Whenever I find an old issue of Fangoria, I jump straight to the ads. I can read the Tom Savini interview later. First I need to see if anyone made a mask based on the demon doctor from Jacob’s Ladder. My priorities make sense to me.
That isn’t to say that the content of the magazine wasn’t great. Of course it was! At Fangoria’s peak, every issue was a visual feast, and every article nurtured excitement without devolving into puff.
Starlog (Fangoria’s sister mag) was more my speed, but there was plenty of spillover between of two, anyway. Younger Matt was unlikely to buy a copy of Fangoria with Pinhead on the cover, but I was sure as hell down with an issue featuring the Phantom Gremlin.
With both magazines, I always started with the ads. Nothing sparked my interest in something quicker than the chance to buy an overpriced trinket based on it. (Honestly, my introduction to most fandoms has been, “Well, I bought this thing, so now I guess I better learn a bit about this thing.”)
Below: Six scary advertisements pulled from various issues of Fangoria. All are from the ‘90s.
Spencer Gifts Talking Horror Dolls!
(Fangoria #189, January 1999)
It’s a cute ad, but I think it undersold the dolls. Available exclusively at Spencer Gifts, each “Horror Collector Series” doll was around 18” tall and tucked inside an absolutely gorgeous window box.
Ghostface’s inclusion was a treat. I guess it didn’t stick, but it was fun to imagine Ghostface as being on the same level of a Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger. For many fans, he was the first chance to get in on the ground floor with a slasher icon.
I didn’t notice until now that Jason’s doll was based on how he looked in Jason Goes to Hell, with the extra lumpy head and sort of “toxic” look.
Still, of all the dolls in this series, Leatherface’s was the most impressive. It’s mainly because of his accessories. Not since Kenner’s Ugnaught has a toy-scale smock made me so disturbingly euphoric.
Terminator 2 Telephone Challenge!
(Fangoria #106, September 1991)
On balance, that seems like way too much text for a hotline ad. There are less words in this article than on that one sheet of paper, a fact that doubles in weight when you remember that I don’t have to work around a T-800.
This Terminator 2 “Telephone Challenge” sounds kinda cool. I guess it was like a super easy version of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, but better, since you were dealing with Arnold Schwarzenegger and got to press buttons.
You could also win prizes, including the 5000 pound Terminator 2 arcade cabinet. Or a copy of the T2 Nintendo game. Or most likely nothing, because the only kids who ever won these things lived in Georgia and looked like Paul from The Wonder Years.
EYE-FX Eyeball Keychains!
(Fangoria #103, June 1991)
Variations of this ad had already been around for years by the early ‘90s. I can’t believe that I never succumbed to the urge to order eyeball keychains with supernatural irises, because holy shit did I always want to.
I was crazy about that “Fire Eye” with the blazing red iris. We’re now forced to pay $30 for really good coffee, but as a kid in the early ‘90s, I couldn’t possibly sacrifice that much money for one fake eyeball. (Even if it could’ve held my keys, none of which actually opened anything.)
I had grand plans of adding the eyes to my assortment of homemade robots, most of which looked like Tom Servo prototypes. Instead they got stick-on googly eyes that made them look like cartoon birds. Somehow, life went on.
(Fangoria #166, September 1997)
For a minute there, Spawn was the hottest thing going. I was never a big reader of the comics, but I remember scrambling to find the first issue after all of the genre mags and shopkeepers christened it The Best Investment Ever.
I was into the toys, though. The thing about those action figures was that they stayed on shelves forever, and were eventually marked down to irresistible prices. (Remember those 3-for-$10 sales at KB? You didn’t need to be into Spawn to realize that $3.33 per Violator was a godly deal.)
I was also way into the movie, if only because the cheerleader bit.
I never had enough Spawn love to buy corresponding jewelry, but I’m nonetheless happy to live in a world where at least one person did. I bet he was named Mitch or Tom or Rob. You know I’m right, even if neither of us can articulate why.
Mortal Kombat Movie T-Shirts!
(Fangoria #153, June 1996)
…perhaps of equally limited appeal were these Mortal Kombat movie t-shirts.
Where does stuff like this end up? I’m sure they sold a fair number of Liu Kang shirts, but there’s no way they sold all of them. Is there some storage unit in Queens filled with Scorpion t-shirts from 1996? When is the auction? Will we get little hand fans like they did on The Golden Girls?
My favorite is that red Goro shirt. It’s preposterous, but that’s the charm. It’s the “framed lion picture sold at a no-name gas station” of Mortal Kombat t-shirts. The composition is so dreadful, you’d swear it was intentionally dreadful. I want to wear it every day.
Geek Magazine Subscriptions!
(Fangoria #103, June 1991)
Of all the ads featured here, this one hits me hardest. These mags and others like them were just so important to a “geek” kid without an internet connection.
Back then, there were times when you felt like the only person on the planet who loved the stuff you loved. Mags like this were great to read, but more importantly, they made your devotions seem less hopeless.
The fact that you got to tack cool photos all over your walls was just the gravy.
Thanks for reading about old Fangoria ads. Bonus points if you did it on the clock.