|Editor in Chief||Joseph Illidge|
|Former editors||Timothy Seeley|
|First issue||April 1977|
Heavy Metal was an American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine, published between 1977 and 2023. The magazine was known primarily for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction, erotica and steampunk comics.
Unlike the traditional American comic books of that time bound by the restrictive Comics Code Authority, Heavy Metal featured explicit content. The magazine started out primarily as a licensed translation of the French science-fantasy magazine Métal hurlant, including work by Enki Bilal, Philippe Caza, Guido Crepax, Philippe Druillet, Jean-Claude Forest, Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), Chantal Montellier, and Milo Manara.
As cartoonist/publisher Kevin Eastman saw it, Heavy Metal published European art which had not been previously seen in the United States, as well as demonstrating an underground comix sensibility that nonetheless "wasn't as harsh or extreme as some of the underground comix – but . . . definitely intended for an older readership".
After a European trip in 1975 by National Lampoon contributor Tony Hendra expressing interest in European comics, their New York offices attracted significant European comic material. On 2 September 1976 editor Sean Kelly singled out the relatively new French publication Métal hurlant (lit. 'Howling Metal', though Kelly translated it as 'Screaming Metal') and brought it to the attention of president Leonard Mogel on 3 September, as Mogel was departing for Germany and France to jump-start the French edition of National Lampoon. Métal hurlant had debuted in early 1975 from Les Humanoïdes Associés (lit. 'United Humanoids'), an association of Philippe Druillet, Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Jean Giraud (Mœbius), and financial director Bernard Farkas formed on 19 December 1974. Upon Mogel's return from Paris on 27 September, he reported that the French publishers had agreed to an English language version, and he suggested the title Heavy Metal for an April issue to be released in March 1977.
Heavy Metal debuted in the US as a glossy, full-color monthly published by HM Communications, Inc., a subsidiary of Twenty First Century Communications, Inc. The cover of the initial April 1977 issue declared itself to be "From the people who bring you the National Lampoon", and the issue primarily featured reprints from Métal hurlant, as well as material from National Lampoon, a colorized portion of Vaughn Bodē's Sunpot (1971), and an excerpt from Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara (1977). Since the color pages from Métal hurlant had already been shot in France, the budget to reproduce them in the US version was greatly reduced. In late 1979, now only publishing National Lampoon and Heavy Metal, Twenty First Century Communications Inc. was renamed National Lampoon Inc., as reflected in the indicia of the December issue of Heavy Metal.
After running as a monthly for its first nine years up to the December 1985 issue, the magazine dropped to a quarterly schedule (winter, spring, summer, and fall) beginning in 1986, promising an increase in length and to feature only complete (rather than serialized) stories. On 29 December 1988, film producers Daniel Grodnik and Tim Matheson filed with the SEC that their production company, Grodnick/Matheson Co., had acquired voting control of 21.3 percent of National Lampoon Inc. stock and wanted to gain management control. They were named to the company's board in January 1989, and eventually took control of the company by purchasing the ten-percent share of then chairman Matty Simmons, who departed the company. That same month, publication of Heavy Metal increased from a quarterly to a bi-monthly schedule, citing a thirty-percent increase in circulation. A year later, National Lampoon Inc. agreed to be acquired by J2 Communications, a home-video producer and distributor founded by James P. Jimirro, with Grodnik and Matheson staying on to run the new division. In October 1990, the buyout was completed for US$4.7 million.
Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, who had grown up reading Heavy Metal, took over publication of the magazine with volume 16 in May 1992, under the name Metal Mammoth, Inc. HM Communications had published 137 issues in 15 volumes from April 1977 to March 1992.
Eastman sold the magazine to digital and music veteran David Boxenbaum and film producer Jeff Krelitz in January 2014. Eastman continued to serve as publisher of the magazine and is a minority investor in the new Heavy Metal, which is now published by Heavy Metal Media, LLC. In 2019, Heavy Metal saw a regime change to CEO Matthew Medney, and Creative Overlord David Erwin (formerly of DC Entertainment).
