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For our second exclusive interview, we talked to Marcus Hearn. Former editor of the much-missed Marvel Hammer Horror magazine, one half of the writing partnership that gave us The Hammer Story, and now publishing guru.

Marcus Hearn is one of those figures who stands out in Hammer fandom. In the relatively short space of a few years he has fashioned an image (though not of his making), of the fan's fan.

His comments on film, and a long period in journalism have made him a well-respected and much admired man. Even today his work on Hammer continues with a successful publishing house and regular notes for the CD soundtracks from GDI, and his new status as a DVD extra!!

Marcus was born in Cambridge in 1970, and spent the first nineteen years of his life there, until he went to university, in London in 1989. As with so many in the profession, he has more than one notch on his belt...

"I have a degree in psychology, but decided upon leaving college to pursue a career in journalism."

I kicked off the interview by asking him about his entry into the world of organised Hammer fandom.

" My first contact with Hammer fans came when I edited the magazine Hammer Horror for Marvel Comics in 1994, although I should stress that at that time there was very little, if any, organised Hammer fandom. The Hammer fan clubs had all closed down, and the Internet wasn't yet part of many people's lives. "

Paul Neary and Spidey at Marvel’s London offices. Paul gave the go-ahead to Hammer Horror in 1994.Having instantly had the impression that he had been involved in Hammer activities for a long time before that, I felt obliged to ask him if he had actually been a Hammer fan before working at Marvel.

" I was a fan of particular films - The Quatermass trilogy, The Brides of Dracula and so on - before I developed a broader understanding of the company that was responsible for them."

In the world of Hammerheads, we tend to forget that Marcus has been involved in a wide range of other areas. Does he enjoy being recognised for his Hammer-related activities?

" Of course I enjoy it when people say nice things about something I've written or have been involved in, and criticism of the constructive kind is OK too. I do lots of other things as well - people tend to want to talk me about Star Wars or James Bond more than anything else really. In a professional capacity anyway."

So, just how did Marcus get to where he is today. That is, aside from all his Hammer-related activities?

" I was a freelance journalist and photographer from 1992 to 1993, when I joined the staff of Marvel Comics' London office. I became an editor in 1994, and in 1995 moved to EMAP, which is probably the country's biggest magazine publisher.
" I spent two years at EMAP's Farringdon office, working on computer games magazines. In 1997 I went to Titan, which is a book and magazine publisher but also the owner of the Forbidden Planet retail chain
(and publishers of the succesful Hammer Story book). I edited more magazines than I can remember while I was at Titan (at one point I had responsibility for seven different titles simultaneously) but the mainstay of my work was editing the official Star Wars and X-Files magazines.
" I suppose you could say that if one thing characterises my journalistic work in the 1990s it's that I specialised in editing licensed magazines based on particular film and television properties. I became known as a journalist who could liase with licensors such as the BBC, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox and so on. It can be a tricky business, and it's a field that a lot of editors are wary of. "

How did you get into writing? Was it through the usual road of fanzines and so on?

" I always enjoyed English at school, though I never really did the fanzine thing much. I worked on the reviews column of the student union magazine, but that was really because I wanted to be on the mailing list for free records! I freelanced quite a lot from the age of 19 onwards, and it was a useful way to supplement my grant when I was at college. It saw me through those years, to be honest. By 1993 I had enough contacts to hassle people into giving me some office experience. I joined Marvel as an unpaid temp - just to get the line on my CV - and three weeks later was offered a job by my guv'nor Gary Russell. He saw some potential in me and I owe him an awful lot. "

Alan Barnes and Marvel Comics colleague Scott Gray at the office Christmas party.How did you land your editorial post at Marvel on their short-lived Hammer Horror magazine?

" I had been the editor of Marvel's Doctor Who Magazine, which is a job I absolutely loved, when the editorial director Paul Neary called me into his office to discuss Hammer. Paul had been one of the illustrators of Dez Skinn's Hammer magazine in the 1970s (he inked the Dracula and Moon Zero Two strips). Paul had been approached by a company called MTC, who had been appointed by Hammer to drum up some licensing business. Paul obviously had a good knowledge of Hammer, having worked with the company during Michael Carreras's chairmanship in the 1970s, and saw the potential in launching a new magazine. I was offered the job of editing the magazine because, I think, Marvel wanted a similar approach to that which had been adopted on Doctor Who Magazine. "

I confess, that when I first started reading DWM, you were the outgoing editor. Presumably at this point, Hammer was trying to stir up interest in the company as a whole, perhaps to preceed new business (that is, new films and so on). Do you think that worked at all?

