Questions Over Heavy Metal, Dan O'Bannon and B-17
The editor in chief of Heavy Metal Magazine, Joe Illidge, recently gave an interview to ICV2 about the recently published Heavy Metal Magazine #300. The magazine featured, among many other stories, a new B-17 comic book story, the cover featured.
He stated, "Taarna and B‑17 are the two serials from the original animated film that Heavy Metal owns. In addition to having short stories in the new monthly rotation of the magazine, both of them will have miniseries. So there will be the Taarna miniseries, which will launch in December. And B‑17 has been expanded to be renamed Cold Dead War. Cold Dead War is a miniseries that will launch in October."
Cold Dead War is described by Heavy Metal as "is the official sequel to the well-known Heavy Metal animated film segment "B-17," written by George C. Romero, son of legendary film director George A. Romero and heir to the Romero Dead media franchise!"
B-17 was a story created by the late Dan O'Bannon for the 1981 anthology Heavy Metal movie. O'Bannon may be better known for writing the screenplay for Alien, adapted from a story he wrote with Ronald Shusett. He also scripted and directed the horror-comedy The Return of the Living Dead, as well as also working on Star Wars, Dark Star, Total Recall, and the Heavy Metal movie for which he wrote the two sections Soft Landing and B-17.
But there seems to be some question as to who may own the rights to the latter, or at least who should have been consulted when revamping it in this fashion. There is also a licensed Heavy Metal pinball machine being released with Stern, which features Dan O'Bannon's B52 artwork (among others) prominently.
I spoke to the estate of Dan O'Bannon, The O'Bannon Company, about these issues. I am told that the O'Bannon Company was not contacted in any way about the use of Dan O'Bannon's work for this new series. Diane O'Bannon, President of the Company and Dan's widow, tells me that she has been in touch with an attorney about contractual obligations for the work which may not have been met. She tells Bleeding Cool, "It is surprising to me that Heavy Metal would go ahead without getting clearances from the originator of the B-17 property because this leaves the series in a vulnerable position regarding its completion and airing. We have had good relations with them previous to this. I would welcome a word from them."
Bleeding Cool has reached out to Heavy Metal Magazine over the weekend for comment but has yet to receive a response. We will happily update as and when we do.