Atomahawk #0 (Image Comics)
You know Heavy Metal Magazine, right?
Back before older conservatives could blame video games or smartphones for their kids not being what they wanted them to be, they blamed comics. This resulted in the creation of the Comics Code Authority and Marvel and DC Comics veering more towards a PG rating for decades. Some publications – notably Mad, Cracked, and Eerie, turned black and white and re-billed themselves as magazines, to greater or lesser success.
As the Comics Code Authority began to lose power, companies like Dark Horse Comics rose up to tackle mature stories. Marvel and DC both flirted with mature storytelling of their own, but they tended to veer away from anything too graphic. Dark Horse, likewise, kept from going too far from the fold, while Mad and Cracked turned to parody and politics. Only Eerie kept to the base statement of horror, standing alone until 1977.
That’s the year that Heavy Metal Magazine started bucking every trend.
They did high brow science fiction, absurd fantasy, vicious satire, all with an undercurrent of sexuality that was verboten pretty much everywhere else. They published serialized comic stories from wherever they could get them, aiming for weird quality and a feel steeped in metal music aesthetic. It was awesome and hard not to get hooked by this weird mix of, well, everything.
Understand, there was nothing else like this: they did psychologically driven smut and paired it with an illustrated version of Paradise Lost, mingled artists like Walt Simonson and H.R. Giger and Milo Manara.
Since then they’ve done movies, video games, and helped produce collected versions of the best serials to come out of their magazine – small runs that didn’t get near the attention that they deserved.
That is about to change.
Image Comics is collecting and releasing high-quality prints of Atomahawk, the story of a space barbarian named Cyberzerker who happens to have an atomic-powered tomahawk because the world needed that story told at that time and writer Donny Cates delivered. Cyberzerker is on a quest to free his imprisoned god from forces known and unknown and the whole thing feels like Jack Kirby ripped himself from the grave and moved through Donny’s mind like a screaming vortex of what.
Such insanity needs a high-end artist to try and capture the mania and madness, and Ian Bederman was tasked with doing the deed and he succeeded. The whole thing feels and reads like a favor dream, a prayer to some ancient and forgotten thing that cannot be reasoned with and cannot be put down – it must be devoured whole.
If you want to see what unbridled imagination looks like, this is what you need. What you crave. What you must possess. Here’s hoping Image keeps going with this because there are some collected stories from Heavy Metal that I would kill to get my hands on.