A Digital Archive of Heavy Metal, the Influential “Adult Fantasy Magazine” That Featured the Art of Moebius, H.R. Giger & More

In mak­ing a time cap­sule of the late 20th cen­tu­ry, one would be remiss if they did not include at least an issue or two of Heavy Met­al mag­a­zine. Yes, it spe­cial­ized in unapolo­get­i­cal­ly turn­ing women in met­al bras into sex objects. The glee­ful amount of T&A on its cov­ers, sur­round­ed by space­ships, swords, and sor­cery, mark it as a rel­ic of its era that appealed to a spe­cif­ic demo­graph­ic. But Heavy Met­al was much more than sexy sci-fi mas­cots drawn in lurid pulpy styles. Along with its share of erot­i­ca, the “adult illus­trat­ed fan­ta­sy mag­a­zine” pro­vid­ed a vivid show­case for some of the most inter­est­ing artists and sto­ry­tellers work­ing in the main­stream and in var­i­ous sub­gen­res of fan­ta­sy and sci-fi. (It con­tin­ues to do so.)

Debut­ing in 1977, the year of the first Star Wars film, Heavy Met­al was not named after the brand of gui­tar rock pio­neered by Led Zep­pelin and Black Sab­bath, though there’s an obvi­ous influ­ence, but after a French mag­a­zine that start­ed two years ear­li­er called Métal hurlant, or lit­er­al­ly “Howl­ing Met­al.” (We’ve fea­tured it here on OC before.) When pub­lish­er Leonard Mogel decid­ed to adapt the orig­i­nal for an Amer­i­can read­er­ship, he changed the name, but kept the con­tent, repub­lish­ing work by Jean Giraud—the artist bet­ter known as Moebius—and many oth­er accom­plished Euro­pean illus­tra­tors.

Found­ed and staffed by the cre­ators of Nation­al Lam­poon, the mag­a­zine lat­er fea­tured orig­i­nal work from artists like H.R. Giger, inter­views with Den­nis Hop­per, John Waters, Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la, John Car­pen­ter, Roger Cor­man, and even Fed­eri­co Felli­ni; and with musi­cians like the Eury­th­mics and Deb­bie Har­ry. It ran pop­u­lar seri­al­ized sto­ries, show­cased graph­ic lit­er­ary adap­ta­tions (of Par­adise Lost, for exam­ple), and pub­lished authors like Ray Brad­bury, Stephen King, and oth­er heav­ies. Rock, comics, film, and fic­tion all got their due in between the magazine’s extrav­a­gant pin­up cov­ers, many of which inspired the art paint­ed on the side of many a car­pet­ed van in the 70s.

You can see a siz­able col­lec­tion of scanned Heavy Met­al mag­a­zines, from the first, 1977 issue to the mid-90s, at the Inter­net Archive. Part of Archive.org’s exten­sive “Mag­a­zine Rack,” a dig­i­tal library of thou­sands of scanned peri­od­i­cals, the Heavy Met­al col­lec­tion was launched in 2012 by archivist Jason Scott. Though it doesn’t con­tain the magazine’s com­plete run by any means, it offers a broad enough sam­pling of all of its major themes and ten­den­cies.

Heavy Met­al’s inter­ests are very focused, one might say, but the few things the mag­a­zine does, and has done since 1977, it has done excep­tion­al­ly well. Enter the archive here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Métal hurlant: The Huge­ly Influ­en­tial French Com­ic Mag­a­zine That Put Moe­bius on the Map & Changed Sci-Fi For­ev­er

Dis­cov­er the First Hor­ror & Fan­ta­sy Mag­a­zine, Der Orchideen­garten, and Its Bizarre Art­work (1919–1921)

Under­ground Car­toon­ist Robert Crumb Cre­ates an Illus­trat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Franz Kafka’s Life and Work

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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