), $2.25 covFor ongoing chronicles of Starlog: terviews scientist/writer Gregory er price http://www.weimar.ws/wmrstarlog1.html Benford. This issue has a great cover; good http://weimarworld.blogspot.com/ Bob MeCoy’s In Print colcomposition and execution. EyeFor complete chronicles of Future/Future Life : umn reviews some alien-related catching. Alas, this issue is also notehttp://www.weimar.ws/wmrzeitschriften.html books, and more (including a reworthy for a cover typo that labels it view of John Varley’s The Barbie as “Feb. 1980” though it’s really the Murders, which I can only hope February 1981 issue. That was before the magazine stopped disThe topic of the cover story is, as they tribution through newsstands and most is about what it sounds like it’s about); in say, oh-so-1981. Perhaps only in the time retail outlets and went to an almost all- a special Energy Alternatives section, Bob of coke-and-Reaganomics could many subscription model. That might even help Woods updates us on the progress of synpeople be tempted to have their cadavers’ explain why it took that drastic step. Those thetic fuels development, and Stan Kent heads chopped off, frozen, and tended by numbers include an average of 5,300 mail explains the potential of Solares (orbiting grad students or temps for, what? Tens of subscriptions (6,000 years? Hundreds? Thousands? Really? In for the single issue the Bay Area, earthquake country, they cited above). thought there’d never be a power supply In this issue: The disruption? Ah, well. Still, it’s a cool cover. cover photo is by ace Every year, magazines publish a Post photographer MiOffice form publicizing their ownership chael Sullivan. In his and circulation. (It’s a necessary part of Output column, pubdelivering subscriber copies via the mail lisher Kerry O’Quinn at reduced periodicals rates.) This is the cites guest columnist one and only time Future Life ever pub- Timothy Leary to illished one; whether that was because it lustrate the impornever before had subscription numbers tance of scientists as high enough to require it, or it just slipped inspiration and leadthe publishers’ minds, who knows? Any- ers; the letters in the way, its average paid circulation for the Input pages include previous 12 months is listed as 106,554, a rather ill-tempered but that drops to 38,250 for the issue most Adolf Schaller (who recently published before the form’s filing. seems to take great exception to a rather minor point in his mirrors to reflect sunlight to ground starecent Portfolio profile in the magazine), tions on the earth); Bob Woods also pens feedback on O’Quinn’s anti-draft editorial, his regular Earth Control column, this praise for Trudy Bell’s space activism ar- time looking at the controversial idea of ticle, a pro-pot activist chiming in on Nor- towing icebergs from the poles to waterman Spinrad’s recent column, and more; deficient areas; in the Portfolio section, Databank short items include Bob Woods Robin Snelson profiles artist John Allison on new-fangled windmills, Charles Bogle (one of the folks working on Carl Sagan’s (which is yet another of editor Ed Naha’s Cosmos TV series) and his work; and Topseudonyms, as we now know) on up- morrow guest columnist and drug enthucoming SF films (including a John Say- siast Timothy Leary writes about scienles-scripted Spielberg flying saucer flick), tists as superstars. Randolph J. Steer on the U.S. Air Force’s plans for space, an unbylined item on the “Succinctly, what I like least about SF is application of science to solving problems that all too often it’s tennis with the net with rice-destroying fungus, Philip L. down. It either completely finesses the sciHarrison on “magnetic smog,” and more. entific constraints on a story, or fails to treat Using his own name, Ed Naha reports the characters or scene realistically. Instead on the special effects technology behind – to pick an author who has great virtues Dino De Laurentiis’ Flash Gordon; Carolyn and great faults – it’s like the background Henson’s Alternate Space column covers in a Philip K. Dick novel: it’s just pasted on. the political slugfest over solar-powered Now, I know that often Dick is not trying satellites; Barbara Krasnoff investigates to write a ‘realistic’ novel, but sometimes the cryonics industry in “Cryonics Melt- he is. Nonetheless, his backgrounds are still down”; Lou Stathis profiles avant-garde the same papier-mache with paint on them. musician Jon Hassell; Ed Naha previews That happens a lot in SF.” Ken Russell’s film Altered States; in his An –Gregory Benford, scientist and writer, Edge in My Voice column, Harlan Ellison interviewed by Michael Cassutt: “Gregory defends the concept of scientific progress; Benford” February 2011 | MAGMA | 45
