Christopher Priest Interview: Heavy Metal's Entropy
Aug 16, 2022
Interview by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
Prepare thy self for Heavy Metal's first ever event series, Entropy!
Entropy #1 officially hits comic shops this week (with a prelude story also inside Heavy Metal Magazine #318), which makes it a perfect time to talk to Christopher Priest about the publisher's first honest-to-Kako supervillain. Keep reading...
What led you to start working with Heavy Metal?
Are you kidding? Who doesn’t want to be published in Heavy Metal Magazine? I read DC and Marvel when I was a kid, but Heavy Metal was always “grown-up” comics, comics in a real magazine with real articles and mind-blowing themes. I never thought I’d actually someday be able to work in the comics field and, beyond that, never imagined being published in “grown-up” magazines like Warren Publishing’s and MAD Magazine. So when my frequent editor Joseph Illidge was hired over at Heavy Metal, I actually did not expect an invite and was happily surprised when I did.
I tend to think of writing for Heavy Metal like “driving dad’s car.” It feels like a privilege. In this business, you get used to seeing your work in print. Having a story in Heavy Metal Magazine #318, which is also coming out July 20th, will be a career milestone for me, one I’m pretty jazzed about. Definitely an issue I’ll be mailing home to show off.
Catch us up to speed, what is Entropy all about?
Nothing to get up to speed on as Entropy #1 marks the character’s first appearance. It is not a terribly new idea, a mortal being given godlike power. What makes this version interesting is how big a schmuck the mortal being is and how catastrophic his learning curve is.
Entropy is a cautionary tale of absolute power corrupting absolutely. It follows along the themes of Aladdin or, say, Green Lantern, while having the Heavy Metal imprimatur of adult themes, of racing dad’s car well past the speed limit. Entropy has no guard rails. The series incorporates ironic moral twists, similar to those in Black Mirror, into predictable elements of the classic boy-meets-God tale, but no one at Heavy Metal is pumping the brakes. If anything, I’ve used a little too much restraint out of habit, being protective of my character, when Heavy Metal’s mandate was to push the limits of this classic vehicle and, if possible, run it off a cliff.
Who is Kako?
Well, that’s a good question. The Entropy prelude story in Heavy Metal Magazine #318 provides a great deal of backstory for this character who serves as a foil, if not quite a villain. Kako is actually neither. Kako is a force of nature, the cumulative sentience of an entire universe.
Heavy Metal has created its own multiverse, a kind of “Universes-Speculum” of ten universes, a fragile glass house of cards held in tension by Adora, the Shared Realm. Well, nine of the universes are held in tension. The tenth—the Kako Universe—is a rogue one, but more on that later.
Kako is literally an entire universe. This universe self-administrates by means of heralds called “Crusaders”. Entropy is the eleventh generation of Crusader, technically referred to as “Crusader XI”. His first mission? Murder his predecessor, Crusader X.
How does Taarna factor into this story? Why?
Taarna is only referenced in the Entropy series, as the Meridiem (or avatar) of a completely separate universe, one which will ultimately become threatened by Kako.
Can readers expect to see familiar events from Heavy Metal lore in this series?
This is actually all new ground. And it is pioneered by this amazing new talent, Montos. This is the guy everyone will be talking about next year.
My first published work was Marvel’s Falcon limited series which was drawn by Paul Smith, some new guy no one had ever heard of at the time. When Paul’s pencils came in, the Marvel bullpen went nuts. Xerox copies of the Falcon story flew around the office and editors immediately pounced on Paul. Everyone was talking about Paul.
That’s like Entropy. By the time this series is complete, everybody will be tripping on Montos. His work really is that amazing, that groundbreaking. I remember writing descriptions of alien worlds, some of these descriptions were an entire typewritten page of intense detail, and thinking, “No way will this guy get this right.” I just braced myself for something bad.
When the pages came in, I just gasped. Now, nearly a year later, we are in prepress review, and I am still gasping. I called Joseph Illidge yesterday and just raved about this guy, this Montos, and his jaw-dropping art and dynamic storytelling. He’s the real story, and he’ll be the person the industry will be reaching out to long after Grampa Priest has shuffled off to the rest home.
