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Heavy Metal Magazine: A Great Heritage Brand Moving Straightforwardly Into The Future With a New CEO & A New Vision…The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Matthew Medney, CEO, Heavy Metal…

February 24, 2020

“We have the magazine on track and we’re doing eight issues this year and 12 issues next year and we’re going to be continuing to do it as a monthly magazine moving forward. Keeping print as the cornerstone is easy enough, we’ve been doing it for 44 years and I think we can continue doing it and continue growing it. But the more interesting side is how do we bring it to other platforms.”…Matthew Medney

Heavy Metal has been the leading magazine publication in Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy, for the past forty years. Today, there’s a new CEO and a new vision for the legacy brand; one that includes a widespread variety of multimedia from video to print to podcasts. The new CEO is Matthew Medney, a man who has been ensconced in comics and fantasy for quite some time, and is also the founder and CEO of comic book publishing company, Herø Projects.

I spoke with Matt recently and we talked about this dual role he’s now handling and his plans for the Heavy Metal brand which holds a very special place in his heart. According to him, he took the CEO job at the brand because of that special place and because he believes that Heavy Metal is one of the first really amazing pieces of animation that pushed the boundaries and made readers think and imagine. Matt has an eye for Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror, three genres that he loves. He is determined to take Heavy Metal into a bright multimedia future and up its frequency to eight issues in 2020 and 12 in 2021 with unique and original storytelling that keeps the classics and introduces new characters too.

So, I hope that you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Matthew Medney, CEO, Heavy Metal magazine.

But first the sound-bites:

On why he took the position as CEO of Heavy Metal magazine in addition to being founder and CEO of his own company: I took the job because, like most of us, Heavy Metal has a really special place in my heart. It’s one of the first really amazing pieces of animation that pushed boundaries, made us think, and made us imagine what storytelling could be in the future, back in a time when it wasn’t as clear and communication wasn’t as widespread, you obviously didn’t have social media and YouTube. And the imagination that poured out of it is just something that uses my curiosity. So, when the opportunity came, I thought that it was really unique to try and take the reins of a company that was so enriched in the industry that I was trying to make my own mark on.

On whether he thinks he has begun to leave his footprints on the brand yet, after just a few months: I think we have. We have the magazine on track and we’re doing eight issues this year and 12 issues next year and we’re going to be continuing to do it as a monthly magazine moving forward. We have a huge issue set up for Comic-Con this year, the 300th issue, and we’re going to expand into comic books. So, not only are we going to have the magazine, we’re going to have original stories that are based on Taarna, that are based on new characters that we’re creating within our Heavy Metal universe.

On expanding the brand into many platforms while maintaining print as its cornerstone: Keeping print as the cornerstone is easy enough, we’ve been doing it for 44 years and I think we can continue doing it and continue growing it. But the more interesting side is how do we bring it to other platforms. I’ve been strategically working with different studios, taking meetings within Hollywood, with companies that I really cannot talk about yet because nothing has been signed.

On being a writer and creator, as well as a CEO, and whether his creative side conflicts with his business side: I wouldn’t say there’s conflict, if anything the creative side gets jealous. At the end of the day, I have to be the leader to make sure the company is moving in the direction that is most suited for the ownership, but my creative side would like nothing more than to lock myself in a cabin with my typewriter and iPad and just write for a few weeks. But that can’t always happen, so it’s been more about adaptations, learning to get up a bit earlier, write for 45 minutes here, think about a story there. Yes, I would say jealousy is more of the right term.

On Hero Comics and Heavy Metal sharing a mutual DNA even though they aren’t related: I think naturally, with Heavy Metal having such an influence in music, rock music specifically, and this is something I say around the Heavy Metal office all the time, it’s an attitude, it’s not really genre. For example, I believe today, hip hop is rock music. And Hero operates a lot in hip hop. And the attitude of the music and what it means to the culture and the fans is embedded in our DNA just like rock music in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s and even today is embedded in heavy metal. That commonality, that thread has seeped over universe to universe through the cosmos. There is probably more of a connection sublimely than I would even give credit for because of those reasons.

On Heavy Metal’s expansion plans: The real expansion is in this multimedia world, so I want to tell more podcast stories. I think Taarna deserves more podcasting. There are a lot of really interesting full circle things going on. When Heavy Metal started its radio shows, they had a lot of the novel feel read to them and now audio books, audible and podcasts are bringing that back around 35 years later. And there’s no brand out there, there’s no company that tells stories that are more made for graphic audio than Heavy Metal.

