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Heavy Metal’s New Variant Covers Are Downright Breathtaking

Artist Kai Carpenter takes readers through the method behind his madness in new, astounding sci-fi/fantasy art for Heavy Metal Magazine.

Comic fans looking for nail-biting, action-packed fantasy, and pulse-pounding science-fiction art should look no further than Heavy Metal Magazine. Artist Kai Carpenter (The Last God, Books of Magic) is delivering in the form of three absolutely breathtaking covers for Heavy Metal, including two variants and a primary, featuring intriguing and psychedelic renditions of new characters from the monthly anthology. Always aiming for the height of cerebral/brutal speculative fiction fare like that of Richard Corben, these three new works by Carpenter offer a peek into a newer, wilder direction from Heavy Metal.

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Carpenter, an oil-painter by trade, comes at the Heavy Metal-style with a purist’s standpoint, saying that the key to any exciting work of sci-fi/fantasy art is to display “a simple image.” “I think the challenge with fantasy is that it’s often complex,” he said, adding that as an artist, it is difficult to not be overwhelmed by the complexities of the story in an effort to “express it all and reflect everything.

I think it’s important to leave much of that to the narrative itself, and let the art be what the art really is good at: giving the eyes something bold and hearty to savor while the brain mulls over the possibilities and concepts of the story.

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To this end, he has with loving detail distilled this ethos into three new Heavy Metal covers, each one telling a separate story from the Heavy Metal repertoire. The first, a wild fantasy image reminiscent of Frank Franzetta, depicts an unnamed knight from “The Black Ruins of Aramoor” by Bart and Michelle Sears and will serve as a variant for Heavy Metal Magazine #306. Originally told on Heavy Metal’s audio drama podcast WonderWerk (made in collaboration with DIGA Studios), the story features a savage, tall tale-telling knight delivering an over-the-top story of intense fantasy violence. Said Carpenter:

I loved “The Black Ruins of Aramoor” audio story, the sheer grittiness and indulgence of it. I wanted to expand on that pushed-to-the-limit feeling, the Knight holding off all odds to protect this precious child. There’s heroism in the story, but also a heaping dose of insanity that leaves you feeling like the Knight really just craves battle and adversity.

There’s also the Kirby-esque variant cover for Heavy Metal Magazine #308 which depicts the being known as “Mortermir,” another character that debuted on WonderWerk created by Heavy Metal CEO Matt Medney and Morgan Rosenblum. The result of an unwitting body/mind-merging of several highly qualified space adventurers, Mortermir’s adventures will continue in a new comic book series set to release later this year. Medney said that the future of the godlike being “will explore what humanity is left in the character and how cosmic oddities can impact the universe for both good and evil” in classic sci-fi fashion. Of Carpenter’s work he said:

When I tasked Kai with realizing Mortermir visually for the first time, it was nothing short of extraordinary that he breathed life into a vision that had only to that point been in my head and in podcast form.

The third and final cover portrays a scene of untamed action with “Chief Creative Overlord” David Erwin’s “Vasator & Crunch,” a new running strip that follows the adventures of two wandering brothers, one a barbarian, the other a robot. This work will grace the front of Heavy Metal Magazine #310 as the primary cover.

In terms of the creative spark which unites these scenes, Kai Carpenter described the “Heavy Metal feel” as being about “Power” and all the foibles that thorny subject entails. “Power through force, through magic, knowledge, sex appeal, whatever!” he said, evoking a brutal, survivalist perspective amidst the wonder and carnage of his imagery. “Whether characters have it and lose it, or we see them making sacrifices, sometimes human sacrifices, to gain agency and dominance.” A dramatic, primal impetus to say the least. Heavy Metal Magazine #306 releases May 12, #308 releases July 21, and #310 releases September 29 from Heavy Metal Publishing.

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