Comic Book Historians

Howard Chaykin, Dark Prince of Comics part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson

June 15, 2019 Comic Book Historians Season 1 Episode 43
Comic Book Historians
Howard Chaykin, Dark Prince of Comics part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Chapters
Comic Book Historians
Howard Chaykin, Dark Prince of Comics part 2 with Alex Grand & Jim Thompson
Jun 15, 2019 Season 1 Episode 43
Comic Book Historians

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview the Prince of Comics, Howard Chaykin part 2 discussing his work on American Flagg, the Shadow, Time Square, Blackhawk, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Black Kiss, Cyberella with Don Cameron, his Television career including the 1990s Flash TV show, Legend with Russ Heath, Hawkgirl with Walt Simsonson, his Marvel career in 2012, Black Kiss 2, the controversy surrounding the Divided States of Hysteria, and finally his ode to comic history, Hey Kids! Comics!  Should Batman fight crime wearing a ball gag?  Find out here.  Find out here. Music - Standard License. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Show Notes Transcript

Alex Grand and Jim Thompson interview the Prince of Comics, Howard Chaykin part 2 discussing his work on American Flagg, the Shadow, Time Square, Blackhawk, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Black Kiss, Cyberella with Don Cameron, his Television career including the 1990s Flash TV show, Legend with Russ Heath, Hawkgirl with Walt Simsonson, his Marvel career in 2012, Black Kiss 2, the controversy surrounding the Divided States of Hysteria, and finally his ode to comic history, Hey Kids! Comics!  Should Batman fight crime wearing a ball gag?  Find out here.  Find out here. Music - Standard License. Images used in artwork ©Their Respective Copyright holders, CBH Podcast ©Comic Book Historians. Thumbnail Artwork ©Comic Book Historians. Support us at https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/comicbookhistorians)

Alex:               Yeah. So First comics, tell us about that company.

 

Chaykin:            What’s there to tell?

 

Alex:               Well they are the independent comics, how did you end up there?

 

Chaykin:            I had been, like I said, by that time I was in my early Thirties I was in crushing credit card debt, having worked for Byron Preiss for as long as I had, you know, because no one made any money working for Byron Preiss except for Byron Preiss

 

Chaykin:            I knew Mike Gold from DC. We shared enthusiasms both in and outside of comics and he asked me if I had any interest in working for a new company and they had real money. Not to sound puerile or just, you know, or to blow the fantasies of American comic book readers, but this is a job and I was in serious debt and I had an opportunity to get out of that dept and the money that’s flat, the money they offered to me, it was going to make that possible.

 

Alex:               Right.

 

Chaykin:            I created this book, it was a kitchen sink comic book. It was based on a lot of material. I’m thinking about reading about in that era. You know, I was a serious stoner, a serious drunk. I was operating from the respective of extremely blind rage of what I regarded the depredations of the Republican Party. Who knew, I mean really who knew it was going to be coming down the pike. Right. I mean I was pissed at Reagan, imagine now. At any rate, they bought it whole hog. That’s how it played. And significantly, the book had enormous impact, but not on the audience but on the talent pool.

 

Alex:               Right.

 

Chaykin:            Okay. Because the people who saw the book are the people who became professionals. The audience, this was, this is not a book. Even at that point, the audience had been convinced that the material was the brand and I was operating on the perspective that, you know, we were entering a realm of star system and the talent will be the brand. And to a great extent, it’s sort of middle of the road from me and I’m never going to achieve that kind of attention with the audience because I don’t do material that flatters the audience. Okay. And Flag was not an easy book to read for people who had been the custom to the X-Men and an audience that had been raised on the lap it to you of the solar age and then the Marvel age. This is material that was too complicated for that audience. They just weren’t interested in it. And also comic book readers have a tendency to be very embarrassed by anything that goes beyond pinup and cheesecake. When they introduced the concept of actual human desire, they get very itchy. They’re not comfortable with this.

 

Jim:                Do you think that you hit at the same time as Frank Miller was really becoming something noticeable and that Alan Moore was doing what he was doing on swamp thing and Dave Sim was really expanding his ambitions in terms of Cerebus that all of you were doing because you were part of that just as much as they were.

 

Chaykin:            Yeah but I mean, I don’t, I’m not familiar with Dave’s stuff. I mean, I’m barely familiar. I mean, I knew Dave years ago, but I have no familiarity with the Cerebus stuff at all, I have to say. But I knew Frank’s stuff and Frank’s first great gift from my perspective with synergizing Eisner, Ditko and Kane and beautifully so. Okay.

 

Jim:                Oh that’s great. Because you’re totally right. I hadn’t seen that but Kane is very present.

 

Chaykin:            And Alan’s stuff, I read the Swamp Thing after the fact, the first stuff of Alan’s I read the Beau Jeffery stuff which just killed me and I was reading the Watchmen stuff in black and white as it came in. But earlier on era, the flag stuff, I just, after the fact, Janette Kahn literally grilled me for not bringing it to DC first. And I said to her and I stand by this, that they would never have published the book as I had done, ever because the only reason Flagg existed the way it did was it was working. It was for a company without to use your own word, baggage. There was no history there.

 

Alex:               And it was made for direct market not for the newsstands.

 

Chaykin:            Yes. There’s no way that book could have done it. I mean, look, I and again I reached a 10th of the audience that anybody, that Allen and Frank reached on their books, a 10th because Flag was a smaller company, First rather it was a smaller company and you have no idea how many years I’ve spent explaining to the visually and narratively is a historically literate crew I frequently interview, explaining that, no, I did not get that particular trope or that particular technique from that guy.

 

Chaykin:            He got it from me. But you didn’t notice that because you were busy reading superman comics. That’s really the way it’s at.

 

Jim:                Was this where you developed some of your strongest collaborations too? I mean, in terms of your lettering or your art, your colorist, I mean, you developed a team that went on to do just magnificent work.

 

Chaykin:            Look, I mean I believe, we now live in a world which I don’t think is ever going to change, where the writer is the Alpha in comics, which is irrelevant and pointless. And the problem with that is that it reduces the letterer to a delivery system for text when a letter in comics is a narrative collaborator and I’m lucky enough to have worked with Ken Bruzniak from the time that we were in our early thirties. We’ve known each other since our early twenties and Bruce and I as I’ve said more than once one came from different mothers. We operate from an art director’s understanding of graphics and the using the tropes of comics in ways that satisfy us. When I did the divided states of hysteria, when I gave Ken the script, I had no idea what to expect from him with my note that said internet chatter. There was a phrase that was bandying around, it seems to have vanished, but I expected something like along the lines of, you know, caption buttons or some shit. What I got was this absolute tour de Force of insanity graphics that was fucking nuts that I just loved.

 

Alex:               Hmm.

 

Chaykin:            And the same is true in Flag. I always got more from him than I asked for. And bear in mind, just like me, he’s a phenomenal pain in the ass. We’re both very difficult men, but we’re also deeply professional and with a great love of our own professions.

 

Jim: Why did you pull away from Flagg both in terms of writing and of art and then writing?

