Tuesday, April 14, 2009

'Heavy Metal' magazine April 1979

This April 1979 issue of ‘Heavy Metal’ is noteworthy for featuring a preview of the Fox SF-horror blockbuster ‘Alien’. The film, which had a budget of close to $ 10 million ( a lot of money back in 1979) was due in theatres in early Summer. 20th Century Fox was obviously hoping to cash in on the momentum generated by ‘Star Wars’, ‘Superman’, and other SF films of the past two years that had yielded unprecedented box-office receipts.

Being chosen to publicize the film was a real coup for Heavy Metal, which had been in print for two years, but was still struggling to gain advertising and some perception of legitimacy among the ‘mainstream’ print media. That Fox executives had decided to give a somewhat obscure ‘stoner’ magazine the licensing rights for their marquee film for the year had to be encouraging to the magazine’s owners, The National Lampoon. Indeed, by selecting Heavy Metal to showcase their film among what would come to be labeled the ‘fanboy’ crowd, Fox was engaging in a marketing practice that was still comparatively innovative at the time. Nowadays, nobody blinks when directors and cast associated with a high-budget SF or fantasy blockbuster appear at various Comic-Con shows to preview clips and take questions from the audience. But the idea of dispatching Ridley Scott or Sigourney Weaver to speak at a geek gathering would have gotten a Fox marketing exec fired back in ‘79.

Along with some pages from the Alien preview, I’m posting ‘Pyloon’, a tongue-in-cheek homage to SF illustration, with art by Ray Rue and a script by Leo Giroux, Jr. I’m sure readers will find at least one archetypal image that they recognize as cribbed from the visual library of pop culture and SF. The art is very good, particularly when one realizes that computer-generated color separations were still years away.

Also posted is a advertisement for a board game, ‘John Carter of Mars’ , by SPI, one of the leading publishers (along with Avalon Hill) of war games, and other hex-based board games, during the 70s. This is what you got when you went ‘gaming’ way back then. ‘Space Invaders’ had still not appeared in my hometown in upstate New York in April of ’79, and the idea of playing games on ‘micro-computers’ was something electrical engineers thought about in their spare time, when they were hypothesizing about home entertainment in the 21st century.

Rounding out our look at the April ’79 issue are the front cover by Clyde Caldwell (‘The Brain Cloudy Blues’), and the back cover by Larry Elmore (‘Gidget Meets the Squirrel Dogs from Outer Space’).

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