Photo by flickr user/titlap
THE ALL-SEEING EYES
Judge & Jury for the Significant Trends & Happenings in the World of Magazines IPAD REVOLUTION GOOD: Digital magazines are advancing by leaps and bounds; where these digital experiences actually replicate much of the experience of reading a print magazine, all the better. THE WALL STREET JOURNAL LAUNCHES WSJ MAGAZINE GOOD: Say what you want about Rupert Murdoch (and we have), but he believes in print. The Journal’s new WSJ magazine is reportedly a success, so Murdoch’s ever-growing empire has another victory under its belt. It can only make the FT even better. MAKING PRINT MAGAZINES ONLINE-ONLY BAD: Print magazines and online publications are different animals. They are not merely different media delivering the same content. PLAYBOY OUTSOURCES ADVERTISING AND OTHER BUSINESS FUNCTIONS TO AMERICAN MEDIA GOOD: It’s probably a smart decision that allows the magazine to cut costs while retaining control over the editorial part of the magazine. But will it hobble the company as it continues to innovate in its ongoing effort to revive the print brand? HUGH HEFNER TAKES PLAYBOY PRIVATE AGAIN GOOD: As he has acknowledged for years, the worst decision he ever made was to take Playboy Enterprises public in the 1970s. Public companies are soulless behemoths and more expensive to operate; private companies can be more entrepreneurial and can retain the spirit and soul of a publication. PENTHOUSE MAKES COUNTEROFFER FOR PLAYBOY BAD: Even as a publicity stunt, this was off the mark; it has been two or three decades since the general public even cared about the Playboy-Penthouse rivalry. Now, current and potential readers just care what the magazines offer them today. NEWSMAX MAKES OFFER FOR NEWSWEEK BAD: You’ve already got one disreputable news magazine in your stable. Must you debase a second? NEWSWEEK AND THE DAILY BEAST TIE THE KNOT GOOD: If anyone can make a success out of the struggling Newsweek, it’s the indefatigable Tina Brown. She not only understands the online media revolution, she understands – and believes in – 46 | MAGMA | February 2011
print, so she’s likely to let print do what it does best and let online do what it does best. We’re optimistic. GQ SEXES UP TEENS IN COVER SHOT BAD: Just because the Religious Right gets upset about something, it doesn’t mean it’s right. GQ showed bad taste and bad judgment with its sexed-up stars from Glee (which is set in a high school). We expect better from GQ. CLINT REVIVES THE COMIC MAG GOOD: British publisher Titan Magazines launched Clint in 2010, a 100-page comics magazine targeting a young-male readership. Heavy Metal can wait; it’s good to see publishers recognizing the entertainment that younger readers can get from a magazine that gives people what they want. REVIVAL OF DEAD TITLES MIXED: In the past year or so, we’ve seen revivals of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Playgirl, Gourmet (as a series of specials), and other dead magazines. Though the execution of some of these has been less than good, it is still good to see publishers putting their faith in print. But we have to ask: Where’s Starlog? PUBLISHERS REDUCE FREQUENCY BAD: In the recent brutal recession and amidst a slow recovery, we certainly can understand the need to combine a couple issues or take a monthly to a bimonthly schedule. But the longer readers have to wait for a new issue, the less the magazine is a part of their lives. This will hurt in the medium-term. REDUCED TRIM SIZE OF MAGAZINES BAD: And, frankly, stupid. The recession set off another round of magazines shrinking the size of their publications, saving a few bucks in printing costs but reminding older readers of the awful 1970s, when everything got more expensive, smaller, and of lesser quality – all at the same time. If anything, magazines should increase their sizes. Stand out more on the newsstand. Have a bigger impact on their readers. MAGCLOUD, ISSUU, & MORE GOOD: We won’t claim to know which digital magazine platforms will survive their infancy, but we’re glad that there are many of them and that they’re different. Some, like MagCloud, are really print-on-demand services (created, we believe, to promote the use of HP commercial printers); others, like Issuu.com, are open digital publishing platforms that replicate the print magazine experience. The more the merrier.
