Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Heavy Metal #319

I received my copy of HM #319 in late November 2022.  144 pages and $14.99 cover price.  It ended up being released on Nov 16, after the release date kept getting pushed back from mid-September, following the release of HM #318.  Three months between issues isn't the longest gap in HM's publication history, four months between #292 and #293 in early 2019 was the longest before by my count, and then it was on a six issues per year schedule (but not really; starting from #259 when issues were first numbered in 2012, I only got six issues in a year three times.  Then they tried to go monthly in late 2020 but have only come close with 10 in 2021).  #320's release date is also slipping, so I doubt I'll get it in 2022, making seven issues I'll see this year.  That's actually really bad for a mag that still sells 12-issues-per-year subscriptions, and its inability to stabilize the publication and operation is a big part of why I'm concerned about the mag's continued existence.  They announced a deal with Whatnot in October to publish the mag starting in 2023, but I haven't seen anything yet that makes me confident it will really happen.  But I hope it does, and I hope they do a better job running the mag than the current big shots.  

Now to this issue #319 of Heavy Metal Magazine.  I got the cover A by Pascal Blanche, who has done a few covers, front and back for #270 (also with a Gallery) and #303, and I liked the 3D modeling techniques, I thought they were well done.  Photo of my copy:

I'll give it a 7.5, and I can assure you it looks better on the cover than in my lame photo.

The first page is an ad for yearly subscriptions.  Unbelievable and also lame.  The second page is "In Honor of Ken Kelly" with the cover image of Taarna from #308Mr Kelly passed away this year, and was only in the mag a few times, besides #308 he also did the cover for #284, and had a Gallery in the March 1998 issue.  But he was apparently prolific and well-known for album covers.  RIP.  

The third page has an ad for some graphic novel called Stable from Hero Projects, not really from HM but with a couple of known suspects, then the Contents page, so we miss out on Big Shots' editorials again.  Thank goodness.  

Then the sixth page has an "In Memorium, TSALE, An Artist for All Seasons".  

I have no idea who this is.  Oh well, RIP.

"Vasator and Crunch:  Into the Valley of Ash" by David Erwin, Andrea Romano, Saida Temofonte, Morgan Rosenblum - 6.5 - Maya St. Clair gets a "special thanks".  Maya St Clair has been listed on the masthead, up until #318 as Junior Executive Assistant, but I stopped watching the masthead the past several issues, since there's been less churn.  Fifth installment, fifth different artist.  One of the bros gets distracted by a pretty girl, again.  This time in a dead forest made of bones, maybe not the best choice.  This may be the best one yet though, the art works hard and delivers, and the story attempts introspection with a somewhat better result than before.

"Space Pirates Unit Dolores Chapter 3 The Red Crystal" by by Didier Tarquin, Lyse Tarquin, Ivanka Hahnenberger, Jame, Fabrice Sapolsky - 5 - This finishes with 62 pages in two parts in the mag, oddly noted as "Part Three Chapter One" and "Part Three Chapter Two" in the Contents page, as someone pointed out.  I get the feeling this is better than I think it is.  The artwork is skilled and intense, there are human boobs and inhuman violence, the storytelling is brisk, it has some of the old mag's serialized euro-art feeling, but these separate aspects don't really synergize for me.  Thanks anyway.

"Dark Wing - Chapter Eleven" by Matthew Medney, German Ponce, Andrew Dalhouse, DC Alonso, Saida Temofonte, Joseph Illidge, Bruce Edwards, Pete "Voodoo Bownz" Russo - 5 - This installment is the "End Book One".  The Dark Wing is welcomed at the planet of benificent aliens (you can tell they're good since they have elf ears with their dark magenta skin and deep turquoise hair, and the wise words in balloons), some inhabitants choose to stay and some choose to continue, so at the end the Dark Wing launches to the next supernova.  The art is sometimes bright and energetic, sometimes not.  The storytelling is rarely engaging.  I'll bet any continuation doesn't ever appear in the mag, if it even continues to exist.  Also in this one, there were some odd light spots in the art, mostly but not always on the main friendly alien:

I didn't see it elsewhere in the mag, so maybe it was on purpose?

