By Mike Sangregorio
As the show floor closes the party begins upstairs as legendary magazine “Heavy Metal” takes the stage with their recent addition, Editor in Chief Grant Morrison. “TMNT” co-creator Kevin Eastman has been the magazine’s Publisher for twenty years, having purchased it in 1990. The moderator introduces the duo as “Grant Eastman” but is quick to follow-up with this actually being the Pokémon you would just love to catch.
Other panelists include Erika Lewis, creator of Heavy Metal story “The 49th Key,” which she describes as a story that channels Elizabethan mystic John Dee and features the apocryphal Enochian language, Jeff Krelitz, current co-CEO of Heavy Metal, cartoonist Ed Luce, and Donny Cates. Cates is the writer of, among other work, “The Paybacks” which had been published by Dark Horse until recently (its first four issues). This series featured superpowered collection agents, essentially the people sent after you when you are a superhero behind on your underground lair mortgage payments. The twist is that each member is themselves someone with a debt. It was Suicide Squad meets fun, irreverent comedy.
For Heavy Metal, Yates is working on the feature “Atomahawk” with, as he describes, “my tattoo artist who scribbled all this stuff down that I felt we had to do something with.”
When asked what the legacy of Heavy Metal was today most panelists said that the magazine was their first introduction to both “adult” comics (meaning, at the time in the seventies, non-Comic Code approved titles) and European comics (Heavy Metal beginning life as the American edition of the European “Metal Hurlant”).
The first two issues of Heavy Metal with Morrison at the helm are already available. Eastman reiterated his continuous fandom for Morrison and the excitement at being able to work with the Scottish scribe.
Morrison, when asked what he hopes to bring to the table editorially, responded with “more religious, deeply conservative and deeply Presbyterian take on the material.” He then added that he is hoping to capitalize on the current craze and do at least one story of “Pokémon goes to hell.”
Morrison reveals that he was rabid teenage fan of comics in seventies. DC superhero led to the Marvel “head/cosmic comics” of creators such as Jim Starlin. He believes that these titles were essentially the same material that Heavy Metal has always been looking for. Lack of editorial oversight at the time meant that these creators could be free to allow the sci-fi nature of the story to go wherever it wanted with no one telling them to limit the scope of what they were doing.
Recounting his time with the magazine “Near Myths,” described as a “Scottish knockoff of Heavy Metal,” Morrison added that he first rejected the work of artists such as Moebius as “hippie crap” because he was, as he described himself, such a “little punk.”
He wants Heavy Metal to focus on “Cheeky sci-fi and sex. Piss-taking… This is going to be about intense sci-fi with sexuality.” His intent with the first issue was a new beginning while the second one was all about refocusing stories on sexuality. Future issues will include out-and-out sci-fi, horror (for October), and a psychedelic issue for Christmas.
“Beachhead” is the current segment that Morrison is writing with art by Ben Marra. He will follow that with “Smile of the Absent Cat” with art by Gerhard, of “Cerebus” fame. This is an idea that he has had “since 1990 and was originally going to be a play.” The story will be about Louis Wain, an Edwardian artist known for being the first to do “cat cartoons.” As he died penniless and insane, a state that Morrison assumes all creators strive for, this will be about what happens to the world Wain made (“Catland”) without its creator and how it will reflect the real events in his life. The main character is a detective who recently returned from the first World War.
Another story Morrison mentioned is “Hitler and Jesus” which focuses on two intertwining ideas. The first is that Conan the Barbarian actually survived his death and that he journeyed to South America to inspire the myth of the “Feathered Serpent” heroic deity. The second is that during World War 2 Adolf Hitler wanted to rebrand Christianity with an Aryan Jesus. Morrison was fascinated by the idea that this version of Jesus could have survived his crucifixion and possibly be the South American “Feathered Serpent” character as well which would lead to a type of Conan/Jesus hybrid that would, he believe, make for a good story.
Morrison mentioned that Heavy Metal was the best fun he has had in years, one of the reasons being because it is “not like doing seven years of Batman, which was great for what it was, but this is different each month.”
When asked by an audience member if there was a chance that Starlin would work on Heavy Metal in the future the panel responded that they would like that but that if he did it probably would not be on an existing property such as “Dreadstar” because the focus should be on making new things. Talked about introduction to characters.
When asked about the submission process to Heavy Metal it was mentioned that the art of the work is the primary appeal. If that fits with what they are looking for then there is a good chance of selection. If the art is not quite selling the idea on its own then the focus becomes how well the writing is. Pieces submitted must “have a buzz about them” and appeal on a different level than merely being well made. Heavy Metal will focus on being unique and maintaining that as a stand out aspect of its brand going forward.