Métal Hurlant - The Dream Machine of Comics


These snipets are snapshots from Serge Clerc's Le Journal, his
incredible tale of Metal Hurlant's beginnings in the seventies.
200 pages of heavy metallic joy. A true tell-all-tale of comics and not-so-comical.

Recently, I was so happy to discover some kind of mutatedMetal-spirit
(a wild imagination, deep true love of La BD, wit and screaming metal)
in comics from indie US artists James Stokoe & Brandon Graham,
that I wanted to actually translate into english a bit of this account.

Since those are bad photos from only a couple of pages,
I hope I will not have to take it down. Peace man.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about,
issue 27's cover will translate my feelings regarding Metal.



The year is 1974. It's a sad & rainy night —
the place is Notre Dame and our young protagonist, Jean-Pierre (Dionnet)
doesn't know what to do with his life.


as you may have anticipated it a Voice booms from above
"You ! You will found a science fiction journal filled with comics !"

then adds "And you shall write intricate novels about the petty intrigues
of the french rural bourgeoisie"

the two witnesses of the miracle obviously mistook their cue.
Dionnet prepares for a life of catholic self-introspection.

but fortunately François Mauriac doesn't know a thing about comics.
"And what is this "B.D.", may I ask, young man ?"

BD equals Bande Dessiné equals C.o.m.i.c.s
J-P. answers with a bouncing spread of cheap thrills, Krazy Kats and strips.

At this point, snob french writer François Mauriac leaves the project,
but in 1974 he was already long dead anyway.
A perfect storm is coming.


During that 1974 mansoon month, Dionnet, Moebius and Druillet
have gathered to get drunk, enter labor and give birth to an idea.
-BD ! -Good Shit ! Pure SF. -Ouais !
Cosmic energy. Hard to the core.

Against all and everyone they would launch an independant magazine.
Hand me the wine. Super. *Hicks*. Against woes, foes and fury.
It'd have the name of a hissing rocket hurled toward the moon
with a funny-looking squared pattern.

Métal Hurlant.

To remain free from any guidance and hindrance they decide to create
their own publishing house as well : the associated humanoidz.

J.P. jumps on the table.


If the others will immediately bring him a desk, a typewriter, a pair of suspenders
and a pretty secretary he will proudly become their shell-shock-editor.


It's a dream come true. To make comics that will not be automatically labelled "for the children market".
All on their own. Explore the comics genre for a mature audience.
And go as far as possible. Make it happen.

J-P.'s head is full of stars. He's read the pulps and the classics. He owns 5000 books.
Dead nebulas, forbidden planets, colonial ship departing for Vega,
non-humans in the dark, Carthage — to the Outer Rim !

JP's mojo-motto is Science Fiction (and booze). This 'sub'-literature the french academia likes to despise.

" Who are we !? -Nothing. -What do we want ? -Everything ! "


Moebius throws a couple of drawn pages at Dionnet, no text,"the name's Arzach !"
he vanishes for a week. Shit gets real.

The logo is made of real steel. Hand crafted by Robial. Layout will have to be dynamic as well.

Lasers, loops, zoom-in and geometrical banners.

And so it came to be : "bliss like silvery wine, floating in a spaceship, all gravity non-sense now".
It's 8 Francs, thick with colored-wonders and it takes France by surprise.

Dionnet is indebted to the neck, everything is on the verge of collapsing at any instant.
He's more happy than he's ever been.

Serge Clercs portraits himself discovering the new magazine in a friend's basement.
Far out.

After a couple of issues, Metal is surprised in return
without any warning : censorship strikes down.
"Protect the children from all that filth."
Metal is banned from public selling-points.
No squares, no metro, no train-station. No advertisement.
Welcome la Censure.

Was Metal still-born ? JP doesn't really feel up to the challenge.

"We're losing him doctor ! -His pulse, it stopped! -(gosh, they're counting on me, I can't ...disappoint... allofthem...)


Fortunately JP is a man who converses with God on a regular basis.
If Metal Hurlant dares to cross the Atlantic, precious financial ressources will be unlocked.
Go west, young man.

Thus, Heavy Metal is born over the Atlantic.
This life-saving deal helps Metal to extend, export, exhale.
"It's also the 1st time we actually sell you guys a paper."

Metal Hurlant will always have financial troubles,
but each near-bankrupt, each wreckage and each break-up
(with their lawyer, with their accountant, with their numerous printers,
with some artists, with the department of justice, with the ruling lords)
will be compensated by some new (ad)venture.

It stays in print for 17 years straight. More than one hundred issues.


Serge Clerc, having left is mother and Belgium to join Metal's team (he's still a teen),
meditates romantically on his eternal quest for the "perfect pin-up".
Druillet's sci-fi adaptation of french baroque epic Salammbô by Flaubert haunts
all the artists of the redaction with vision of the antic princess.

"She was the daughter of Hamilcar, sister of Hannibal.
The moon had whitened her. The gods hazed around her."

Le Journal is Serge Clerc's testimony from the metallic years,
his own youth & the sheer madness of the times
each page is filled with details, jokes, songs and memories.


For its 100th issue in 1984, Metal Hurlant throws an apocalyptical party. Philippe "Phil Man" Manoeuvre communicates with the flirty furnitures.

Bad acid. "So... I understand you are into sophisticated comics..."


The official cocktail for the party is called "To die at Stalingrad". A large-glass of vodka filled to the top with a with an olive on the side.


Métal Hurlant : La Machine à Rêve.

The Dream Machine feels its implosion coming, it will scatter burning metallic shrapnels all around the world.

"-Guys, I think we're falling. -Man ! We've been falling since the beginning !"

It was the longest free-fall of them all. 13 years of Good Alloy.


In the 3rd issue, Moebius made a cryptic joke, that will "only be funny in July 2012".


"It must have been the carburator". He was the funniest of them all.

Philippe Manoeuvre and Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Métal Hurlant's twin-godfathers are still alive and kicking.


Now, anybody who has bothered to read this far, this poorly translated, hastily uploaded scan-run,
should either discover James Stokoe's Orc Stain or Brandon Graham's King City.

From Krazy Kat to Moeb', from Metal Hurlant to Heavy Metal, influences and skipped stones go far.
I can only hope, somewhere, someone is pulling and old, dusty magazine from a box and is going all
"Wtf — is this 12 pages of Moebius, Druillet, Corben, Jodo and Tardi actually glued together ?".

I'm 25 and last week I found in a dusty bookshop in Marseille
the last of the 100 first issues of Metal I had set on collecting.

The shelf in my bunker is complete and magic overwhelms anyone who reaches for what's in it.
My father once had the whole collection and lost it when he moved to Paris, just before I was born.

There is a sense of closure, here, and a vivid energy for new endeavours in the spirit of those associated humanoids.

This is Hermenaut Norkhat, signing off.

Mercredi 2 Mai 2012 #DiesMercuris