In 1981, a swashbuckling valkyrie astride a pterodacto-chicken descended upon cinemas all over the world, and (non-kiddie) animated films have never been the same since. Her name is Taarna, the alluring and fearless heroine of Heavy Metal, the movie, and in many ways the embodiment of what Heavy Metal is all about.
You don’t see nearly enough Taarna costumery—which is why we were glad to stumble across Julianne Tura, an actress and model who has the guts to carry on the Taarna tradition in an era dominated by superheroes and Slave Leias (not that we are against either).
We asked her for some pictures and before we knew it she was off to Bronson Canyon (that’s in L.A.) wearing the famous strapless and thigh-highs, stopping hikers in their tracks with her massive sword and modestly-sized Loc-nar.
Heavy Metal: What attracts you to the character of Taarna?
Julianne Tura: I’ve always been intrigued by badass babes, especially tough, no-nonsense warrior women. As a kid, I was raised on Xena and She-Ra. When I was a teenager, I rented tons of ’80s cult films and fell in love with the awesomely cheesy movie Barbarian Queen (that Boris Vallejo painting is my favorite VHS cover of all time). I also identify with Frank Frazetta’s drawings of gorgeous, busty, strong fantasy women, not to mention Frank Thorne’s Red Sonja and Ghita.
On the other side of that, I’m a total fanboy. I’ve always loved buxom animated women. As a preteen, I watched La Blue Girl and Golden Boy, and geeked out from comics and anime where the girls are ridiculously hot with giant breasts or filled with overly gratuitous boob/panty shots. The type of women in R. Crumb and Bakshi animation. Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards was huge for me. Taarna embodies ALL of that. The badass, incredibly strong warrior woman and the hot buxom babe.
I’m not shy and I’ll show off my body, but I want to do it in a warrior, ass-kicking sort of way.
What were the challenges of making this costume?
I can’t sew for shit! I was kicked out of sewing class in 6th grade. Any costume I’ve made in the past, I would go to thrift stores like Goodwill and then tape, tie, glue, whatever it all together. I’ve never purchased a costume and always made everything—clumsily—myself. I had just started dating my boyfriend and we were both into nerdy stuff, especially costuming, and he had recently began making costumes for himself. It was our first convention together and we both decided I would go as Taarna. At that point, he had never sewn anything for anybody before. With only 48 hours before the convention, we rushed downtown to the fabric district and bought all the black and red leather fabric for the costume. Then after many quick repeat viewings of the Taarna sequence and plenty of images printed out, he started fitting and sewing me into the fabric.
The morning we were to leave for the convention with still tons of work to do, of course our shitty sewing machine crapped out. So in typical Julianne fashion, we had to Velcro, snap, and mainly tape me into The Taarna costume. Tape and hot glue were barely holding that outfit together for Wondercon! So yeah, it was definitely a challenging costume; especially for our first time working on something like that together! After that struggle, we bought a better sewing machine at a thrift store and cleaned up the costume a bit. My boobs were the only thing taped in this time!
What sort of reaction did you get when you wore it for the first time?
It was such a fucking amazing experience to walk into the convention and have these Heavy Metal fans immediately scream “TAARNA!!!” Sure, most of them were men over 40. And you know what? I think that’s completely awesome. It’s FAR more interesting to get a few people insanely excited over an “obscure character” than to have every person say “oh wow look another sexy Harley Quinn. Huh. Cool.” I’ve worn it twice to conventions and I did this hike/photo shoot in the canyons swinging my sword dressed as Taarna. I think I scared some families and turned on some dads. It was fun!
Say you were in charge—how would you bring Taarna to a new generation of moviegoers/comics fans, etc?
I absolutely love and miss hand-drawn animation. One of my first memories is watching Aeon Flux and becoming immersed in that world. I was obsessed with that style of animation, which was definitely the next generation of Taarna. The Heavy Metal animated film has been done and I fucking love it, so I think a kickass live-action Taarna movie would be amazing, although I’d include puppets and even miniature models instead of CGI! I’m not into everything looking “realistic” or “flawless.” I’m also a fan of ’80s horror movie VHS covers, which are so beautiful. I would keep the art hand drawn like that and do a live-action film with puppets, Jim Henson Labyrinth/Dark Crystal style, but more adult-based. Nudity, puppets, and babes!
When not cavorting as Taarna, you’re an actress, in the scream-queen vein (hmm, it says here Chastity Bites, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Crack Whore…)—what else do we need to know?
Yes! I worship Russ Meyer and want to basically make as many cult exploitation B films as possible. When I’m not filming, I travel around, going to conventions and creating costumes. My favorite film I’ve done is Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, where I was wearing a merkin and was killed by a tranny nun. My dream life involves running around wielding a dagger and riding on dinosaurs while covered in blood. Make it so!
You’re also a fan of Heavy Metal, the magazine—what have you liked about it over the years?
I’ve loved the comics since I was young. Besides the warrior women, which I emulated, I was a fan of Moebius before I even knew who he was; Arzach is so magical. I would pore over the drawings and the landscapes, which would give me the strangest uncanny feelings. There’s a no-holds-barred aspect to the comics that came across in the movie as well, so it was a crazy experience when I randomly saw it for the first time on TV! The music made it even more awesome. The comics have a lack of interest in social tropes, which is something I identify with. I’m not concerned with following rules set by society, which would only limit my search for unique forms to express myself. I seek adventure in my daily life, and I see the Heavy Metal artists as doing something similar. Of course, I also wanted to pretend I was a warrior babe on the cover of Heavy Metal! It definitely played a massive part in the kickass jungle BABE-arian vixen I am today.