Legendary Italian artist Milo Manara has a niece that works as a nurse, an essential worker. She’s in the trenches, right smack in the middle of one of Europe’s most worrying Coronavirus hotzones: Italy. Manara, inspired by the work his niece and every other essential worker takes on daily despite the risk of infection, has taken to pen, paper, and ink to recognize the degree of heroism each one represents in a series of illustrations dedicated to them.
Fans of Manara expect erotic and sensual explorations of female beauty, the politics of sex, and even the more deceitful aspects of sex as a means of control (see his work on The Borgias, co-created with Alejandro Jodorowsky). For his COVID-19 Heroes illustrations, Manara reins in the eroticism to focus entirely on showing his gratitude to the women who brave the virus to fulfill essential duties.
Manara started posting these illustrations on his Facebook and Instagram pages on March 15, starting with a piece called “It’s You Against Me, Now!” in which a nurse stares down a giant COVID-19 molecule. He captioned the post with a simple yet resounding “Grazie.”
The illustrations feel like an attempt at preserving the memory of these workers as a means to keep a visual record of the things women have put on the line to help keep the world turning. They still have the overall look and feel of the women Manara is famous for illustrating, but the purpose is to provide a visual profile that kind of speaks for itself at a mere glance. And it succeeds in every aspect.
Another valuable and important point Manara makes through this project relates to the very definition of ‘essential.’ We see nurses and teachers, but we also see vendors, women doing deliveries, supermarket cashiers, and crossing guards, all presented as equally important. It’s as if Manara’s urging us to recognize that all work is essential, regardless of its nature.
Milo Manara is currently 74 years of age, so he’s in one of the more vulnerable groups of people affected by the pandemic. According to a Heavy Metal article, he’s surviving by staying inside with the help of his daughter, who brings him groceries and supplies. In essence, this is Manara paying his debt back.
For the full gallery of Manara’s COVID-19 heroes, click here.
Time doesn’t work the same for all. As an imminent invasion looms over old Ryukyu, the high priestesses are engaged by Ryotetsu, a court official in the old kingdom. He embarks on a mission to find the one with the power to change the course of history, and discovers it’s a 17-year-old high schooler from far away.
One of the debut series from Heavy Metal‘s Virus imprint Hymn of the Teada was created by Julia Mechler, written by Morgan Rosenblum and Matthew Medney, featuring art by Santa Fung, color by Julia Pinchuck, and lettering by Voodoo Bownz.
We got a chance to talk to Julia about this brand new series and how much it’s based in reality.
Graphic Policy: Where did the concept for Hymn of the Teada come from?
Julia Mechler: The concept of the Hymn of the Teada, in many ways, comes from my upbringing and roots in Okinawa. It is a tiny island off the southern tips of Japan, which used to be a kingdom, just like Hawaii, before being annexed to Japan. Okinawa has a peculiar history and culture, which has not been conveyed well to the rest of the world. I wanted to make use of the creativity of today’s Okinawa (Japan) to convey Okinawa’s culture and history.
Right after I graduated from college I worked at an anime/video game company in California as a motion graphic designer. During that time I felt the representation of Japan from the anime was lacking in true colors of diversity in Japan. I saw many Samurais, Kendo, and other traditional mainland Japanese cultural themed anime, but none about Okinawa.
Since I practiced Okinawan traditional dance since my childhood, and loved hearing the mythologies of the Ryukyu Kingdom, I wanted the focus to be on traditional performing arts and the myths. In order to fully convey the uniqueness and the interesting side of them, I thought it will make sense to show the history of Okinawa, when it used to be the Ryukyu Kingdom. I didn’t want the story to be just about the history, so I decided the characters who are living in the current world will need to travel back in time to make it more relatable and interesting.
GP: The story is steeped in Japanese and Chinese mythology and history. How much research went into the series?
JM: I think that history and mythology is a tremendously rich resource for creativity. A lot of research was put into them as I was forming the concept. When I just moved back to Okinawa to start this project, I needed to get a job on the island. I thought, if I had to work, might as well work at a place where I can fully research the history of Okinawa. So I worked with the foundation that managed all the history/art museums and the old castle from the Ryukyu Kingdom (Shurijo Castle). There I worked with the Research team where I was able to get hands on with the ancient artifacts, scripts, scrolls, art pieces, and even saw the excavation sites where archeologists were unearthing the ancient coins and jewelries. I also spoke with history professors to get the facts correctly with the timeline of the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom.