The magazine industry and the general public chose the best magazine covers of 2009-2010. Now we have our say.
The New York cover, highlighting hysterical criticism of President Obama is well-done, but with free web programs for generating posters similar to the famed “Hope” poster from Obama’s campaign, this is hardly original. Nice use of color, however, which hammers home the point.
he best American magazine covers from June 20, 2009, to May 21, 2010, were selected by The American Society of Magazine Editors and the general public, which voted on Amazon.com. They had their say, but we figured it was a hollow victory for any of these magazines until Magma chimed in with its critiques. So, what did we think?
Any non-film magazine that puts celebrity actors on its cover is already at a disadvantage. But this issue of Harper’s Bazaar – which won the overall contest as the best of the best – rises to the challenge with a beautiful, classical cover with minimal cover text. Only question left is why the Twilight star keeps his shirt on.
February 2011 | MAGMA | 47
Texas Monthly is published in Texas. Monthly, we hear. And if there’s one thing we know about Texans, it’s that they like meat. We’re also fans of delicious looking food covers (thus do we love Saveur magazine), so we think this is a great cover photo, great composition, and great text placement. Hugh Hefner tweeted that this Marge Simpson cover was getting more public comment than any Playboy cover in memory. A riff on the magazine’s own October 1971 cover, this cover is genius on every level – provocative, bright colors, coy yet fun cartoon character, and gutsy. The cover helped the magazine achieve its first quarterly profit in some time.
Enough Mr. Nice Guy. This Sports Illustrated cover is nothing special. It’s not a bad cover; it’s just not worth noting. Big whoop: Woman losing her bikini on the cover of SI’s swimsuit issue. What’ next? A politician on the cover of The New Republic? Snooze. Coastal Living’s winning cover features a photo of ... coastal living. See the water? See the living space? About as unexpected as a bikini-clad woman on SI’s annual cheesecake issue. Nice, yeah; but an awardwinner? Nah.
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Ooh, a celebrity on the cover of GQ. How unusual? Nope. Nothing significant about this cover. And what is the point with that stupid asterisk?
Now this is a great Sports Illustrated cover. Only drawback: Doesn’t SI publish at least one cover like this every year?
Beautiful, beautiful. Glorious. This New Yorker cover deserves its award honors. We don’t know what the hell it means, but it’s a great cover nonetheless.
A deceptively simple cover, this National Geographic special issue sports a wellexecuted text-and-droplet treatment that supports the cover story without being too cute. It sounds contradictory to say it, but this is a cover design that is restrained and bold at the same time. A superb cover.
GQ lands two covers on the ASME winners list. There is nothing special about this GQ cover; it can only have won because of the expression on Clint’s face. And seriously, folks, what the hell is the point of the asterisks and the plus sign? Is GQ competing with Twitter?
Eh. It’s not a bad cover, but we are sure that we’d be safe in saying there were at least 100 better covers published from June 2009 to June 2010. At least is spared us from getting another GQ celebrity cover.
