Saturday, September 30, 2017


So BiLL, who sometimes comments on this blog, asked about my favorite covers.  I had to think about it.  The art on the covers can be cool, but the stories inside the mag are more interesting to me.  Also, there are so many, it's a lot to consider.  But I'll give it a shot.

I'll start right off by saying, the early covers were the best.  Not only were they imaginative and compelling, it was in the earlier years that the magazine hit the scene with some actual cultural force, as a pioneer in published storytelling and illustrative art.  It didn't really last, interest waned, though the mag continued, mostly thanks to Kevin Eastman.  For most of the mag's existence since, covers have mostly been posing babes in wacky outfits cheescakin' on.  It didn't start with Mr Eastman, but in his time babes were the norm.  Mr Morrison has branched out a bit, which is nice in my view.  It's not that I don't like a nice babe, and sometimes it could be lovely or powerful or both, but pin-up type art can be limiting, and too often it could be exploitive or demeaning.  There's plenty to talk about on HM's position in sexuality and human nature, but this is a post about covers.

So I'll pick out a few favorites and perhaps generate some interest.  If anyone has a particular favorite or two to mention, let us know.

In the beginning, it was robots:

(This and most images lifted from Lostboy's excellent fan page, , the Magazine List, go there and see more.)

The first issue set the tone for me.  It's April 1977.  A girl robot beating the crap out another robot with a giant wrench?  Holy smokes, this wasn't Boy's Life or National Geographic, that's for sure.  It even said "The Adult Illustrated Fantasy Magazine".  Seeing this issue made me start buying them.  The artist is Jean-Michel Nicollet.  "Classic" HM, that's for sure.

Something else I liked from the early years was the occasional wraparound cover.  The first was a terrific Moebius for July 1977:

It's worth noting that back covers could have some nice work as well, that don't get much attention.  Lostboy's HM fan page does well to also include back cover images.  Go there and see.

Most of the rest of the 1977 covers are pretty good, and not a pin-up among them.  That starts in 1978, though only for a few.  One I liked was October 1978, by Ron Walotsky:

Imaginative and engaging, I'm sure the minor boobage smack in the middle of the page got 19 year old me's attention too.

1979 has some I liked, such as January with a photograph of art by Jo Ellen Trilling and Jay Brenner:

and one by Richard Corben and a couple by Angus McKie.

1980 had two I really liked, February by Patrick Couratin:

Weird enough to be cool...

and November by Hajime Sorayama:

Another "Classic", and that's not even mentioning HR Giger for June, and December by Chris Achilleos.

1981 was a good year for covers.  February by Jim Burns is one of my favorites, I thought it was really funny:

("look, up in the sky, it's a giant ... bone!")

July 1981 was cool, I seem to like robot chicks:

Of course there's the classic Taarna poster cover by Chris Achilleos for September, which may not have made a big impression on me, but is pretty iconic:

I really liked the Debbie Harry dressed in an HR Giger bodysuit for December:

There was also a bit in the mag about this photo.

Over the rest of the mid-Eighties, the covers made less of an impression on me.  There was less enticing intrigue and more pretty pictures.  My general opinion is that the mag lost steam after popular interest peaked after the 1981 Heavy Metal movie came out.  (A reflection of this is in the figures noted on the Sales History page on the About page on Lostboy's Heavy Metal Magazine Fan Page, again, go look.) 

There were plenty to like, at least a little bit.  There were Corbens and Royos and Liberatores, Hildebrandts and Jim Burns and Jim Cherrys.  And a robot or two.

July 1982 by Thomas Wartenkin:

I was amused by March 1983 by Carol Donner:

And I found March 1984 by Andy Lackow funny as well:

(no, I don't know what they're saying.  maybe the internet can help.)

October 1985 by Olivia De Berardinis impressed me (there were a few of these zebra woman pieces):

And I've been a fan of December 1985 by Ajin:

The cut paper sculpture had a fiercely alluring image, and made me think "how did they do that?"  And it was also the last monthly issue, as the mag contracted and tried to find a place in the shifting culture landscape.  The late 80s were when I lost interest in the mag and quit buying it regularly, as did others apparently. 