Chaykin: I was bored, I was running out of interest.

Jim: That’s a good answer. Were you making money on this?

Chaykin: Yes.

Jim: Comparatively?

Chaykin: Well relatively speaking I wasn’t doing great but I was doing okay. First had great rates, they were paying good rates and I was generating a bit of secondary income.

Jim: You’ve mentioned Dave Sim, Dave Sim in comics journal once you left was critical about that in that he said that you left because you weren’t self publishing and only self publishing at that time, those were the people that cared about what they created.

Chaykin: I didn’t read that but that sounds like bullshit to me.

Jim: And that had nothing to do with it you were just bored with the character?

Chaykin: Yes I was, I was tired of the material, I wanted to do something else. The fact that Jack Kirby could do fifty issues of Fantastic Four while we were doing other shit. Like, it’s beyond me.

 





Alex:  Yes, it’s a lot.

Jim: And did you have Time (Squared) in mind at that point?

Chaykin: Yes.

Jim: But you went to DC first?

Chaykin: Well, yes. No, I did the first Time (Squared) before I did The Shadow.

Jim: Did you?

Chaykin: Yes.

Jim: Was it published before or you just did it before?

Chaykin: I don’t recall.

Jim: Okay, all right. We’ll come back to Time (Squared).

Chaykin: I could be wrong, my timeline could be fucked up. I could be wrong. The Shadow is the first thing I did, my first California job.

Jim: Okay.

Chaykin: I was offered it at the San Diego convention at July and I was drawing it in September of that year. I literally was drawing the cover which became the poster as my belongings were being delivered a week late. I mean the first thing I had to do was I took my drawing table and assembled it and was working on that poster when they were moving shit into my house.

Alex: So did the Jim Shooter incident kind of ban you from DC as well for a little while?

Chaykin: No not at all.

Alex: No, just for the marvel?

Chaykin: And again I mean, frankly if I come back to Marvel with my hat in my hand I’m sure I could have gotten a job.

Alex: Right. There you go. Did you read Shadow pulps and things like that as far as research or have you already done that?

Chaykin: I read a couple of them, I didn’t really care about them. I read the dossier to familiarize myself with the characters and of course I antagonized the currently dead Harlan Ellison by what I did with the material and I think that a lot of old time Shadow fans were very unhappy with them and fine, if you don’t like it do your own.

Alex: I like it, I liked it. But I wasn’t attached to the older stuff.

Chaykin: Right, and the fact is I think they hired me, when Giordano button holed me at that San Diego show I think he expected me to carry on with what Kaluta and ONeill were doing, I had no interest in doing that. I was more interested in playing with the idea of a 19th century, early 20th century man stuck in late 20th century America with all that ethos. And the one thing that Harlan is upset about is that I portrayed him as a misogynist and a bit of a homophobe and a racist which frankly seemed to be the default position of many white men in the late 19th-20th century.

Alex: Wait, you are saying the Shadow was that way?

Chaykin: Yes.

Alex: Yes, okay I see.

Chaykin: Come on, contemporary showmanship will occasionally oppose contemporary attitude on old material but it doesn’t make it any realer. A white member of the Anglo-Saxon protestant ruling class in the ruling class in the United States in the time of Lamont Cranston for example would have been an anti-Semite, a racist, certainly a misogynist and a homophobe because they were all innate to white culture.

Alex: Right.

Chaykin: Sorry, you know. It’s just is.

Jim: Well as the series progressed he got punished for it, not by you but I remember Kyle Baker was doing it. He got decapitated and was carried around in a box.

Chaykin: That really delighted the original Shadow fans out there.

Jim: Kind of took you off the hook almost.

Chaykin: Look, the fact is I said that at the time. The reason is Shadow identifies as a 1930s pulp hero, which could have been canceled in 1949. If Superman and Batman had been banished from the landscape of 1949 they too would have been regarded as nostalgia items. That material exists because of nostalgia, I tend to stand back from nostalgia as good stalgia do what you want to do with it. You know?

Alex: Yes, interesting.

Chaykin: And again when I did the sequel to them, Midnight in Moscow which is also a prequel to it, that last page where Lamont Cranston deserts Margot Lane. The guys a twat.

Alex: who’s idea was it to make the Shadow in the contemporary times, was that yours?

Chaykin: Mine.

Alex: That was yours?

Chaykin: I said it would be a waste of time if it wasn’t otherwise.

Alex: Right. Well that’s cool.

Jim: The two volumes of Time (Squared)-

Chaykin: Soon to be three.

Jim: I was about to ask you before I even did anything else. It’s been out there talked about for so long, like a decade or more.

Chaykin: Well the last 12 pages of Black and White artwork have been delivered and I’ve got the first 36 pages I did in color are done. The lettering has been done on the first 24, Ken is working on pages 25 through 36 right now. We are trying to figure out a publishing strategy as they say in the animated cartoons as to how exactly we’re going to bring it out, when and what context format. There’s a number of bulbs in the air we’re talking about right now.

Jim: Who’s publishing it?

Chaykin: It will be from Image.

Jim: Okay. But you don’t know yet if it’s going to be in the size as the original two?

Chaykin: Probably not be because those days are gone. The size of the book will not but the thickness of the book will certainly be. There’s lots of stuff here, we’ve got lots of stuff.

Jim: And does it look like the other two, I mean either-

Chaykin: I don’t know. I’d like to, I don’t know I think so. My editor seems happy.

Jim: So you’re drawing it to look like those to some degree?

Chaykin: Yes.

Jim: Oh great. Well you know how much people are excited about that. The people that are fans.

Chaykin: I don’t think anyone gives a flying fuck personally but that’s another story.

Jim: Okay. I do.

Chaykin: You’re allowed but enjoy the moment.

Jim: With that said I want to say that when it first came out, when epiphany came out-

Chaykin: You had no idea what I was talking.

Jim: My first thought was it’s not American Flagg. Nobody’s having sex, it’s just a different book and I didn’t understand it.

Chaykin: Well the idea of a comic book artist and writer not being a one trick pony confuses the fuck out of the comic book audience, doesn’t it?

Jim: Well it confused me, I didn’t know what to make of it.

Chaykin: Well I mean look, the comic book business is filled with people that have one idea and keep doing it over and over and over again. And I’m not that guy. I like lots of different stuff, so I do lots of different stuff. I wish I had the sensibility to make a great deal of money doing one thing and I can barely make enough money doing a bunch. So I do what I do. Time Square was an opportunity to do a Fantasia about my boy hood which is what it is to a certain extent, an attack on my family which is what it is to a certain extent. A sword and sorcery book where people prefer crime fiction and an odd tribute to Fafnir by Fritz Lieber.

Jim: I don’t need to ask any question about it, you just summed up, that was perfect. That’s volume one correct?

Chaykin: The third book completes the trilogy, the third book is called Hallowed Ground Zero. It’s about the destruction of Time (Squared). It completes the trilogy.

Jim: Shouldn’t we talk about Jazz and music in relation to this too?

