Ever since the release of the 1981 movie ‘Heavy Metal,’ fans have had opinions about why a certain segment just sort of… ends.  Sit back, grab some teutonium nyborg (if you have any left in the transmitter compartment), and stand by for answers!

Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of So Beautiful And So Dangerous #1 awaits!

SoBeautifulAndSoDangerousCoverHEAVY METAL PRESENTS: SO BEAUTIFUL AND SO DANGEROUS #1
Writer: Angus McKie
Artist: Angus McKie
Colorist: Angus McKie
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Cover Price: $6.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $7.00

Previously in So Beautiful And So Dangerous: Founded in 1977, ‘Heavy Metal’ magazine started out translated and reproducing stories from the French magazine ‘Metal Hurlant’, which I think means “Don’t eat metal, you will vomit.”  Immediately successful (since the art was already completed and shot for the French version), plans were quickly set in motion for a movie adaptation of several of the magazine’s strips.  With multiple animation houses involved, the film was completed in a relatively short time, but certain segments were excised entirely, connective tissue that would have tied segments together was lost, and in the case of the third segment, ‘So Beautiful And So Dangerous,’ it just sort of trailed off into nothingness after aliens Edsel and Zeke crashed their smiley-face ship into their landing bay.  The good news is, the original published story has more to it, being dubbed by its creator as “the first existential science-fiction comic story.”

The bad news is, some liberties might have been taken in the adaptation, so whether it will actually serve as an ending for the animated version is in the eye of the beholder.  We open in a similar place, as a scientist speaks on the question of the possibility of alien life in the universe…

SBSD1But, rather than addressing a group at the Pentagon, as we saw in the film segment, but instead giving a televised lecture on the likelihood of alien life in the universe.  At the same time, in low-Earth orbit, Spaceship Icarus releases a shuttle into our atmosphere, it’s mission as yet unknown.

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Green alien Sisyphus gives us a title drop, which I had always thought was about either the Loc-Nar (absent in this story, I might add) or about pneumatic stenographer Gloria, whose naked form is so lovingly rendered throughout the film segment.  Instead, he uses it to refer to Earth, a legendary planet throughout the galaxy, and one that many aliens have visited before.  As they make their way to the surface, the intercept a strange signal…

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“Multiplication of all the factors assumed so far,” he continues, “leads to the conclusion that, in the second half of the twentieth century, only one advanced technical civilization in the galaxy, and that is…”

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That’s just the first of the brilliant full-page painted spreads in the issue, by the way, and one can clearly see why it became the figurative money-shot when the story was moved to animation.  Aside from the image of Taarna hefting her sword from the back of her strange avian mount, it’s probably the most iconic moment of the movie, and one that I most want on a black-light poster in my office.  Sisyphus interrupts the broadcast with a rebuttal of his own, supposing the existence of more than a million alien civilizations in the galaxy, sending down a troupe of actors to…

…um…  I guess to try to capture the humans’ imaginations?  I don’t know, frankly, but it’s trippy and beautifully painted, so I’m sort of fine with it.

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Gathering a shipload of Earthlings (including a number of clearly photo-referenced people among the ‘prostitutes, thieves, gamblers and alcoholics’, either a shout-out or a cheap shot, and funny either way), at which point we get another somewhat familiar scene, as a young woman becomes enamored of the ship’s robot, whom I can’t help but hear voiced by John Candy.

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And, yes, they do.  But it’s not central to the plot.  As they travel through space, our perspective shifts to include a young Woody Allen lookalike named Willy, dealing with serious self-esteem issues and grappling with his own existence in the endless void of space.  “Man’s place in the universe is no longer safe,” he muses, while Sisyphus has to deal with discontent in his herd of passengers.

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One of the most interesting parts of this story to me is how much the filmmaker’s diverge from its story (something that’s important, since, other than some lovely and humorous voice work from Eugene Levy and the late Harold Ramis, there’s not a lot to the movie segment, and it kinda doesn’t make a lot of sense in or out of context), as we see echoes of a familiar sequence as a ship docks with Icarus…

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There’s even some exploration of why all the aliens use a familiar tongue…  as in language.  Get your minds outta the gutter, people!

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There are some parts of the story that are truly and completely Adult Material, and not in the “showing of the nipples” sense, as Sisyphus provides a quasi-metaphysical discussion of the true nature of faster-than-light travel, and the use of an interstellar series of energy… wormhole… thingies?  There’s an old cliché about whether certain stories are better enjoyed while in an altered state of consciousness, and while I’m not advocating any such experiments, I suspect this’n would be just capital for them.

Case in point: The massive full-page arrival at Axis!

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In a fit of irony, nearly all the humans aboard the ship are suffering from massive hangovers upon their arrival, leaving the vast beauty of the thing unappreciated.  Of course, once they’ve landed, our refugees quickly find that things really are alike all over…

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The robot (whose name is, amazingly, Titan) leads Steve and Willy into a dark part of the city-state-planetoid, following Sisyphus to a clandestine meeting, where they’re suddenly told that they have earned an audience with the Grand Vizier of the Galactic Council!  Of course, the Council has their own problems, being held hostage by a madman with… a giant stink bomb.