GP:Was there anything about this time period that surprised you?
JM: Along the research, there were lots of surprises.According to the account written by Basil Hall, a captain of the Navy from the UK who visited the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 1800s, people of the Ryukyus possessed no weapons nor army. They strictly relied on diplomacy. When he reported to Napoleon, he did not believe such country could exist. In addition to that, as I read through the journal of the last king of the Ryukyu (King Sho-Tai 1843-1901), the king described in details how his court officials have warned him that the Japanese Imperial Army was going to come to the Ryukyus to take over and conquer the island. Instead of arming for defense, he ordered everybody to go to the prayer sites to pray to God. That really surprised me as it is difficult to understand the concept of being completely disarmed and choosing a path without war in such situation. As a result of him not fighting back, the lives of the Ryukyuan people were saved as the Japanese Imperial Army only had to take the king away and occupy the castle.
GP:How did the team come together for the comic?
JM: I am truly grateful for having been able to put together a truly global, diverse, and talented team thanks to this project. I have to thank Matt(CEO of HERO and Heavy Metal) for introducing me to his wonderful production team. Matt and Morgan (creator of Treadwater and CCO of HERO Projects) brought the concept I had to a beautiful script, and that became the foundation of Hymn of the Teada. The artists visualized what I had in mind beyond my expectations. The characters became alive and the Shurijo Castle which has burned down from last year’s fire was revived.
GP:The comic is one of the debut series from Heavy Metal’s Virus imprint. What drew you to Virus and how does it feel to be one of the launch titles for something that’s so new?
JM: I’m very excited to be part of the launch titles for Virus! I was drawn to this because I already know that whatever the CEO Matt does will be exciting and fun and also I liked the title of it. It turned the name “Virus” which can be so depressing with the current outbreak, to something positive and exciting. I was feeling down for the past few months as I work in the entertainment industry and all of my big projects in NY and Vegas has been postponed, but when I was told about the Virus, I thought it as a great opportunity for not just myself but for all creators.
GP:I got a bit of a Studio Ghibli vibe from reading the first two chapters. What influences were there on the story?
JM: Ghibli is always my favorite and its series have affected my creative thoughts. I love all the little creatures in Ghibli and the nostalgic feeling I get from watching Ghibli anime. I wanted to incorporate some of the elements from Ghibli such as the little Shisas in Maka’s room. In addition to that, I think it is interesting how they are able to show the social problems or political issues without describing them directly into their stories. While it is nice to be known as a popular resort destination in Asia, I wanted to shed a little light to Okinawa’s complicated history and political situation just how Ghibli does with difficult social and political issues.
GP:The story involves time travel and there’s a lot of different ways for time travel and timelines to work. Did you come up with your own? Any rules the reader should know about?
JM: During the brainstorming phase of the story, I thought about having Maka to time travel through the cave under the Shurijo Castle which was used to do religious rituals to pray and make offering to the God of the Ryukyu. After discussing with the team, we realized that the use of cave limits the location of the time traveling. Another way we came up with was using a magical stone to time travel, as many worshipping sites in Okinawa has large rock formations and stones. There is a belief that rocks or stones can emit some sort of energy. We also wanted to make it more interesting by limiting the numbers of the time travel, so Maka cannot go back and forth easily. Therefore we came up with the rule that only by breaking the stone in half you can travel in time. When you can no longer break the stone in half, you’ll no longer be able to travel in time.
GP:The art is fantastic and thedesign of the characters in the past to me feel authentic (not that I really know this history). What research went into the outfits and design of the buildings of the 1800s? Was it important to try to be accurate?
JM: I wanted to be as accurate as possible. When I worked at a foundation who managed the history museums, I was able to look at the picture scrolls, paintings, and clothing that were made during that era. The foundation also managed the castle (world heritage site) which unfortunately has burned down due to a massive fire last year. I wanted the audience to know how the castle looked like so I wanted to be as accurate as possible. Although most costumes are accurate, I made changes to the main characters’ costumes so they stand out from the rest of the characters.