REVIEWS THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY
Is It Time for the iMag?
n 1450 the German publisher Johannes Gutenberg built his first-of-its-kind movable-type printing press. He was soon followed in the English-speaking world by William Caxton, who fired up his own printing press in 1476. Then in 1962 National Geographic printed its first all-color issue, in 2007 Amazon introduced the Kindle into our lives, and now in 2010 Apple has released the iPad upon the world. Each revolutionary technological invention has made its fair contribution to the media realm, but what is it about the iPad that has media giants such as Condé Nast, Time, Inc., News Corp., and Virgin all rushing back to the drawing board eager to get on board? Condé Nast released the iPad edition of Wired magazine in June 2010. According to Ad Age, the first issue of Wired on the iPad sold 105,000 copies, significantly higher than Wired’s roughly 80,000 average monthly newsstand sales. Time magazine’s iPad edition sold 5,000 copies in its first three days, Rupert Murdoch said his Wall Street Journal app picked up 10,000 customers, and now Richard Branson’s newly launched – and iPad exclusive – Project is the latest electronic magazine to join the iPad bandwagon. With iPad sales projected to be more than 53 million by the end of 2012 and a plethora of new magazine apps being added daily to Apple’s App Store, it is evident that the digital magazine market is in an early growth frenzy. But what exactly does this expansion mean for both the publisher and the reader? Are these electronic variations to their print counterparts the true media game-changers most observers are expecting? Whether we admit it or not, readers have been exposed to a new user experience. Wired and
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Project are prime examples of how traditional media are coming to life – transformed from the once-static hard copy into updatable, flexible, multimedia content. Articles can now include live video footage, commentary, and highlights to provide users with a much deeper experience without even turning the page. Music tracks and movie trailers can coexist with their critics’ reviews, and adver tisements can become interactive by allowing the user access to resources – in effect, letting them inspect beneath the hood of the car before they even test drive. Some critics might argue that there is little that is revolutionary about multimedia articles, because for years web sites for newsweeklies and other magazines have incorporated videos and links into their written content. What that argument overlooks is the mobility factor that iPad delivers. For the first time, users are able to enjoy the full features of these publications without the geographic limitations of a wireless connection. There are no online load times for articles or images, and users are finally able to enjoy a full high-speed HTML experience right from their lap, without the dependency on a speedy Internet connection. There is also the convenience factor. Having a plethora of 150+ page magazines all neatly
fit into one device that weighs a mere 1.5 pounds and is only half an inch thick certainly adds to the appeal. The iPad’s iMag experience truly marries the portability, tangibility, and instant readability of a paper magazine with the interactive user-oriented control of a computer. For their part, publishers benefit from escaping the shackles of the paper age. Smaller independent publishers now have an alternative to printing and distribution costs. Badgering printers to maximize paper and ink quality
presentation or television adds? Of course, existing key players such as Condé Nast or Time Inc. gain an advantage as well from injecting something new and unique into their relationships with readers. Expect subscription offers increasingly to include both print and digital versions in the not too distant future. This dual offering can double the value proposition for a reader and be of little to no cost for the publisher. Let us not forget that simply by offering a digital multimedia pub-
at lowest cost becomes unnecessary when the default format is a crisp clear LED screen. Also, with iPad sales expected to exceed 50 million in the next couple of years, a whole new target audience opens up to publishers who may not be able to reach traditional popular newsstands or retailers. They may even be able to benefit from the help of Apple’s marketing machine by simply placing a publication in the “Featured section” of the iTunes store. How many artists have launched major careers simply by having Apple use their song in a keynote
