HEAVY METAL is a magazine I’ve been wanting to review for some time. But, given the various stories and artists featured within each issue’s pages, it wasn’t until I worked out the home run/hit/miss method I used to review Pulp Review: Avon Fantasy Reader No. 9 (1949) that I was happy with how to go about it. So, now that I have a method to guide my madness, let’s get started!

The cover to my copy of Heavy Metal, February 1983

by John Workman

This simple, half-page black-and-white piece is an interesting, if brief, look at life (in what may be the future). The unnamed female protagonist muses on living, existence, and immortality in a way that satisfies the philosopher in me.

And she’s topless in two images so that satisfies the rest of me.

Swing and a…hit!

by Richard Corben

While there is an advantage in having a comic that spans multiple issues, allowing you to tell a story longer than the page-limit would otherwise allow, there is also a disadvantage in it that new readers could be completely lost. While there is a very brief catch-up blurb of what has transpired previously in Mr. Corben’s Den II, what scant information is offered hardly prepares a reader as the story picks up at full speed. We join the nude (Phallus Warning) warrior Den searching for his equally nude (and idealized) lady love Muuta.

Unfortunately, she has been captured by the disgustingly obese…actually, if he has a name it is never mentioned. What we do get to see is this fat blue man devour himself from the inside out, turning into an even more disgusting creature before he eats Muuta.

Den, not terribly pleased by this turn of events, finally fights off the creatures holding him back when the story concludes for this issue. Although the fat man’s transformation, Den’s dick, and the jarring in media res start should knock a few points off this story, I was able to figure out what was going on and the full-color painted art is extraordinary. This makes up for the shortcomings.

Swing and a…hit!

by Silverio Pisu, Illustrated by Milo Manara

I could probably rate this a Home Run based only on the fact that the name “Milo Manara” is attached to it and no one would question it, but due review is to be given. Again we start mid-story as The Ape is decreed a wise man by the Emperor. The Emperor is also making eyes at The Ape’s girlfriend Conscience, who is promptly dropped down a trap door when no one is looking by the Emperor’s men.

She’s not seen again and no one seems to be too concerned about her.

The Ape settles into life in the Emperor’s Palace, but soon grows restless. He decides to explore – and then eat – the Royal Peach Trees. When he is interrupted by five mostly-nude women who were sent to collect the peaches he turns them into trees and sets off to cause trouble. He uses his powers to turn into an urn, steal some special elixir, surprise a girl with a kiss, kick the Emperor, and get the Emperial Police [sic] after him before we reach the to be continued…

Drawn as nothing more than black-and-white inks, Mr. Manara’s sexy style is still evident. The highlight of the over-all entertaining piece is certainly the five kitchen women. They wear nothing more than cook’s hats, aprons, and what look to be high-heeled boots fused to their legs. There are plenty of shots of their large breasts and butts, and the image that shows them frozen as trees does a great job of illustrating the fusion of woman and plant – hats included!

Swing and a…HOME RUN!

by Elaine Lee, Illustrated by Michael Wm. Kaluta

Ms. Lee and Mr. Kaluta’s piece is quick to envelope you in a unique world. Unfortunately, it’s not a world I especially want to be enveloped in. It starts out with a bunch of fat, ugly, disgusting, hairy post-apocalyptic primitives doing fat, ugly, disgusting, hairy post-apocalyptic things. The Phallus Warning doesn’t help things. Then a young, blonde woman – Galatia 9 – shows up and brutally slaughters all of them, which seems to be part of some sort of induction ceremony.

The art is quite good, but it is mostly of things I don’t want to see. And even though there’s a catch-up blurb it doesn’t seem to be related to anything that happens in the comic. Unlike Den IIthere was no part of Starstruck where I was able to sort of figure out, “Oh! This is the dynamic here. I can guess at what has happened and what is going on.” So, between my confusion and my constant desire to avert mine eyes I wasn’t too happy with this one.

Swing and a…miss.

by Fernando Fernandez

Zora is a beautiful piece, a mix of inks and water colors. And, although it too starts in the middle of an ongoing story, the catch-up blurb actually caught me up on what was happening! The story picks up as the characters watch the imprinted memories of an injured man who was in hibernation. It’s a spiffy little but of adventure, and the bared breasts at the beginning of the story don’t hurt it any.

Swing and a…hit!

by Angus McKie

This strange story takes lines from what I believe is William Shakespeare’s King Lear and sets them against some eerily illustrated vistas and characters. Mr. McKie’s Lear is quite off-putting, but the art is smooth and a wonder of color play. I can’t say that I like it, but it feels like a very pure example of art and that resonates with me. If I had a slightly different rating system I don’t know if I’d quite rate it a “hit” (maybe “ball” would feel right?) but since I don’t feel like the pages were wasted I’ll grant it a “hit.”

Swing and a…hit.

by Jeff Jones

Another piece where the philosopher in me sort of twitches when he reads this one-page black-and-white…experiment. It makes me think, then laugh, so it gets my approval.

Oh, and there’s boobs.

Swing and a…hit!

by Caza

All I can really say is this; The Ark is beautiful in such an alien fashion. That’s the best way to describe Caza’s series of paintings, which capture the grandeur of things which just could not exist in our world. The images are set to text extracted from a short story called “The Ark” written by Francois Bazzoli, and it is an amazing piece that manages to capture hope amidst the worst of destruction.

Swing and a…hit!

by Arno

I come out of Arno’s piece with the thought in my head that I’m supposed to come out of it with the thought in my head of “This means something.”