On whether the new launch Soft Wood will continue: I think there’s a place in the heavy metal world for Soft Wood right now. I’m really focused on Heavy Metal and getting the Heavy Metal brand to a place where I can spend a few days not thinking about it and still move forward. But I do think Soft Wood has a place in the Heavy Metal universe. As to when the next issue will come out, there is no scheduled street date. We haven’t really started diving into yet. I’d be pretty comfortable saying there will be at least one coming out this year.

On anything he’d like to add: I think that a lot of times, in the last decade specifically, the company had a point of view of finding the best talent that was established and using that to create its stories. I’m more of a money ball type of guy. I’m more of the guy that wants to find the next James Gunn or the next Ridley Scott or John Carpenter. I want to be the one who figures out who is the champion; who is that next special creator, whether graphically or as a writer, and then I want to champion them and give them a platform to rally around.

On whether anyone told him he was crazy for deciding to increase his print frequency: Yes, I’ve definitely been told that print is dying and there is no place for it, all that good stuff. And I do think there’s a lot of truth in that; print isn’t what it was even a year ago and it’s compounding every month, let alone every year, into being less and less profitable. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not provide stories in their classical form, especially when you’re talking about moving stories to TV, film, podcasts and other multimedia genres. That is thriving and allows you many opportunities. And putting out more stories cuts into my bottom line by seven percent and that’s an easy loss for us to take, knowing that we’re putting more really strong stories on the market.

On what someone would find him doing if they showed up unexpectedly one evening at his home: I definitely like my wine; I like a good glass of Bulleit Rye on the rocks. I love a great graphic novel and I like to watch The Expanse and every other show that you would expect a heavy metal CEO to watch, and I also love reading novels. I read Start Trek novels and I’ve read all the Harry Potter stuff; I read a lot of Sci-Fi fantasy; I also read a lot of autobiographies. But a typical night at home, you can catch me doing any one of those things on my deck, looking out into the greenery and thinking while I read.

On the biggest misconception he thinks people have about him: I hope that nobody has any misconceptions. I’m not a typical Hollywood guy. I wear my emotions on my sleeve; I tell you how it is. I grew up in New York City on 20th and 1st. I’m pretty brazen. I’m really an open book. My passion for everything bleeds out, but maybe it’s that I answer things fast. That doesn’t mean that a lot of thought didn’t go into the answer.

 On what keeps him up at night: Nothing. (Laughs) It’s funny though, growing up in New York City I feel like I was trained for that because we had an apartment on 20th and 1st and it was right by one of the firehouses. So, as a kid if you didn’t learn how to sleep through anything, you probably weren’t going to sleep. I grew to adapt to that ability as a young child, You grow up in New York City and there’s firetrucks and sirens at all hours of the day. The city that never sleeps is very true.

And now the lightly edited transcript of the Mr. Magazine™ interview with Matthew Medney, CEO, Heavy Metal magazine.

Samir Husni: You were appointed CEO of Heavy Metal magazine a few months ago, a brand with a 40 year tradition in comics, science fiction and fantasy. Why did you decide to accept that position, in addition to having the comic book publishing company, Herø Projects?

Matthew Medney: I took the job because, like most of us, Heavy Metal has a really special place in my heart. It’s one of the first really amazing pieces of animation that pushed boundaries, made us think, and made us imagine what storytelling could be in the future, back in a time when it wasn’t as clear and communication wasn’t as widespread, you obviously didn’t have social media and YouTube. And the imagination that poured out of it is just something that uses my curiosity. So, when the opportunity came, I thought that it was really unique to try and take the reins of a company that was so enriched in the industry that I was trying to make my own mark on.

Samir Husni: After only a few months, do you think you’ve started leaving your own footprints on the brand yet, or is it just too early to tell?

Matthew Medney: I think we have. We have the magazine on track and we’re doing eight issues this year and 12 issues next year and we’re going to be continuing to do it as a monthly magazine moving forward. We have a huge issue set up for Comic-Con this year, the 300th issue, and we’re going to expand into comic books. So, not only are we going to have the magazine, we’re going to have original stories that are based on Taarna, that are based on new characters that we’re creating within our Heavy Metal universe.