lication package, publishers can attract new customers who were never sufficiently enticed by the physical publication. But a word of caution before going all-in on this new media. While the iMag has the potential to catalyze new creative approaches into an exciting and dynamic industry, at the end of the day, for a publication to grow, expand, and survive, it still remains vital that all these new bells and whistles do not overwhelm, or detract from the editorial content, but rather complement it. –Steven Bowles
This issue: The iPad as a magazine platform, the reborn Famous Monsters of Filmland, Fortune and Playgirl revamped, New York Review of Books covers, & our favorite places to buy magazines
Famous Monsters of Filmland #251: Get Thee a Designer, Please
n ambitious launch (or relaunch) of a genre magazine is always welcome, as far as I’m concerned. So with IDW’s relaunch of Famous Monsters of Filmland – a magazine that created the market niche in 1953 that would later be populated with Cinefantastique, Fangoria, SFX, Starlog, and more – we get ... I’m not quite certain what. It’s ambitious, all right. At 128 pages (plus covers), it’s a heavy magazine. As we used to say in the technology magazine business, it feels substantial when you plop it down on your desk. Printed on heavy paper, with a heavy cover, you can plop this down on your desk, or use it to clobber zombies over the head. Either way, it’s impressive. Famous Monsters of Filmland’s 251st issue is also ambitious in its pricing. The cover price is $12.95. Not only that, but there are four variant covers; do they really think someone’s going to pay $26 or $39 or even $52 for multiple copies of this? Now, I’m actually a proponent
of magazines charging higher cover prices, if it frees them from a corrosive addiction to advertising-fed revenues. The key is providing enough quality content in the magazine to make it worthwhile. That shouldn’t be difficult; people gladly pay $9 or $10 to see a two-hour movie; they’ll pay twice that to buy it on blu-ray. But a really good magazine can provide many hours of enjoyment, and they can be priced that way. But the writing has to be good, intriguing, and original. Plus, the design should be pleasing, including the use of excellent illustrations and photos. I don’t mind the $12.95 cover price of this magazine; as a quarterly publication, it’s not going to drain anyone’s wallet very quickly (well, unless they’re drunk and they’re buying all four variant covers, which they’ll be able to sell on eBay for $5.00 each). My problem with Famous Monsters #251 is that it’s just not intriguing. Too much space is given over to self-infatuation; I mean, 26 pages of people remembering original Famous Monsters founder Forrest J. Ackerman? Look, this has nothing to do with respect for the man. I’ve heard lots about him, I’ve read interviews with him, and I’ve read articles by him. He was a towering figure in genre publishing, and he sounds, truly, like a prince of a man. But to devote one-fifth of a magazine
to memorials for him is bad editorial judgment. Give us instead six pages or, if you must, 10; but Forry’s memorial is the magazine itself, which inspired generations of young genre film fans, some of whom went on to become genre professionals in filmmaking and in publishing. The rest of the magazine is very uneven. It’s always a great idea to interview Ray Bradbury, and the inclusion of a new short story by him is a nice touch. But throw in a few current-movie previews, profiles, and what must be the weirdest photo/ad layout in human history, and you get a magazine that doesn’t have a definition, even as quirky. And that’s all before we consider the design. There’s nobody in the staffbox listed as designer or art director, so I feel a bit better about criticizing this. But the page layouts are simply ghastly. The text is all in paragraphs separated by a blank line, with no indentations at the beginnings of the paragraphs. Yes, like ev-
ery blog on the internet. We do it on blogs because we are forced to by the HTML gods, who abuse us so. But professional magazines should not look like amateur web productions. And – remember the $12.95 price tag – we’re paying for a deluxe product here, and we’re not getting it. Add to all of this the heavy-handed use of dark patterned backgrounds on many of the pages, and you get articles that are not easy to read, not pleasant to look at, and don’t look like they were assembled with care and skill. I wish I could write nicer things about this publication, but let’s stick with my comments about high prices. Paying $12.95 means I also expect it to deliver. If it were a $3.50 or $4.95 magazine with 88 pages, and only one article in the magazine was worthwhile, I wouldn’t feel disappointed. That’s what keeps GQ and Esquire publishing, after all. And granted, I was never an FM reader (as readers of my blog know, I was always more of a Starlog and Fangoria reader); however, that doesn’t mean I’m not open-minded about the publication. But it’s got to meet me halfway. I’ll still look forward to how this magazine evolves. First issues of periodicals are often over-produced or beset with problems as the machinery gets up and running. And there’s certainly room for competition in the genre magazine marketplace. But for now, this is a vanity magazine that needs to sharpen its act. –John Zipperer February 2011 | MAGMA | 51