GP:The real history of the region seems to be a lot of tension between China and Japan with Ryukyu caught in between. There’s still a lot of tension in the region today and I was wondering if that crossed your mind at all while creating this?
JM: The tension has definitely crossed my mind. Growing up, there were always political tensions (constant protests around the US military base, etc) on the island as it is the host to 75% of the US military bases in Japan. My father was in the US Air Force, and my mother is Okinawan. Growing up in an American Okinawan bicultural family gave me a unique perspective on the political tensions in Okinawa, which led me to study a lot about WW2, Okinawa’s history, and the relationship between Okinawa and mainland Japan. I thought Hymn of the Teada could be the “bridge” between the different cultures and countries. I wanted show how we should learn from history and think what we as individuals can do for the future, instead of repeating it. I want the readers to think what we can do for the future to solve political or social issues.
GP:The issues are coming out digitally. Did you make any changes to the series to play off of the digital aspect at all?
JM: I assumed from the beginning that this series will be distributed digitally, so I didn’t have to add any changes. I do hope to make this into an anime series someday.
GP:Any other projects coming up?
JM: Right now I’m still working on completing the Hymn of the Teada series. I’m hoping I can finish the series by next year. After Hymn of the Teada, I’m thinking of making a series completely different with amore realistic drama type of story, with the element of Okinawa in there.
We can debate the name of the new line of comics but Heavy Metal is diving into the world of creator-owned comics with a new imprint, Virus.
The first comics from the new venture launch April 29 with eight stories and new titles will arrive every Wednesday going forward.
Virus will feature comics from Ron Marz, Bob Fingerman, and many more. Four titles launching next week are The Red(by Rosenblum, Medney, Bownz, Hander, and Lam), Nomobots(by Agrimbau and Tumburus), Hymn of the Teada(by Medney, Rosenblum, Mechler, Fung, Pinchuk, and Bownz),andGarbage Factory (by Jakofire and Kim).
Heavy Metal is also positioning the imprint as unique and “revolutionary” as the compensation offered to creators is 15% of the sticker price, “whether they sell one book or 10,000.” ComiXology submit offers 50% of the net sale of a title (after they pay their mobile distributors their standard fees). If your title is sold through the comiXology website, you will receive 50% of the gross sale after credit card fees are taken out (credit card processing fees range from 1.5% to 2.9% for swiped credit cards). In the announcement they hinted they are looking to host comics from other publishers building a new digital platform.
Check out covers for those below.
Also released was artwork from Bob Fingerman’s upcoming Dotty’s Inferno.
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Proceeds that Threadless earns for each sale of these masks, up to a $100K maximum donation, is being donated to MedShare, a humanitarian aid non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of people, communities, and our planet. Heavy Metal has worked with Threadless to already raise over $100,000 for Medshare and they’re looking to bring that number up to $250,000.
MedShare sources and directly delivers surplus medical supplies and equipment to communities in need around the world. MedShare helps increase health system capacity and drives sustainability by providing biomedical equipment training and service to healthcare organizations and medical professionals serving populations in need. MedShare’s deliveries of vital medical supplies and equipment have decreased our nation’s carbon footprint and brought health, healing and the promise of better lives to 100 countries and countless patients.
Note: This mask is NOT intended for medical or healthcare workers, and should not be confused with N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment (PPE). No warranties, either express or implied, are being made that these face masks prevent infection or the transmission of viruses or diseases.
Since the 1981 Heavy Metalmovie, Taarna the Taarakian has been the avatar of all things Heavy Metal, so it’s no wonder she gets Cover A of our much anticipated 300th issue, an all-star celebration of Heavy Metal contributors past, present and future. The Heavy Metal #300 drops the week of San Diego Comic Con (July 23-26).
First-time Heavy Metal cover artist Claudia Ianniciello knocks it out of the park with her depiction of Taarna, who’s previously been painted by Chris Achilleos, Alex Ross, and numerous others.
Brendan Columbus, the son of director Chris Columbus, is making his comics debut courtesy of Heavy Metal. Along with artist Al Barrionuevo, Savage Circus is a story of a small mining town in Ohio descended upon by the most dangerous animals in the world after a train overturns and sets them loose.