"Something Seems Off" by Chris Anderson - 8 - More intensely weird action with Ricky and Darla, fighting huge beaked and taloned monsters, when we see Fador, or the top half of 'em anyway, in machinations in the hellish underworld they was banished to in #314, when this marvelous story began for us.  Things don't start out looking good for Ricky, maybe not Darla either, but there are lots of neat sound effects.  What can possibly happen next?  Well, this ends with "Answers Abound In The Next Weird Issue" so maybe we'll actually find out.

"The Axe - Part 5" by Joe Trohman, Brian Posehn, Scott Koblish, Diego Fichera, Lucas Gattoni, Morgan Rosenblum - 6.5 - This may not be my favorite story ever, and there are some apparent text mixups here, but I'll give it some credit for how hard it works, with fun monsters and jokes that keep coming, like needing quills from the "Gore-Cupine".  Though they must come to an end somehow, I'm sure.  Right?

"The Adventures of Adrienne James - Chapter 5" by Matthew Medney, Bruce Edwards, Santa Fung, Lucas Gattoni, Morgan Rosenblum - 5 - This one also gets a "Special Thanks to Maya St. Clair".  But I still don't enjoy it.  It ends with "Will Return Soon!" but I won't hold my breath.

Monday, November 7, 2022

Luis Garcia

A while back, PorPor Books Blog put up a post about The Art of Luis Garcia, a newer art book featuring the artist's work and career.  A brief mention of Garcia's "Nova 2" in Heavy Metal Magazine prompted me to comment about when "Nova 2" was in Heavy Metal (March - July 1982) and that Garcia also did "The Winter Of The Last Combat" in February and March of 1978.  Looking up that led me to re-read these stories, and then to decide to put a little post together.  Luis Garcia had a much broader career than these couple entries in Heavy Metal, but since these were in our favorite mag, I thought they are worth another look for their fine qualities.   

First Nova 2.  While my opinion is that the mag had its peak when the 1981 Heavy Metal Movie came out, I think it had plenty of its original greatness to offer into the mid-80s, while it was still published as a monthly.  (Sales numbers from the time per Lostboy's excellent HM fan page go along with my perception.)  Nova 2 is a great example of what I liked in Heavy Metal Magazine.  The story is rather expansive, starting in March 1982 with 14 pages in two parts, beginning with excerpts from Allen Ginsburg's "Howl" while relating a mysterious meteorite falling in the mountainous desert, then the three disparate experts who are sent to investigate, and then the introduction of Victor Ramos, an artist overwhelmed with the trials of existence.  Sample page shots:

I greatly enjoyed the terrific black and white artwork, in a very realistic style that I like, and the storytelling that tells a lot but that didn't tell you everything, two things about much of HM's early issues that I really liked when they occurred.  Indeed, the next installment in April 1982 has 8 pages and hardly a mention about the meteorite or the experts, focusing on Victor Ramos' pained contemplation:

Just incredible.  There is so much I enjoy about the art in this, such broad ability and technique.  (It would be worth a complete page-by-page review, like they do over at PorPor Books Blog, but I'm not up for that for this post.  It would take me forever.)  And there's more.  May 1982 has 8 pages of the story, with more Victor Ramos introspection:

Man, this guy can draw.  My lame photos do not do justice to the printed page.  And the story is pretty good too; the depth of this portrait of a comic artist's life having deeply reflective moments is so compelling that I wonder if there are autobiographical aspects to it.  Does it follow a logical narrative?  Not necessarily, even if I showed every page it might not really make sense, and sorry it defys my ability to summarize it, but the art and poetry it contains fill otherwise empty spaces in ways that satisfy my brain's need to think it's getting it.  And it goes on!  Excepts from the 5 page portion in June 1982:

Victor Ramos watches "Psycho".  Maybe I'm not sure why, but the story does then bring in the meteorite again.  Perhaps opening a path to wrap up the story in the 9 pages in July 1982:


Wow.  The ability and skill, not only to draw so well, but to convey emotion.  For me, the story is told with the art, and the text provides a framework in which the art can reside.  And the room to interpret and experience the story within the art, helps me use my imagination to find the space in the story to bring in my own perspective, which was always one of my favorite parts of reading Heavy Metal Magazine.  Oh, to have such fantastic work in the magazine again!

Luis Garcia also did "The Winter Of The Last Combat" in February and March of 1978, in 14 pages over the two issues, with Victor Mora.  It was a bit more of a traditional telling of a story, a temporal traveller manifests as a medieval warrior, searching for the lost love of his current reality, finding pain in his path.  A couple samples, from the first and last pages:

A little different, but still great art, and the use of photographic negative on the last page is cool.  This appears to be dated '73.

