Saturday, January 29, 2011

Back Issues Only Now, The X-Files Magazine Still Underwhelms.

The Good: Good pictures, Interesting articles, Light on ads
The Bad: Outdated stories, Fluffy, Reads as more promotional than substantial.
The Basics: The X-Files Magazine is an outdated magazine that was trumped by the internet even in its day.

It seems that no sooner was I done going through re-watching The X-Files (reviewed here!) than my wife decided she wanted to start watching the show. Ironically, after our first few episodes, my local library's spring cleaning of the archives began, where they dump all of the stuff that never seems to rotate any more. I, because I practically live at my local library these days, leapt right on this pile of books and magazines and one of the things I was surprised to find in the heap was The X-Files Magazine.

For all of my appreciation of The X-Files, The X-Files Magazine is a perfect example of how the magazine is a medium that the internet is pretty rapidly making obsolete. As I read through the various issues of The X-Files Magazine, it struck me that the magazine was more of a promotional tool for the popular show than it truly was revealing gossip or clues about what was going on in the show or behind-the-scenes. I, ultimately, returned the stack of magazines to the pile at the library because all I could truly see doing with the magazines was cutting the pictures out to hang on the walls (or make a Tooms-like nest), which is not so much age appropriate or my style anymore.

Long-since last published, The X-Files Magazine followed the on-set and on-screen exploits of everyone associated with The X-Files, the dramedy television series by Chris Carter. For eight years, it provided fans with information on all that was going on with The X-Files and The X-Files movie as well as The X-Files comic book. When the spin-offs The Lone Gunmen and the companion series Millennium were in production, those too were mentioned, so The X-Files Magazine was more like "Chris Carter's Projects" Magazine at different phases of its publication.

The X-Files Magazine is the ideal magazine for fans who will cut it up and hang pictures from it on their walls, much like other publications based upon television shows. Outside the fan base, and now the reminiscing fan base, readers will find the magazine problematic in one form or another. Those who are only casual fans of the The X-Files franchise will find the articles on the technical aspects like direction and special effects too in-depth to comfortably enjoy and process, those who are die-hard fans will already know everything printed within these pages, especially considering how the magazine is no longer published and all of the information that was hinting at future developments is now well-past.

The X-Files Magazine, like many fan-oriented print publications, was another casualty of the Internet - even when it was originally published - and given how far behind the times print magazines are compared to the Internet, anything printed in The X-Files Magazine was already available to those who would want the information long before the magazine hit newsstands. Now, there is something ridiculous about going back to read the magazine as the musings within it are all commonly distributed on fansites around the Internet and allude to events in the productions of Chris Carter that have been encapsulated onscreen for years now. In fact, the on-line community helped build The X-Files into the success it became, so The X-Files Magazine never truly reached its full potential as a publication.

The X-Files Magazine was a glossy, seventy-five page magazine that was published every quarter months and bore a cover price of $5.99. It was packed with full-color pictures and includes as much information as can be squeezed in about the The X-Files franchise, the current gossip on the lives of those who participated in the television series', and fans gushing over the series.

The average issue of The X-Files Magazine has a cover story, usually focusing on one of the characters/actors from the The X-Files or Millennium. This feature is usually based around an interview with the celebrity wherein the interviewer asks softball questions that allows the celebrity to both gush about their experiences on The X-Files as well as point fans toward their current works. So, for example, an interview with Gillian Anderson later in the series allowed her to discuss Playing By Heart, which she was acting in and was hitting theaters. In addition to frequent interviews with Gillian Anderson, the magazine had great access to David Duchovny, Chris Carter, Mitch Pileggi and virtually every recurring guest star.

Despite the emphasis on The X-Files celebrities there were occasional a theme issue, like aliens or mutants-of-the-week where The X-Files Magazine devotes its attentions to one race within the The X-Files universe. Still, looking back now, the information is seldom audacious or even especially interesting. It is written such that twelve year-olds can read the magazine and the low-level of diction only seems to try to sell the show to a younger audience than the one it actually possessed.

In addition to a primary feature on one actor or character, The X-Files Magazine usually had a secondary feature on one of the behind-the-scenes personas who is able to leak information about the franchise to the magazine. Writer/director/creator Chris Carter, for example, frequently made himself available for interviews wherein he revealed the state of his many projects. While the information was hot in its day, it was almost always trumped by the speed of the Internet and the The X-Files Magazine remained more the fodder of fans who wanted posters and photos for their walls.

As well, there is usually a two to five page article on a secondary character or actor who appeared somewhere in the franchise, complete with full-color pictures. As well, The X-Files Magazine tends to include several pages updating fans on birthdays for the celebrities from the franchise and projects the actors are currently involved in, like David Duchovny marrying Tea Leoni. By the time The X-Files Magazine hits the stands, all of this information is already widely available on the Internet. As well, most of the information has ended up in commentary tracks on the DVD sets, so the information on production that might have been interesting or uniquely located in its day now has life in a more permanent medium.

In addition, The X-Files Magazine usually highlights one aspect of production - direction, lighting design, scoring - from The X-Files or Millennium and presents a feature on that. This information tends to be interesting, but so esoteric that casual fans or those flipping through the magazine will be totally turned off by it. And because there was so little merchandise for The X-Files, the magazine offers features on current video games, trading cards, and toys that were hitting the market at the time.

On the plus side, The X-Files Magazine is very light on advertisements. The issues I read through and looked at had only about ten pages of advertisements and two of them were for back-issues or subscriptions to the magazine itself! Rather oddly, because the merchandising for the show was so light, several of the advertisements were for publications related to other cult-following science fiction shows like Star Trek, Farscape or Stargate: SG-1!

Finally, The X-Files Magazine is packed with beautiful, glossy full-color photographs. The problem here is that many of them are simple promotional shots that are widely available elsewhere. The X-Files Magazine is hardly a wealth of great, heretofore unfound rare shots from the sets or obscure screen shots.

As a result, The X-Files Magazine is a bit of a tough sell, even to die-hard fans. But now that the information is not current, it truly is just for those who want pictures to hang on their dorm, apartment or parent's house-allotted room wall. And that, sadly, is not enough for me to even pick it up free.

For other magazine reviews, please take out my takes on:
TV Guide
Hobby Farm
New York Magazine


For other magazine reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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