Heavy Metal Magazine is an American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine, known primarily for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction and erotica and steampunk comics. In the mid-1970s, while publisher Leonard Mogel was in Paris to jump-start the French edition of National Lampoon, he discovered the French science-fantasy magazine Métal Hurlant which had debuted January 1975. The French title translates literally as Howling Metal.
When Mogel licensed the American version, he chose to rename it, and Heavy Metal began in the U.S. in April 1977 as a glossy, full-color monthly. Initially, it displayed translations of graphic stories originally published in Métal Hurlant, including work by Enki Bilal, Philippe Caza, Guido Crepax, Philippe Druillet, Jean-Claude Forest, Jean Giraud (A.k.a. Moebius), Chantal Montellier, and Milo Manara. The magazine later ran Stefano Tamburini and Tanino Liberatore's ultra-violent RanXerox. Since the color pages had already been shot in France, the budget to reproduce them in the U.S. version was greatly reduced.
Mogel published Heavy Metal under the name HM Communications, Inc. After starting as a monthly, beginning with the winter of 1986, Heavy Metal dropped back to a quarterly schedule, continuing until March 1989, where it then switched over to a bi-monthly publication period. HM Communications published 136 issues in 16 volumes from April 1977 – March 1992. Meanwhile, the original Métal Hurlant had ceased publication in France in 1987. It resumed in July 2002, published by Les Humanoïdes Associés.
Kevin Eastman, co-creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, had grown up reading Heavy Metal, seeing in its pages European art which had not been previously seen in the United States, as well as an underground comix sensibility that nonetheless wasn't as harsh or extreme as some of the underground comix – but... definitely intended for an older readership. Eastman took over publication of Heavy Metal with volume 16 in May 1992, under the name Metal Mammoth, Inc.
Eastman sold the magazine to digital and music veteran David Boxenbaum and film producer Jeff Krelitz in January 2014. Eastman continued to serve as publisher of the magazine and is a minority investor in the new Heavy Metal.
Heavy Metal's high-quality artwork is notable. Work by international fine artists such as H. R. Giger and Esteban Maroto have been featured on the covers of various issues. Terrance Lindall's illustrated version of John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost appeared in the magazine in 1980. Many stories were presented as long-running Serial literature, such as those by Richard Corben, Pepe Moreno and Matt Howarth. Illustrators like Luis Royo and Alex Ebel contributed artwork over the course of their careers. An adaptation of the film Alien named Alien: The Illustrated Story, written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Walter Simonson, was published in the magazine in 1979.
The founding editors of the American edition of Heavy Metal were Sean Kelly and Valerie Marchant. The founding Design Director was Peter Kleinman. Kleinman was the Design Director of National Lampoon at the time, and he was asked to provide direction for the fledgling project in addition to his Lampoon duties. He created the original Heavy Metal logo design at the request of Len Mogel and Matty Simmons and was responsible for the launch and art direction from the first issue. The Heavy Metal Logo was Kleinman's homage to Kabel Black, one of his favorite typefaces. He was experimenting with a visual pun—pushing down the characters in the word Heavy to emphasize the visual parody of the letters weighty quality—and in the middle of his design efforts, Simmons saw it, scooped it off of Kleinman's drafting table, and presented it to Mogel and the rest of the board. It was an instant hit and has been used as the basic logo ever since. Peter Kleinman continued to oversee the publication design and work on cover designs for the first two years, and hired Art Director and Designer John Workman, who brought to the magazine a background of experience at DC Comics and other publishers.
After two years, Mogel felt the lack of text material was a drawback, and in 1979, he replaced Kelly and Marchant with Ted White, highly regarded in the science fiction field for revitalizing Amazing Stories and Fantastic between 1968 and 1978. White and Workman immediately set about revamping the look of Heavy Metal, incorporating more stories and strips by American artists, including Arthur Suydam, Dan Steffan, Howard Cruse and Bernie Wrightson.
White's main solution to the problem of adding substantive text material was a line-up of columns by four authorities in various aspects of popular culture: Lou Stathis wrote about rock music and Jay Kinney dug into underground comics, while Steve Brown reviewed new science fiction novels and Bhob Stewart explored visual media from fantasy films to animation and laser light show.
In 1980, Julie Simmons-Lynch took over as editor, and her new slant on text material was the showcasing of science fiction by well-known authors such as Robert Silverberg, John Shirley and Harlan Ellison. Later, a review section labeled Dossier, was created by associate editor Brad Balfour, who came on board to handle text features by authors such as William S. Burroughs and Stephen King. Dossier featured short pieces by a variety of writers, and was edited first by Balfour and then by Stathis, who soon replaced Balfour as an editor. Stathis continued the tradition of focusing on pop culture figures to connect the magazine to the larger hip culture context. There were also interviews with such media figures as Roger Corman, Federico Fellini, John Sayles and John Waters. In the Winter of 1986 original Design Director Peter Kleinman was brought back on staff and Simmons-Lynch remained the editor until 1993. Kevin Eastman had acquired the magazine the year before and became both publisher and editor after that date. Comics writer Grant Morrison became editor in chief beginning with the April 2016 issue of the magazine.