There were a couple I recall liking, such as Winter 1986:

I think it's a photo, of Daryl Hannah in Clan of the Cave Bear, which had some popularity at the time.

Spring 1987 by Jim Warren was one of the more imaginative:

Summer 1988 by Oscar Chichoni seemed somewhat thoughtful, and this image is seen again later...

July 1991 by Olivia De Berardinis was kinda special:

Around this time the tagline on the cover changed to "The Illustrated Fantasy Magazine".  And then HM was bought by Kevin Eastman with some of his TMNT money, and posing babes became the norm.  To be sure, there was some nice work by some good creators, like Luis Royo, Oscar Chiconi, Simon Bisley, Julie Bell, to name a few, and the settings and outfits could be imaginative, but it was mostly variations on a theme, with depictions of Julie Strain being frequent.

A fine example is September 1997 by Simon Bisley:

Which also promoted the second Heavy Metal movie, F.A.K.K 2, which was in the works for years and finally materialized in 2000.

Of course there are exceptions that I liked for one reason or another.

March 1996 by Richard Corben:

November 1997 by Gaetano Liberatore:

There were also more "Special" issues around this time, often with nonsensical themes, such as "Arcane Special" and "Steampunk Special", that had nothing to do with the actual content.  The covers for these were still mostly babes, though some were not just so, like the Fall 2001 "Mind Melt Special" by Simon Bisley:

But it was usually babes for years to come.  A few years into this was when I rediscovered Heavy Metal Magazine, fueled by an early find of a nearly complete set at a resale shop, and gathering the rest with the newly invented internet.  I also started buying new issues in local bookstores.  For a good while it could be a little embarassing to carry it to the counter and put it down to pay.  Sometimes it would be shelved with porn.  Sometimes maybe it even should have been there (there were some issues that included free porn cards, that's another story...).  I bought them anyway.

There have been a few covers that I have actually disliked, like where the posing was especially pointless or even too cheesy for me, but I won't dwell on them here.

Along the way the tagline would change, to "The Mature Illustrated Fantasy Magazine" and to "The Adult Illustrated Fantasy Magazine" to the "World's Greatest Illustrated Magazine".

One I wanted to point out is January 2002 by Oscar Chiconi, with the same art as Summer 1998.  It made me wonder if they even knew they did that.

And the Fall 2007 "30th Anniversary Special" which was actually a full reprint of Mr Eastman's and Mr Bisley's Melting Pot story (I thought it was a bit self-indulgent of them at the time, but whatever), cover by Mr Bisley:

Another I liked was September 2009 by Nathan Fox and Jeromy Cox:

Not only a wraparound, but the Fluorescent Black stories were terrific.  (And by the way, you would probably wreck your mag if you really tried to do this, since the binding is glued on the edge instead of stapled like the old days.)

And I did actually like the Fall 2009 "Terror Special" cover by Claudio Aboy:

Since then there were a few that were a little interesting in one way or another, like the War of the Worlds Special for Summer 2011, by Studio Climb, a promotional issue for the War of the Worlds Goliath movie that Mr Eastman helped produce, the last Special issue, and one of the few Specials whose title was reflected in the content:

and September 2011 by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau was pretty stylish:

More recently, Mr Morrison's tenure is marked by a de-emphasis on babe-itude, which if fine by me.  Perhaps an increase in the Morrison-itude, which I am also ok with for the time being, as illustrated by the cover for issue #286 by David Stoupakis:

Issue #286 - Cover A - Stoupakis

(this image from the HM web store, since the HM website cover gallery only goes through #282 in 2016.  I do hope they can update the gallery and keep it current, it's my resource for anything after 2011 when Lostboy stopped updating his site.)

I'm not too excited though, by the increase in having multiple covers for mag issues.  Perhaps it's a thing in the world of regular comics.  For me it's just a bunch of stuff I will only see on the internet, and since being able hold the paper in my hands is the whole point (and perhaps spew letters into the void about it...) I have little interest.

Regardless of my crank-itude, it was fun to reflect and research and assemble this, so thanks BiLL for the suggestion.  Now to that issue #287 review...