All Hallows’ Eve is upon us: the night when the souls of the dead return home and must be appeased. As the indie magazine renaissance continues with all the tenacity of a zombie apocalypse, it’s standard practice for creatives to look to deceased magazines for inspiration.
Take, for example, this summer’s sold-out revival of Paul Bradshaw’s cult music magazine Straight No Chaser. Or Franck Durand’s “new magazine with history,” Holiday, which successfully transplanted a modern Parisian fashion magazine into the body of the mid-century American literary-travel classic, making Durand a print Frankenstein, of sorts.
It’s easy to say that magazine revivers are in denial or living in the past. But when the past is really damn good, is it so bad to want to live there? And it’s often not till a magazine closes that we realise how much we valued it. (No, we’re still not over this year’s demise of Lucky Peach).
So, in honor of Halloween, we asked some of our favorite mag folk which title they’d bring back from the dead.
Steve Watson, founder of Stack Magazines
“There are so many I’d love to bring back, but I’m going to go with Zembla. It was a brilliant literary magazine edited by Dan Crowe and designed by Vince Frost, and then Matt Willey, and it was one of the first independent magazines that really grabbed me. I loved the sense of fun and adventure in every issue, and the way they took a totally fresh approach to presenting and considering literature. The relaunch would be full of Vince Frost’s unreadable headlines and typographic stunts, and they’d publish the short story I submitted in around 2004. (Actually, probably best if they don’t do that.)”
Heather Barrett, opinions editor at gal-dem
“I have two magazines that I’d bring back from the dead. First, Chrysalis, a magazine in the U.S. founded by two women that ran from 1977 to 1980. It explored topics such as feminist theory, religion, race, ecology, and sexuality. It once featured the work of Audre Lorde, and in one issue published an essay by Adrienne Rich which featured the lines ‘The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.’
“The front cover aesthetics were great and the team did a good job so I wouldn’t change anything, I’d just love to read it. Also, Conditions, founded in New York by four women: it was a lesbian feminist literary magazine that came out twice a year between 1976 and 1980, then once a year from 1980 to 1990. It included poetry, prose, essays, book reviews and interviews, and was especially dedicated to publishing works of working class lesbians and lesbians of colour. The founding team were all white but they diversified and the fifth issue, Conditions 5: Black Women’s Issue, set a record in feminist publishing by selling 3,000 copies in its first three weeks.”
Jeremy Leslie, founder of MagCulture
“It’s easy to get nostalgic about lost magazines, but usually they’ve died for a reason. Their time has passed, and to bring them back is to risk a zombie creature, an empty vessel that looks familiar but is lifeless. Perfect for Halloween perhaps but still dead the next day.
“The exception is a magazine that promised so much in its one and only issue. List was published from New York in 2000, and was a collection of lists. Statistics, party invites, Star Wars hairdos, most wanted criminals, etc. Verbal, pictorial, collected, created—a taxonomy of lists. It was both a critique of prevailing trends—the listification of editorial—and a celebration of the power of a good list. There was the potential of life beyond one issue but it wasn’t to be. It deserved more.”
Joe Hyrkin, chief executive officer of issuu
“I would bring back from the dead all those great 90s zines, like Bikini Kill, Riot Grrrl, and Cometbus. So much scrappy creativity—all you needed was a stapler and photocopier, and you could assert your point of view and build a community, skipping past traditional media gatekeepers. This time around, I would have them all selling digital from day one so they can thrive and not get the proverbial chainsaw to the head.”
Jaap Biemans, art director of Volkskrant magazine and founder of Coverjunkie.com
“It’s got to be The Face. That magazine was a reflection of my youth, and as a good mag is supposed to be, The Face was a reflection of the times. It carried the visual culture of the 1980s and 90s. Mags are emotion, mags are organic—they live, they bring back the best memories. This was a stunner. How ace can you be? It carried the Beastie Boys together with Kate Moss and Oasis. The best graphic design by graphic master Neville Brody, later followed by other ace designers. It’s even part of the permanent collection of the Design Museum in London.
“To be honest though, I don’t believe in bringing back old titles. An ace mag is all about the way it carries itself and that’s not something you can copy. It’s hard to relaunch something that fitted perfectly into the times it was living in. Try something new instead. But that said, if The Face was here again (and I believe they’re talking about it) and if it had a great editorial team behind it, I would definitely check it out. There’s no mag around these days that serves me as a guy (okay, okay, a man, in his forties), with a little bit of taste and no interest in the catwalk. But don’t look back in anger, breathe some fresh air. It’s about f*cking time we had a mag that contains todays obstruction, culture, and truth.”
Rubén Errejón, magazine buyer at Magma
“There was a fashion magazine called Dutch which existed until the late 90s or early 00s. I’m not 100% sure of the date when it stopped, but it was a sad day. The ideal relaunched version would have exactly the same visual ethos as the old one: sharp, fresh, clever, and visually very savvy. The old issues don’t feel as if they have aged one bit, and they would certainly stand their ground sitting on a shelf these days. I would keep the same editorial team, but what they would naturally do is just use the sharpest artists available at the time, so the list of contributors would include the greatest current and future visual talents.”
Steven Heller, art Director, journalist and critic
“This is almost like asking to bring back one person from the dead. A knotty request because there are so many people and magazines I’d want to see again. With the latter, of course, they probably died for a good reason, like outliving their usefulness. People die for bad reasons, like this ridiculous cycle of life business. But if I were to pick just one magazine that I think died too soon, at least before it did all it could do, I’d say Frank Zachary’s Portfolio magazine, which published three issues from 1949-1951. I’d at least love to see the fourth issue that was being worked on when it was summarily and unceremoniously killed.
“I don’t know what was going into that fourth issue. But if the first three are any indication, since Alexey Brodovitch designed it, I’m sure it would be, as Brodovitch would say, ‘Astonishing!’ There would be a profile or two of some significant designers and illustrators, some obscure design phenomena and layouts that would make one’s heart flutter. It wouldn’t need to be updated for today. It was ahead of its moment. And, of course, it would be aimed at an even larger audience of design lovers.”