Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"It's Your One-Way Ticket to Midnight..."

I loved Heavy Metal Magazine when I was little. Really, really loved it.

It was the early 80s. The radio was filled with the likes of Sammy Hagar, Blue Oyster Cult, and Pat Benetar. I was in an awkward post-Star Wars, post-Dr. Who stage at about age 10 or 11, and I started picking up the copies of magazines that my stepfather--an avid reader whose match in sheer volume of yearly book consumptions I am yet to see--left laying around. National Lampoon, Discover, and Heavy Metal were my favorites. Between those three magazines, my mind was expanded, my horizons set farther, my childhood stuffed into a pipe and smoked like so much hash.

If, in your mind, you just calculated the equation of "10 year old" + "National Lampoon Drug Jokes" + "Heavy Metal Cartoon Boobies" = "Parenting Fail", you need to chill. This was the early 80s. Life was different, people seemed to have a firmer grasp on reality vs fantasy. My parents were progressive and pragmatic enough to realize that me reading jokes about smoking pot and seeing cartoons of alien women with 48FF knockers wasn't going to turn me into a pervert or a junkie. I'm only 36, but I seem to be OK so far.

When I first discovered HM, I was hooked. I think it was Rock Opera that first pulled me in, but over time, they introduced some really great stories and fantastic artwork. Boris Vallejo, whose airbrushed fantasy works are recognized worldwide, appeared in just about every issue, and he illustrated some really fun stories in addition to his artwork layouts (although for the life of me I can't remember any names). HR Giger did some work for them, too, off and on, as did R Crumb.

One of my favorites (at least that I remember, there were so many stories that only lasted a month or two) was RanXerox, the story of a buff, taxi-driving, ghetto-bound cyborg-punk and his 14 year old girlfriend. The artwork was incredible, and the storylines were hard-edged, gritty, and brutal. Like Sin City meets Blade Runner, but throw in a lot more blood, drugs, and sex. A lot more.

Another was Texarcana. From what I remember, it was the unfurling story of a witch, a cattle rustler, and two beings from another dimension--one who looks like a chicken-lizard man, and one that is a cross between Grimace from McDonalds and a mushroom. I was really hooked on Texarcana, and waiting for my stepfather to finish reading the latest copy of HM so I could get my mits on it would drive me crazy.

Once I got hooked into the storylines, I started doing jobs around the house to earn enough money to buy the backissues. At one point I think I had every single issue from 1977 to 1988; I tore off all of the covers and cut out the best artwork, and covered every single wall (and ceiling) in my bedroom. That was about the time my hormones shifted, and my attentions turned from comics to...well, the things that teenagers occupy themselves with. The HM art came down, and I haven't read it since.

HM was on my mind today because I saw some random R Crumb picture, and a quick Google chase led me to find that the entire run of Texarcana is online. Check it out...it's a cool and weird story, and I look forward to reading it again, now, what, twenty-three years later?

I guess part of it is just being a kid with little else to worry about, but I do miss the anticipation of waiting for the next issue, the excitement of opening each magazine for the first time, the countless hours spent reading and re-reading each story, studying the fine lines of the artwork. It's honestly one of the few things about childhood that I miss.


Aaron Polson said...

Of course I immediately clicked the link and checked out Texarcana last night. I loved HM, too.

Cate Gardner said...

I used to love my comics as a kid, unfortunately they were more of the Whoopee/Whizzer/Beano variety.

katey said...

Oh man, that looks awesome!

I agree with you about people needing to chill, by the way. This weird protectiveness and assuming kids are dumb is exactly what causes them to be so unable to know the difference between fantasy and reality nowadays, I figure :/

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Different world, definitely...I feel like I'd be setting myself up for a felony if I let my kids read the Freak Brothers or Mr The Toad these days...