Heavy Metal is leaning into its efforts behind CEO Matt Medney’s push to discover new talent by launching a new comic imprint, “Virus.” Launching a new creator-owned imprint in the midst of a pandemic, while many publishers had closed up for a time, might seem like a risky move, Medney saw it as a prime opportunity. Leveraging Heavy Metal’s existing distribution channels enabled them to begin printing in late April and are shipping to comic fans directly.
Medney and writer/creator Morgan Rosenblum sat down and spoke with us via Zoom recently. Medney expressed how with the national shelter-in-place orders, there would be casualties in the retail space and that perhaps some publishers might not make it through. But they were in the unique position to be able to serve as an alternative and would have the ability to service all the fans, as well as the creators.
The team at Heavy Metal has been pulling together a collection of both new and existing talent to seed the initial titles into the platform. A key differential for the creative teams, Medney highlighted, is that rather than having to meet certain thresholds for creators to see revenue back as it typical in other creator arrangements, they receive 15% of the cover price for each book sold.
With Virus, Medney is hoping to continue to push to the forefront the elements that helped establish Heavy Metal as one of the pop-cultural touchstones spanning decades. Where the titular magazine stories and imagery continues to resonate through film, television, and art, they are hoping that the various lines being introduced through the Virus imprint will do the same.
One of the opening titles is a long-running collaborative project between Medney and Rosenblum, with art by Jon Lam, “The Red.” Set in the distant future, a nuclear world war has changed the course of history forever. A single government entity now presides over what’s left of the world, and prohibits certain content that is deemed emotionally dangerous, or “red”, in attempt to maintain order and keep society working. A collection of gifted musicians, who possess the rare ability to create red content, discover they are the key to overthrowing the totalitarian government that has taken their emotional freedoms.
We asked them about their decision to go with publishing physical comics rather than continuing the shift towards digital, and they both expressed strongly their belief that part of the comic experience is having the tangible object in hand, to be able to flip through it, and to have something that could still be on the shelves when comic stores were able to re-open.
New issues continue to be released each Wednesday, and are available via the Heavy Metal online store.