Howard Chaykin

Howard Chaykin: Conversations

Edited by Brannon Costello
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Howard Chaykin
    Book Description:

    One of the most distinctive voices in mainstream comics since the 1970s, Howard Chaykin (b. 1950) has earned a reputation as a visionary formal innovator and a compelling storyteller whose comics offer both pulp-adventure thrills and thoughtful engagement with real-world politics and culture. His body of work is defined by the belief that comics can be a vehicle for sophisticated adult entertainment and for narratives that utilize the medium's unique properties to explore serious themes with intelligence and wit.Beginning with early interviews in fanzines and concluding with a new interview conducted in 2010 with the volume's editor, Howard Chaykin: Conversations collects widely ranging discussions from Chaykin's earliest days as an assistant for such legends as Gil Kane and Wallace Wood to his recent work on titles including Dominic Fortune, Challengers of the Unknown, and American Century. The book includes 35 line illustrations selected from Chaykin, as well. As a writer/artist for outlets such as DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and Heavy Metal, he has participated in and influenced many of the major developments in mainstream comics over the past four decades. He was an early pioneer in the graphic novel format in the 1970s, and his groundbreaking sci-fi satire American Flagg! was an essential contribution to the maturation of the comic book as a vehicle for social commentary in the 1980s.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-976-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    When Howard Chaykin first began drawing comics professionally in the early 1970s, his goal was to turn his childhood hobby into a way to make a living. The scope of his ambition was defined by the comic books he had grown up reading: diverting but uncomplicated action tales occasionally elevated by the work of artists such as Joe Kubert, Gil Kane, and Carmine Infantino. Yet within just a few years, Chaykin had begun to reconsider that scope and to develop the signature visual and narrative style that has made him one of the most distinctive voices in mainstream comics. Over...

    (pp. xv-2)
  5. Howie Chaykin Unmasked!
    (pp. 3-13)

    Question: When did you first want to become a comic book artist?

    Howard Chaykin: At the age of four. And that’s about as interesting as I can get on that question. I decided at the age of four that I was going to draw comic books. It seemed like the only thing I was capable of doing. I’m not so sure about that anymore. I started at the age of four, drawing Tex Ritter comics in my kindergarten class. I wasn’t much of a storyteller, but I could do a great pinhead. I was into cowboys. Only cowboys. Back home,...

  6. The Chaykin Tapes
    (pp. 14-25)

    Q: Do you prefer being called Howard or Howie?

    A: Howard. People in comics think that everyone should be a good guy. Carmine Infantino used to call Mike Kaluta “Mikie.” I think it’s repulsive. Every guy in comics thinks that everyone has a nickname. I don’t have a nickname. (laughing) My nickname is sir.

    Q: Mr. Howard?

    A: Howard is fine. Chaykin is okay. Hey champ. Hey buddy. Hey sport. Daddio is real good, I like that. Next question please?

    Q: Was it your life’s goal to be an artist?

    A: As far back as I can remember it’s been...

  7. The Howard Chaykin Interview
    (pp. 26-38)

    CFF: Okay, what I’d like to talk about mainly is the way you approach your work as an artist.

    CHAYKIN: Okay.

    CFF: What first attracted you to comic art?

    CHAYKIN: I was aware of comics as something I really like a lot and wanted to do when I was about four or five. My cousin gave me thousands of comics that his mother had forced him to throw away, and I liked the bright pictures; they seemed very accessible. I didn’t think of it in those terms in those days, but that’s the way it is. And I always as...

  8. Howard Chaykin
    (pp. 39-56)

    John: How did you get into comics?

    Howard: Just about everyone in my generation had a portfolio, most of which was not particularly good. On the other hand we all hung around DC Comics in the early ’70s, and slowly, but surely, they got used to your face and you ended up getting a job.

    My first couple of jobs were romance stories and mystery stories. One- or two-page fillers, and then you get up to five pages. And that’s basically it.

    Paul: Are all these different genres a good training ground?

    H: I still feel that that is one...

  9. Howard Chaykin: Heading for Time
    (pp. 57-78)

    MILE HIGH FUTURES: First, this may be a really off-the-wall question, but I was recently shown someBlackhawkcomics that Mark Evanier wrote a few years ago, for which you did the covers. It strikes me that Blackhawk, from the covers, might well be Reuben Flagg’s grandfather. Is there any possibility of that being true?

    HOWARD CHAYKIN: I hate that continuity shit! No. These are comic book characters, Bud. I know there’s a long established precedent of Dan Reed and Brit Reed and all those Reed people, but no. The fact of the matter is that, like a lot of...

  10. Howard Chaykin Puts It All Back Together Again
    (pp. 79-108)

    AMAZING HEROES: We haven’t seen much new work from you since the end ofThe Shadow, which was over a year ago; now, suddenly, there’s this raft of stuff:Time²,Blackhawk, the newAmerican Flagg!I assume it’s a case of several projects coming to fruition simultaneously, rather than some sudden burst of productivity.

    HOWARD CHAYKIN: Oh, yeah, no question. It wasn’t as if I was sitting on my hands in all that time; I was busy. There are always these blank times, where nothing is hitting the stands. Anybody who has been in the business long enough or who...

  11. Howard Chaykin: Home on the Plexus Range
    (pp. 109-115)

    Howard Chaykin is proudly waving hisAmerican Flagg!After creating the title for First Comics and working on it for more than two years, he says he tried to retire. But now, the writer/artist has returned to start again withHoward Chaykin’s American Flagg!After years of absence, he admits it feels a little strange to be back.