" Well there were T-shirts, magazines, fridge magnets and so on. All these products brought revenue in for the company. I think MTC did a good job, but it must have been difficult to take it any further without any new films or television programmes. "

Despite being the biggest selling mag of its type, here in the UK at least, it was pulled after a mere eight issues. How did you feel about that ?

" It had been a year's work and all the staff were upset. I was particularly upset because I lost my job at the same time! The whole of the magazine department closed when Marvel was taken over by an Italian publisher. They had no interest in continuing with the Hammer magazine, or indeed any magazine except the Doctor Who one. It was sad, but that's life. Paul Neary went at the same time, and we chatted about it in the pub afterwards. He was philosophical about it, having seen a fair few ups and downs in his career. Funnily enough I was later reunited with Gary Russell at EMAP, although we worked on different magazines. "

How long had everyone hoped the magazine would run? The final edition of Marvel's "Hammer Horror" magazine

" Whenever you launch a new magazine you want it to last for as long as possible. You usually know whether you're on to a winner or not if the sales have levelled out a profitable rate by the fifth issue. We knew Hammer Horror was a goer because the Collectors' Special did well - that was designed as a trial, really. "

Was there some sort of plan for what the series would cover?

" Oh yes, we had a detailed plan for future issues. Don't ask me to try to remember it though. Part of the plan was to bring Denis Meikle on board as the regular writer of the pull-out sections in the middle. He ultimately only completed one of those, of course - The Quatermass Xperiment. "

What was it that spurred you into working on The Hammer Story, along with Alan Barnes? Did it come about because of the demise of the magazine?

" Indirectly, yes. Alan was let go at the same time as me, and while we were crying into our beer one night we realised that we hadn't even begun to tell the story in the magazine - we were sitting on a huge amount of stuff. Some complicated rights issues prevented the magazine continuing, so a book seemed like the ideal home for the pictures and the information. "

The Hammer Story- Marcus Hearn and Alan Barnes coffee table bookI presume then, that there was still an awful lot left over?

" Boxes of stuff. "

If someone offered you the chance to do the magazine again now, would you?

" I'd be hard pressed to find the time now."

Just how did you go about working on the book?

" Very quickly. MTC came back on the scene and struck the licensing deal between Hammer and Titan Books. Titan wanted to launch the book to coincide with the 40th anniversary of The Curse of Frankenstein, and we had to race to meet that deadline. "
( Titan published The Hammer Story in hardback in May 1997, with the soft back edition following in October of the same year)

How long did it take from conception to publication?

" I can't remember, but not very long. I seem to remember that the intensive writing period was about three months."

I've heard it said that you had to watch every film in researching the book. Is this the case? Or did you just rewatch the ones you concentrated on in the book?

" We watched every single film that received a fully-fledged entry in the book, with the sole exception of The Ugly Duckling, which eluded us.
[to date it is the one feature which has eluded most Hammer fans. It is believed that all copies of this 1959 spin on the Jekyll and Hyde story,were destroyed. A Hammer comedy it starred Bernard Bresslaw and Jon Pertwee. Its return is eagerly awaited by thousands of Hammer enthusiasts - Ed.]
" We watched quite a few of the other films that got merely cursory mentions as well. It was especially important to us to compile the synopses after watching the films - we were genuinely shocked about the innacuracies in so many previously published synopses. Rule one of film research - watch the movie."

Is there any truth to the tale that on occasion you were still finishing chapters as the courier came to pick them up for the publishers? Or do we just take that as a sort of urban myth in relation to the book.

" It's true I'm afraid -pages would came off my printer and go straight into the hands of a motorcycle courier. We were really up against it. "

Why were so many of their films passed over in writing up the detailed sections of the book? Was this due to personal preference or astute observation of the market potential of a book concentrating on the horror pictures?Christopher Lee, Sarah Lawson and Marcus Hearn at the 1997 recording for the laserdisc/DVD narration of The Devil Rides Out.

" It was a marketing decision. It was a mass-market coffee table book, aimed squarely at the trade. You can't afford to spend too much time on Dick Barton - Special Agent in a book like that. Having said all that, I should point out that the book was originally conceived to run to 60,000 words - that's what it says on my contract. I think they printed around 150,000 in the end. "

Well, I guess there is always the 'Exhaustive Filmography' which did include just about everything, though a bit pricy.
[by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, printed in a black hardback cover, at around the £50 mark!]

