As obsessed as I am with CURRENT genre culture, I'm fascinated by snapshots of the culture's past - especially when it comes to magazines dedicated to the sci-fi/movie/horror/comic fandom stretching from the early '70s through today. There's a neat feeling attached to looking back and playing armchair historian to the news and features relevant to those eras' fans, so I'm gonna share some stuff I found interesting in a random issue of Starlog - issue #79 from February 1984.
This issue actually fell into my lap when Toyfare ran a scavenger hunt a few years ago. One of the items on the list was "a magazine with David Hasselhoff on the cover." We ended up with dozens and dozens of this particular issue, and as one of the scavenger hunt item processors, I was allowed to snag one. But, to my girlfriend's dismay, my collection of old fan magazines goes well beyond this, I promise.
As I said before, one of the most fun things to browse back at are the news items of the issues; specifically the reports on films and TV about to start production. As a guy who briefly did it for Wizard a couple years ago WITH the internet as a tool, I can't even imagine what it must have been like back then to try and run a Hollywood news section in a magazine without the internet. Even without email, the task of staying in contact with studio publicists and producers and agents over the phone had to have been a headache-y time-gobbler. Good on those dudes for staying so passionate.
Here's a quick, fun sample:
The MOST fun comes when a news item turns out to wrong due to changes in project production down the line that we know about NOW but that weren't true yet at the time of publication. Like how in the above example, Tobe Hooper was listed as the director of a project called "Return of the Dead," while Dan O'Bannon was writer. As horror fans know, Hooper left the production, it was eventually titled "Return of the LIVING Dead," and O'Bannon wrote AND directed the film. Little side note: O'Bannon and Hooper later worked on "Lifeforce" and "Invaders from Mars" together.
Other times, it's just neat to see them report on some project in a passive voice that later becomes an iconic production, like with the speedy "Ghost Busters" mention. Then there's the historically significant randomness that crops up like this:
The birth of Pixar! Lasseter (future director of Pixar hits such as the "Toy Story" franchise and "A Bug's Life") left Disney where he'd been working on some computer-animated film (I'm not sure what this was) for a new digital initiative at ILM, which we all know became Pixar! Lasseter and Pixar went on to get an Academy Award nomination just two years later in 1986 for their first project, "Luxo Jr." And, of course, Disney and Pixar are connected at the hip now. But this little note in Starlog had no idea what it foreshadowed, and that's so awesome to me.
Also awesome to me are the random times editorial people from today's comic book world pop up randomly in other roles in these fan magazines. Like Mark Waid editing Amazing Heroes, these cameos from the past remind me that staying in comics as a career doesn't mean I have to maintain a job INSIDE comics, in the long run. Check out this news item involving editorial megaman Bob Schreck and the big announcement that Starlog and Fangoria would be starting a convention partnership with Creation Conventions, a place Schreck worked at at the time. Including a picture!
And while I won't go into the features on "Knight Rider" or the third Doctor Who or the Q&A with Irvin Kershner right after he directed "Never Say Never Again" but well before he directed "Robocop 2," I WILL say that these features all offer fun looks at what was important THEN to the fans. Dramas between directors and writers, lists about the top films from 1983, ads for "Return of the Jedi" vinyl masks - it all played directly into the interests of the fanbase in 1984 in ways that are so easy to relate to - and so fun to revisit - 26 years later.
One last thing, though. The issue included a photo parade of the 41st Annual World Science Convention. Here are my favorites of the bunch. Click to enlarge.
Jim Henson talking about his UPCOMING film "Muppets Take Manhattan":
A woman cos-playing as Dark Phoenix (over a quarter-century ago!!!):
A kid dressed as a creepy-assed Ewok:
And remember, most conventions have at least ONE person selling old fan magazines. Please give these time capsules a try. At least flip through and see if there's anything from a year you like. My favorites to browse include Comics Scene, Fangoria, Starlog, Amazing Heroes, and issues of Wizard pre-1995, although there are many many other terrific options.