In 2014, Jeff Krelitz and David Boxenbaum purchased sci-fi/fantasy magazine "Heavy Metal" from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" co-creator Kevin Eastman, who had owned the iconic brand since 1992. The duo quickly went to work to use the banner to branch out beyond comics, with an upcoming animated series based on Kurtis Wiebe's "Rat Queens" and more in development, and an end goal that is nothing less than a series of films that will intersect in an epic "Heavy Metal" movie.
"Heavy Metal" magazine debuted in 1977 and still publishes bimonthly, with #273 arriving this month. The sci-fi/fantasy anthology has been home to numerous of the comic book masters over the years, with names like Moebius, Richard Corben, Walter Simonson, Simon Bisley and more finding the environment conducive to their unique skills. In 1981, the magazine inspired the subversive cult animated film "Heavy Metal," and, 19 years later, its less well-received follow-up "Heavy Metal 2000."
In an in-depth and candid discussion with CBR News, joint CEOs Krelitz and Boxenbaum discuss Kevin Eastman's role in the company post-sale, the current status of the "Rat Queens" animated project and what the future has in store for the magazine. The pair also laid out their plans to turn the Heavy Metal brand into an all-media juggernaut in the coming years, "building a series of seemingly independent character movies that will intersect in the first 'Heavy Metal' movie."
CBR News: David and Jeff, last year, you became the owners and joint CEOs of Heavy Metal. What are your plans for the future of this iconic property?
Jeff Krelitz: "Heavy Metal" has been the premiere portal for the world's best comics, sci-fi, fantasy and horror. We're taking that brand and expanding it out into all media. If it's the best horror, the best sci-fi or the best fantasy, it should be branded "Heavy Metal." That includes comics, music and art.
David Boxenbaum: Taking the attitude and sense of what "Heavy Metal" is about and bringing it to other media and other art forms. Bringing it into the 21st century. We're taking a great brand, and launching it into the future.
Krelitz: The classic anthology [magazine] will continue on as it is. We're looking towards amping it up quite a bit more. Adding more content and making it a bit beefier. "Heavy Metal" is the fourth-oldest comics publisher in the US behind DC, Marvel and Archie, so to us it seems like an obvious choice to do more traditional comics. "Heavy Metal" was always known for something a little edgier, a little wilder, and a little more provocative. We're trying to complete the circle on that. It's had the anthology platform for so long - now we want it to move to every other medium, from dot com to film and TV.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" co-creator Kevin Eastman famously purchased "Heavy Metal" in 1992. How did you come to take the reins from him?
Krelitz: It wasn't that complicated. Dave and I had talked about doing something together, then I was at a dinner with Kevin Eastman and we started talking about the potential of "Heavy Metal." It happened to be Grammy's weekend and it just struck me, why are we not getting in on this? It has been a lifelong dream of mine to be part of "Heavy Metal," so when I realized there was an opportunity for us to get involved, I called Dave and said this was the one we could do something with, because it has all our favorite things in one place. So we gave Kevin a presentation of what we believed the brand could be, and he loved it. We did the deal, and we've been moving rapidly since.
Boxenbaum: To me, "Heavy Metal" wasn't as much a comic as it was a cultural experience. I think the movie is what really captured me. I'm just a really big music fan. I saw the "Heavy Metal" movie for the first time when I was 12. I thought animation was "Tom and Jerry" and "Disney," but when I saw the "Heavy Metal" movie, it showed a crossroads between music and animation and adult content. It was mind-altering. Over the years, I kinda lost touch with it, but as I got to know Jeff, we started talking about it. He told me there might be an opportunity to buy it, and so we met with Kevin. We had a really good rapport and started talking about "Heavy Metal," not just as a magazine, but also as a brand and as a media company. Taking what "Heavy Metal" is about and not just doing more publishing, but film, TV and also music, which is where my background lies. Before MTV was really a thing, you could argue "Heavy Metal" was one of the forerunners of what became music video content.
Eastman has remained on as publisher of the "Heavy Metal" magazine. Can you tell us what his role entails?