So thanks again to PorPor Books Blog for the inspiration to look a bit deeper at past work in Heavy Metal Magazine.  It's always rewarding.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Heavy Metal #318

My copy of Heavy Metal #318 came to me in late August 2022.  It has 176 pages and the $14.99USD cover price.  Almost three months after I got #317, making six issues I got this year.  Not good for a mag that pretends to be a monthly.  Another of the Portents that concern me about the future of Heavy Metal Magazine.  

I got the Cover A by Greg Hildebrandt:

It gets an 8 from me.  A lovely clothes-less lady with a dragon, it could hardly be a more classic example of Heavy Metal Magazine ethos, more evocative of a HM "brand" than anything the big shots are peddling these days.  And I thought including the classic tagline "The adult illustrated fantasy magazine" and the "June 2022" date was just adorable.

We are again spared the big shots' editorials, in favor of another "in memoriam" page, for George Pérez.  George Pérez was apparently a celebrated comic artist, who has not appeared in Heavy Metal Magazine.  Oh well.  RIP.

The Contents page has a notable entry "Heavy Metal logo enhancement by Peter Kleinman", which was a new and interesting way to put it.

There's a one-page preview of "A Darker God" by Homero Rios, C.F. Villa, Oscar Carreño, Jame, that says it's "coming next month".  Might be cool, I'll wait for it to actually appear before I try to rate it.

"3320" by Christopher Priest, Montos, Chris Sotomayor, Wille Schubert, Joseph Illidge - 3 - This appears to be a preview for the "Entropy" comic book HM is producing.  "In Stores July" it says.  Sure.  Boobs and occasionally pretty cool art can't possibly save this misguided supervillain comic.  I'll be pleased if I never see this again.

"Space Pirates Unit Dolores Chapter 2 The Orphans of Fort Messaoud" by by Didier Tarquin, Lyse Tarquin, Ivanka Hahnenberger, Jame, Fabrice Sapolsky - 5 - A 46-page installment of this sprawling space pirate adventure.  I'm suffering from trope overload on this one.  The protagonist is troubled by the mystery and brutality of the world she's entered, and suffers a murderous delusion, there's an orphan or something, and the alcoholic ex-ringfighter finds her a duplicate of his lost captain, and the enslaving religious colonizers are overcome by a rebellion of the enslaved.  And then the good guys are chased across space by more pirates.  I wanted to like this one, maybe there will be more installments that I enjoy better.

"Cold Dead War:  Ammunition" by Adam Lance Garcia, Armitano, Lee Loughridge, Saida Temofonte, Joseph Illidge - 5 - Another installment in this story with some different creators (and a couple of repeats) that tries to show zombies with some humanity.  I like Armitano's art here more than others, and it's an interesting premise (maybe) that these stories don't quite investigate in a way that entices me.  I enjoyed "The Rise" better, for different reasons, as a zombie tale.

"Starward:  Chapter Eleven" by Steve Orlando, Ivan Shavrin, Saida Temofonte - 6 - With Joseph Illidge credited as Editor, and a Special Thanks to Vita Ayala.  The story ends with this chapter turned up to 11.  The Sisters defeat Kaos in their father's body, reuniting for brief minutes, before he sacrifices himself to seal away Kaos forever.  The art works hard to the end, brightly action-filled, and thankfully avoiding unfortunate two-page spreads.  The story succeeds in scratching the surface of real human emotion.  This has been not terrible but not exciting to me.

"WireMonkeys" by Dan Schaffer, Fabrice Sapolski - 7 - Subtitled "2. Brainframe".  More freaky shit ensues when the protagonist Mazzy finds her lost lover "installed" in the cerebral servers, for her brain to be a "wet processor", finding along the way that her lover was not only hers.  So she breaks in to the servers, dying along the way and annoying the entities who reject her untimely death again, and thus reconstituted, she reunites her past lover's head with her lover's lover's head, so they can sensuously share data for eternity.  Pretty magnanimous if you ask me.  I enjoyed this one a bit more, for increased wackiness.

"The Axe - Part 4" by Joe Trohman, Brian Posehn, Scott Koblish, Diego Fichera, Lucas Gattoni, Morgan Rosenblum - 6 - The teens keep having to fight demons, hoping to somehow escape Sheol.  But one demon is an Earth geek, who wants to be besties, so they have an ally.  More delightfully imaginative demons, and many jokes, some even funny.