REVIEWS Fortune and Playgirl, Redux
wo magazines (among others, I know) have had their revamped editions on the stands
in the last couple last years, and they couldn’t be more different – not just in content, which you’d expect, but in quality, ambition, and integrity. First, Time, Inc., released the redesigned Fortune magazine, an old legend in the magazine industry. The redesign is clean and smart. My personal preference would be for the previous iteration of Fortune’s design (it had more of an executive look to it), but nonetheless the new design isn’t bad. This is still a magazine
of content and quality; it takes journalism seriously, and it shows. Second, we’re in the second year of the new edition of Playgirl. Playgirl originated in the early 1970s as a feminist “answer” to Playboy, and it enjoyed considerable success for its first decade. But it went on a downhill slide that eventually led to its cessation a few years ago. This new iteration was launched in early 2010 with a heavily ballyhooed edition featuring Levi Johnston (he of Sara Palin fame), and it’s a huge letdown. Let’s be more clear: This is a waste of paper. Not because of the nudity; hey, I’m gay, so print all the naked guys you want. But Playgirl is almost nothing but nude layouts. People buy magazines to read something, so why not a few more actual words of text? If there’s one thing the competing internet does as well
if not better than print, it is the distribution of pictures of naked people. So why would you produce a magazine that has everything the internet does better, but nothing that print does so well? This iteration of Playgirl is, simply and brutally, crap crap crap, and the people who put it out are clearly out of their league in the magazine world. Two new/old magazines. Couldn’t be more different. –John Zipperer
A Design to Match the Words
he New York Review of Books is a treasure of the American publishing scene. At a time when magazines are being dumbed down lower than a backup dancer at a Britney Spears concert, NYRB continues to apply rigorous intellectual fire power to addressing the problems of the day and the questions of the past. So we just have to ask: What is it with the circa-1985 Commentary cover designs? NYRB’s covers look as if they took five minutes to throw together (four minutes, plus one minute to run spell check). Our Commentary line wasn’t just a smirky reference. The Review’s cover design is of the same sort that the neoconservative journal sported until fairly recently. Text-heavy but unpleasant to read; seemingly random use of grids to place text and (rarely) images.
52 | MAGMA | February 2011
These designs might be an outgrowth of New York mid-century intellectual life, but they fail to pass the aesthetic test required of any magazine that sells copies on the newsstand: They have to look good. These don’t. Yes, NYRB is a magazine of text, not images (though it features some great photos and illustrations). But with a built-in connection to practically any artist in Gotham
that the editors could desire, NYRB can put on its cover some amazing pieces of artwork. Or it could just go with a newspapery front page, starting articles right beneath the nameplate. The fact that it doesn’t do that tells me that the editors see the cover as a traditional magazine cover. So why don’t they make it work for them? There are examples of text-heavy periodicals that featured lots of text on their covers. Look at the early years of Esquire, as just one example, which featured a side column
on the cover listing the inside highlights. Or Commentary today. I just wish NYRB – one of the best magazines in the country – had a cover to match its ideas. –John Zipperer
Favorite Magazine Shops
