Monday, March 29, 2010

Retro-View: Heavy Metal #v8#03 (June 1984)

In the mid-1970s, publisher Leonard Mogel was in Paris to jump-start the French edition of National Lampoon, while there he discovered the French science-fantasy magazine Métal Hurlant which had debuted in December 1974. The original French title literally translates as "Howling Metal."

Mogel licensed an American version, renamed Heavy Metal, and began publishing it in the U.S. on April, 1977 as a glossy, full-color monthly magazine. Initially it ran translations of graphic stories originally published in Métal Hurlant, including work by Enki Bilal, Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Philippe Druillet, Milo Manara and Philippe Caza. Since the color pages had already been shot in France, the budget to reproduce them in the U.S. version was greatly reduced. Heavy Metal became known for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction and erotica.

This issue from June 1984 features "Rock Opera II: The Rise and Fall of Rocky Starzborne" painted by Rod Kierkegaard, Jr.; Drew Friedman's single page "The Lord of Eltingville in What I Like"; a beautifully illustrated eight-pager from Pierre Christin & Enki Bilal called "The Hunting Party"; a Howard Cruse single page tale entitled "June 2050"; Philipe Druillet's surreal "Salammbo II: Carthage", Alexandro Jodorowsky & Jean "Moebius" Giraud's Incal chapter "The Door of the Transfiguration: The Further Adventures of John Difool" and "A Matter of Time" painted by Juan Gimenez; "The Railways" by writer Claude Renard and artist Francois Schuiten [all three stories reprinted from Metal Hurlant]; plus a chapter of John Findley's long running Tex Arcana, "Meets the Toast of Europe" and the existential "Butterfly" by painter Herikberto closes out the issue. There are a number of other short subjects, including a Jeff Jones piece called "I'm Age", plus various articles and interviews. All beneath an excellent cover by Esteban Maroto.

My two personal favorites from this issue, even with the great stuff I've already mentioned, were Charles Burns outstanding detective short "Living in the Ice-Age" starring El Borbah and Part I of Frank Thorne's sexy serial starring sci-fi babe Lann, which sadly never finished its run in Heavy Metal (it vanished incomplete after part 5 appeared in the November issue). I scored this copy from my brother, David. With the exception of a cluster of 1981 issues (which he is actively seeking out), he has an unbroken run of Heavy Metal through 1986. Apparently this rather solid copy doesn't live up to his usual high grade standards, so he passed it along to me and I'm really not one to complain about such trivialities.

Neither of us purchase publisher Kevin Eastman's current version of Heavy Metal. It is barely a shade of the 1970's version and really ought to go the way of the dodo, but you can always track down back issues like this and bask in the familiar and unfamiliar, comfortable and uncomfortable fringe of the comics industry.

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