"Engagers - Part 3" by Matthew Medney, Bruce Edwards, John Roi Mercado, William Soares, Lucas Gattoni, Morgan Rosenblum - 5 - Noted as "The Final Chapter" in the contents, this 31 page installment makes use of the extra pages in this issue, to come to its end.  While this tries to end on a Matrix-y "Revolution" of clandestine resistance against the parasitic overlords of this reality, too many things soured my view.  The storytelling for one, there's some showing but a lot more telling going on.  The art for another; the coloring got better but it seemed out of place to me sometimes, and the drawing is good at first glance, but the uniformity of style is too manufactured for my taste; characters' similarities are too obvious, the hands are perfect enough to make me think they come from templates.  Maybe that's just how it's done in comic book land these days.

"Something Seems Off" by Chris Anderson - 8 - Delighted to see another installment, with the story actually developing continuity.  And dialogue!  A telepathic monologue from a meditating mind-melder, or something, but still.  And Darla seems to be a female humanoid?  With boobs?  Of course!  Quite pleased to see this story still shine through the dreck.  Can't wait for more.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


It has seemed that uncertainty is in the wind at HM.  I'm waiting to see if and when #318 will exist, if they can at least match the 10 issues produced in 2021, which I considered not too bad for the ambitious promise of a return to monthly publication.  I've gotten 5 in the seven months of 2022.  

They seemed to have pumped up their appearance at SDCC this year, from what I could see on their twtr and fbook (cuz that's about as close as I'll get to a convention), and they released a promo video for stuff being developed, that included some bits of a live action Taarna character, in an otherwise digital set.  The video link is in this article about HM at SDCC:

However, the comments on the video call out that the non-Taarna bits, promoting their other developments, are grabbed from other movies, which clueless me would not have noticed.  So that doesn't look good, using others' stuff to promote one's own properties, as if they don't really have much on their own stuff to show.

(also I can barely stomach the spewage in the press release in the article, buzzwords all over the place, and I'm already sick of "buckle the fuck up".)

A live-actor Taarna movie could be cool, maybe, and I'm somehow reassured that her costume is somewhat more sensible, or at least more practical, than Taarna's outfit in the 1981 movie.  A promo shot from fbook:

Snap from the video:

But it would probably be digitized over like most everything else.

I am also amused by the idea of a live-actor Taarna, in that a live actor was used for some of the animation work in the 1981 movie, per an article in the August 1981 issue:

That's about it for what I would look forward to, from the promo.  The other things (noted by the titles over the scenes from other movies) are for some of the new things they've been promoting, Adrienne James, Swamp God, Savage Circus, etc, which have not interested me.  Overall this promo video isn't encouraging.

Also recently, the HM website shows up as "Metal+" on the front, with tabs for various things digital, talking up "web3" and enefftees and crap, and also a tab for "Physical Goods".  That's mostly books and things along with the mag, and a merch section with nothing in it yet, but for the Hildebrandt calendars.  This attempted rebranding is likewise discouraging, shunting the magazine to the sidelines, and is reinforced by the article noted above, where blather is expended on it.  

And there's a really stupid typo referring to Taarna as the "Last Taarakin". 

Also again, right after the SDCC and its breathless announcements and panels, HM's fbook got hacked.  It would be amusing if it wasn't so dismaying.  Their operation seems to be teetering.  It's plagued by customers so furious about unfilled orders that I've heard rumors of a class action suit.  Their publishing schedule is inconsistent.  They went in with both feet on enefftees, and don't seem to be letting up stepping in it.  Their tumblr hasn't been updated in months.  I have small hope and smaller confidence that they'll be able to keep the magazine going.  Like I've said before, if they go all digital they'll lose me.  And I'm pretty sure they don't care.

While I have no sympathies for the Big Shots, whose machinations and hubris burden the operation with extraneous crap and have put it in this position, I'll feel a bit sorry for artists and creators, and the hapless staff trying to do their jobs, and fans of the mag like me (and not like me), who can only watch as Heavy Metal Magazine appears to crumble from the inside.  Will someone come in and save it again, like Kevin Eastman did 30 years ago?  Small hope is all I have.  Enjoy what you can, while you can kids, nothing lasts forever in this world.