I know that’s not the most straight-forward sentence but it best captures my reaction. I used to describe things like this as Sledgehammer Theatre; that the moral I’m supposed to come away with is so not subtle that the lesson I’m suppose to learn has been pounded into me as if by a sledgehammer, actually turning me off to it. Yes, War is terrible and futile, and usually started by those who don’t actually risk losing anything. It’s an old idea and, by 1983, one should be able to take the concept to a new place. I don’t really get anything special or unique out of Arno’s take on it.

Swing and a…miss.

by Kim Deitch

I still don’t quite know what to make of this comic. Paul and Mary are two average people trying to get by in Hollywood, but Paul has lost his job and their apartment building hosts crazy sex parties. When a man stumbles into their apartment and tries to get it on with Mary, Paul rages and kills him with a frying pan.

Finding $600 in the man’s wallet Mary declares it “the easiest money we’ve ever made.” She quickly decides that the solution to their bill problem is to lure in sex crazed maniacs and kill them for their money. However, things hit a snag when Paul realizes he can only kill them when Mary lets them come onto her in strange sex fetish fantasies, something neither of them really want to let happen.

It’s a strange, flippant little black-and-white comic about killing men, but I was actually sad when I realized I had read all there was in this issue. The sex-fantasy aspect and the absurd plan hatched between the couple keeps it just enough on track for what I feel should be in Heavy Metal.

Swing and a…hit!

JUNE 2050
by Jack C. Harris, Illustrated by Dick Giordano

This one-page black-and-white piece has something in it for everyone to love. Giant, topless, metal women that double as space rockets? Check. Shadows that look like people until the last panel reveals them to be silhouettes of aliens that simply resemble fully dressed men and women? Check.

Honestly…do you need more?

Swing and a…hit!

by Guido Crepax

As I write this first sentence I know how I am rating Mr. Crepax’s piece, and I have to say I am quite sad about my decision. I so want to make it a hit. The colorful art is moody, the story has intensity, and there’s even a sexy lady.

But…to me, it’s just not Heavy Metal. This is a publication that is subtitled “The adult illustrated fantasy magazine.” Period Harlem drama pieces are not what I come here for. It’s kind of like stopping a baseball game so the Mona Lisa can be wheeled out and admired for a while. Yes, no one will argue that it isn’t beautiful art, but this isn’t the place for it. And that’s what I have to say about Mr. Crepax’s story…anywhere else it would be a hit. But here I just wonder what other fantasy story got cut out because of it.

Swing and a…miss.

by Rod Kierkegaard, Jr.

Mr. Kierkegaard’s comic is something like what I would image Science Fiction’s scrapbook would resemble. It loosely follows two recruits at the boot-camp of a scifi militia, which parodies Star Wars with lessons in “Missing Targets” and “Falling Down In Twos When Only One Shot Was Fired.” The gags are tight and smart and I fully enjoyed Rock Opera.

Swing and a…hit!

by Paul Kirchner

This fun little black-and-white half-page gag is really just there to fill space on the last page, but it’s morose humor does the magazine justice.

Swing and a…hit!

Non-Rated Non-Comic Items of Note:

by Julie Simmons-Lynch

Ms. Simmons-Lynch, the magazine’s editor, muses briefly on being a feminist and acknowledging that 95% of Heavy Metal‘s readership enjoys a naked woman or two. She seems to justify it by say that, as a fantasy/scifi magazine, female nudity is fine as long as it is in a fantasy/scifi setting…which I’d argue isn’t a real answer, but she also says that the lady readers like looking at nude men which Heavy Metal does deliver on.

She goes on to discuss why The Man from Harlem was included in this issue, and how there was a debate regarding it. But not a debate over the fact the comic isn’t fantasy or scifi, but over the fact there’s no nudity in it! This feels to me like a blindness to the true purpose of the Heavy Metal, and I can see why down the road editors would start trying to downplay nudity as an over-the-top reaction to thinking like this.

edited by Lou Stathis

Yes, Heavy Metal once had a news section. A few items of note are the discussion of Sean Connery’s Never Say Never Again opening against Roger Moore’s Octopussy, a review of L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth that is a great reminder that this was once considered little more than (“disappointing”) science fiction, and a reference to the upcoming Revenge of the Jedi before Lucas changed the title to Return. I also couldn’t help but giggle at the section reviewing Colecovision games, especially the part that has little more to say about the graphics beyond “colorful.” Oh, and there’s also a picture of Iggy Pop’s dirty bare ass so…be careful.

by Carl Macek, Illustration by Alan Lynch

Illustrated with odd photo-overexposures and actual stills from “Twentieth Century Fox’s new film The Entity” the article gives a little back story about the supposedly true story that inspired the upcoming film. Problem is, knowing that the woman who experienced all this is alive, well, and learning to live with what’s happened to her isn’t very gripping, and the whole article – and film – comes off as sort of a dull Poltergeist rip-off.

Ads & Etc.

Inside the front cover is a Videodrome poster in full color. There’s also a two page ad for the Journey Escape video game (which I’ve seen and is ridiculous), and the ad makes no qualms over using lyric quotes to remind you that “Some will win, some will lose…” Another interesting ad is from National Lampoon. It splits the page, with two different nude models competing for your votes…which you cast by submitting the model’s unique subscription card.

Home Runs: 1
Hits: 10
Misses: 3

THE FINAL VERDICT: If the sentence, “Milo Manara does a five woman tree transformation image” doesn’t immediately get you interested in this issue, then allow me to point you to the 79% hit/Home Run rating.

I’m very happy I own this issue. Yes, the Milo Manara piece is an awesome part of my transformation collection, and I recommend it for any plant-tf fans out there. But pieces like The Ark and Zora scream to me as works that one still can’t find many other places besides Heavy Metal, making this issue feel very iconic to me. I definitely recommend it if you see it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go reread The Ape.