n our travels locally (to and from work each day) and farther afield (across the country and around the world), we have been lucky enough to come across a number of newsstands and magazine shops that impressed us. A good magazine shop should have a number of attributes. It should carry every magazine you know you want. It should carry countless magazines you’ve never known you want but that cause you to wander from the beaten path. It should be clean. It should be stuffed with magazines, with not a spare inch of rack space empty. It should be staffed with people who can be friendly or not – surprisingly, we don’t care – but the staffers should not in any way deter you from visiting often, even if you don’t buy something on every visit. Here are my favorites. San Francisco: One of my favorite current haunts is Fog City News on Market Street in downtown San Francisco. A midday visit to this store is likely to present you with a visiting tour group there to sample the store’s other wares: chocolates. But I’m not a chocolate lover, so I go there for the magazines from all across the country and around the world. Indianapolis: The place might not even exist any longer, but during my short time living in Indy in the early 1990s, my favorite place to find magazines was at a large downtown shop that probably had more magazines stacked up on tables than on wall racks. It seemed to carry everything, and was a great place to browse. Like many bigcity magazine shops, it also had an adult-magazine section, separated from the rest of the store by a partial wall. That was the source of my favorite overheard conversation at this store, when an anti-pornography customer was talking to the woman and man behind the checkout counter. The customer was having a perfectly pleasant conversation with them until he tried to enlist
them in his anti-porn campaign, which set off a very loud cackle from the woman, who barked, “Oh, boy, we sell pornography!” Chicago: When I check the Google Street View of the shop on the 3100 block of Broadway in Chicago, it now looks like it no longer exists. But during the 1990s, there was a shop with a wide range of magazines, and they got a lot of my money over the decade. I went there so often that it kind of serves as my reference store; when I’m trying to remember a certain magazine by some publisher, I’ll often mentally walk through this shop, going from section to section – was it in the business section? movie magazines? sports? – until my memory is jogged. RIP, old store. New York City: A decade ago,
two years in Manhattan were made even nicer by the presence of a zillion magazine stands, stores, and kiosks. Every conceivable magazine or newspaper was sold, and I would frequently walk the four miles up Park Avenue to or from work, stopping at favorite magazine stores. Probably the best (and it is hard to choose) is a big square store in the center of Grand Central Station. It’s the kind of place where you could spend 15 minutes perusing British magazines, only to be reminded that there’s another 90 percent of the store to wander through, too. Great, addictive shop. Berlin: When I travel for pleasure, I rarely do it with extensive planning. I enjoy simply picking a destination and enjoying the journey getting there. So when I took Berlin’s S-bahn into the eastern part of the city, I was pleased
to wander downstairs from the tracks into a large station that included a big, brightly lit, tworoom magazine shop. When I’m in a big city for a limited time, I usually can’t make time to go places more than once (there’s so much to see), but I made a point of going back to this shop because it had the best selection of magazines that I had found in Berlin. Green Bay: Bosse’s News and Tobacco shop is legendary in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin. It has served the city’s newspaper and magazine (and, I suppose, cigar) buyers since 1898. It was always the thousands of magazines that drew me there when I was a teen in the 1980s. Frankfurt airport: Airport magazine shops are almost always a good place to pick up a magazine or book that will get you through your flight delay and then the flight itself. But most airport shops are the same. That’s why I was pleased to kill some time between flights at the Frankfurt airport in a long, narrow magazine shop. Though I always enjoy seeing what magazines are native to a country, it’s also fun for me to pick up foreign editions of American magazines that I like. I picked up both types of magazines during my fun trip to this shop. Chelsea neighborhood, London: In 1998, on a one-week trip to London, I decided to explore a bit on my own and took off from the little Methodist church (which was letting my small travel group stay in some unused rooms upstairs) and just walked down the street in the opposite direction from the Underground station. I walked. And walked. And walked. Eventually, I came across a little magazine shop that had periodicals stuffed in wall racks from floor to ceiling. UK magazines have an energy all their own, and I could have spent all day paging through various titles, but I had to satisfy myself with a short perusal and some purchases. Then it was back to church, with something more interesting to read than The Bible. –John Zipperer February 2011 | MAGMA | 53
Photo by John Zipperer
STATE OF THE UNION
The Wal-Mart 1,000
