New owners hope to turn Heavy Metal into a mult-platform brand for genre fans
The pages of Heavy Metal magazine have long held a soft spot in the hearts of Hollywood filmmakers, with the cult publication giving a voice to fans of science fiction and fantasy since the 1970s. Like every popular aging brand, however, Heavy Metal is getting a reboot, with new investors set to turn the magazine into a full-fledged entertainment banner to produce films, TV shows and other forms of content dedicated to the genre fare that made it popular nearly four decades ago.
Kevin Eastman, who has served as the sole publisher of Heavy Metal since 1991, has sold the magazine to digital and music vet David Boxenbaum and film producer Jeff Krelitz, who raised several million dollars in private equity to purchase the publication. Financial details were not disclosed.
But as part of the recent transaction, Eastman, who co-created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will continue to serve as publisher of the magazine, and is a minority investor in the new Heavy Metal. Boxenbaum and Krelitz now serve as co-CEOs of the company.
Heavy Metal’s new owners aren’t wasting any time, setting up the first projects to be released under the new banner.
Krelitz is overseeing Heavy Metal’s film, TV, IP and global publishing initiatives in the U.S., Europe and Asia, and already has brought in his TV shows “Red Brick Road,” a “Game of Thrones”-style take on “The Wizard of Oz,” that’s set up at Warner Horizon with Roy Lee, Adrian Askarieh and Mark Wolper; the Peter Pan-inspired “Peter Panzerfaust,” an adaptation of the Image comic that BBC Worldwide is developing with Elijah Wood; and a version of another Image book, “Chew,” as a direct-to-video animated film and live action series.
Meanwhile, Boxenbaum is managing Heavy Metal’s music, online, branding and digital initiatives from New York City. He previously co-founded and was chief operating officer of A&M/Octone Records and sold the record label to Universal.
The goal is to turn Heavy Metal into a more influential brand for mainstream audiences and genre fans the way Thomas Tull’s Legendary Entertainment has focused on tentpole titles that target the sci-fi, fantasy and horror audience with “Man of Steel,” Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “300″ and the upcoming “Godzilla” and “Warcraft.”
Heavy Metal already has a strong fanbase, especially in Hollywood.
First published as “an adult illustrated fantasy magazine” in 1977, Heavy Metal was seen as one of the few outlets for original science fiction and fantasy, with long-running serials written by writers like Richard Corben and Matt Howarth, while its mix of stylized erotic art took on a life of its own. “Alien”-creature designer H.R. Giger was featured on covers with Archie Goodwin’s adaptation of the film published in Heavy Metal in 1979.
In 1981, a low-budget animated film, based on the magazine’s serials was released, featuring John Candy, Eugene Levy, Harold Ramis and Ivan Reitman.
David Fincher and James Cameron had been attached to produce and direct a 10-part 3D-animated Heavy Metal film as an anthology of stories, with Zack Snyder, Gore Verbinski and Guillermo del Toro also set to direct segments. But Paramount balked at potential appeal of the project at the megaplex and ultimately passed on the pic in 2009, with Robert Rodriguez picking up the film rights to develop through his Quick Draw Studios in 2011.
Eastman wasn’t necessarily looking to sell, but was attracted to the idea of growing the brand beyond its print and digital editions into something larger.
“There are so many fans of Heavy Metal in the industry,” Krelitz said. “It was the place that inspired them to become who they are now and has the potential to be so much more,” with Heavy Metal’s new owners looking to rally creatives around the brand with their projects.
Krelitz and Boxenbaum said they want to continue to give writers, especially those working in the comicbook biz, voices through the publication, that will be revamped as both a print and online quarterly. But stories they tell could also be developed into projects for other entertainment platforms the way Krelitz has done through his Quality Transmedia banner. Krelitz also founded Contraband Films, which set up TV shows and films at Universal and New Line and published graphic novels. His Double Barrel Motion Labs also has helped studios and publishers re-purpose marketing materials for the mobile biz.
“We see the magazine as a way to test new concepts, new ideas before turning them into something else,” Krelitz said. “There are so many opportunities out there now to tell a good story.”