Amid cash flow problems, Heavy Metal shut down in December 2022. The shutdown was initially intended to be temporary, as the magazine worked to rectify subscription non-fulfillments and non-payments to artists and vendors. The magazine had entered into an agreement with online livestream auction platform Whatnot to publish the following 12 issues of the magazine. However, in July 2023, after one issue published with Whatnot, it was announced that the publisher had decided to cancel the magazine and that issue #320 had been the final issue. 
Heavy Metal's high-quality artwork was notable. Work by international fine artists such as H. R. Giger, Frank Frazetta, and Esteban Maroto were featured on the covers of various issues. Stefano Tamburini and Tanino Liberatore's RanXerox series debuted in the States. Terrance Lindall's illustrated version of Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost appeared in the magazine in 1980. Many stories were presented as long-running serials, such as those by Richard Corben, Pepe Moreno and Matt Howarth. Illustrators like Luis Royo and Alex Ebel contributed artwork over the course of their careers. An adaptation of the film Alien named Alien: The Illustrated Story, written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Walter Simonson, was published in the magazine in 1979.
Here is a starting list of contributing artists featured in Heavy Metal:
- Jean "Moebius" Giraud
- Richard Corben
- H.R. Giger
- Milo Manara
- Philippe Druillet
- Enki Bilal
- Juan Giménez
- Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri
- Simon Bisley
- Berni Wrightson
- Jim Steranko
- Esteban Maroto
- Neal Adams
- Barry Windsor-Smith
- Brian Bolland
- Arthur Suydam
- Dave Stevens
- Walter Simonson
Editors and features
The founding editors of the American edition of Heavy Metal were Sean Kelly and Valerie Marchant. The founding design director was Peter Kleinman. He created the original Heavy Metal logo design at the request of Mogel and was responsible for the launch and art direction of the first issue. He later hired designer and letterer John Workman, who brought to the magazine a background of experience at DC Comics and other publishers.
In other media
In 1981, an animated feature film was adapted from several of the magazine's serials. Made on a budget of U.S. $9.3 million and under production for three years, Heavy Metal featured animated segments from several different animation houses with each doing a single story segment. Another house animated the frame story which tied all the disparate stories together. Another animated feature film called Heavy Metal 2000 was released in 2000.
During 2008 and into 2009, reports circulated that David Fincher and James Cameron would executive produce and, each, direct two of the eight to nine segments of a new animated Heavy Metal feature. Kevin Eastman was to also direct a segment, as well as animator Tim Miller, Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski and Guillermo del Toro. Paramount Pictures decided to stop funding the film by August 2009 and no distributor or production company has shown interest in the second sequel, since. In 2011, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez purchased the film rights to Heavy Metal and planned to develop a new animated film at the new Quick Draw Studios.
An animated 3D film entitled War of the Worlds: Goliath, created as a sequel to H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds and based on a story previously published in the magazine, was produced by The Tripod Group and released in Malaysia in 2012.
The series "Interceptor" is being adapted into a film.
In March 2021, Heavy Metal announced their first moves into television with an adaptation of Blake Northcott's trilogy of novels, the "Arena Mode Saga". The first book is in active development after optioning the rights to the sci-fi thriller.
In 2001, Capcom released Heavy Metal: Geomatrix, an arcade fighting game that later made its way to Sega's Dreamcast console. Though not based on any specific material from Heavy Metal, it featured character designs by frequent contributor Simon Bisley and a style generally inspired by the magazine.
In 2020, Stern Pinball and the production company Incendium released a pinball machine commemorating the 300th issue of Heavy Metal, featuring Taarna and Cold Dead War (2021). The made to order machine, with a playfield based on the Stern Star Wars release, sold for eight-thousand dollars and shipped in late 2020 along with an exclusive variant cover edition of Heavy Metal issue #300.
In 2021, Heavy Metal launched their podcast network featuring scripted and unscripted shows that focus on horror, fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, and pop-culture.
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