Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Why do I do this?  What is it about Heavy Metal that's made me some sort of fanboy, that makes me write stuff and throw it into the void?  I ask myself this, as my time passes and my life happens, as I seek the mag out and try to think about it enough to have something to say, why?

For one thing, a big part is so I can have all my stuff and links in one place.  I check my blog often, check my Links page for new things (my Links page is in need of a tune-up though, it's getting stale) and see who's been visiting, usually just a couple hits a day.

But why am I interested in Heavy Metal Magazine, after so long, for so long?  It's often good, sometimes not.  Some things I think I can explain, some things I'm no so sure of.  It's like a combination of contrived amusement and innate affinity.  There's some history and early exposure, some good timing, and some desire or need for some illicit thrills in a tiny dark corner of my existence.  I'll try to have some fun figuring it out.

I read some comics when I was a kid, but I wasn't a big comics buyer.  Newspaper comics were cool, I read things like Mad Magazine and Peanuts collections.  I remember reading a Buck Rogers collection at a friend's (big book, I actually found this at a resale shop in more recent years).  I also saw some actual comics at an uncle's, war comics like Sgt Rock, and G.I. Combat with a story about guys in a Sherman tank (around 1970, war was big, Vietnam was happening, Korea and even WWII seemed almost just yesterday) and those could have a real emotional impact.

I liked sci-fi, a few books but mostly movies, mostly old ones on the black & white tv on rainy Saturday afternoons.  Also my dad took me to 2001 in the theaters when it came out, I was maybe 9.  That was really something.

Then in 1977, I was in my first year away at college, someone showed me the first Heavy Metal magazine.  I liked it enough to start buying them from the second issue.  The attraction was an otherworldy depiction of fantasy worlds, where stories didn't have to be told explicitly, or even understandably, with art that was so much more than comics, and with more vicious violence and overt sex than a young lad had seen at the time.  The tagline for a long time was "the adult illustrated fantasy magazine" and it lived up to that.  The party-dorm environment probably had an influence on my perspective at the time as well.  I was still at an impressionable age, and it made an impression on me.

Over the next few years as I went through school and got myself out and employed and otherwise pretended to be a grown-up, I kept buying the mag.  I saw new stuff, watched stories come and go, or go on and on, and learned about some art and artists.  The mag was an actual cultural force for a while, when magazines were one of the more sophisticated media around and could cater to limited audiences more easily than they might today.  People knew about HM and its place in fantasy art.  It could have sword and sorcery, or sci-fi, or humor or horror, and it could be quite "adult" (though perhaps in immature ways).

It got big enough to spawn a 1981 movie, that got some serious hype in the mag as it was being developed.  I wasn't too excited about it, since I was skeptical that a movie could do justice to how I felt the magazine could inspire imagination with printed images that could be ingested and processed to fill the spaces in my mind, as well as how well the images and styles could be replicated with the animation technology at the time.  I didn't even see it in the theaters during its short run, I did finally see it on HBO, and my opinion was reinforced.  It has its high points and a few not so high, it went for humor more than wonder, and I understand it was a staple at college midnight movie nights.  I have a copy now and I've watched it a few times.

After the movie, the mag sales declined, and it stopped issuing monthly at the end of 1985.  In my opinion this was the end of the "classic" age of Heavy Metal Magazine.  My interest waned as well, as it went to quarterly then bimonthly distribution, and the stories were less compelling to me, and by 1990 I had lost interest and had given away my (not quite complete) collection.

About fifteen years later, in a resale book shop, I came across an almost complete collection, and remembrance of my misspent youth, and extra cash from being an employed grown-up, led me to buying the collection.  I started reading from the beginning, enjoying fond memories of wonder and excitement, and noticing some new things in what I'd seen before, and took advantage of the new-fangled internet and searched out and bought the rest of the issues to complete the collection.  I have since read them all, though some only once, and have kept buying and reading them.

Not too long after I re-started my interest, I came across Lostboy's Heavy Metal Magazine Fan Page (I thought to search for the Timothy Leary interview in the October 1983 issue, to see if anyone else had something to say about it) and it came up near the top of the list.  It's still linked on my Links page, even though it hasn't been updated in several years, it's still a great resource.  He had a forum once, that I enjoyed contributing to, and that's where I started with issue reviews.  There has also been an official HM web site for years, having gone through several iterations and revisions, there was also a forum there for a time, where I picked up on reviews in a 1-10 format started by a contributor known then as Intone Flux.  When that forum was closed in 2011, I was annoyed and disappointed enough to start this little blog.
I was able to salvage some of my old reviews and post them here.  I notice that my early style was spare and short, compared to how I do reviews now.  Before I'd go for a few words to express an opinion, now I try for more substance.  I try to include the title and creators (for credit and to be found in searches better), the number rating, a description of the setting or type of story, and an opinion or two.  Early I was just making snarky remarks in an online discussion, now it's just me so I have more room to rant.

So that's how I got here.  But again, why?  There's the part that's a conscious choice, being a collector, making the effort to gather the mags and gather my thoughts, making this something I do.  I do stuff, grownup stuff, and some other things for fun too, and all of them are more important to me than HM, but I'm choosing to spend a few hours here and there on something inconsequential.  But it's neat, I have a nice pile of paper going way back, I get some satisfaction from having them all, and keeping up with it, and now I get to have my own web log on the world wide web that all the world can see (though hardly anyone does) and be an internet fanboy.

I do this myself, this blog is the only way I share it.  That's part of why I'm questioning this.  There's the part where keeping it to myself gives the illicit thrill of a secret, but there's also the part of being embarrassed.  Heavy Metal Magazine stopped being cool in the 80s.  It has a well-earned reputation for being a tits-and-ass comic book, it's often degrading to women and people in general, and readily displays high levels of gruesome violence.  It's not fit for polite company.

I like the sexy parts, there was more of it in the early days, and it was more than just girls and their boobs.  There was boy parts and girl parts, some pretty explicit parts, and enough variety to titillate and offend almost anyone.  Some of it has been exciting, even inspiring, plenty of it has been crude and juvenile, and much of it would be rightly criticized now for the objectification and exploitation displayed.  The violence is another kind of "adult" content, there's been hardly any limits on the ways and means of assault and battery, death and dismemberment, that the mag would show.  Plenty has been offensive, but mostly it can be fun.  I know people are capable of causing terrible harm to their fellow people, but it mostly seems appropriate on an adult comic level, to me this means accepting it as fantasy and being able to separate it from reality.  Comic sex and violence offer a way to experience "bad" things and thoughts without causing actual (physical) harm, and that separation lets me extract some enjoyment from the mental exploration of things I wouldn't do in real life.  I can only speak for myself, I can imagine where some could use comic violence to develop and encourage violence in their own lives, and I bet others have written better about the juxtaposition of comic fantasy with real morality.

With all that, I still buy it.  I enjoy that the magazine still exists in paper form, and it can be fun to hope it will get better and better, though over the years that hasn't always been the case.  I have my collection, I have my little blog, and I have space in my life to indulge myself on something that's trivial but that I find fun.  I like knowing that my interest in HM spans more than half my time here, and since nothing lasts forever, least of all me, it's nice to have something like that in my life.  Like I said, almost everything else in my life is more important than HM, but I feel fortunate to be able to have all that and HM too.

So, over the weeks it took to put this together, it's been fun to reflect and consider HM's place in my life and my interest in it.  My thoughts are a bit more organized but I didn't gain any great insights.  I guess I'm stuck with it's silly and fun and cool that I have all these mags from so many years.  And a blog.  And I should really get on that #288 review....