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Heavy Metal Publishing wants you to know it’s still rocking post-pandemic

The publisher of the legendary comics magazine has plenty of plans for the future

Characters from Fishkill on a wraparound cover. Image: Ben Templesmith/Heavy Metal

Since its voyage from France to American audiences in 1977, Heavy Metal magazine has established itself as a pusher of boundaries. Luckily for old readers and new, the Heavy Metal Publishing panel Friday evening at the 2021 San Diego Comic-Con assured fans that despite a CEO changeup and pandemic recovery in progress, readers can expect the same level hype and greatness as they always have.

Moderator Leah Palmieri, kicked things off by asking Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney how this year has affected him and the work of those on the Heavy Metal team.

“I took over right before the pandemic started. It was a pretty wild time and working through it and meeting all of these people was crazy. It was a very crazy, very cool time” said Medney “We banded together around the idea of storytelling and how to get through this unprecedented time through a love of art. It looks like the pandemic is in the rear view mirror […] I feel like it’s a bright future.”

Alongside Medney, the panel featured Fishkill and Brooklyn Gladiator writer Dan Fogler; Starward writer Steve Orlando; and writer-producer and heir to the Romero “Dead” franchise, George C. Romero — all of whom were keen to agree with Medney’s enthusiasm for ongoing and upcoming projects within the Heavy Metal family despite the pandemic-driven setbacks.

“I am a very proud papa with this book,” beamed Fogler, holding up a copy of Fishkill, his neo-noir comic with artist Ben Templesmith. “I’ve been a fan of Ben Templesmith for a long time and he really rose to the occasion. Moon Lake was my first book, which was a big homage to the Heavy Metal movie [...] and volume 3 is actually coming this October. Romero is actually contributing to that as well! It’s pretty cool”

Romero, whose career is no stranger to bizarre sci-fi concepts and feats of heroism, chimed in to not only boast his excitement on contributing to Fogler’s endeavors, but continuing to tell his father’s stories with The Rise, a prequel comic to Night of the Living Dead, and the stories of those who would otherwise not have a space to tell them in Cold Dead War — his horror-war series spanning the past, present, and future:

“It’s been amazing. When [The Rise] first came out it sold out almost instantly and we did a second printing. It’s just surreal. It’s been more humbling than anything. I can’t imagine a more perfect home for The Rise. Every single person on the team has their fingerprints on it. It’s been a real pleasure.”

Palmieri also drove the conversation to one of the newer aspects of the Heavy Metal family by asking Starward writer Steve Orlando about the process of taking a YA concept with young women and giving it the edge that Heavy Metal is so often noted for.

“It’s about threading the needle. We wanted to do a book that was one part Sailor Moon, one part 300, one part Wonder Woman — which was pertinent to my life since I had just come off of writing the main Wonder Woman title with DC Comics — but I wanted to do a story that didn’t have boundaries this time,” said Orlando.

Female characters in outlandish colorcoded costumes circle around a sick-looking alien man in art from Starward. Image: Steve Orlando, Ivan Shavrin/Heavy Metal

“[Starward] became about pushing boundaries in the way Heavy Metal has always been known for […] while pushing into a new genre. We just let the characters be young adults. The main character Stefanie’s life is based on my own life, and not just my background of being Jewish but working an abysmal summer job and wanting any way out. It was a meditation on those years of spending months of your life in the summer balancing the malaise and expectations from adults with something fantastic. And it was something fantastic that I couldn’t do with a character like Wonder Woman who has lunch boxes and high-tops and all of these other things that are part of the deal. I wanted to set my own deal.”

While no projects were announced on Friday’s panel, the creators were overjoyed to promote their previously announced projects, including Orlando’s Halloween Takeover with a massive cast of larger than life characters, including the much-beloved Boulet Brothers.

“The Boulet Brothers are the perfect team up with Heavy Metal. In the world of drag they’re the subversives; they’re the truth-talkers,” Orlando said. “Their credo is “‘drag filth, horror, and glamour.’ All of those things are things we offer up in Heavy Metal every month, so it just seemed like the perfect fit. This is going to be icons working with Heavy Metal with a lineup that is just out of this world. Katya Zomolodichkova, Alaska 5000, Evie Oddly, Excel Carolyn, Dan Hausen, and Steve Fox. It’s going to be a murder’s row — every pun intended.”