Saturday, May 28, 2011

STARLOG TV Commercial

Although this is - according to the YouTube poster - from 1984, and a little bit past my usual Space: 1970 chronological cut-off, I just had to post this television commercial for Starlog magazine.

When the print edition of Starlog ceased publication in April of 2009, it hit me pretty hard. I hadn't read the magazine in years, but I still felt its loss. It was like a childhood friend had passed away....

Back in the mid-1970's, being a science fiction fan just was not cool. Prior to Star Wars, anyone admitting to liking science fiction – at least in the rural Maine schools I attended – was subject to ridicule and occasional physical abuse. As far as the adults in my life, they were all practical New England yankees who had no time for or thoughts to spare for make-believe fantasy stuff about spaceships and aliens. I felt very much alone in my obsession, hiding my James Blish and Alan Dean Foster Star Trek paperback adaptations from my schoolmates, and keeping my thoughts about the short-lived Planet of the Apes and Logan's Run (both of which I loved as a eleven year-old) TV shows to myself.

But sometime around 1976, while browsing the comic book shelves at the local Mr. Paperback bookstore while my mother shopped for groceries next door – the same Mr. Paperback store where I had bought most of my Blish Trek books – I spotted a colorful painting of Kirk and Spock on the magazine shelf above the comics. Normally those shelves were off-limits to me, but certainly this particular magazine had to be okay – it was Star Trek.

Better – it was Starlog.

I was a regular reader from that day until around 1990, when I moved on to magazines like Cinefantastique and Filmfax. For many years, the magazine was my best friend in a way; my only link to the unknown others around the country who shared my love for the fantastic. As Famous Monsters of Filmland was to the "Monster Kids" of the 60's, Starlog was my lifeline in the 70's and 80's. Not only did Starlog cover all the major science fiction blockbusters from Star Wars on, they also covered B-movies, classic films, current and vintage TV shows. They interviewed not only stars, but writers, directors, authors and – especially – special effects wizards. The writers never wrote down to the readers and they opened my eyes to all the wonders of science fiction media. Even now, I will occasionally stumble across something on DVD that I've never seen before but recognize because Starlog covered it 20 years ago. And then I usually buy it.

It was Starlog that introduced me to shows and movies of the decades before my birth – shows like The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Prisoner, and movies like This Island Earth, The Time Machine, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Buck Rogers and the Ray Harryhausen classics. Because I read about them in the pages of the magazine, I sought them all out, and I can't imagine my life without having experienced and enjoyed them.

And it wasn't just TV and film; the magazine introduced me to SF authors, too – folks like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, David Gerrold, Ray Bradbury. I was first exposed to the artwork of pulp illustrator Virgil Finlay through an article in an early Starlog and Ron Goulart's articles on SF comic strips gave me my first exposure to Alex Raymond's work on Flash Gordon.

Like I said above, I haven't read the magazine since around 1990, but I still lament it's passing. It was one of my most important childhood friends....


  1. Where do you stand on the UK's answer, 'Starburst'? We didn't really see 'Starlog' on our shelves until well into the post-Star Wars boom, and even then the import costs made it too pricey to buy on a regular basis. So, it was 'Starburst' I bought each month and I missed only one of the first 30-odd issues. A great magazine with some good writers

  2. Nice tribute, Christopher. I had a similar experience with Starlog myself, although I'm just a hair younger than you and didn't discover it until after Star Wars made SF at least somewhat socially acceptable. But only somewhat... I grew up in a farm town in Utah and there were plenty of practical-minded folks here who also didn't get all that "space stuff."

    I too have run across old movies that I know about because of Starlog, and in those days before DVD extras, the mag's behind-the-scenes articles on how special effects were accomplished were like messages from an arcane secret society. (It was also fun to know "how they did that" when my friends did not!)

    Anyhow, I miss Starlog as well, even though I was only a sporadic reader at best from the mid-80s forward...

  3. As a boy in 1977, while watching Lost In Space afterschool one day, there was a STARLOG tv commercial featuring Robby the Robot, I immediately subscribed beginning with issue#13.


  4. Anonymous, RE: Staburst - I've never seen an issue!

    SGB: I was actually looking for that Robby the Robot Starlog spot when I found this one instead.

  5. I've actually toyed with the idea of contacting Tom DeFeo at The Brooklyn Company (who publish FANGORIA and own the rights to STARLOG) and asking him to license the rights for a web-based or tablet-based digital magazine.

  6. Boy, does this make me feel nostalgic, but for somewhat different reasons. I used to be on the editorial staff between 1986 and 1991, and then freelanced articles for the company from about 1997 to around 2009. The staff job was my first job out of college. I sent in my resume simply because I liked STARLOG. I was called to come in for an interview almost right away, and when I was asked where I had seen their help wanted ad, I stunned them by admitting that I didn't even know there was a job opening, I just regularly read the magazine!

  7. I find it puzzling that those 'practical minded folks' on the farm in Utah weren't receptive to some sci-fi, because they always seem to be EXACTLY the kind of people who claim to have been invaded or abducted by aliens

  8. 'Starburst' was produced by Marvel, so I'm surprised it didn't seem to make it to the States. You can take a look at the terrific wraparound cover for the first issue here:

  9. Another great post Chris.I too became a big fan of Starlog starting in the late 70's.To me it was such a vital link to our beloved genre that it's difficult to think it's gone.The first poster mentioned "Starburst",and I remember getting a couple of issues mainly due to some Gerry Anderson articles of interest (UFO).I thought it was a very good magazine though my copies came via mail order as no one locally carried it.

