Heavy Metal’s VIRUS Imprint: A New Way of Bringing Comics to Readers

Heavy Metal is excited to announce Virus, a new platform for comics publishing that will bring real comics, printed on paper, to readers while paying the creators a fair price for their work.

With the COVID-19 crisis hitting the comics industry hard, freezing distribution chains and forcing shops to close their doors, now is the time for a better way to get real, new comics titles into the hands of readers. Virus takes advantage of today’s nimble, on-demand technologies, backed by the magazine’s enduring mojo as the authority in science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Nomobots, by Agrimbau and Tumburus

The compensation offered to creators is also revolutionary: 15% of the sticker price, whether they sell one book or 10,000.

“When the pandemic hit, disrupting everything and everyone, it forced us to look at how we can continue to keep the industry alive and provide fans of comicdom with the medium we all love,” Heavy Metal publisher David Erwin explained in a SyFy Wire exclusive. “Unfortunately, there will be casualties in the retail space and perhaps some publishers. But, we’re fortunate to offer an alternative and ability to service all the fans, as well as talented creators of this wonderful medium, comic books.”

The Red by Rosenblum, Medney, Bownz, Hander and Lam

Calling an imprint VIRUS in the wake of a pandemic may seem like a questionable idea, but Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney sees it through a different lens. “When a virus pulls us apart, nothing brings us closer together than great stories,” Medney explains. “And that’s what we’re trying there. We’re trying to bring people together through great stories, find the silver lining of the pandemic through genre, and that’s the message. So even though the name is kind of more on the dark side, the ethos is on the light side, and that sort of juxtaposition has always been Heavy Metal.”

“Virus was kind of birthed out of a viewpoint of the industry needing evolution,” Medney adds, “as well as us being like, ‘How do we serve the Heavy Metal fan base more, with more stories and more content?'”

The first issues from Virus will go on sale on Wednesday, April 29, and new issues will be added to the shop each Wednesday. Launch titles include The Red (by Rosenblum, Medney, Bownz, Hander and Lam), Nomobots (by Agrimbau and Tumburus), Hymn of the Teada (by Medney, Rosenblum, Mechler, Fung, Pinchuk and Bownz) and Garbage Factory (by Jakofire and Kim). Bob Fingerman’s upcoming book, Dotty’s Inferno, will also be published through Virus.

Hymn of the Teada by Medney, Rosenblum, Mechler, Fung, Pinchuk and Bownz

“I think Virus is going to be a major player in the comic book space,” writer Morgan Rosenblum, who’s behind two of the imprint’s launch titles, told SyFy Wire. “Heavy Metal already has a loyal and tuned-in fan base, and with Matt and his team at Heavy Metal‘s collective brain trust running the ship, I know they have a great eye for finding amazing stories.”

Garbage Factory by Jakofire and Kim

The “eye” is all-important — Virus is more than a platform, it’s an extension of Heavy Metal magazine. Medney, Erwin and Heavy Metal’s editorial staff of Tim Seeley, Joseph Illidge, RG Llarena and Frank Forte review submissions and decide what Virus publishes. Many companies have been publishing creator-owned work for years — the key difference here is that Virus all but eliminates the financial risk that publishers and creators have had to shoulder.

“There’s even more of a need to connect, to reach out and tell stories to each other,”says creator Ron Marz (Batman/Aliens, DC vs. Marvel, Green Lantern). “Anything that makes that easier is a huge boon. VIRUS is going to outlast this pandemic.”

A spread from Bob Fingerman’s Dotty’s Inferno

Bob Fingerman, a MAD magazine and Heavy Metal contributor who’ll be an early adopter of the Virus imprint with Dotty’s Inferno, expressed his affection for the Heavy Metal brand. “When it debuted, Heavy Metal was the magazine that opened my eyes to what comics could be,” Fingerman says. “Not just cheaply produced superhero stuff, but bold, adult, unconventional, and beautifully executed.”

6 thoughts on “Heavy Metal’s VIRUS Imprint: A New Way of Bringing Comics to Readers

  1. I don’t get “on-demand” without a digital version
    I’m missing how this is revolutionary. If 15% is revolutionary then no wonder comics are failing.
    If you want committed artists and excited viewers, I think revolutionary would be all-digital, with optional print, with artists getting at least 30%. Between their excitement over a ‘reasonable’ (but still sad) cut and tie-ins to social media, they would do a lot of your marketing for you and actually feel like a partner.
    Insisting on perpetuating print, with its thin content ratio, multiple cover art scams and heavy ads kills enthusiasm before it can start.
    I’m sorry but this is another example of why comics feel like a dead-end by everyone involved.

  2. Interesting comics. But I’m a reader. And I like my comics as hardcopies. Will these apper in my local comic shop? If not, I won’t go hrough the effort to order them and pay for shipping.

  3. With the sales numbers on comics these days 15% will work out to less money than a part time gig at the local burger joint.

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