"As far back as I can remember, I've always had stacks and stacks of both movies and magazines," says Rob Hauschild, editor/publisher of Vex: Maximum Movie Culture, a zine focused on high- and lowbrow cinema, film trivia, collectibles, and more. "I'm constantly reading and constantly watching films. So it just made sense that those two interests would come together somehow."
As a child, Hauschild was drawn to monster magazines. "I had a steady diet of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy, Eerie, even the oddball stuff like Monsters of the Movies," he says. "There were so many, like, one-shot publications. I grew up reading all that religiously. I don't know if that's where I learned to read and write, but I just remember so much of my childhood spent digging through these magazines, going to flea markets or to the corner store to get them." The progression from B-grade pulp magazines to higher quality film- related publications and ultimately to fanzines was all part of a natural progression for him, he says. "Then stuff like Starlog and Fangoria came out. I was just hitting my teens when I started reading those. Of course, those were slicker. I started buying zines in the late '80s and I never stopped."
Though the slick, four-color back and front covers and content make Vex a far cry from the shoddily produced monster mags of his youth, Hauschild is well aware of his underdog status in the publishing world. "I try to call it a magazine," he says. "but I don't have any illusions that we're competing with any newsstand magazines or anything like that."
As a mix of old-school monster mags and classic teen magazines like 16, Vex offers studied reviews and insightful commentary on the gamut of movie-culture marginalia. The articles are well-written and fun, brimming with sarcasm and wit. The most recent issue features a history of New York porno theaters, a guide to more than 100 deaths that occurred while making movies, and a review of movie-related toys. There's also "Evel Knievel Kicks Drug Dealer Butt," an article about various Knievel documentaries available on video, and an exposé by left-wing activist Paul Krassner on the real truths behind the 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt.
Hauschild began publishing Vex in the fall of 1995; he has released four issues so far, holding down a day job in New York writing marketing copy for Internet sites. He'd hoped to make the zine biannual, but the all-too-predictable money and time constraints have gotten in the way. The issues may be few and far between, but the quality of the content is exceptional: The last issue is a whopping 100 pages, and even the ads are fun.
But gathering and editing that content in one's spare time is a tough task, Vex's creator says. "You can't pay anybody, so nobody meets their deadlines," Hauschild says. "Everybody works for free, and they have a job or whatever. We have a few contributors who just write for a living. But of course we're last on their list to get finished 'cause they have other projects that pay."
Originally financed by a student loan, Vex is now at the break-even point, Hauschild says--an amazing threshold to cross in only four issues. "We've finally established enough of a name that we can get solid advertising, so it's just about breaking even," he says. "I tend to spend a lot of money on the artwork and getting all these movies to review. So, with the proper management, I could probably get some kind of a little profit out of this eventually."
Vex currently has a press run of about 4,000 copies, and Hauschild knows that he has his work cut out for him in his quest to make the magazine profitable--especially considering the zine's diverse coverage. "It's such a niche market," he says, "[with] all the horror zines out there.
"We don't really play by any rules and people don't know what to think of us. One issue might be about gory death movies, and another is all about dog movies like Benji. So you never know what you're gonna get. That might have worked against us in building the kind of fan base that we need. But, you know, I wouldn't have it any other way."
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In the primordial days of DIY publishing, the term "zine" didn't exist.
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