Chaykin: Well yes, it reflected my then new found and obsessive interest in Jazz. I wanted to do a comic book that felt like a be-bop solo which was of course, I operate from the perspective that my audience and I are on the same page which is always wrong. I’ve always assumed that my own interests echos my audience’s interests which I am constantly being disabused but I ignore it and carry on anyway. But I like doing different stuff and if I’m really lucky my audience occasionally catches up with me.

Jim: If you eventually release this in one hard cover-

Chaykin: That will eventually happen, yes.

Jim: Will you include the American Flagg issue?

Chaykin: yes.

Jim: Anything else you want to say about the upcoming one?

Chaykin: No.

Jim: Okay.

Chaykin: I’m pretty happy with it. I literally just finished the artwork and delivered the artwork to my letterer and my colorist Friday. Right now I’m not even thinking about it because I’ve moved on and I’m working on my script for Hey Kids volume II which is called prophets and loss. Prophets mean Old Testament prophets not the other one. That’s why I’m emotionally and mentally engaged right now.

Jim: Is this still the work your most proud of?

Chaykin: What’s that? The Time (Squared)?

Jim: Yes.

Chaykin: Probably, yes. Although I’m pretty high on Hey Kids! That’s a great story and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Alex: So Blackhawk 3 issued many series for DC prestige format. You had previously done covers for earlier Blackhawks, versions-

Chaykin: I loved that book so much.

Jim: Yes.

Chaykin: Blackhawk ive said more than once in the first comic book I ever stole. I love everything about the Blackhawks. I still feel that the three greatest comic book cover arts in the history of comics were Reed Crandall’s Blackhawk and military covers, Harvey Kurtzman’s covers for Two Fisted and Frontline. And Dave Johnson’s covers for anything.

Jim: Yes. Oh yes. I’m crazy about Dave Johnson.

Chaykin: Dave is the third greatest comic book artist that ever worked.

Jim: Tim Sales says the same thing about his covers. He thinks they’re the ones that nobody can top.

Chaykin: I’ve never had someone drive me so close to the edge of grabbing food from my nostril. He cracks me up, he’s one of the funniest, wittiest men I’ve ever known. I’m a tough audience.

Alex: Cool. Now there isn’t a lot of flying in your Blackhawk and the continuity stuck for a good while past your issues.

Chaykin: I love what Marty and Rick did, I really did.

Alex: Okay. So you did follow them?

Advertisement

Chaykin: When they completely shit the bed with that awful New 52 version.

Jim: Oh yes, it’s terrible.

Chaykin: Oh god, oh god! GI Joe done badly. I called Dan and I said I’d love to do this again and I think I’ve found a way to do it as a contemporary book and he said we’re waiting for a distinctive work over. No of course it’s not going to happen because Spielberg had made a noise about wanting to do it, it’s never going to happen.

Alex: Oh, okay.

Jim: He’s been talking about that for like 20 years.

Chaykin: Oh yes actually going on close over 30 because my first meeting with Hollywood executives was in regard to that work that I did on Blackhawk back in 85.

Alex: Oh really?

Chaykin: Yes. So I think someone showed Spielberg a picture of the War Wheel and he was like woooo.

Alex: So Spielberg’s a comic book guy like Lucas.

Chaykin: No he’s not. He has no understanding of comics whatsoever.

Alex: Oh okay.

Chaykin: No I mean unlike a lot of those guys from that generation that had a comic book idol.

Alex: Oh Spielberg himself, okay.

Chaykin: I think he knows, he’s a movie guy and not a comic book guy in the way that Lucas is both a movie and comic book guy. Yes, I get the impression that Spielberg has no familiarity with comics.

Alex: Oh I see, that’s interesting. Because you did work in Hollywood.

Chaykin: Anecdotally back in the day when Heavy Metal was doing 1941 I am told by reliable sources that his understanding of the process was suggested to the editor of the book was that she should memorize what she’s looking at in terms of the product and describe it to her artist. Whereas with Lucas I came home from the production unit with with 400 stills all of which looked like IKEA.

Jim: I have Alex, one Blackhawk question before going. That first issue that you did you have an opening that reminds me of the start of Rio Bravo where there’s no sound. You have no word balloons and it’s just like page after page. I always thought that was really exciting and unexpected. Any comments about that?

Chaykin: Well I had read, at that point I had read Hunters which is a novel about Korean War air combat but also Kieth Robinson’s work about the RAF and the RCF. And I really enthused with the idea of the nightmare of air combat. And that combined with, the images came from Fred Cooper’s stock, you know Freddy Cooper’s work?

Jim: No.

Chaykin: Fred Cooper was the guy who created the big head cartoon that Lou Beach did for years that ended up being used in monopoly.

Jim: Oh yes and it pops up doesn’t it? Monopoly pops up in this.

Chaykin: Yes.

Jim: Or in Time (Squared).

Chaykin: Basically because he’s Major Domo. But Cooper was a really good typographer and cartographer and that’s where the line and the eagle come from in this case the Hawk. Because my dreams are almost always boiled down to my shouting and not being able to scream or be heard and I really wanted to achieve that effect. And I really wanted to do something that was different and interesting and I felt the material deserved it. And I do actually have a version of Blackhawk that takes place in a contemporary arena.





Jim: That would be great.

Chaykin: But it’s not going to happen.

Jim: They’re really giving you beautiful books in terms of production values and everything and then you have a falling out with DC over labeling right?

Chaykin: Yes. There was collusion going on between Carmine and Stan about creating a rating system. And you know collusion between the Companies has always happened just a matter of what they get away with and what they don’t. And again this is at the height of my alcoholism and just complete oblivion and I had that self-righteous blind rage that informed so much of that sort of experience and hence Black Kiss.

Jim: And you and Alan Moore and Frank Miller and the sellers of the time tried to put your weight down and go against the labeling but it wasn’t effective was it.

Chaykin: I don’t think anybody really cared what we thought. In the long run fan favorites were not perceived to being anything really to do with sales at that point. You know, I mean the assumption was back in those days and it still for a certain extent remains true that sales are not dependent on the main talent attached. We had books that sell really well because the guys doing it but I think in the long run I think the assumption is for the companies is that they can survive any fan favorite as long as they’ve got the material behind the audience.

Jim: Yes. So the notion that sales went up on Spiderman after Ditko left.

Chaykin: Right. By the way they lost me.

Jim: Yes. I never went back with the same kind of joy as I had over those first kind of-

Chaykin: And again I’m a fan of Romita’s work but in the same way that I stopped reading FF after Jack left I couldn’t look at Spiderman after Ditko left.

Jim: Yes.

Chaykin: There was just nothing there that interested me in the least.

Alex: Okay, after moving DC over censorship you did Black Kiss from Vortex and that was actually banned in some places, right?

Chaykin: Well it was banned. Hell yes it was because it was disgusting. I mean it was also very funny but you know, going back to what I said comic book fans kind of like cheesecake and tittilation with an aversion to the completion. And you know, I wanted to do a book that would literally be appalling and I succeeded I think.