    “It has been a while since I really looked at the book and thought about the material,” he says. “I spent time figuring out what it would take to reviveFlagg!and bring it back to some semblance of what it deserved,...

    (pp. 116-120)

    Howard Chaykin: I’m convinced there’s Cossack blood in me, because I’m a nice Jewish boy with high Cossack cheekbones. My family on both sides were raped by Cossacks. On my mother’s side my grandmother was Austrian of Russian and Polish ancestry, my grandfather was Polish, and on my father’s side both were horse-traders from Odessa. Both sides were of anarchist socialist leanings, “street-thinkers” is what they were called into the twenties.

    By the time I was growing up in the fifties in New York, that socialism had deteriorated into an FDR socialism and ultimately the family became a bunch of...

  13. Howard Chaykin
    (pp. 121-129)

    Howard Chaykin sits in a Latin American restaurant on lower Broadway, leaning over the remains of a breakfast crowded with refried beans and plantains. Having finished eating, he’s trying to carry on a conversation, but competing with a salsa-blaring juke box. It was a losing contest until the owners—sufficiently bribed—consented to unplugla musicafor the interview’s remainder. But Chaykin, master realist of modern comics, feels at home in the restaurant’s gritty street atmosphere.

    Since his professional debut in 1971, Chaykin is now one of the most creative writer/artists currently working in comics. His success is based on...

  14. Writer/Artist: Howard Chaykin
    (pp. 130-163)

    JEFF GELB: Howard, what’s occupying most of your time right now?

    HOWARD CHAYKIN: Right now I’m finishing a rewrite on a screenplay calledShowdownfor Larry Gordon’s company at Fox.

    JEFF: Is this your idea?

    HOWARD: No, they gave us the assignment, and we’re delivering it Friday.

    JEFF: Who is “we”?

    HOWARD: I have a writing partner, John Moore, who was my assistant onThe Shadowand onTime².

    JEFF: Writing assistant?

    HOWARD: No, an art assistant. I was at the San Diego Convention in ’85—I moved here in October of ’85, and one of the reasons I was...

  15. Real World Bravado
    (pp. 164-171)

    “Superheroes boil down tothreemyths—the Superman myth, the Captain America myth, and the Batman myth. Birth, re-creation, or revenge,” says Howard Chaykin.

    Now, the creator ofAmerican Flagg!andBlack Kissis trying to craft his own new superhero myth.Power and Glory, Chaykin’s creation for Malibu’s new Bravura line of creator-owned comics, is his own unique look at the superhero in today’s real world.

    Power and Gloryis basically what happens when the United States government gets into the business of creating a superhero,” Chaykin explains. “They figure that the 1980s made it possible for an audience...

  16. An Interview with … Howard Chaykin
    (pp. 172-180)

    CC: Keith Giffen paid you the compliment of calling you the most cynical man in comics.

    Chaykin: If I were as cynical as they say, I would pander to the audience, seek out the audience’s most basic needs and suck that tit until it was bone dry. What I do is try to demonstrate to the audience that their perceptions, the material they read, the world in which they live, and the beliefs they hold dear are arrant horseshit. If that’s being cynical, what is a character like Lobo, the safe-sex version of rebellion, the comic book equivalent ofDetails...

  17. Sting of the Scorpion
    (pp. 181-187)

    CBA: Do you recall when you first heard about Atlas/Seaboard?

    Howard: Honestly, I don’t. Their office was diagonally across from Marvel, which used to be on 575 Madison Avenue, and I don’t remember what first brought me there. It’s been a long time.

    CBA: Do you remember whether promises were made about some creator ownership of properties and the possibility of royalties?

    Howard: No. I don’t recall any of that. What they were doing was paying more money. There was no talk of royalties or creative ownership in my memory.

    CBA: Do you recall if it was a significant amount?...

  18. Still Chaykin After All These Years: A Life in American Comics
    (pp. 188-241)

    Comic Book Artist: How old are you, Howard?

    Howard Chaykin: I’m fifty-three years old, and that means I lie about my age in show business, but not in comic books, because it’s easy to track it down in this field. I can be Googled up the ass.

    CBA: “Chaykin,” what does the name mean?

    Howard: It means “seagull” in Russian. I found out about six years ago that my name isn’t really Chaykin, because I learned the man I thought was my father was actually my adoptive father. My real father’s name was Norman Drucker, no relation to Mort Drucker....

  19. My Lunch with Howard Chaykin
    (pp. 242-249)

    PHILIP SCHWEIER: I just want to do a quick overview of your career.

    HOWARD CHAYKIN: Sure, okay.

    SCHWEIER: In the ’70s, in the early ’70s, you were doing comics …

    CHAYKIN: When I was eleven. Let’s accept that right here and now.

    SCHWEIER: (laugh) Okay.

    CHAYKIN: I was a tad, I was a child, I was the Mozart of comics.

    SCHWEIER: I always thought so.

    CHAYKIN: Well, there you go. What a guy.

    SCHWEIER: At a time when superheroes dominated the landscape, you were kind of all over the place, what with Ironwolf at DC,The Scorpionat Atlas—Dominic...

  20. An Afternoon with Howard Chaykin
    (pp. 250-288)

    Costello: I want to start by asking about class. In a lot of genre entertainment there’s often a kind of cheap populism, but not very much specific attention to the realities of social class. Your work is among the few instances of comics in mainstream genres that takes class seriously—beyond the romanticization of the common people. Even if class isn’t central it’s never invisible. Is that a deliberate choice?

    Chaykin: My mentor was Gil Kane, who was an autodidact and brilliant in his own way, but hampered by his own needs and wants and financial state, and also by...

  21. INDEX
    (pp. 289-301)