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Heavy Metal, which is about to celebrate the release of its landmark 300th issue in July, has announced it's teaming up with Montana-based Vault Comics to enable fans of both publishing houses to discover new creators and new high-octane sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories.
As part of this strategic alliance, Heavy Metal released today a selection of Vault's "Greatest Hits" for sale via its online shop. The first wave of bestsellers will include Vault fan favorites Heathen, Money Shot, The Plot, These Savage Shores, and Wasted Space, among others, all of which will sport exclusive new cover designs.
In the coming months, the offerings will expand to include packaging of new #1 titles from Vault that will showcase not only unique dress treatments and cover art but an entire line of select Vault comics in a serialized compendium-style book format.
But that's not all. The famed illustrated genre magazine is unveiling a novel collectible trading card cover series that's the brainchild of Vault's "sorcerer of design," Tim Daniel, who used to be Heavy Metal's editor in charge of production. Collectors will also be able to purchase an assortment of merch created in a partnership with Threadless.
"I think certainly when we talk about the aesthetic curatorial history of Heavy Metal, the kind of stories Heavy Metal has brought to market in the past, they align really well with the kind of stories Vault has brought to market," Vault CEO and Publisher Damian Wassel told SYFY WIRE.
For Heavy Metal CEO Matthew Medney, a little commercial synergy made sense if the comic book business is to survive and thrive during the coronavirus pandemic. With brick and mortar retailers— including comic book stores — shut down the past three months in order to halt the disease's spread and the months ahead still uncertain, HM's distribution model was uniquely primed to serve the needs of comic book lovers without them having to leave the comfort of their home.
"The impetus at the beginning was coronavirus," Medney says. "Everybody is closed, but we still have this soup to nuts supply chain to be able to get printed books to peoples' doors. And initially, it was like 'Hey, let's reach out to friends and publishers and see if we can lend a hand'... because we didn't know what was gonna happen, right?"
The family-run Vault, which was founded in 2016 and publishes original and creator-owned work, sparked to the idea given the initial overlap between the two brands, their designers, and their audience.
"What I saw from my perspective was a chance not only to get the actual physical product in peoples' hands at a time when that's difficult," Vault Editor-in-Chief (and Damian's brother) Adrian Wassel says, "but get it to a fan base that knows and trusts the Heavy Metal brand, and build that kind of crossover audience where we can steer a Vault loyalist to Heavy Metal and Heavy Metal can open this door for so many of our creators on the creator-owned side."
Case in point: The deal will point Vault fans toward HM originals like the forthcoming Sun Eater from author Dylan Sprouse and illustrator Diego Yapur, due out in August. Not to mention it will expose Vault creators to a Heavy Metal readership that's long appreciated the magazine's spotlight on international artists — like the late French master, Jean "Moebius" Geraud (The Incal).
In a similar vein, Vault's stable features These Savage Shores from UK-based writer Ram V and India-based illustrator Sumit Kumar, whose work draws on Hindu mythology and history. These Savage Shores is an 18th-century tale of Silk Road terror that follows a London vampire who sails aboard an East India Company ship seeking a new home for himself along the Indus, which is plagued by demons and monsters who don't take too kindly to colonial invaders.
Or take Heathen, by artist Natasha Alterici, which follows Aydis, a Viking warrior and outcast who battles all sorts of horrors and fantastic fiends on her mission to end the oppressive reign of the god-king Odin (no doubt, Taarna would approve).
Heavy Metal's Medney says the collaboration will eventually hit retail comic book shops as soon as his team gets a better look at how the post-COVID-19 landscape shapes up. But HM's online store is where most of the genre mag's business happens in any case. And that's what makes this partnership so beneficial for both publishers — and why readers can expect a more fruitful relationship to come.
"From our side, we see this as the start of a long-standing journey of being able to cross-pollinate and lift each other up," he says.
And a lift is certainly what comic book fans could use right now.