Alex: Well it was interesting. Vampire, transsexual, we say transgender now. Completely unexpected and I’m referring to some panels but it blew everyone away. When I read it and I’m seeing Dagmar wiping stuff off her cheek and I’m like “wow what kind of comic am I reading” but I liked it, I was like “I’m finishing this today” because I want to know what happens next. Was that a profitable book for you?

Chaykin: Yes. On a per-page basis two of the most profitable products I’ve ever done commercially were Black Kiss, that original Black Kiss and the Nick Fury Wolverine graphic novel that I did with Archie Goodman back in the late 80s.

Alex: Yes, that’s a great one. I love that one.

Chaykin: Because I took an enormous out front page rate on Black Kiss because I assumed it wouldn’t sell and it sold like crazy.

Alex: So the sequel, was it as profitable as the first one?

Chaykin: No.  It did okay but it was no longer the outrage that it had then.

Alex: Yes, I see. So the character Dagmar, I remember watching like a Bob Hope show and he, it was the time that there was a blonde lady named Dagmar, is it named after her?

Chaykin: Yes.

Alex: That’s hilarious.

Chaykin: She would be the cast member of what was the first late night talk show called Jerry Lester’s Open House. Which I’m actually too young to remember but I’m speaking history of television this perceived, you know Steve Allan and Jack Parr. And she was just this enormously busty crypto-swede. I think she was from Wisconsin but pretended to be Swedish. I don’t think Dagmar was her real name but I loved the name so much that I stayed with it.

Alex: Well it really stands out. I mean when I read that I’d never head that name but then I saw the Bob Hope thing. But that character and how it was more of a character and people could still fulfill that role. I just think that was really smart really interesting.

Chaykin: well thanks

Jim: Howard, we’re going to kind of power through the 90s a little bit so we get everything in. You returned to DC for another kind of revisionist mini-series that was twilight.

Chaykin: With the fabulous Jose Luis García-López.

Jim: Yes.

Chaykin: If comics was a meritocracy if only. José Luis García-López would be regarded as the one true king.

Jim: He’s so under appreciated it’s kind of amazing. It’s fun listening to you talk about people like Buckler and him that are just undervalued.

Chaykin: Well Buckler is undervalued because Buckler was a wise guy who given the opportunity would never allow his skillset to actually work and was always looking for a quick buck, way out. Whereas García-López is a man of great honor.

Jim: Buckler’s work on Jungle Action and Deathlok showed what he was capable of when he was trying. I mean he was pretty innovative if he applied himself which I guess is what you’re saying to some degree-

Chaykin: Yes.

Jim: And then you brought back Iron Wolf and also returned to the Fritz Lieber characters too during this time.

Chaykin: Well working with Mike on both of those was a treat and the nice thing about the Lieber stuff was not having to apologize for how shitty my stuff was on it. It also reminded me of how much an influence Lieber was on me.

Jim: Well Mignola, at this point he hasn’t become quite what he becomes later on in terms of appreciation but his talents there by then completely isn’t it?

Chaykin: I completely agree, yes.

Jim: And then you helped form the, is it Bravura?

Chaykin: Bravura.

Jim: Yes. From Malibu. who were the ones who were doing that? Starlin was doing that?

Chaykin: Walter Simonson and Starlin, Bill Gaines, Steve Grant. We were so old yet so young it was unbelievable.

Jim: And talk about that for a minute, what was the idea behind that.

Chaykin: It was an opportunity to take advantage of what we mistakenly identified as an opening in the market for a new line in comics. The line basically tanked. But we all had a great time. I mean Power and Glory was a snide parody of what had been most of the comics in the 90s. You know, what was coming out of the image in those days because Image is an entirely different company today than what it was then. The image, the difference is between Hyundai in the 80s and Hyundai today, that kind of, now of course it’s a great IP factory and those days it was a physical action of pastiches. And that’s what Power and Glory was.





Jim: And in Power and Glory you got a taste of something that would later on of course be routine for you which was of course getting criticized on the left for something that was simply storytelling and what I’m talking about is the bad joke that one of the character tells because that fits with his characterization.

Chaykin: Exactly. Well I had a character define his own character by telling an awful joke and I was taken to task for telling the joke as opposed to write a character who would tell such joke to reveal the depths of his character. And that is so utterly spacious and fatuous as to embarrass me we share a species.

Jim: And you were a pioneer there because now that’s become a daily existence for anybody that takes any chances at all but this is early on.

Chaykin: The comic book audience like I said is the happiest place the comic book audience can find is in the world of a guy like Chris Claremont, who wraps everything up with a nice warm, hot bath, a warm cup of coco and a cookie. I’m not that guy, you know? I just don’t feel comfortable with doing that and that’s what the audience wants and if that audience wants it badly enough they know where to find it, they’re not going to find it with me.

Jim: D.C also started a science fiction imprint at that point, Helix, and you were writing Cyberella for that.

Chaykin: The astonishing Don Cameron who learnt a very valuable lesson from that book which was as much as he loved comics he never wanted to be a comic book artist.

Alex: Oh really, wow.

Chaykin: Well Don is a CGI artist now with extraordinary talent and he had learnt at that point that comic books are not the business that he should be in.

Alex: I see.

Chaykin: He’s a phenomenal animator and designer and works very steadily and works well. I mean he’s the guy that did the covers to Hey Kids!.

Alex: Yes.

Chaykin: They’re not really photographs it’s photo manipulation.

Alex: Oh, I see.

Chaykin: Because they are created in camera.

Alex: Yes, that’s cool. I befriended him recently and we chatted a bit and he said he loved assisting you on the stories and he said you guys have a lot of laughs on some of the pages.

Chaykin: Oh, yes.

Alex: What a fun time that sounds like.

Chaykin: Don is one of my favorite people in the world. We’ve traveled together, we still hang.

Alex: That’s cool.

Jim: What did DC do wrong on that imprint, why did it fail? Because it had the talent.

Chaykin: I couldn’t say. I don’t think there’s an audience in that sort of material anymore. And look I’ve said it more than once recently. I think it took me years to really fully understand it but just as the comics code authority it also infantilized the audience. And it created an audience that was interested in material that was just challenging enough.

Jim: You said that current comics are basically young adult fiction.

Chaykin: Yes and young adult fiction using the model of the road runner and the coyote as the paradigm. You know because what you’ve got is corporately owned characters and even non-corporately owned characters involved in an endless chase without closure.

Jim: So let’s talk for a few minutes about your time away from comics. It’s about this time that you go TV hollywood on us.

Chaykin: Well the reason I moved to California in the first place is I realized and I moved the day before I turned 35. I realized that I had no prospects whatsoever, that Flagg as big as a deal as it was for me had left me a cult figure, I was someone who some knew but was not known on a vaster, wider scale. And then I was going to potentially get as old as I am today and I had to do something about that. And the truth is I came out to California, it was time to use the cache American Flagg gave me to get into the movie business and ended up in television which I’m forever grateful. If I had the CV that I had then and I was 40 again I’d have a 7 figure development deal with the studios but back then no one had any idea what to do for the comic book talent. Comic books back then were regarded as a genre as opposed to a medium and now of course since the comic book business has become what it is in the mainstream world that has become a truth, that comic books are a genre today.

Chaykin: You know, we owe the existence of mainstream comics to Jack Kirby inventing Stan Lee and Stan Lee cheering the existence of comics for 50 years. But those comics that ultimately got cheerleaded in were superhero comic books. When I started looking for work in television I was perceived as a comic book guy dabbling in talent. So was giving comic book style of stuff to work on, I never worked on the show that I’d watch. But I did the best work I could for the people for whom I was working and I’m very grateful for the work I had as it gave me a pension and it gave me health coverage. There’s been now and as boring as that may sound at my age it is a blessing.

Alex: Well yes for sure. So do you still get health coverage from working.

Chaykin: Fuck yes, man. I mean look, I’ve been on Medicare for three years but I also have ancillary coverage from the writers guild of America.

Alex: Well that’s awesome.

Chaykin: Thank you God I don’t believe in.

Advertisement

Jim: And did working on the television is there any way in which it had a positive impact or a negative impact on your writing, on your art, anything about when you came back to comics was it different because of your 12 years in television?

Chaykin: Oh absolutely. It had a very positive effect on it. It made me understand servicing the narrative in a more specific way. It made my understand the relationship with space through time and I think it just made me a better writer,

Alex: You worked on the 1990 Flash TV show a little, is that correct?

Chaykin: I did. That was my first show. They got me very cheap because my agent sold me down the river. I started as a story editor on that show, my last job I was an executive producer on Mutant X one of the worst television shows ever made. Not the worst one I’ve ever worked on, the worst one I’ve ever worked on was the worst television showed it was called Earth’s Final Conflict which was a television series that should have been in a novel about bad television, it was so dreadful. I mean seriously, it was execrable. And I was only fired from it because I was a counter-fire, one set of producers demanded they fire one writer that to this day has never had anything produced and I got fired and was immediately rolled over into a development position with the same company. But I worked on utter unwatchable shit.

Alex: That’s amazing. But you got a few benefits out of it.

Chaykin: I do. And again I’m grateful for those benefits, I’m quite serious.

Alex: So then you came back to comics, first as a writer on American Century for Vertigo and with Mighty Love you were drawing again.





Chaykin: Mighty Love was the first thing I wrote and drew. I sold that a month after I got fired from my last television job. And again I’d been away from comics for a long enough time that the books sank like a stone. I’m really proud of that work, I’m very happy with that work. I’d like to see that printed again for Image some time sooner or later.

Jim: I’m holding my copy in my hand right now.

Chaykin: Look, I’m really proud of that work.

Alex: Yes, it’s almost like when Harry met Sally.

Chaykin: What you mean if you’ve got mail and you’ve got mail it’s based on the same thing which is something called the shop around the corner. Which is an Hungarian comedy which in turn was made into a film with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret someone, I forget-

Jim: Margaret Sullivan.

Chaykin: And a musical called she loves me which originally starred Daniel Massey and oh my god, what’s her name, the woman who played Miss Pepperidge. Oh god I hate when this shit happens, but most recently the version of it with Laura Renanti who plays Supergirl’s mom I gather who is now playing Eliza Doolittle on Broadway, opposite Zac Levi who played the male lead who I’m in love with this guy. So yes that’s his providence.

Alex: I can see Mighty Love being like a Netflix series too or something like that.

Chaykin: Well it was written as a pilot.

Alex: As a pilot, there you go. That’s interesting, because when I read it I felt like this feels TV to me.

Chaykin: For some reason I obviously lost a bet in some karmic way that I’ve not been able to get any lucky with any traction in getting my stuff turned into film.

Alex: Well they should because-

Chaykin: Your lips to god’s ears, back to that god I don’t believe in.

Alex: Well we can satellite this to the different gods back to the-

Chaykin: Let us pray to a god I don’t believe in.

Alex: Or a séance, let’s do a séance. So was City of Tomorrow influenced by your work on Stars my Destination or not at all?

Chaykin: No not really. City of Tomorrow was for me a metaphor of gay marriage. Read it again you’ll see what I’m talking about. I mean I’ve always liked the idea of a culture growing to sexualize its machinery and the idea of further, it’s more influenced by code winner Smith, in Smith’s world animals were elevated to the state of humanity but maintained as second class citizens so humanity had something to look down upon. And I really wanted to play with that. And also the fact that we live in a world of sex dolls, and I really wanted to play with that.

Alex: Sex dolls?  Do they provide that with your pension?

Chaykin: No, I’m married.

Alex: Well that’s good.

Jim: Good answer.

Chaykin: You can make whatever you want with that answer and do whatever you want with it and you’d be ashamed of yourself right now. Trust me, if you want digression you’re asking for trouble. do go on.

Alex: So Legend with Russ Heath it was a retelling of the Hugo Danner Gladiator story.

Chaykin: And again I said earlier I had no idea why it was changed from Gladiator to Legend but Russ did an absolute bang up job. I loved what he did though, it was great.

Alex: Yes. Were you guys friends?

Chaykin: Not really but I’ve known Russ since I was a kid. You know. Ive said it more than once that I sat with Steven Mitchell and I stood behind him as he anchored the Splash page, that double page spread of the easiest first tiger with a brush on this rickety drawing table. I mean Russ is a god. I was a huge fan, I always have been.

Jim: Oh great. His work in the early 70s on DC war books every double page spread is just unbelievable. I mean I can’t think of anything that compares to it.

Chaykin: Look he took it but had good lighting. And that’s not a joke it’s true.

Alex: In 2006 you did Hawk Girl and that was written by Walter Simonson.

Chaykin: Right.

Alex: Was that a fun project because you guys had known each other for a long time?

Chaykin: We’d known each other, yes it was a gas to do. And I’m of the mind that no one should draw Hawkman or Hawk Girl except Joe Kubert. I’ve got a lot of apologies to make but that’s just the way it is. I had a good time doing it but I had a seductive offer from Marvel I took it.

Alex: Right okay. Oh yes because you did other superhero stuff, you did Punisher, Wolverine.

Chaykin: I mean Aubrey Citizen brought me over to Marvel. I have no idea but Aubrey, I saw Aubrey recently he’s the son I never knew I deserved. And he brought me over there and I did Blade for 12 issues working with the astonishing Marc Guggenheim the most writing friendly artist that I ever worked with. He understands how to call out shots. I work with Matt, I did a bunch of stuff for Marvel at that point and that dried up around early 2012 and I haven’t worked for them since except for intermittently bits and pieces. I think I aged out and nobody told me.

Alex: Oh okay.

Chaykin: I was told in January 2012 I’d have a job in April and I even looked at my watch, I’m not holding my breath. I’ve aged out of both Marvel and DC.

Jim: But you did something for DC recently didn’t you?

Chaykin: I did some rough and ready stuff but you know, no one at DC or Marvel are calling me offering me a run on a book. No ones saying do you want to do this for the next, no one.

Alex: The whole question of being aged out, so does that mechanism mean that a new editor is now there and now this editor is maybe kind of a little bit younger than the other one so they don’t understand-

Chaykin: I don’t think any editor, look I’m older than most of the editors in Marvel and DC’s parents. And nobody wants to yell at anybody that reminds them of their dad.

Alex: Yes there you go.

Chaykin: I certainly wouldn’t. I’d rather work with someone that reflects my own contemporary sensibility. The reality is I’m actually very well regarded by the professions or delivering work on a professional basis but right now the audience regards me as a truly horrible human being so that tends to filter out the younger editors that don’t know me. Again I’m perfectly happy with the life I live today. I mean I created my own reality and I’m very successful with this, whatever bitterness I have I’m responsible for.

Jim: You know the stuff you were doing for Marvel at that point, a lot of it, not all of it because you did the Phantom Eagle but a lot of it was superhero stuff.

Chaykin: Like what? I did a 6 issue run on Wovlerine with Guggenheim which was a gas I loved doing that, I did 12 issues of Blade, I did 16 or 17 issues with Punisher War Journal and the Phantom Eagle stuff was a gas as well. And I did some Avengers stuff with Brian and some on my own and it was all a great deal of fun but it’s not primary in my skillset. You know in the middle of all this I also did a Western for Disney Italia called America Century West.





Jim: Oh yes? Horses.

Chaykin: Which I’m very proud of and very few people have seen.

Jim: I have that, I like it a lot.

Alex: One quick question and this actually kind of goes to Marvel again but it’s actually from the 80s. You mentioned that Wolverine Nick Fury that was written by Archie Goodwin I think-

Chaykin: I penciled it in 1985 and inked it in 1989 because it took Archie 4 years to write it.

Alex: Okay, tell us how it was to work with Archie on that work?

Chaykin: It was a gas. I loved doing that. I mean again I was doing it Marvel style which was something that I’m not happy with, I’m not fond of that I prefer working from full script. It’s one of the reasons why I left Hawk Girl, Walter works Marvel style and I didn’t like that anymore I just really wanted full script. But Archie was very sympatico. I had a great deal of room to play. Again I’m very proud of the work I did, I mean retrospect you look at work that you’ve done and you can always tinker and play with it and it was just recently reprinted in one of these new anthologies they’re doing. And there’s a lot of cringe worthy stuff in there. You know, you learn through your work and you keep working. I mean look I’m 48 years in for Christ’s sake.

Jim: So talking about the superheros back to including Wovlerine. You described comics at some point as being about liberal ends achieved by fascist means. I assume you’re mainly talking about superheros when you’re talking about that.

Chaykin: Right. How you work on mainstream on mainstream comic books these days are superhero comics if they’re anything to do with very few exceptions. And yes I believe they are liberal ends by fascist means.

Chaykin: Batman as I’ve said more than once is a rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight. And from that bad day he has justified a vigilante’s experience, the narcissism of which if you actually stop for a moment to think about it is staggering. You know, I was scheduled to do and then had canceled out from under me a panel at a convention at New York City a couple of years ago about the spiritual relationship between Bruce Wayne and Donald Trump. And I stand on that relationship. Batman is about a guy who after that bad day decided he was judge, jury and executioner and instead of investing those billions of dollars in the Wayne foundation in either politics or the private sector to fight poverty where it actually exists he dresses up like a bondage freak and spends billions on these tools and toys to beat the living shit out of people he knows are bad by the way they look. Okay. It’s a 15 year old boys idea about the world embraced by 55 year old men.

Alex: A ball gag would complete his outfit basically.

Chaykin: I’m there babe and you know there’s a butt plug happening there somewhere. But we’re dealing with as I say, we’re dealing with a 15 year old boys idea of adult behavior embraced by 55 year old men. That’s what we’re talking about. And look when I saw the trailer for Brightburn, that’s what I suspect Superman would be like if he ever showed up from Krypton.

Jim: So in stuff that you’ve done in recent times, you’ve met a lot of resistance and people are very-

Chaykin: Resistance yes but not resistance from people who have actually read the material. The arrogance of presumption has interfered with my material, that’s where it’s at.

Jim: That’s what I want to ask you about in comparison to something else is you’ve gotten calls, ridiculously called fascist and everything else. You get called names, anti-Muslim and anti-this and anti-trans, different things and it seems unfair and you’ve commented about that mentality, we’re going to talk about it in a few minutes but Frank Miller gets similarly characterized. Do you think it’s the same thing or is there room for legitimate criticism.

Chaykin: I’m not seeing what Frank got criticized for so I can’t speak to that. I do know that in my case as I said in the piece that I posted on Medium a week ago that I finally come to realize that the attacks on Divided States of Hysteria came from people who did not read the book. Or having read the first issue presumed that like all comic books as it is in the first issue it will be in the next 20. I write characters who change, had they stuck around with the book they would have realized that the character they had problems with was both the moral focus of the book, the heroine of the book and also there was a romantic interest we had to censor as they didn’t want the collateral damage attacking publishers that was attacking me was based not on the act depicted but by the victim of the act depicted. That the credulity of believing that I would encourage such an act, that the depiction of the act is akin to the encouraging of the act or the act itself is first of all specious and bullshit. Secondly as I said in this piece of medium that it was because of who the victim was. Had the lynching victim been a Jew then nobody would have given a flying fuck, I guarantee it. It is that victim culture attitude operating in the comic book universe comparing with a level of performative morality which ignores truth in the name of feelings. Feelings are not facts.

Jim: Were you surprised by some of your colleagues reactions?

Chaykin: Surprised dissapointed, and they’re all dead to me, but besides which they’re cowards because not one of them has ever come up to say a word to me in person.

Jim: So you’ve not had an honest conversation with anybody about this?

Chaykin: Never.

Jim: Amongst the people you work with?

Chaykin: Never. These people are chicken shits. And they are dead to me.

Jim: What about Image? How do you think they handled it?

Chaykin: I don’t think they handled it as well as they might have. In retrospect I shouldn’t have allowed that book to be censored, it was a mistake on my part. And further and I will say further more that I think they’re gun shy about me as a talent right now which is the disappointment I experience in not having Hey Kids! Comics being selected as one of their 25 that they would consider the best of the year, really insults me some because I’m pretty proud of that book.

Alex: It is. It is a great book.

Jim: I will see things online where it says Chaykin apologizes and I read Image’s statement. Is there any place where you actually, I mean you put it in some context but I didn’t hear where you apologized for-

Chaykin: I did not apologize at all.

Jim: That’s what I thought.

Chaykin: My contrition was for the shit thrown at them not at me.

Jim: Tell me what Megaphonics and Identitarians are.

