heavy metal

By RM Rhodes

The end of Heavy Metal magazine has been a very strange thing – anticipated, ongoing, but still not officially confirmed. In fact, the status may never be confirmed. The latest, most definitive inference of the magazine’s demise came from an article on the news website Bleeding Cool in late July 2023, but there has been no official comment or announcement from Heavy Metal itself. The information came entirely from its business partners.

To understand the July announcement, you have to go back to the 2022 New York Comic Con (NYCC). At that convention, Heavy Metal announced that they were ceasing publication of what they described as the first volume of the magazine, which had been published continuously since 1977. The last issue of the first volume, number 320, was scheduled for publication in late October of 2022 and the successor, Volume 2, would be published by WhatNot Publishing starting with issue 1 in February of 2023.

Ultimately, nothing went according to the plans announced at NYCC. Issue 320 was pushed to the end of December 2022 and eventually published in April 2023. The scheduled publication date for the first issue of Volume 2 was pushed back several times. On July 17th, just before the 2023 edition of San Diego Comic Con, the CEOs of Massive Publishing (publishing partner of WhatNot) announced via Bleeding Cool that they would no longer be responsible for publishing Volume 2 of Heavy Metal.

The still unscheduled Heavy Metal Vol 2 #1, with a cover by the late  Kim Jung Gi, and WhatNot logo, as first announced

At the time, most observers understood this news to mean that Heavy Metal magazine would no longer be published at all anymore, which is probably not inaccurate. A few weeks later, this news was augmented by the announcement that Kris Longo, the publisher of the magazine, was leaving the company. It’s worth noting that Longo is the CEO of Modern Fanatic, a brand management company that formerly mentioned Heavy Metal as one of their clients.

The original announcement came on Longo’s Facebook page in a friends-only post. His Twitter account also went private at the same time. The most interesting part of Longo’s announcement was his statement that “I won’t be commenting any further on any HM-related matters, and questions and gossip will be ignored and deleted.” In this, he joins a long list of former Heavy Metal staffers who have declined to provide actual details about what actually happened at the end. Plausible deniability seems to be the name of the game.

The weirdest thing about this slow trickle of bad news is that nobody from Heavy Metal itself has said anything at all, one way or another. For a company that has a well-earned reputation for self-aggrandizement and writing its own narrative to simply disappear without a trace is downright bizarre and is the saddest thing about the whole affair. To be fair, Heavy Metal stopped responding to emails and posting to social media in February 2023, so it has not been entirely unexpected for them to continue their radio silence, but you’d think they’d have an opinion.

As someone who has read the entire run of Heavy Metal and written extensively about the history of the magazine, I absolutely have an opinion about the way the whole thing seems to be ending: I’m disappointed, but not at all surprised. More than that, I have been waiting patiently for this news to come out for most of the past year – well before the WhatNot announcement at New York Comic Con, in fact.

When most people talk about Heavy Metal, they talk about the content. This makes sense – Heavy Metal was known as the platform that introduced Moebius, Enki Bilal, Phillippe Druillet, Richard Corben and a very long list of other creators to English-speaking audiences. In the earliest days, the content drove sales of the magazine. Its earliest incarnations have had an enormous cultural impact.

I have written several thousand words about where and when the first major peak of Heavy Metal ended (October 1984) and the fact that a lot of the credibility that the brand has been coasting on was generated during the years immediately prior to that issue. But let’s be honest: Heavy Metal hasn’t been a vital part of the cultural conversation for decades. Despite this, they cultivated an audience of hardcore fans who would buy anything that had the brand on it, which kept them solvent.

Unfortunately, most of the news about Heavy Metal for the past few years has been focused on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the business. There’s a very good reason for this. In 2012, issues with the business (and rumors of financial malfeasance) led Heavy Metal to close its East-coast warehouse and stop publishing for a few months. When it returned from its unscheduled hiatus, it had changed from the month/year format that it had been using to distinguish its issues since 1977 to plain old issue numbers, starting with issue 259. Part of the reason for this was to disguise the fact that Heavy Metal was no longer publishing on a regular schedule.

