Monster Mag is a British horror magazine published between 1974 and 1976. It achieved notoriety due to the gory images it reveled in publishing.
Published by Top Sellers, Monster Mag was originally edited by Roger Cook, with his wife Jan taking over after the first few issues. It was originally priced at 15p, with the final issues selling for twice that.
The magazine was an early ‘poster mag’ with a mere eight pages of actual content that opened out into a huge ‘pin-up’ poster – more often than not a bloody image from a Hammer film: “Open it out if you dare!!” was the mag’s tagline.
Unlike most monster magazines of the time, Monster Mag was in full colour and placed an emphasis on the goriest images the editors could find, making it a forerunner of later magazines such as the US-published Fangoria. These provocative images were often run with the flimsiest of excuses, with a vague article tying them together at best. Sometimes, the magazine simply collected a bunch of gory images together and cheerfully admitted to not even knowing which films they came from!
This pioneering exploitation spirit would get the mag into trouble early on. Published overseas and imported back into the UK, issue 2 fell foul of British customs, who seized and destroyed the whole run, making this issue one of the most sought-after and unobtainable magazines of all time.
Monster Mag then took to splashing ‘for sale to adults only’ across the masthead, though how seriously they took that was perhaps revealed by the article on horror make-up in No.11, which suggests using “some grey and red make-up borrowed from Mum”. However, the allegedly forbidden nature of the magazine ensured that it was catnip for some school kids, who would eagerly pour over its gruesome delights in school cloakrooms and playgrounds.
The size of the magazine varied considerably during the initial run. The early issues were an oversized 24.5cm x 33.5cm (approx), promising a poster that was ‘over 2 feet by 3 feet’ on the cover. ‘Paper costs’ (according to the issue 11 editorial) saw the size drop to under A4 for a few issues before increasing – but not to the original size – again with No.11.
The magazine was cancelled after issue 14, but revived in 1976 with Dez Skinn at the helm, practicing for the upcoming House of Hammer. The three issues produced by Skinn (numbered as Vol. 2. No. 1 – 3) placed more emphasis on text, with contributions from John Brosnan and Barrie Pattison amongst others, and so had a great deal more substance, if a little less blood. This is despite one of the eight content pages now being given over to an editorial and adverts for back issues. The exception to this might be the final issue, which also has a full page ad for the new House of Hammer and two pages of photos from Scars of Dracula. This issue also tantalisingly advertised a “Double X” issue, to be devoted to Euro horror. But Skinn’s involvement with HoH meant that this was quickly forgotten. Skinn also varied the poster format, using two images (rather less satisfying than one when pinned to the bedroom wall) and a reproduction of the 1958 Hammer Dracula poster in issue 2/2.
Revolutionary stuff at the time, with its coverage of the obscure, gory movies that other magazines ignored, Monster Mag was a seminal publication for the pre-‘video nasty‘ generation of British horror fans who were growing up in the 1970s. Given the fact that kids still love to decorate their bedrooms with posters today, it seems strange that no-one has seen this as a format worth reviving to combat the decline in print sales. Monster Mag Volume 3, anyone?
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA