EXCLUSIVE: The 300th issue of Heavy Metal magazine will be published this summer the same week that Comic-Con international returns to San Diego but, after four decades, is the future of the illustrated sci-fi publication as bright and vivid as its past?
No one hopes so more than Matthew Medney, the just-appointed new CEO of Heavy Metal. He takes the reins to a magazine that launched in April 1977, the month before George Lucas’ Star Wars ushered in Hollywood’s era of fantasy and sci-fi blockbusters. Heavy Metal began life as National Lampoon’s licensed English translation of France’s Métal Hurlant and, unlike Star Wars, aimed for adult audiences with sexually provocative art and the trippy concepts of contributors such as Mœbius, Enki Bilal, Philippe Druillet, Richard Corben, Berni Wrightson, and Jim Steranko.
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Medney (who is repped by Michael Keyes of Against the Grain Entertainment)comes to the venerable magazine from Herø Projects, a speciality publisher that tailors comics to serve as brand extensions of music industry brands and bands (among them Live Nation, Rolling Loud, 311, and Shaggy). Medney replaces Jeff Krelitiz, who notably recruited esteemed comic-book creator Grant Morrison as his editor-in-chief.
Deadline caught uo with Medney to talk about the direction of a sci-fi mainstay that also has a long screen legacy with two animated feature films (Heavy Metal in 1981 and, 19 years later, Heavy Metal 2000) and as an acknowledged strong influence on Ridley Scott’s Alien, Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, and David Fincher’s Death, Love & Robots.
DEADLINE: Heavy Metal is the most entrenched magazine brand in the comics and sci-fi sector but today’s marketplace isn’t especially kind to that format (with distribution challenges, long-view readership declines, the closure of comics specialty shop, etc.). How central is the magazine to the brand’s next decade?
MATTHEW MEDNEY: What is most exciting about this brand is exactly that. We built a community of comic loving sci-fi / fantasy / horror enthusiasts that adore the publication. We will always look at the printed magazine as the stronghold, the single most important piece of content we produce, but we are excited to bring the brand off the pages and into more mediums. My view is Heavy Metal should be the bleeding edge of great sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories spanning the page, the screen, and all other media.
DEADLINE: Archie Comics is tearing it up these days by finding fresh new iterations of classic IP for television shows (with Riverdale, Katy Keene, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, etc) while Image Comics and IDW Publishing are a thriving source of fresh new concepts headed to the screen. Which is closer to your vision of Heavy Metal’s approach?
MEDNEY: For us, we aren’t beholden to any one way of thinking, we keep it simple, great sci-fi, great horror, great fantasy and were hooked. Whether its a home grown IP like Taarna or some amazing new story and world from a gifted creator that hasn’t crossed my desk yet, we are interested. Bringing the Heavy Metal brand to the forefront of our core values with old and new exciting adventures is my only mandate. We can not wait to bring Heavy Metal and its stories off the page and into the multi-media sphere.
DEADLINE: Sexed-up animation and big-name rock music came together with the Heavy Metal brand for the namesake films. How does that approach fit into the next-gen success story of the brand?
MEDNEY: I think for us, as we move into 2020 it is about paying homage to our legacy while ensuring that we broaden our content, keeping it within our core values but creating more accessible and wider spreading stories. There will be a ton of rock music initiatives and animations that play to Taarna, who we look to really lean on and create a world for, but that doesn’t mean that genres of music like hip-hop and dance don’t excite me as well, or stories that delve into more sci-fi “hi-fi” arena’s aren’t appealing. We will take the climate of the times and push to the bleeding edge of it, being a forward-thinking thought leader in his space is what we are most excited to execute on.
DEADLINE: Theatrically released R-rated animation has been a non-starter in the U.S. despite efforts by people like David Fincher and Zack Snyder. Is that something you think can change? Streaming services may be the more natural home for those projects but are you more interested in live-action permutations and possibilities?
MEDNEY: My thoughts are, yes it can change. 15 years ago, the idea of a movie living only at home was absurd, now it is arguably preferred. Times and climates evolve and mold to what the fan bases want, and with streaming, the beauty of it is the ability to really curate larger widespread content for all types of viewers. While we will for sure be on the cutting edge of Rated-R live-action & animations, breaking through the status quo into new horizons is a major goal of ours. Again as I said earlier, Heavy Metal will be the thought leader in this space. However, we don’t foresee all of our properties fitting within that category but as we examine the marketplace, and when the climate dictates it, we will be the first to act on it.
DEADLINE: Fincher’s Death, Love & Robots is a sci-fi anthology and his acknowledged attempt to reconnect with the spirit of the original Heavy Metal film. There’s also Black Mirror, Twilight Zone and other anthology-approach shows. Is that still a natural area of interest for Heavy Metal? Or are you more eager to find a stable of characters that can hold a spotlight of their own?
MEDNEY: A Heavy Metal anthology is natural for the brand. But as we begin to explore our future within this space our plans are focused on building our IP library with our characters. Designing the architecture of our worlds. We are focused on building stories first, I want to know more about Taarna, don’t you? What’s she like? Where does she go when she’s note fighting monsters? These are the questions that are getting me hot and bothered off the bat. We’ll get to the anthology, but first, let’s answer the questions we all want to know and build on the Heavy Metal universes.
DEADLINE: Even with all the history, the name of Heavy Metal is problematic in the Google era. A Google search for “Heavy Metal” is far more likely to turn up a Metallica reference than a Moebius masterpiece…
MEDNEY: This is a challenge that will be corrected. We are going to overcome this with a great online presence. I have already hired a talented team that will be rebuilding our site, which we look to have ready early in the new year. Our team will also be curating engaging content, with a more focused online story archive as well as focusing on new initiatives that make Heavy Metal the central hub online for great sci-fi, fantasy & horror. Its not like our domain is “Heavymetalmagazine.com” it is “Heavymetal.com” It is one of our core goals to make sure that everyone from the coasts and middle America think about great stories when they hear the name Heavy Metal.
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