Heavy Metal never really recovered from this destabilizing event. Kevin Eastman, one of the creators of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, bought the magazine in 1992. In 2014, he sold the magazine (and brand) due to unprofitability. Two years after that sale, the new co-owner (along with David Boxembaum) Jeff Krelitz, appointed Grant Morrison as the Editor-in-Chief. The twelve issues that Grant Morrison produced between 2016 and 2018 were some of the best in the entire run. It was a return to great content, but apparently there was no financial return on this quality investment.


From circumstantial evidence in issue 292, it would appear that Morrison left the magazine more abruptly than was originally planned. In 2019, Krelitz sold the magazine and the new owners arrived just in time to celebrate issue 300. The CEO of this new crew was Matthew Medney, son of renowned brand manager Clifford Medney. With a degree in restaurant management and a past as a tour manager for DJ Tommie Sunshine, Medney the younger seemed like an unusual choice to run a magazine. True, he was (and still is) the owner of Hero Projects, a publisher and marketer of bespoke comic book properties, but not a single one of those properties was an ongoing periodical.

Two issues into the Medney regime, Kevin Eastman was replaced as Publisher on the masthead by David Erwin. Eastman reportedly found out about the change when he read it in the magazine – nobody had bothered to tell him. This staggering lack of basic communication set the tone for how business would be conducted. From that point until Medney’s abrupt departure in early 2023, the magazine went through the strangest period of its existence.

Medney, the new CEO, worked hard to make himself the face of the magazine. At the same time, he started writing for the magazine. Inevitably, this invited comparisons to Grant Morrison, which did not reflect well on Medney. At least one of my friends from the Heavy Metal Discord server has described this period as Medney turning Heavy Metal into a vanity project. The conclusion is debatable, but it is a fact that Medney printed a ten page extract of his novel Beyond Kuiper in issue 307, which resulted in the ten most visually boring pages in the entire 43.5K pages of the magazine.

Medney is famous for opening his editorial for issue 310 with the following sentence: “Mad & Epic Magazine, DC and Marvel’s attempts to dethrone Heavy Metal.” There were nine editors on the masthead for this issue and none of them corrected him on the fact that Mad Magazine started publication 25 years before Heavy Metal existed.

Medney also interviewed Richard Corben for issue 301. Corben was clearly having fun poking the new person from Heavy Metal. He panned the Heavy Metal movie from 1981, made fun of Heavy Metal’s irregular publishing schedule and, when Medney offered to produce a film for him, Corben responded “I didn’t know that Heavy Metal was producing movies.”

It wasn’t, but at the same time Medney was trying very hard to get something produced in film and/or television. His brand vision seemed locked on replicating the success of the 1981 movie and building an Intellectual Property empire. Unfortunately, Heavy Metal barely owned any IP beyond Taarna, the original character that was created for the 1981 movie. Accordingly, it started to build itself a portfolio. From the early 300s onward, Heavy Metal very obviously transformed into something whose target audience was Hollywood producers, not readers.

The only end result of this effort was a sizzle reel created in partnership with Range Media that premiered at San Diego in 2022. This sizzle reel contained a lot of existing footage that had been minimally doctored to make it look like someone had actually invested in their entire slate of projects. As far as I’m aware, putting together a multimedia deal is the only active effort that the current owners of Heavy Metal Entertainment (who own the rights to Heavy Metal magazine) have on their plate.

Heavy Metal 309_Cover B_Tom Jilessen

There was an attempt to normalize the publishing schedule, a commendable effort. However, their self-promotion for changing their schedule rested almost entirely on nostalgia, pointing out that they were going monthly for the first time since the 80s. (It is entirely possible that they did not know Eastman tried and failed to do this in 2003, despite the fact that the corporate office kept a complete run of the magazine on hand.) Mirroring this publishing schedule did not seem to have any appreciable impact on their bottom line.

During this period, Heavy Metal also did a lot of things that were not actually publishing a magazine: launched two comics lines – Virus and Magma Comix – with very little actual promotion, set up a podcast network with the help of DIGA, published original graphic novels, created branded pinball machines, created branded coffee, launched a large number of NFTs, tried to rebrand itself as HM+ (but was vetoed by the staff), created (and abandoned) a Discord server, and stopped fulfilling subscription and merchandise orders.

