For years the term “heavy metal” has meant several things. To some it is a style of energetic, guitar driven music. To others it is a groundbreaking comics anthology magazine that introduced European comics masters such as Moebius and Enki Bilal to the US audience in the ‘70s and led to a legendarily trippy animated movie.
Now, both concepts are being united and reimagined as part of the new Heavy Metal, a full fledged media company being launched by music industry veteran David Boxenbaum and film producer Jeff Krelitz. Boxenbaum and Krelitz have purchased Heavy Metal Magazine from Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and hope to use the new label as the incubator to release comics, music, digital, TV and film.
Although no terms were revealed for the deal, announced in January, the duo raised several million dollars to fund the acquisition. Eastman remains a minority partner in the venture and will stay on as publisher of the revamped magazine.
While details of their new line will be announced just ahead of this year’s Comic-Con, Krelitz and Boxenbaum hope to reinvigorate the magazine, expanding its digital presence, and relaunching it as a deluxe quarterly for both print and digital. One thing will be new: Heavy Metal Magazine will be licensed in 70-90 foreign territories, a first for the brand. In keeping with its heritage, foreign cartoonists are being approached to work with the magazine.
The original Heavy Metal Magazine—which was not shy about showing naked women or dealing with sexual themes—exerted a powerful influence on many creators in both comics and the film world, including Krelitz, who like many, saw the Heavy Metal movie on cable at an impressionable age. “Even when the magazine reflected more of the teen sex comedy angle that (owner) National Lampoon brought to it, the covers by Moebius and Bilal provided strong, thought provoking imagery,” Krelitz told PW. As science fiction bloomed in the 70s, “Star Wars created a sterile environment; Heavy Metal threw some mud on it.”
Along with the relaunched magazine, the new Heavy Metal will publish periodical comics, all branded with the Heavy Metal logo, with an eye to publishing as many as 6-12 titles. News of the relaunch has led to a strong response in the creative community, Boxenbaum told PW. “There is such a strong fan base for it among fans and creators. There has been an outpouring, not only of support, but of people who want to publish with us. I think when the generation that has a high profile now was growing up—not only graphic novel creators but TV and film people—it was such a touchstone for them personally, they want to work with it.”
The Heavy Metal brand won’t just be comics. The company will launch a web portal (heavymetal.com is owned by the magazine) which will cover lifestyle and entertainment. Given Boxenbaum’s music background—as part of the A&M/Octone label he helped launched Maroon 5 and Hollywood Undead—the music component will soon announce the signing of several high profile acts, not all of them, strictly what is usually thought of as heavy metal. Krelitz sees a strong crossover potential for publishing and music—40% of the audience for heavy metal is female and most have college degrees. “It’s a lifestyle brand,” he said.
Several film and TV properties are already under development: Peter Panzerfaust, a comic by Kurtis J Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins that reimagines Peter Pan and the lost boys as Nazi fighters during World War II, has been adapted into a cartoon with voices by Elijah Wood and Summer Glau; a TV series is being developed with BBC Worldwide. Chew, John Layman and Rob Guillory’s comic about a detective who solves crimes by eating things, is also in development for animation and live action TV. Michael Moreci and Steve Seeley’s Hoax Hunters, about a team of paranormal investigators who use debunking ghosts as a means to protect the world from real supernatural powers, is in film development.
Heavy Metal the magazine has had a long history in the US. Originally it was an English language spin off of Métal Hurlant, a groundbreaking French comics magazine which published work by such greats Guido Crepax, Philippe Druillet, Jean-Claude Forest, Moebius and Milo Manara. Published by National Lampoon, it brought those artists and more to the US market—Matt Howarth, Liberatore—and served as a mind bending and erotic outlet for outrageous stories and some of the most accomplished art of the period. While it stayed on the cutting edge for a long time, in 1991 it was purchased by Eastman, who has continued publishing it since, although with a smaller profile as the rest of the comics industry has caught up with its flashy graphics and subject matter.
Boxenbaum and Krelitz hope to change that with top creative names and a fresh spin on the kind of challenging horror, SF and fantasy the magazine is known for. “If Vice Magazine is hip, were hardcore,” said Krelitz. “Marvel and DC are PG to PG-13, we’ll be PG-13 to R.” The magazine will be redesigned with an eye to “sophistication.”
Boxenbaum brings his experience from the music business to how he works with creators as partners, for all arms of the company. By having an overall brand in so many fields, the opportunities to cross promote are huge. For the music acts they’re working with, “part of what appeals to them is being able to work with Heavy Metal on the publishing side.”
There will be no standard deal for the company; some projects may be creator owned, others might be partnerships, said Boxenbaum. The all-rights relationship, common in music, means that “I’m going to be in business with you in all this and invest in you. You’re not a graphic novel creator, you are a content creator. We’re in the entertainment business with you. Which is great from a marketing side, as we control all this other media.
“At the end of the day in any medium, a creator needs to decide whether to be a creator or a businessman,” Boxenbaum explained. “If you try to do both you’re going to suck at both. They are smart enough to see the opportunities but realize that every minute I take trying to monetize my work is a minute I’m not creating. “
He acknowledged that other companies try to offer the kind of partnership model Heavy Metal is bringing to the table, but “creators always want to know what can you deliver? Because of our experience across all the areas we’re talking about, we can deliver.”