ere’s one big business list that magazine publishers don’t want to be on: The list of 1,000 magazine titles that retail giant Wal-Mart announced a few years ago that it had decided to stop selling in its stores. That number is dismaying, because, as the New York Post noted, Wal-Mart “is believed to be responsible for generating more than 20 percent of all retail magazine sales in the U.S.” Heavy Metal magazine’s publisher wrote a while back that he’s lost 50 percent of his newsstand outlets each year for the previous few years. We seem to be in a very brutal era of shakeout in the periodicals business, where investors, distributors, and retailers are all assuming that print is dead and online media is king. I think publishers – and the investors who back them – are putting the cart before the horse. There are things that work better online than in print, such as multimedia, breaking news and (relatively useless) in54 | MAGMA | February 2011
stant opinion posts. But there is still plenty of money to be made in print magazines, just as there was money to be made in AM radio after it was written off for dead and before talk radio revived it; publishers just need to realize they are publishers and not printers. Many magazines, including the one I produce for the nonprofit for which I work, are now produced in digital versions that include the entire contents of the print versions and are viewed online or downloaded to a local printer. This magazine, Magma, is produced only in digital format. Meanwhile, most of these magazines continue to be produced in paper versions. That’s because the shape and form of a magazine is perfect for performing the function of delivering information and design to a reader. You can read it sitting up, standing, walking (though I wouldn’t recommend that) or lying down. Even the thinnest of digital viewers provides a different reading experience – and magazines don’t generally get warmer the longer you use them or blank out when you walk past a microwave oven.
So magazines like this one still have a great mission. The challenge is getting around the ever-increasing costs of paper, printing and mailing. What will save us all, I believe, is continued – and, I hope, accelerated – development of home printer technology that will let you, at home, print out a magazine that has just as good resolution, paper quality and binding as a magazine that you purchased at a store. Home printers have been improving by leaps and bounds over the years, and when they get good enough, then it will be a whole new economic ball game. You won’t have to get a grainy printout of your copy of The Economist or Sports Illustrated; it’ll look just as good as what you buy today. And publishers will save a lot on the printing, paper and postage costs that are some of the biggest components of their budgets. Hmm, wouldn’t it be great if there just happened to be some world-class printer manufacturers in the Bay Area who could fuel this next evolutionary step of the publishing industry? –John Zipperer
More Resources for the Magazine Lover COVER BROWSER Images of lots of comics and science-fiction periodicals cover images http://www.coverbrowser.com
FLIEGENDE BLÄTTER ARCHIVE Scans of the long-lasting but defunct German satirical mag http://www.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/helios/fachinfo/www/ kunst/digilit/fliegendeblaetter.html ESQUIRE COVERS GALLERY If you thought early Playboy covers were great, see their inspiration http://www.esquire.com/cover-archive FOLIO: THE MAGAZINE OF MAGAZINE MANAGEMENT Publishing industry news http://www.foliomag.com FUTURE LIFE CHRONICLES Descriptions and photos from the late, great science & science-fiction magazine http://www.weimar.ws/wmrzeitschriften.html MADMAGS German-language science-fiction, horror, and fantasy magazine compendium http://www.madmags.de
MARK PASETSKY’S COVER AWARDS Newsstand photos and comments http://coverawards.com NATIONAL LAMPOON COVERS GALLERY Every cover of the famed (or infamous) humor magazine http://lampoon.rwinters.com STARLOG CHRONICLES Descriptions and photos from the late, great science fiction magazine http://www.weimar.ws/wmrstarlog1.html WARREN MAGAZINES GALLERY Miss Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella? Here’s your antidote http://www.pixeltube.com/wmc/sindex.html PLAYBOY COVERS ARCHIVE Images of pretty much every Playboy from pretty much every country in the world since 1953 http://www.pbcovers.com THE SAMIR HUSNI DAILY MAGAZINE News and views from Mr. Magazine http://paper.li/mrmagazine MAGASCENE Highlights of the magazine world http://www.magascene.com WEIMAR WORLD SERVICE Like Magma? Check out the blog that started it all http://weimarworld.blogspot.com February 2011 | MAGMA | 55
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