Krelitz: There's two people at the magazine. There's Dan Berger, who's the editor, and Kevin, who's the publisher. Dan collects and assembles all the content that's submitted and then Kevin does final selection of the magazine's editorial.
So there'll be no disruption to the magazine's editorial team at all?
Krelitz: No. If anything, "Heavy Metal" itself will get bigger.
Boxenbaum: We are really getting "Heavy Metal" back to its roots as a magazine with a variety of great art and great creators making cutting-edge content, but also being a vehicle of discovery for new artists who are doing new, interesting, different ideas from more established creators.
Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley's "Hoax Hunters," which established itself at Image Comics, is going to be "Heavy Metal's" first traditional comic series. Why go with an existing title instead of launching this new venture with a new property?
Krelitz: Mike Moreci and Steve Seeley are two guys that I've had a very close relationship with. My previous company had the options to turn "Hoax Hunters" into a movie, so we decided to bring it to "Heavy Metal," as well. It seemed like we were doing so much with it, we thought why not bring it to "Heavy Metal" and we'll make it the premiere first issue of the comics line. At the time, Mike [Moreci] was just on the precipice of blowing up as a writer with things like "Cursed." This will definitely not be the last book we do with Mike. "Hoax Hunters" #1 will come out close to the end of March.
And what can you tell us about the "Hoax Hunters" movie that's in the works?
Krelitz: We have a writer attached. We're working out the story right now, and it'll be very similar to the story in the comics.
What can you tell us about the animated project based on Image Comics' "Rat Queens?"
Krelitz: "Rat Queens" is developing with Pukeko Pictures, which is Richard Taylor's television arm of Weta. We're looking to do it as a very irreverent, "Archer"-type show. I just met with an animation studio, and there's one that's interested in doing it. It's really gotta be Kurtis Weibe's "Rat Queens." His voice has been very powerful with the fans -- I think it struck a chord with people.
Fans have been clamoring for a new "Heavy Metal" movie for years, and Kevin Eastman even had a film in the works with Robert Rodriguez for some years. What are the current plans for a full-length "Heavy Metal" movie?
Krelitz: The way it had been approached before was to use an amazing array of talented filmmakers who are fans of the brand. It had always been presented as doing another R-rated animated movie.
The original "Heavy Metal" movie is one of my touchstones as a kid. Growing up, we were always traveling through Europe, so I grew up on Moebius and Jodorowsky. Those were my gods: Moebius, [Jack] Kirby and Jodorowsky. Those were my three guys as a kid. Ultimately, I found Marvel in "Secret Wars" #4, which was my first American comic. I was very used to foreign comics. I didn't actually see a "Heavy Metal" magazine until a few years after the movie came out. When you go back now, the rotoscoped animation sort of adds to why it was so kitschy and fun. It was mind-blowing, provocative and cool. So when we think of "Heavy Metal" as a film franchise now, it's something that really needs to be both challenging and mind-blowing. It needs to be a true visceral experience. When I walked out of "The Matrix," it was like the whole world was different.
So when we talk about doing a "Heavy Metal" movie, it can't be something that's mediocre. Beyond that, the way we're looking at it is building a series of seemingly independent character movies that will intersect in the first "Heavy Metal" movie.
So the "Heavy Metal" movie franchise will be "Marvel's Avengers"-style with different franchises coming together?
Krelitz: No, I think Marvel has really depended on a couple things. The way Marvel was structured it was kinda already there with the comic books. They took what they were running in the comic books and made a film adaptation. What we're doing is, this year, we're going to be creating our own "Heavy Metal" universe with its collection of characters, some of which will make it on to big and small screens, and some of which were intended directly for the comics market.
How close are we to seeing this huge "Heavy Metal" movie?
Krelitz: An actual "Heavy Metal" movie? Not like a branded "Heavy Metal" movie? That's going to be several years off. Movies that are going to be under the Heavy Metal brand, like "Heavy Metal Presents?" Not very long. "Ninja Turtles" was the first thing that carried the Heavy Metal brand last summer. The first shows ["Red Brick Road" and "Peter Panzerfaust"] are being shot this summer.