No hype, kids—don’t miss this book. This will be one of those books, like The Micronauts, that people wave off or gets lost in the noise but now you’ll have to cough up a hundred bucks for a copy. This is the debut series of The Next Somebody, and I am so very blessed to be the lucky bastard who got to scribble word balloons all over his gorgeous pages.
Black Panther, Deathstroke, Vampirella, and now Entropy – these characters seem so different. What about a character has to appeal to you to make you want to write it?
I need to see some unexplored country. I actually had to be talked into Black Adam because I felt, fundamentally, that the Fawcett characters belonged in their own universe and I wasn’t sure what having Dr. Sivana in the same universe as Lex Luthor added to the party. But subsequent discussions with DC Editor Paul Kaminski led us into all of these alcoves and alleyways yet to be explored and a potential for storytelling with a guy who can body slam Superman but is haunted by his past.
For Vampirella, it was the creative blank check Dynamite offered by letting me build my own “Kelvin Universe” where I could create, unfettered, my personal vision for the character, and attempt to turn Vampirella towards more universal themes of meaning and purpose. Vampirella is a lot of fun, something that gets missed because, like Deathstroke, people look at the cover and think they know what the book is about. Deathstroke was not about blood and guts. It was a book about the World’s Worst Dad. Vampi is just a young girl trying to make it in the big city. She just happens to be a vampire from outer space with a host of over-the-top enemies and a pushy, scheming mother.
For Black Panther, which former Marvel honcho Joe Quesada had to twist my arm into taking, I saw a character who had enormous potential but had been languishing in the background. This, perhaps one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel Universe, was just kind of abandoned, relegated to being the “other” perhaps by writers who couldn’t get past the black to the panther.
So I just decided to own it, own Panther’s “other” ness, making him even more “other” than he’d been since Fantastic Four #52. This was like a shot heard around the comics world, and there was mostly outrage from the Panther “purists”: “How DARE you give Panther a bullet-proof costume and an iPhone?!?”
What has the writing process been like for you? What is it like to work with Joe Illidge as an editor?
For Entropy, I had a blank slate. I had a mandate: create our villain. I had Joseph Illidge, the architect of Lion Forge’s “Catalyst Prime” universe and for whom I’d redeveloped Lion Forge’s Astonisher and my creator-owned Babylon, which is now at Humanoids.
We had a mandate, a budget, and enough time to throw things at the wall until something stuck. Kako is green. The idea of heralds called “Crusaders” wasn’t that far afield of Abin Sur crashing to Earth. So the question became what is the logical conclusion of the Green Lantern story? DC actually answered that with Parallax. We’re not doing that. This is Heavy Metal, so we have a license to be really twisted.
The more Joseph and I talked, the more jazzed I got. As with Panther, as with Adam, I submitted a pitch I was absolutely certain no sane publisher would green light. I’m actually a little shocked to see this book actually going to press. But, here we are.
In terms of audience, who is Entropy for?
Well, let’s start by saying it is not for kids. This is adult material with cussing and nudity. Not gratuitous, mind you, it all serves the story, but this being Heavy Metal, I saw little need to pump my brakes. Heavy Metal’s brand is comics for adults. That’s the legacy.
Beyond that, Entropy strives to be quasi-serious science fiction as opposed to, say, Taarna which is more fantasy based. Not everything in Entropy will pass the science fiction purist smell test, but Joseph and I are taking our swing.
On a more universal level: any fan of Black Mirror should have some appreciation for what we’re up to. It’s dark, giddy fun. A tad self-indulgent since it’s so liberating to not round the edges off of everything. If you like a good yarn with amazing art, even if you’re not a science fiction fan, I really believe you’ll like this book. I’m genuinely excited about it and hope it finds an audience so we can come back and do Atrophy. But, I’m getting ahead of myself again...
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes MF DOOM: All Caps, Public Enemy's Apocalpyse '91, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Award-nominated Magic Bullet.