Did I mention that it’s an existential strange comedy sci-fi piece?  Forced to act like a fool or face olfactory doom, the Vizier has devised a cunning plan, using Willy and Steve to stop the terrorist, who is deathly afraid of the dangerous reputation of Earthmen.

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Faced with the evil of two lessers, Willy agrees to rendezvous with an intergalactic terrorist because why not?  As you might have expected, things don’t go quite the way they were planned to go…

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Meanwhile, Sisyphus (who has decided to exile himself to eternal solitude) ponders the nature of existence with his former teacher, in a sequence that can only be described as “brain-meltingly trippy.”

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The terrorist plot quickly ends (Willy just talks him into helping to mock the Vizier, then escapes in a stolen ship with Titan and Sisyphus), sending them off on a quest for a lost utopia called Celito, with the help of Barpo the Rigellian and his friend, the gorgeous goddess known as Solara.  Their search for paradise is short and successful, but their STAY in paradise is even shorter…

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Turns out that Solara was working for the secret overlords of their new utopia, and delivers them all into the slave caste, forced to toil endlessly to keep the sky-castles happy and floating, which I’m certain was an episode of ‘Star Trek.’  When Willy wonders aloud what the point of all their suffering is, things get weird… er.

SBSD16…and weirder…

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Their true horror becomes apparent when they meet their fellow captives: Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, who were also stolen away by aliens, and have discovered that humans are essentially immortal in this strange alien world.  But at least they get movies from Earth, as it turns out that Dostoyevsky loved ‘Five Easy Pieces.’  They manage to escape, thanks to a vinyl recording of ‘White Christmas,’ and head for the edge of the galaxy where they find…

…a giant metal robot?

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Willy and the robot exchange words, before realizing that their world-views are just similar enough to realize that they’re birds of a metaphysical feather…

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A long discussion about the nature of causal reality and the possible existence of a deific being ensues, leading to Sisyphus exiting stage-left to find his sense of humor, while Steve And Willy take off again into the blackness of a cold and uncaring universe…

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I…uh…

Hang on, I need a moment.

This is one of the weirdest things I’ve read in a while, and not in a bad way.  There’s a peculiar poetry to this story, a reminder that each of us is an individual, which defines our true essence, and blah blah blah philosophy-cakes.  The story isn’t particularly linear, nor is there a lot of explanation, but what this comic does have is much to ponder and some really gorgeous imagery to accompany it.  I don’t promise that I understand it all, but the experience of reading is one I recommend, assuming you can ever find the thing.  So Beautiful And So Dangerous #1 isn’t the ending that I thought it would be, but it’s intriguing enough for 3.5 out of 5 stars overall, even without the movie’s cocaine references and marital aide jokes…

Ever since the release of the 1981 movie 'Heavy Metal,' fans have had opinions about why a certain segment just sort of... ends.  Sit back, grab some teutonium nyborg (if you have any left in the transmitter compartment), and stand by for answers! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of So Beautiful And So Dangerous #1 awaits! HEAVY METAL PRESENTS: SO BEAUTIFUL AND SO DANGEROUS #1 Writer: Angus McKie Artist: Angus McKie Colorist: Angus McKie Publisher: Simon & Schuster Cover Price: $6.95 Current Near-Mint Pricing: $7.00 Previously in So Beautiful And So Dangerous: Founded in 1977, 'Heavy Metal' magazine started out…
It's not exactly what the movie led me to expect, but it's still enjoyable in a very strange, existential way.

HEAVY METAL PRESENTS: SO BEAUTIFUL AND SO DANGEROUS #1

Writing
Art
Coloring

It's not exactly what the movie led me to expect, but it's still enjoyable in a very strange, existential way.

User Rating: 4.45 ( 1 votes)
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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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2 Comments

  1. archon
    April 27, 2016 at 12:17 am — Reply

    If only I could find a copy for sale…

  2. Jerry Hajek
    January 12, 2017 at 5:57 pm — Reply

    A publication that still exists in my motley collections of dead tree artifacts. And it still resonates for me after all these years. I still point out to people that the only reason the aliens bother to come here at all is for our ball point pens or to screw with our minds because they think we act funny when they need a good laugh….or whatever they do…
    So much of A.M.’s ‘commentary’ still rings painfully true about the human species and condition. And, I suspect he’s right about how it’s endemic to anything/anyone that considers ‘themselves/itselves’ “conscious”. Any condition visited upon us is likely to exist elsewhere; ‘our god is right’, ‘our goal is just’, ‘we’re better than all that’….
    What does it all mean? Beats me…probably beats them, too. We all seem to be doomed to just get through the ‘day’ without damage or distraction. *L* At least for the 99% of all of us…. ;)

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