" That book was a crucial reference. It came in very useful. Denis Meikle's book A History of Horrors was also very useful. It's an outstanding piece of work by a brilliant writer."

Were you pleased with the overall result? The Hammer Story regarded by many fans as *the* book on the studios.

" It's very kind of you to say that. We had some great support from the editorial staff at Titan, and I think their studio did a marvellous job as well. By the time the book was in production I was actually working in the company's magazine division so I could keep an eye on the book's progress as it was being put together. I wrote captions in my lunch break, and generally made a nuisance of myself. "

Somewhere in all this, you must have developed a taste for publishing, now braving the market as a publisher yourself with Reynolds and Hearn. Why do this now?

" I was offered the opportunity to become the editorial director of a publishing company last year, and it came at a point when I was eager to try something new. I'd spent a long time in licensing and I was looking for a way out. And I believe that everything should be an adventure - if you've got the chance to do something new then I think you should grasp it. You only regret the things you didn't do."

Is this what you want to do in the future, concentrate on the managerial side of things, rather than the creative?

" As the company grows the decision will probably be taken for me. We've published 11 books this year, and I'm writing two at the moment. It's difficult to find the time to have a life outside writing sometimes."

Most of our readers will know that you are the Hearn in the company's title, but who is Reynolds?

" Richard Reynolds is my business partner. He started his career with the Oxford University Press, and then spent some 14 years at BT Batsford, latterly as the executive editor of the film and television list. In 1995 Richard commissioned my first book, which was a study of Quentin Tarantino's films. He also commissioned a book I wrote about the making of the James Bond films. I wrote both of those with Alan as well."

How do you find the work and the discerning market of readers?

" It's challenging but it's a lot of fun. I learn something new every day."

What exactly do you do as an editorial director?

" I commission, proof, picture research, co-ordinate design work ... I'm working on a tap-dancing routine as we speak."

Two of your recent titles included Roy Ward Baker's The Director's Cut and The Peter Cushing Companion. How do you decide whether or not a title is worth going ahead with, and what made you decide on these two?Roy Ward Baker's "The Director's Cut"; published by R&H booksDavid Miller's "The Peter Cushing Companion"; published by R&H books

" Actually you've just picked two titles that Richard came up with, in conjunction with the respective authors of course. Every commissioning consultation is ultimately made following consultation with our sales manager. If he can't sell it, we won't print it. Obviously Peter Cushing and Roy Ward Baker are both subjects close to my heart, and having an understanding of the market for this type of book helps us to help our sales manager."

Will there be more of that sort of book from R&H then?

" I'm glad to say that we'll be publishing Val Guest's autobiography in spring 2001. Val is one of my heroes, and I'm delighted we've signed him up."

The passing of Peter Cushing back in 1994 has been cited by some as the day Hammer finally died. Michael Carreras of course died around the same time. Since then, more and more of the familiar faces are no more. Is it becoming harder to enthuse for the films as a result?

" Not really, because I'm not old enough to have ever seen a Hammer film at the cinema so it's all past tense to me. I remember Peter's death came at a time when we were setting up Hammer Horror magazine. It came through on the radio, and once our sadness had subsided a little we started to get anxious. I don't think it affected the sales of the magazine. This is going to sound cynical, but I think it might have aroused a little extra interest in Hammer."

I don't think it's cynical at all. I remember having only recently gotten into Hammer, through Peter Cushing when he died. I also remember the shutting down of the magazine, and regretting not having bought the collectors issue when it was in the shops!

" I wish I'd kept a few more than I did. "

Interest in Hammer now seems much higher than ever before, don't you think? Particularly, younger fans who wont ever have seen a Hammer film on the big screen. Like myself in fact.

" Hammer fandom seems to be growing all the time, although it seems to me that most Hammer fans are primarily collectors. That's one of the things that distinguishes them from, say, Doctor Who fans for example."

[as both a Doctor Who and Hammer enthusiast myself, I guess that's a fair comment. Though I have more Who material than Hammer stuff. Perhaps the difference is that with Who, there is a continuing product. Its still very forward looking. Hammer is very nostalgic]

You are also involved in Hammerweb, Hammer's official foray into new technology. How do you find things like the Internet?
Hammerweb programmers Joe McIntyre and Simon Middleton.