We’re really looking to do a widespread of storytelling in the Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror themes. We have a new mantra at the company that I kind of denoted which is: Where pop culture meets the best stories in Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. And the idea that we confuse where pop culture is today with some intelligent thoughts through the guise of interesting stories is the mark I’m hoping I’m starting to make.

Samir Husni: I read that you want to take that art of storytelling to all kinds of platforms, from video to blogs to movies. And with you bringing the magazine back to a monthly frequency next year, how do you plan on expanding the platform, which was print-only, to all of these different platforms while maintaining print as the brand’s cornerstone?

Matthew Medney: Keeping print as the cornerstone is easy enough, we’ve been doing it for 44 years and I think we can continue doing it and continue growing it. But the more interesting side is how do we bring it to other platforms. I’ve been strategically working with different studios, taking meetings within Hollywood, with companies that I really cannot talk about yet because nothing has been signed.

But we’ve really been talking to influencers, people from agencies and production companies to look at taking the stories that are within the magazine already, as well as new stories that fit the moniker of Heavy Metal and turn them into TV, film, podcasts, YouTube shorts and Instagram stories. I think Instagram is going to start being a medium of storytelling in the next few years and I want to be on the cutting edge of that.

People like Gary Vaynerchuk, even though what he does is a different medium, if you actually watch his Instagram story, it’s a more non-fictional story about motivation and focusing on what you want to focus on, but in token areas throughout every post. And I think it’s going to catch on more with a lot of other people. And being on the forefront of using social platforms to communicate, not the main story, but ancillary missions, diary entries, spaceship video games in between warp-drive traveling, kind of creating an immersive world where magazines’ main story is what drives all of the ancillary stories around it.

Samir Husni: You’re also continuing to be the CEO of your own business, Hero Comics, and at the same time  you’re probably one of the few CEOs in this country of a magazine media brand that is also an author, writer, and comic creator. Do you find it easier having that creative mind when it comes to leading the management side or sometimes there is conflict between the two?

Matthew Medney: I wouldn’t say there’s conflict, if anything the creative side gets jealous. At the end of the day, I have to be the leader to make sure the company is moving in the direction that is most suited for the ownership, but my creative side would like nothing more than to lock myself in a cabin with my typewriter and iPad and just write for a few weeks. But that can’t always happen, so it’s been more about adaptations, learning to get up a bit earlier, write for 45 minutes here, think about a story there. Yes, I would say jealousy is more of the right term.

But it is as you said, not overly easy to juggle, and you have to be very cognizant. But the secret that I don’t really tell anyone is sleep. Most people think I’m up 18 hours a day, working all the time. And the reality is I sleep eight to nine hours every night and I use that energy that I get from being well-rested in a very proficient way when I’m awake. I hope that I will have a platform one day to educate younger entrepreneurs, CEOs and leaders that the methodology of four to six hours of sleep… I don’t know how they do it. The people that do it and can work like that are a mystery to me because I can’t operate at the same level as I can when I’m well-rested. And that is the secret as to how I can personally juggle as many of the items as I do, and the way that I can stay focused every day.

Samir Husni: As I look at some of the Hero Comics and look at Heavy Metal, I feel there is some shared DNA there, although they are not related. Am I wrong or would you agree with that?

Matthew Medney: I think naturally, with Heavy Metal having such an influence in music, rock music specifically, and this is something I say around the Heavy Metal office all the time, it’s an attitude, it’s not really genre. For example, I believe today, hip hop is rock music. And Hero operates a lot in hip hop. And the attitude of the music and what it means to the culture and the fans is embedded in our DNA just like rock music in the ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s and even today is embedded in heavy metal. That commonality, that thread has seeped over universe to universe through the cosmos. There is probably more of a connection sublimely than I would even give credit for because of those reasons.

Samir Husni: Tell me more about Heavy Metal’s expansion plans.

Matthew Medney: The real expansion is in this multimedia world, so I want to tell more podcast stories. I think Taarna deserves more podcasting. There are a lot of really interesting full circle things going on. When Heavy Metal started its radio shows, they had a lot of the novel feel read to them and now audio books, audible and podcasts are bringing that back around 35 years later. And there’s no brand out there, there’s no company that tells stories that are more made for graphic audio than Heavy Metal.

I fell in love as a kid with the Harry Potter book on tape because the narrator, Jim Dale, did a different voice for every single character. And it immersed you into a world that you wouldn’t think a book could immerse you into. That motif is something that Heavy Metal does. The graphic novel immersed you into a world that you didn’t even know existed and pushed it to the edge. And the videos and the other things that we’re doing, more partnerships with artists, and more original stories on paper and on audio, are also exciting.

