Just yesterday, Heavy Metal dropped a nuclear bomb of a news story on the comics industry, mainstream media, and impending San Diego Comic Con. In case you missed it: Grant Morrison will be the new editor-in-chief of Heavy Metal beginning with the February 2016 issue. Grant Freakin Morrison. The verdict from journalists, the twitterati, the blognoscenti, and other weirdos is that this is the shrewdest of moves. Pure shrewdery. We agree. Kevin Eastman, editor-in-chief for 25 years, stays on as publisher.
In addition to all this wordy news we also released the absolutely kickass cover art from Morrison’s first issue by Brian Ewing — check it out on Ewing’s website. If you’re at San Diego Comic Con, be sure to drop by Brian’s booth (#4503) or Heavy Metal’s (#1529), where prints will be for sale, and he and Morrison will be signing.
We got the lowdown from Morrison on his personal relationship with Heavy Metal and his plans for it going forward:
You are from Scotland, as most comics fans know, and got involved in the British comics scene really around the time Heavy Metal was starting up. What sort of awareness did you have of Heavy Metal in those formative years, the late ’70s/early ’80s?
I was very aware of Heavy Metal. My first professional work in comics was for the homegrown Scottish magazine Near Myths, which was assembled and published by the owners of the Science Fiction Bookshop in Edinburgh. Near Myths was a deliberate attempt to make a British comic inspired by Metal Hurlant and Heavy Metal and to some extent we all felt in competition. And as a young punk, I’m afraid I regarded Heavy Metal as slightly hippy-ish.
Oof. But that’s a fair criticism. Still, the art and stories from that era — any favorites?
I loved the artwork of Moebius, Druillet and Bilal in particular but I really got into buying Heavy Metal for Richard Corben’s Den and Neverwhere.
The Heavy Metal movie from 1981 is a cultural touchstone that crosses all sorts of borders. Have you seen it?
No, I’ve never seen the movie, surprisingly. I’m sure I’ll get around to it now.
You don’t have a relationship with Heavy Metal as a contributor, but you have had a very strong relationship with DC’s Vertigo. Do you feel one could draw a line from Heavy Metal to Vertigo, in terms of propagating the idea in America that comics and graphic storytelling isn’t just for kids?
I can definitely trace a line of influence. Heavy Metal Americanized the French aesthetic of Metal Hurlant — that comics version of the Nouvelle Vague — but the specifically European approach to the notion of adult science fiction comics, which could feature controversial ideas and more overt sexuality — certainly fed into the DNA of the British alternative scene that gave its blood to Vertigo in the ’90s.
Would you pick out any of your specific Vertigo works as sharing any traits with Heavy Metal?
I don’t know if anyone would agree with me but I’d probably regard The Filth as my most “Heavy Metal” piece of work.
How did this opportunity come about — was it one of these “this is crazy, but it just might work” moments?
A bit of that. I hadn’t given Heavy Metal much thought until Jeff Krelitz approached me with the idea and it suddenly seemed to make a lot of sense. I’m having a ball immersing myself in the Heavy Metal aesthetic and thinking about how to update it and filter it through my own sensibilities.
You’ve obviously got a ton of experience as a writer/creator — running your own show in each book, you could say. But this is the editor-in-chief role — what are your thoughts on overseeing the work of so many other storytellers?
I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see what’s out there and get into selecting artists and material. I’ve never done anything like this before but I know what I like and I know what I’m looking for from contributors. I’m most excited by how it’s all going to look when I’ve had an issue or two to really refine the “sound” I’m looking for.
Do you have a vision of where you’d like to take Heavy Metal?
I have a very distinct vision. With Heavy Metal, I’m doing the same thing I do when I’m asked to “revamp” a character like Superman or Wonder Woman; I dig back to the roots, figure out what makes the idea tick, then try to build my own “definitive” take on the material. Heavy Metal was the comic you graduated to when you got bored with superhero books, so I’m digging deep into all the other books and artists that inspired me as a teenager — the cosmic head comics of Jim Starlin and Bryan Talbot; the drawings of Guido Crepax, Esteban Maroto and Jose Gonzalez; New English Library’s Dracula magazine; New Wave science fiction — all the little tributaries and streams that, at least for me, fed visually and conceptually into the mighty river that is Heavy Metal. I’m paying a lot more attention to my wife Kristan’s ubeatable collection of industrial metal records. I want to get more musicians into the magazine and also more women. Beyond that swirling cloud of influences and initial thoughts, I can certainly promise more science fiction and more sex!
We’d imagine that you’ve talked to some of your colleagues in the industry, telling them “Hey, guess where I’m headed…” Will we be seeing any familiar names — familiar in the comics industry, but new to Heavy Metal — in the magazine?
Surprisingly, I’ve only mentioned it to one or two people so far. Now that the announcement is out there, I’ll be getting in touch with some friends. I definitely want to see more Chris Burnham in there, and Frazer Irving would be a natural.
Finally, will we see any stories written by Grant Morrison in Heavy Metal?
Yes! Comic strips and probably some kind of feature writing too.