Perhaps not surprisingly, it was this last business decision that did the most to alienate the long time fans. If you visit the social media pages for Heavy Metal, you can find large comment sections full of frustrated readers who want what they’ve paid for. Heavy Metal is not accredited by their local Better Business Bureau. If nothing else, Heavy Metal should serve as an object lesson in making sure that you take merchandise fulfillment very, very seriously.

There were multiple heroic attempts to address the fulfillment issues, but there are still readers who are looking for answers. When the Discord server was created, one of the channels was called Do Better Heavy Metal and quickly filled with disgruntled customers wondering how to get ahold of customer service. The biggest point of contention remains a reprinting of Libertore’s Ranxerox comics, simply called Ranx. The presale occurred in 2019 and the book still does not exist. And, as far as I’m aware, not a single subscriber received a copy of issue 320.

Right before Krelitz sold the magazine, the cover price of issue 295 jumped from $8.95 to $9.99. Issue 301 had a cover price of $13.99, the largest jump in the history of the magazine’s cover prices. The cover price went up again as of issue 317, to $14.99. During this period, the page counts fluctuated considerably from issue to issue. The largest issue was 200 pages and the smallest issue was 128 pages. All the same price as an issue with 152 pages.

By the time New York Comic Con rolled around in 2022, the writing was on the wall. The brand had been exploited managed to within an inch of its life. Almost all credibility that it held among long-time readers who wanted their merchandise had been destroyed and the turn to NFTs alienated an entire other segment of readers. Choices were made, is what I’m saying.

The idea of canceling a long-running title and starting again with issue number 1 has been a long-discredited way for the big two comics publishers to goose their sales numbers by ostensibly offering a new way into the property. Given that Heavy Metal is an anthology magazine where every issue is theoretically a good jumping on point, this always seemed like a silly proposition.

As it turns out, the reason for changing publishers may have had more to do with negative cash flow than anything else. Heavy Metal became notorious for both not paying creators and a cavalier attitude towards reprint rights. At the same time, the only advertisements in the magazine were for Heavy Metal-related properties. It is never a good sign when nobody wants to pay to advertise in your magazine.

News came towards the end of 2022 out that Heavy Metal was having difficulty paying creators, which coincided with a solicitation for new investors for the company. The entire staff of Heavy Metal was furloughed in November 2022. In January 2023, Heavy Metal announced a new slate of officers, including Jamie Durko as the Chief Restructuring Officer and Chief Financial Officer, and Marshall Lees as CEO. Massive Publishing claims that they subsidized the printing of issue 320 in April of 2023. Which brings us to the ignominious end of the magazine’s publication history.

Like I said, the strangest thing by far about the ending of Heavy Metal is the complete lack of an official announcement. All of the information we have about the end is the lack of a publishing deal, which comes from the side that decided to call it quits. There has been complete radio silence from Heavy Metal since mid-February, barely a month after Medney was replaced by incoming CEO Marshall Lees – no response to inquiry emails, no posts on social media, no marketing emails. It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.

As a result, the demise of Heavy Metal magazine is news by way of implication, not proclamation. The reason a lot of observers find this conclusion credible is the sad state of affairs that the magazine had been reduced to by the end of 2022. This interpretation could be wrong, but there was a six month gap between issues 319 and 320 and there has been a distinct lack of marketing about anything new for months.

My full thoughts on Heavy Metal magazine run to 75,000 words, but the extremely abridged version is that I think the magazine was vital at a time and place when comics readers needed to be reminded that comics were more than just four-color corporate American superhero comics published on a monthly basis. Ultimately, the revolution in French comics that led to Metal Hurlant had a bigger cultural impact than anyone would have thought possible.

Heavy Metal taught the (possibly incorrect) lesson that ongoing anthologies could be viable. It also showed that there were other ways to make comics and different voices with more adult points of view. The content was all over the map and a lot of the visuals were absolutely beautiful. On the flip side, a lot of the writing was just not very good at all. The nicest way to put it is that Heavy Metal contained a multitude of contradictions.

