Heavy Metal

By | Friday, April 07, 2006 Leave a Comment
As I was working on my blog yesterday, I recalled the importance of Heavy Metal in American comics history. It really brought intelligent, adult themes into the comic medium here in the States and gave it an "official" air that wasn't generally present in underground books. I suppose Heavy Metal wasn't so important in and of itself, but it really was a type of hallmark for what was happening to the industry. It was no longer just muscle-bound heroes in tights; it was whatever story you felt needed to be told, just in a different medium.

I don't recall how/when I discovered Heavy Metal for the first time. I know my father had a collection of them that he kept on the top shelf of one of the basement bookcases, right next to his collection of National Lampoon, so I'm sure I was at least a teenager before I was tall enough to even reach them. I seem to recall pulling some down at one point, and flipping through to see what it was, only to put it back uninterested because, I suspect, it didn't have any characters I recognized. I also suspect I happened to pull down an issue or two that contained no nudity either. I know Dad's collection of National Lampoon was far more interesting to me earlier on because it occassionally had pictures of naked women.

In any event, I don't think I paid Heavy Metal any more attention until I saw the movie... which must have been in my late teens sometime. I think my father picked up a copy of it at some point, and I must have watched it unsupervised late at night. I seem to recall thinking, in my feverishly pubescent brain, that if the cartoon featured sex as much as it did, there must be some in the magazine as well. Sure enough, going back to the magazines, I found plenty of sex and sexual situations that I must have completely missed in my earlier examination.

There was definitely something more carnal about my interest in Heavy Metal when I first discovered it. It was a time when I equated "adult themes" with "sex" and any of the social commentaries and/or sub-texts were totally lost on me. That was the magazine that had drawings of naked women having sex. In some cases (notably Paolo Serpieri's Druuna) mind-bogglingly gorgeous illustrations of naked women having sex.

In the decade and a half or so since then, I've gone back and actually read some of those stories. And, yes, I'd have to say that some of them are strictly (or largely, at any rate) done as erotic pieces. Some were done to really study the human form. And some were wicked social statements and political observances. I think the editors were keenly aware that of the range of material that was getting put into the book, and I suspect that they tailored many of the issues so that there wasn't too much sex in any one issue. And there wasn't too much drugs. And there wasn't too much violence. All in all, it was an excellent magazine with a little something for everyone... provided you could get past the parts that disinterested you.
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