Chaykin: Megaphonics I dont know but Identitarians I can tell you. Identitarians live on both sides. These are people who function with respective, filtering their entire lives through identity politics. On the right you’ve got crypto Nazis or Nazis, lets call a spade a spade, on the left you’ve got people who are gatekeepers of a level of performative morality who encourage diversity but the diversity is extremely specific who encourage inclusion but are very exclusive in their inclusivity. There’s a series of proscription and prescriptions for what is and isn’t acceptable. I personally feel that contempt prior to investigation is the bane of the current culture. Is this guy on the Nazi right correct in accusing me of being a neutered butler of the social justice warrior left? Is this schmuck on the right correct in describing me as odious, a demon in a human skin suit? What kind of bullshit is this? Nobody is actually reading my stuff, they’re simply imposing their own moral judgment on imagery and drawing conclusions not based on facts but on feelings.

Jim: Howard I don’t know if I told you I’m actually in my day job a divorce lawyer so I see demon in a demon suit all the time.

Chaykin: Is that a current new one that people are throwing around a lot lately?

Jim: Well I do get them first I think.

Chaykin: How long have you been working as a divorce lawyer?

Jim: Since 1991.

Chaykin: Oh Jesus. My god. The bile you must put up with on a daily basis. And bare in mind I’ve been divorced three times so believe me I know the shitstorm you’re living in.

Jim: I know, we keep track of people like you.

Chaykin: Just in case.

Alex: I thought demon in a skin suit was a circumcision reference, maybe I’m wrong.

Chaykin: Watch your step there Buster.

Jim: So you said that you had come to understand how the Eloy could drive someone over to the side of the moral ox, I just want to say I hope that that never happens.

Chaykin: I do too but look, I remain an iconoclast and a great believer in finding a language of common ground. I will not make peace or common ground with a bunch of fucking Nazi cock suckers that ain’t happening but at the same time I live in a state of moral shame over my side of the aisle and it’s inability to get past it’s own prejudices as well. One is cultural and the other is blood. So I think we’re in a lot more danger from the Nazis than we are from identitarians.

Jim: So two quick books that I want to talk about. Midnight of the Soul. I like that a lot.

Chaykin: Nobody else did.

Jim: I don’t think anyone read it except me and I don’t want to be unfair about it.

Chaykin: No I know. It’s the only thing I’ve done at Image that has never gotten to the black. I have no idea. Again I’m very proud of the work I’ve done in the last 25 years, I think it’s a terrifically solid book, a tribute in past speech to a kind of film people love and yet it found no traction.

Advertisement

Jim: Do the editorial people at image come-

Chaykin: Image has no editorial oversight.

Jim: So none at all. So nobody says to you can you maybe not put nigger and faggot both on the same page.

Chaykin: No. I hire my own editor. I earnestly believe that editors are an extremely valuable component of creating comics okay. I know that must sound like oh really, you mean that? Yes I do. My editor is someone who I respect deeply, who’s every idea cost me money and time. He more than justifies his existence.

Jim: Is that common practice at Image to do that?

Chaykin: I have no clue. I have no idea.

Alex: That’s your thing.

Jim: And then lets talk about Satellite Sam just for a couple of minutes. Because that seemed like a Howard Chaykin book that actually isn’t written by Howard Chaykin.

Chaykin: Well Matt has often described it as Howard Chaykin fan fiction so…

Jim: Was it fun to do?

Chaykin: Yes. Basically it operates in world in which I’m very familiar and about material I’m really fascinated by. The societal suppression of sexual behavior in the 1950s is something that fascinates me and always has.

Alex: Right.

Chaykin: When people actually act and what they were playing the world to believe they were doing really appeals to me as a source material. So yes. And it was great to do a black and white book at that era as well.

Jim: Yes it was great. I thought it was really strong art from you. I liked it an awful lot. I think we both, Alex and I both were excited to hear you talk about Hey Kids!

Alex: So I loved Hey Kids! I guess the names have been changed to protect the innocence and-

Chaykin: There were only, have you read the trade?

Alex: Yes.

Chaykin: The essay in the trade really lays it out. There were only two direct avatars really? Obviously Sid and Bob are who they are there’s no question about it. I can’t wink at that. But everybody else is an avatar, everybody else is a blend and mix.

Alex: And that’s the thing, there are blends but some of the blends, I felt there was a similarity between Brian Callahan and Joe Maneely.

Chaykin: Well yes, absolutely.

Alex: I felt like maybe there was a 51% blend, would you say that?

Chaykin: Yes. You pull good numbers out of your ass.

Alex: I do. I’m good like that. And you know its fun, Lazlo Fabien, I could see that feeling like Alex Toth, I felt some Alex Toth vibe there.

Chaykin: Maybe.

Alex: Maybe.

Chaykin: Look I’m being flirtatious and coy now it’s really adorable for a man of my age.

Alex: Your cheeks are turning red and we’re kind of-

Chaykin: Oh yes I feel like bugs bunny in one of those drag cartoons.

Alex: But honestly I loved reading it. And again I saw you made a post about the Dreamer, Jim recommended it to me the other day so I read it because it does kind of go through a biographical sense of some comic themes-

Chaykin: It is the most self serving line of bullshit ever.

Alex: A really self-serving line yes. But this though I love how you jump back and forth in time because it puts things in almost like a four dimensional story of these people that are largely based in true events, much more based in true events that other books that try to do the same thing. Tell us what started you off on this journey, how did you get started on this.

Chaykin: Well I really wanted to do the second volume of Divided States of Hysteria immediately because I was so fucking pissed and I was persuaded from it. And this was second in the line, this was up next. And I think what Image was expecting was something a bit more Mad Men in the comic book business in a kind of linear fashion. I’m not sure anyone up there really saw where I was going with this. This is the result of, I’ve always referred to myself as the bridging link to the generation that preceded mine and mine. All those guys I worked for talked endlessly. I paid attention and I listened and I wrote shit down. And as I said more than once there are things in the book that are absolutely not true. But that are anecdotal that needed to be included because it’s part of a legend. I don’t think anybody ever hung anybody out of a window, I mean think that’s just not true but it’s just too good a story not to tell.

Alex: Yes, because that’s a rumor but it’s a fun rumor.

Chaykin: It’s just one of those apocrypha that you have to include because it’s just so much a part of a language.

Chaykin: The second volume which is six issues which is really about how important that brief blip of EC comics was to my generation is much more linear in the sense that it’s six issues, each issue covers approximately five years from 1950 to 1980. Many of the characters in the first volume are in there, there are a lot of new characters and it’s much more linear in it’s direction but it also lays out anecdotes, apocrypha and why EC was important as it was, as invisible as it ultimately became and how that importance was openly wrecked by a generational shift.

Chaykin: And the third volume should there be one will be about the impact of that generational shift.

Alex: Obviously we’re all comic history fans but we’re enthusiasts like you phrase it but I’m so excited about the next volume. And I highly encourage readers to check this out. It’s funny you know just kind of reading through some of this stuff, 51% but Glasier and Gelbart it feels like-

Chaykin: Well yes. Yes.

Alex: It feels like Siegel and Shuster. I love the names, I love these alternate names you come up with. I mean for the superheros like Sea Sultan, please, do an issue of Sea Sultan for us because I will read that. I love Sea Sultan and Our Pal Percy, and I don’t know how you come up with it you’re so creative but it is-





Chaykin: I have to thank my editor for that because a lot of that was his throwing around.