It is entirely possible that Heavy Metal could surprise observers by releasing another issue, but they have no staff, no publisher, no partners, no credibility, no money and an alienated audience. It certainly feels like the end. It would be very easy for Heavy Metal to prove me wrong, but I’m inclined to agree with the majority view on this one. I feel confident in stating that the magazine has ceased publication. I just wish that the company would bother to say something to that effect.

Personally, the magazine has occupied a large portion of my attention for a very long time. I’m sad to see it go and especially sad to see it go in such a desultory manner with such a tattered reputation. The once-mighty brand has faded away after forty five years of publication, leaving a confused legacy and an incredible back catalog. That kind of reputation should be celebrated. There should be bonfires surrounded by people in trenchcoats in honor of Heavy Metal. Not a bunch of confused former customers wandering around a liminal state predicated on a terminal brand kept on life support.

But that’s exactly where we are. And honestly? It’s a very deeply unsatisfying ending.

RM Rhodes is the curator of the Heavy Metal Magazine tumblr. He lives and works in Washington, D.C.

[This story has been updated to clarify the relationship between WhatNot and Massive Publishing.]


  1. Excellent article. I’ve been talking to Matt about Heavy Metal for years (literally) and I’m reallyi glad to see his research at the Beat. While this article is about the business side of things, Matt’s blog covers the stories and is worth reading.

  2. I tried to get into recent Heavy Metal every once in a while but I found it impenetrable. Very little of the content that I was interest in was a good jumping on point but was, instead, “Part 6” or something. This in itself wasn’t a showstopper but combined with the infrequent publishing schedule, I wasn’t interested in waiting 9 months to get to that jumping on point. 2000AD is an easy point of contrast – their weekly schedule lowers that barrier considerably.

    When I did browse through an issue, I saw the familiar names of American writers which, let’s face it, is not what HM is known for. Maybe the work was good but how is it any different from what those same writers publish through others?

    Finally, if HM had figured out how to collect any of their serializations, there’s a good chance I would have bought those. Grant Morrison wrote a bunch of stuff? Great, let me buy the book of that. There’s some Enki Bilal? Nice! I would love to add that to my bookshelf.

    I’m sad to see Heavy Metal’s demise and even sadder that I won’t get that Ranx book.

  3. Richard Corben was “introduced to an English-speaking audience” by a run of stories in Warren’s Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella magazines. This is generally regarded as his best work. Ever. HM/Metal Hurlant then reproduced his Den stories that had only appeared in underground publications.

  4. I have a complete run and most of the early standalones. The drop in content quality was obvious after Morrison left, and, as stated above, began to feel like more of a vanity press project. The sudden addition of variant covers for every issue (like comics) was a huge red flag, even during Morrison’s run. I don’t know why I kept getting it. Luckily it was being pulled at a comic shop, so issue 320 did finally arrive. It looks nice on the shelf. To be honest, I’d rather it stay dead than limp along the way it was going.

  5. Great article.
    I knew it was over when the covers and interior art started to look like all the other art on the comic book shelves. It became a place for Morrison and his buddies or whoever was/is in charge of the book and made it into an Image comics magazine rather than the high end comics and illustration the magazine it was known for. There is no excuse, there are plenty of great European and South American Artists out there that could have continued HM’s legacy with high end illustrations and comics.
    I would like to also say that it probably hasn’t been the same since comics went to digital coloring. Back in the heyday of HM it was all traditional media–look at Moebius and Juan Gimenez and even Simon Bisley. They all used traditional media and the lack of that traditional media has contributed HM to losing its aesthetic and feel that we all got to know and love and wish that the magazine still had.
    I know I’m a nobody, but put me in charge of that rag. I got an eye for the HM aesthetic and could make the book great again. :D

    So much for my bucket list for making it into HM. :(

  6. I’m glad to finally discover what has happened to Heavy Metal. I subscribed from the very first issue, I only miss a couple they never sent, and I have never gotten 320. Unfortunately I sent in a renewal when they said my sub was running out, right around when they were apparently falling apart, and never got anything for it. I did get part of an order from them last winter sometime, guess I should be glad of that. I will miss Heavy Metal.

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