And I think podcasts are going to be a huge opportunity to show not only our fans but our fan’s fans and the people who haven’t discovered us yet that we’ve taken a company that was cemented in ink on paper and brought it to an era that is more tangible for use, while allowing the classics to still rein free.

Samir Husni: I picked up the new magazine Soft Wood that was recently launched by Heavy Metal. It reminded me of the time when National Lampoon and Heavy Metal were the two sisters or two cousins, whatever you want to call them. Are you going to continue with Soft Wood or was it a test issue?

Matthew Medney: I think there’s a place in the heavy metal world for Soft Wood right now. I’m really focused on Heavy Metal and getting the Heavy Metal brand to a place where I can spend a few days not thinking about it and still move forward. But I do think Soft Wood has a place in the Heavy Metal universe. As to when the next issue will come out, there is no scheduled street date. We haven’t really started diving into yet. I’d be pretty comfortable saying there will be at least one coming out this year.

More than that is still TBD. And if you ask me what I think about it in terms of how I see it working in the future, I think a quarterly or biannually publication would make a lot of sense for that brand.

Samir Husni: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Matthew Medney: I think that a lot of times, in the last decade specifically, the company had a point of view of finding the best talent that was established and using that to create its stories. I’m more of a money ball type of guy. I’m more of the guy that wants to find the next James Gunn or the next Ridley Scott or John Carpenter. I want to be the one who figures out who is the champion; who is that next special creator, whether graphically or as a writer, and then I want to champion them and give them a platform to rally around.

For that Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror genre, I think it was something in our original DNA. Back when it started, all of these people who came together to create Heavy Metal, it was a movement. And it was a movement of likeminded creators who had an idea and a vision and I want to get back to that ethos.

Samir Husni: Did anyone tell you that you were crazy when you decided to expand your print frequency to eight times in 2020 and 12 times in 2021?

Matthew Medney: Yes, I’ve definitely been told that print is dying and there is no place for it, all that good stuff. And I do think there’s a lot of truth in that; print isn’t what it was even a year ago and it’s compounding every month, let alone every year, into being less and less profitable. But I don’t think that’s a reason to not provide stories in their classical form, especially when you’re talking about moving stories to TV, film, podcasts and other multimedia genres. That is thriving and allows you many opportunities. And putting out more stories cuts into my bottom line by seven percent and that’s an easy loss for us to take, knowing that we’re putting more really strong stories on the market.

Samir Husni: If I showed up unexpectedly at your home one evening after work, what would I find you doing? Having a glass of wine; reading a magazine; cooking; or something else? How do you unwind?

Matthew Medney: I definitely like my wine; I like a good glass of Bulleit Rye on the rocks. I love a great graphic novel and I like to watch The Expanse and every other show that you would expect a heavy metal CEO to watch, and I also love reading novels. I read Start Trek novels and I’ve read all the Harry Potter stuff; I read a lot of Sci-Fi fantasy; I also read a lot of autobiographies. But a typical night at home, you can catch me doing any one of those things on my deck, looking out into the greenery and thinking while I read.

I’m also into fitness, I love to work out and run and to lift and it’s my one hour escape for the day. Some days work gets me up early and you’ll see me doing that at night before I go to bed.

Samir Husni: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Matthew Medney: I hope that nobody has any misconceptions. I’m not a typical Hollywood guy. I wear my emotions on my sleeve; I tell you how it is. I grew up in New York City on 20th and 1st. I’m pretty brazen. I’m really an open book. My passion for everything bleeds out, but maybe it’s that I answer things fast. That doesn’t mean that a lot of thought didn’t go into the answer.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night?

Matthew Medney: Nothing. (Laughs) It’s funny though, growing up in New York City I feel like I was trained for that because we had an apartment on 20th and 1st and it was right by one of the firehouses. So, as a kid if you didn’t learn how to sleep through anything, you probably weren’t going to sleep. I grew to adapt to that ability as a young child, You grow up in New York City and there’s firetrucks and sirens at all hours of the day. The city that never sleeps is very true.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

One comment

  1. […] took the job because, like most of us, Heavy Metal has a really special place in my heart,” Medney said to Samir “Mr. Magazine Husni. “It’s one of the first really amazing pieces of animation that pushed boundaries, made us […]



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