" I was keen not to lose touch with the chaps at Hammer after the book was finished, and there was still so much more information, so an official website seemed the next logical step. Graham Skeggs, Hammer's legal and business affairs director, was all for it. Hammer put up the money, and I put up the words. We are all enormously grateful to Joe McIntyre and Simon Middleton, who have done such a magnificent job of the tricky part - the coding! "

The take-over of the company in January by Saatchi and Saatchi came as a bit of a surprise to many, though it has been on the cards as far back as 1997.
Involved as you are in the official website, you were probably more aware of developments that most. How did you feel when they announced the take-over and plans for the future?

" That's a difficult question to answer. I had got to know Roy Skeggs, the former chairman of the company quite well, and I was very sad that he decided to step down after so many years. I owe Hammer an awful lot on so many ways. I'm glad that Graham, his son, is involved with the new Hammer. I've had a few meetings with the new management and they're lovely people. There's a genuine enthusiasm there, and a real respect for the company's legacy."

" I should point out, by the way, that it is only Charles, and not Maurice, who is involved with Hammer."

Do you think personally that the future is good for the new company, or should we remain optimistically sceptical?

" I can't answer that question because I don't know what your hopes are for the new company. I'm confident that it's in good hands."

Well I know that there are an awful lot of people who would love to see a new Hammer film, but there is also an awful lot of doubt. Despite the best of intentions, Roy Skeggs never seemed to give the fans new product. Though with the advent of the website and the CD soundtracks, I know there has been a step in the direction that the fans might be pleased with.

" Priority number one as far as I'm concerned should be renovation and preservation of the archive. And I understand that's on the cards, which is reassuring."

Over the years you've provided a hoard of notes for CDs and videos, written for assorted magazines and books, and been involved in publishing generally; what has been the highlight so far?The cover of the forthcoming soundtrack album of The Devil Rides Out

" Working with Hammer has brought so many highlights - the magazine was a very happy experience, I'm very proud of the book, I love working with Joe and Simon on the website and the ongoing CD soundtrack project is great fun. I've managed to earn a bit of a living out of doing things I enjoy, and it's always been a pleasure because people associated with Hammer are always so enthusiastic and friendly. The highlights have been people more than things. "

Does that apply to you non-Hammer work as well?

" Not to such a great degree. Hammer people are happy people."

Where do you go from here?

"Reynolds & Hearn are publishing six books between now and Christmas and I'm currently commissioning for the 2001 list (keep an eye on for the details). The Scars of Dracula and Devil Rides Out CD soundtracks will be released in the next few months, and I've written notes for both of those. I interviewed Christopher Lee for The Devil Rides Out, and that will appear as the final track on the album. Next up from GDI Records after that is The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb.
" You'll also be able to hear my voice on the forthcoming audio narration tracks for the DVDs of Scars of Dracula, The Horror of Frankenstein, Lust for a Vampire and Fear In The Night.
" A revised and expanded edition of my James Bond book Kiss Kiss Bang! Bang! is being published by Chrysalis Books in time for Christmas, and I'm currently collaborating with Bond director John Glen on his autobiography. That will be published by Chrysalis in the spring.
" On top of all this, I'm editing a new part work called The Official Star Wars Fact Files. This is the first Star Wars magazine to go out all over the world, and it will be available every week from October onwards. That's something I've been cooking up since last year. The exhibition I wrote, 'The Art of Star Wars', has just completed its run at the Barbican Centre in London and has now moved to Bradford. It's going to Edinburgh from there, and then it's touring Europe."

Do you have a personal favourite when it comes to the soundtracks?

" I thought Taste the Blood of Dracula was a great score and a great package, but The Devil Rides Out gives it a run for its money. Of all the sleevenotes I've written, the one I'm proudest of is the essay in the Comedy Collection. "

And finally, Doctor Who or Hammer Horror?

" Well Robert, all my favourite Doctor Who stories are virtually Hammer remakes. Does that get me off the hook?"

I noticed that in your piece for the Tom Baker DWM a few issues back (Doctor Who Magazine # 290). Lots of Hammer allusions. I'll let you get away with it.
Many thanks for your time Marcus, I know you're incredibly busy. Perhaps you'd like to talk to us again sometime?

" No problem - it's been fun."


Details of current and forthcoming books from Reynolds and Hearn are available online at

This interview was conducted with Marcus Hearn in mid September 2000.
Article ©RJE Simpson 2000
Photographs ©Marcus Hearn 2000
Thanks to Marcus for the use of the photos which accompany this piece. All rights in these remain with him

page first posted 27 September 2000
revised 20 January 2005
reformatted and reposted 23 August 2006

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House of Horror: The Unofficial Hammer Films Site © RJE Simpson 1999 - 2006
Site launched Sunday 8th August 199999