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Heavy Metal magazine: Grant Morrison's debut issue revealed

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Heavy Metal is the title of a legendary sci-fi and fantasy comic magazine for adults … and perhaps precocious teens interested in more daring material, or who consider Wonder Woman a tad underdressed. It could also be used as a term to describe the sensibility of so much comic-book pop these days, particularly as it skews toward anti-heroes, irreverence and iconoclasm, and R-rated edge and aesthetic. So far, 2016 has been a bit of a crude and bruising head-banger’s ball. See: Deadpool, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Negan on The Walking Dead.

If you’re looking for more imagination and diversity from this allegedly mature perspective — like, say, a story about insect erotica — you might want to investigate the medium of comics itself. This year has already given us Patience, a fine new graphic novel from Daniel Clowes. This week sees the release of Marvel’s Black Panther, written by acclaimed journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates. And on April 27, Heavy Metal itself will meet the moment with its first issue from its new editor-in-chief, celebrated comic book author Grant Morrison.

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The Scottish scribe was recruited to the brand last summer by Jeff Krelitz, co-CEO of Heavy Metal, and Kevin Eastman, the magazine’s publisher (and a comics legend himself, having co-created Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Now, we bring you an exclusive first look at Morrison’s debut, a 140-page effort that includes seven comic stories from an international group of artists. We’ll begin with the three different covers created for the issue. We’ll conclude a look at Morrison’s own contribution to the collection, as well some insight on what fans of the venerable magazine can expect in subsequent issues. And in the space between: insect erotica.   

NEXT: Heavy Metal’s three different covers

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Heavy Metal #280 has three different covers:

“Gringod” by contemporary Pop Art painter Ron English

“Victory of the Dravenites” by Mozchops, a British conceptual painter and illustrator who’ll be responsible for the insect erotica coming up here pretty quick.

“Botanica No. 23” by Gail Potocki, a Symbolist painter whose work will also be featured in the magazine’s “Gallery” section, curated this issue by musician and art historian Tom Negovan.

NEXT: The 49th Key

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Not everything in Morrison’s first issue is “out with the old, in the with the new.” He’s keeping two ongoing serials, including Julia and Roem by French comics master Enki Bilal. Writes Morrison in his editor’s letter to readers: “Heavy Metal without the legendary Enki Bilal is like Tom without his Jerry, Laurel minus Hardy. Or salsa with no chips, so that’s NEVER going to happen.”

Also ongoing is The 49th Key by Erika Lewis, J.K. Woodward and Deron Bennetz:

“A twisty conspiracy epic,” writes Morrison, “The 49th Key… has been one of my favorite Heavy Metal serials since it started. If you’re coming in fresh, don’t expect me to fill you in on what’s been happening. We’ve got the Internet for that now.” (Note: Actor John Barrowman of Arrow and Torchwood fame is reportedly developing a mini-series adaptation of this serial.)

As for the short stories …

NEXT: “Lepidoteran,” “A Mind Bomb,” “The Key”

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“In most cases I’m unfamiliar with the work of the artists assembled between these covers,” writes Morrison, “but I liked the cut of their collective jib and thought they came closest to exemplifying the Heavy Metal spirit as I understand it. If they ain’t already, I hope they all become superstars, rocket men, and even leopard messiahs.”

From “Lepidoteran” by Emilio Balcarce and Gaston Vivanco.

From “A Mind Bomb” by Danish artist Anna Kornum. Morrison describes the story as “Raymond Briggs-y A-bomb paranoia.”

From “The Key” (“a hippy trippy mushroom headmelt,” writes Morrison) by Max Frezzato.

NEXT: “Time Served”

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From “Time Served” by Kyle Charles and Michael Moreci.

NEXT: “Magic Words”

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From “Magic Words” by Eric Esquivel.

NEXT: Salsa Invetebrexa (Read: Insect erotica) 

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Here you go! “Deliriously vivacious insect erotica,” writes Morrison of this story, an excerpt from Mozchops’ 2011 graphic novel Salsa Invertebrexa.

NEXT: “Artist Studio”

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The usual “Artist Studio” feature presents the work of Mimi Scholz, a Berlin-based artist whose work focuses on Feminism and sexuality.

NEXT: “Beachhead”

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Morrison has contributed a story himself, “an old school sci-fi twist-ender” entitled “Beachhead” drawn by Benjamin Marra, whim Morrison describes as a “grand guignol genius.” He might have provided more material, says Krelitz, but “we kept his own content light in his inaugural issue so he could focus on his editorial choices.” Writes Morrison: “Upcoming from me and my art collaborators are tales of randy starship crews in a non-dystopian future, anthropomorphic cat detectives with PTSD caught up in quantum-Satanic nightmares, a cut-up collaboration between David Bowie and William Burroughs, and a whole s— ton more.”

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