Alex: Oh really?

Chaykin: That was a lot of back and forth between the two of us. Yes.

Alex: And so much fun about how you had the Ray Clarke character talk to the Tom Hollenbech character like look you’re swiping from me and you have no idea you’re even doing it and then the Hollenbech is just like “whoa I don’t know what you mean” so clueless, and some of that young generation could be so clueless sometimes. I think every little tid bit in here, everyone needs to read this because it’s just so apt and the same with Ted Whitman and the modern art where they swipe his panels-

Chaykin: Oh you mean at the Guggenheim?

Alex: Yes, right. Such a Russ Heath kind of moment and I just find that the moments in here, even if the moments don’t exactly match the actual person it happened to they’re so true.

Chaykin: Look, as I said a lot is fiction, but it’s all true. That’s what it boils down to.

Alex: Hershenson and Berkowitz I mean I love these names, they’re just so funny. Dan Fleischer I love how you explain, an artist responsible for the forms language, a publisher that is just another asshole. I mean you’re just so funny. I could read this multiple times and get a different laugh out of it each time.

Chaykin: Well thanks, I’m very grateful. I mean the fact is right now at my age what I’m interested in is my legacy. And with any luck the minute I stop breathing the book will be discovered and say “oh that’s what he meant, thank you”.

Alex: That’s right.

Chaykin: But let’s avoid pissing on his grave for another week.

Alex: No, no, I’m throwing flowers on yours man.

Chaykin: Well thank you, that’s very kind of you to say so.

Jim: Did Image really not include this as one-

Chaykin: Yes, they did not.

Jim: Well that has to be carry over from the other project.

Chaykin: I assumed as much, I assumed they were keeping their head down, gun shy of fear. You know, that’s my guess.

Jim: Because any actual comic fan would love this.

Chaykin: Yes. It hurts, it really does. I mean whatever feelings I have left and I’ve only got one but it’s a really good one, are somewhat diminished. Yes. I was disappointed. I was putting together, extrapolating from a piece I posted on the Alex Toth Fan Facebook page that I was going to publish but then I held off on it because the Eisner awards were announced. And the only reason, at this point I’ve gotten so used to decades of indifference that if anybody should actually come out with actual praise and an award I’d be such untrusting and suspect. And the only possible outcome of positivity that came out of being nominated for an Eisner at this point is knowing that Will would be spinning on his rotisserie. But I’m comfortable and yet bitter at the idea that I’m never going to be acknowledged in my own lifetime.

Jim: When was the last time you were nominated for an Eisner?

Chaykin: Never. Never.

Jim: Never?

Chaykin: Never. And it’s too late now, babe.

Jim: Your name was nominated.

Chaykin: I think I was nominated for a whole thing about 6/7 years ago.

Jim: I’m talking about Neon Visions.

Chaykin: Oh yes, that’s right but I didn’t write that-

Jim: You didn’t write that?

Chaykin: That was Brandon Costello saying nice things about me.

Jim: That was going to be my last question to you, what was it like to read a book that when it ended up, did you find yourself nodding your head or?

Chaykin: It was cringe worthy. It embarrassed me terribly. I read it on an airplane okay? And I’m serious, I’m flying home, I’d gotten a copy when I was flying home from New York and I’m reading on an airplane and my seatmate looks over and looks at me and “why are you reading, you’re reading a book about-” and I said “yes, about me” and he looked at me like I was fucking nuts and I was just like “oh, god” why didn’t I just keep my fucking mouth shut and conceal the book, you know. But yes, I thought Brandon was right on the money, I got the feeling that Brandon got me out of having lost a bet. So I say he stuck with me. But you know, he was very kind to me and I thought his take on the material was flattering but again I don’t flatter easily.

Jim: It’s a sort of academic book on Howard’s work and it goes into great detail about individual chapters. There’s a long chapter on Blackhawk.

Chaykin: Chip Delaney had lunch with Brandon this week he was in Baton Rouge and Chip posted the covers of that one and conversations. So I’m curious to see what Chip’s going to take away from this. I mean the nice thing about Facebook is you get reacquainted with old friends and the sad thing about Facebook is you occasionally get acquainted with old friends.

Jim: That’s actually right. So besides the next volume of Hey Kids! And then the next, well it’s not being called, you’re changing the name to Oligarchy.

Chaykin: I think I’m going to call it Treason. Just to get right to the point, right to the point. And of course I’ll have Ground Zero with Time (Squared).

Jim: But you could call it Odious.

Chaykin: Only that one guy knows what it means. I gained nothing by over-estimating my audience for 35 fucking years why kick that particular trend. The sequel to Divided States is written, Hey Kids! Volume 2 I’m 1/3 a way into issue 5 in a very rough first draft, this version is going to go to my editor this week see if he can beat me up and help me out on what I really mean. Beyond that I’m not really planning, I’ve got nothing. Something will happen, something will occur to me, something will annoy me enough to try to do something else.

Jim: But you think it will be with Image you’re going back to-

Chaykin: Unless Image dumps me, I guess so. I mean nobody at DC wants me, there’s nothing there for me. We’re looking at an implosion sooner or later, the firing at DC of the various talents they let go, really demonstrates the fact that I’ve been saying for some time that comic books really are no longer necessary to the mass market anymore than Disney needs more new Micky Mouse or Warner Brothers needs new Bugs Bunny. The characters that exist now in the public conscience and the cultural sense. The fact that 1.2 billion dollars are earned by this new movie really demonstrates that they don’t need comics anymore.

Alex: Yes, DC firing Chiarello is mind boggling to me.

Chaykin: And I think they fired him because they didn’t really know what he did for a living. They really didn’t know. Every year I know is my last year in the business.

Alex: And how long has that been true?

Jim: Probably since the mid 90s?

Chaykin: Oh, okay. I’m pretty comfortable in my own insignificance, I’m comfortable with my own position in the universe, I’m the architect of my own adversity. Every problem I have I created so, go with god.

Jim: You are always welcome at Comic Book Historians because you post just such great long pieces and we enjoy everything you ever post.

Chaykin: That’s very kind of you to say and I’ll continue to do so and if I can annoy anymore people, come up with some more I’ll piss them off too, Gentleman, thank you so much.

Alex: Thank you Howard, this has been an awesome podcast with his eminence.

Chaykin: A prince! That melachony Dane, there he is.

Alex: The melancholy Dane, the prince of comics, Howard Chaykin. He says he stands on the shoulders of giants but he is a giant himself as well and will be remembered as such in the future.

Chaykin: Hopefully not soon though, keep me alive, please. Come on. Don’t bury me yet motherfucker.

Alex: And we’re excited about your next project, I can’t wait for Hey Kids! Comics part 2,3,4 and 5. Please keep up your great work, Jim and I loved having you on today, thanks so much for joining us.

Chaykin: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m incredibly grateful and I take nothing for granted. Thanks guys. Stay warm and dry!

2020 Comic Book Historians