  10. It's funny how I went searching though my old Starlog Magazine yesterday for the total review they did of all the Twilight Zone episodes.I have been gettig into the show on the satellite TV and love reading more about the particular episodes once I had see it. The best thing is that reviews were written and then have comments by Rod Serling. Starlog was the Internet for the genre before there was the Internet. Like you I learned so much about shows and movies I NEEDED to see if I was a real film geek.

  11. Awk! I just read over my own comment, and found an error! I started at STARLOG in 1985, a year after this commercial aired. Geez, you'd have thought I would have done a little proofreading first...

  12. Starlog was the best. I didn't even know it was gone, but then again, I stopped reading it in the late 80s. It's one of those things, like drive-in movies, you miss, but at the same time, probably wouldn't use if it were still around, because technology has marched onward. Sites like Ain't It Cool News have replaced Starlog, unfortunately with a writing style that is aimed at the South Park generation, in other words, wall to wall expletives and reams of useless hater talkbacks.

    Starlog is an artifact of an earlier, more polite, more respectful culture.

  13. As a kid living in a small town in Indiana I discovered Starlog with issue six and was a regular reader until the 1990's. Afterwards I still purchased the mag here and there when they had good retro articles that interested me. I also bought their other mags Fangoria and Cinemagic from their first issues. Plus can't forget those Starlog Press special publications like Starlog presents Spaceships, SF Weapons, Robots, Special Effects Vol. 1 thru 4 and so on.

  14. I was a regular reader from the second issue onward (found the first issue a year or so later at a science fiction convention) and read until the early 1990's. Starlog was THE source in the US for Space: 1999 news in those early days, and I loved it for that, but then grew to love it for so much more that it offered.

    I have to admit that by the 90's, not only had I changed a little, but I felt that the magazine had changed, too, and more important, the films it reported just didn't seem (to me) to be as interesting. I guess the 'old school' grew up, and I, perhaps, longed for the simpler times of pre-CGI, or for films where story was enhanced by cool SFX, not the other way around. (Don't get me wrong... I love realistic CGI like we have nowdays, but I love even more cool stories & characters.)

    Oh, well... it was a part of growing up for me, and I love the earlier comment about it being like the internet before there WAS an internet!

  15. Starlog taught me what "green screen" was and why it mattered. Also, I can recall pulling the staples out of several issues so that I wouldn't accidentally tear the full-page photos with which I'd wallpaper my room. What a great magazine!

  16. I started with the first issue, and kept with it for a long while, but not every issue. Even bought Fangoria for awhile but grew disinterested with its approach to that genre (and the roads horror films had taken), and Fango just got worse over time. Starlog always seemed to stay editorially pretty solid, though. Had begun reading Famous Monsters around 1972, and Castle of Frankenstein about the same time as that, and still consider those in every way generally much superior and livelier magazines than Fangoria. Starlog wasn't alone in genre coverage--for awhile, there was Mediascene, and Questar, as well as the special-effects geeks journals and other titles I have since forgotten, but it was around the longest of sci-fi media magazines and at one point did a fine job of promoting efforts involving the genre. How I overlooked its demise myself says something about growing up or old or whatever.

  17. I remember seeing the Robby the robot commercial as a kid as well. I begged my mom for a subscription which started at #13 as well. My prime Starlog issues were probably #48- mid 60s which coincide with my "magic years" of 9-13 years old. I still read my now tattered and worn out issues for nostalgia and they still hold up. As i get older, I appreciate the gentle and optimistic editorial tone those issues had. The DIY outlook and emphasis on the space program and reading in general. Fangoria at the time also had a great NY Times Square feel with writers like Mike Weldon, Alex Gordon, and the late Bill Landis. Great blog- just found it and I love it as you see I'm poring over EVERY post and commenting on something from 7 months ago. Please keep up the great work.

  18. Just found this post. I too started with issue #2 - the Space:1999 issue. The 1970s were a GREAT time for SF both on TV and at the movies. Starlog followed it all. As was mentioned, I learned about old series too via the magazine. I lost interest once the magazine dropped Space:1999 coverage (they had a Gerry Anderson column they dropped, too) - which also seemed to coincide with a drop in my interest of the "new" SF stuff that was coming out at the time.

    I was saddened to learn that Starlog was defunct. It was nice to see it on newsstands even if I wasn't a reader - it was a connection to a long lost time (similar to this blog!).

    It'd be nice to see it come back some time.

  19. Starlog and Fantastic Films in the late 1970s was pure heaven, although I somewhat preferred FF. Starlog was a bit slicker and better produced (not that either magazine was "slick") but FF had better, more detailed content. Pity I left for college soon after and that was the end for me and these magazines. Still bought Starlog on occasion, but it wasn't as good, and FF was nowhere to be seen in the stores around town.

  20. GREAT TRIBUTE.. I've mentioned my love for Starlog on other posts, I basically collected it (even subscribed for a few years) up until 'Empire Strikes Back'..

    By that time, I was starting college and there were a few other priorities (yes, including women..) that garnered my cash flow.. I was getting tired of it's increasingly slick format, and the glut of fantasy movies grabbing all the attention (Dark Crystal, etc..).

    My main loves (1999, Galactica, Doctor Who) were getting less and less attention, which made sense as time went on. I held on to the first dozen issues intact, since they were out before sci-fi became cool again.

  21. I always enjoyed Starlog. It is nice to remember the early days of Starlog.

    I recently came across a section on the Internet Archive that has the first 200 issues ( It was a nice trip down memory lane. I think they are still adding issues as they get them. You might want to have a look at issue 8, which has a small section on Saturday morning shows. Some I remembered (and you've covered) and some that I had completely forgotten about (does anyone remember Monster Squad?).

    1. Not only do I remember it, but I reviewed the DVD set at my DVD Late Show website, here: Monster Squad!