The comic will debut in Heavy Metal #300 which is out this summer and continues through issues #309. It will then be collected into a graphic novel that will be out for San Diego Comic-Con 2021.
The debut marks a shift for the publisher Heavy Metal as they will increase the frequency of their magazine to a monthly release schedule from its current six times a year.
The change is part of an even bigger picture as it’s a “proof of concept” with the ultimate goal of turning Savage Circus into a film.
Columbus is the second name from Hollywood to join the Heavy Metal family recently. Actor and writer Dan Fogler will now be releasing his series through the publisher.
Dan Fogler, the acclaimed actor who plays Jacob Kowalski in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Luke on The Walking Dead, will be launching three comics titles — Fishkill, Brooklyn Gladiator, and Moon Lake— this summer with Heavy Metal.
Brooklyn Gladiator is everything Heavy Metal readers (and editors) love — a dystopian future (it’s set in 2033), an against-all-odds protagonist, robot intelligence run amok, a government up to nefarious tricks. Art is handled by Simon Bisley, who needs no introduction for Heavy Metal readers (but we’ll mention a few credits: Lobo, Slaine, Judge Dredd, Hellblazer.
Fishkill (co-written with Lawrence Blum) is classic hard-boiled gumshoe stuff, a crime comic starring Detective Bart Fishkill. It’s drawn by Ben Templesmith, the Eisner-nominated artist of series 30 Days of Night and Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse.
Moon Lake‘s first issue arrives July 15, and it’s going to be a wild ride. It’s a science-fiction/fantasy/horror anthology series set in the town of Moon Lake, near the U.S.-Canada border. Fogler’s influences for this title are the 1981 Heavy Metal movie, The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt.
Heavy Metal Entertainment has announced the release of Ranx: The Complete Collection, a 208 page omnibus featuring the entire RanXerox library.
Ranx, the Italian science fiction graphic novel series by Stefano Tamburini and Tanino Liberatore, follows a bizarre antihero, Ranx, a mechanical cyborg made from discarded photocopier parts. After an unfortunate short circuit, he becomes the victim of fabricated feelings of love for his girlfriend Lubna, a brat, who is permanently high and has an abominable temperament. In a world that is a parody of contemporary society, featuring decadence, consumption, and selfishness, Ranx lives on as the epitome of true love. He is the last “knight in shining armor”. Ranx is a colossus in a world of savages, but don’t look for hidden meaning in these epic stories: they are merely a pretext for a lethal dose of cyberpunk, gratuitous violence, and eroticism. The amazing hyper-realistic art of Liberatore may shock and disturb you.
This book features the entire RanXerox collection that was serialized in Heavy Metal Magazine from 1983-1999, “Ranx in New York”, “Happy Birthday Lubna”, “Be Bop Lubna”, “I, Me, Mine Incorporated”, “Amen” and “I, Robot”.
This collection also includes never before seen early strips, “Ranx The Thug” and “Modern Dance”. A Gallery contains covers, pin-up art and sketches.
Ranx: The Complete Collection will be hardcover book, 8.5×11 and will retail for $29.99.
Joseph Illidge, veteran editor from DC Comics’ Batman universe, is working with the publisher as Co-Managing Editor. Joseph will be working closely with Heavy Metal‘s upper management and creative team to develop new projects from the ground up, and bring his years of experience in editorial worldbuilding and globally-recognized intellectual properties to the Heavy Metal library, starting with the publisher’s upcoming 300th issue.
Heavy Metal Magazine has named David Erwin as Publisher and Chief Creative Overlord.
Formerly, David served as Hasbro’s Transformers Creative Lead on their boys’ properties including Micronauts, ROM, and more. Prior to Hasbro, he served as the Executive Creative Director of DC Comics for 16 years, building their portfolio of brands. David Erwin will now lead Heavy Metal into the new era, building on its legacy across all platforms, including TV and Film.
David is known for building major franchise brands by making them relevant to an ever-changing audience across all businesses and consumer engagements. He looks to reignite Heavy Metal brand as the leader in science fiction, fantasy and horror storytelling.
Working alongside Heavy Metal’s CEO Matt Medney, Heavy Metal will be announcing new initiatives and partnerships leading up the publishing their 300th issue.