Comic book writer/artist. Illustrator. TV writer/producer. And eternal digressionist. OK, I made that last one up, but it aptly applies. He’s quite the talker.
I’ve been a fan of Chaykin’s ever since I was a teenager. I met him in person briefly at a comic book convention here in Atlanta back in the 1980s. He was there with his then-wife, and it was during the apex of American Flagg! fever. I didn’t really talk to him. I just sort of stood back and watched him interact with fans. He was gregarious, very professional, and very direct. The exact impression of him I had gotten from his print interviews.
Before that con, I had just started following his work after having read several of his graphic novels: The Stars My Destination, Empire, The Swords of Heaven, The Flowers of Hell. All of them were full color, mixed media, and very sophisticated stuff. Some of the first works of their kind here in America.
I proceeded to pick up loads of his comics later on (though I wasn’t a Star Wars guy, per se). I did, however, become a complete fiend for Flagg!, The Shadow, Blackhawk, and so on.
Going back to Howard’s interviews for a minute — as a kid — I'm pretty sure I read them all. At that particular time in my youth, I found him to be a fascinating figure in comics. And not just because of the material he was working on. As a person, he seemed to be well read, had an acerbic wit, and was opinionated as all get out (I related strongly to that last one).
Plus, from where I sat, Chaykin came off like an adult. Once he stepped up as writer and artist on his stuff, it became glaringly apparent that he wasn't guided by a 14 year-old's idea of heroism and benevolence. His work was layered with themes like politics, sex, betrayal, and guilt. And usually at the center of it all, was a protagonist with questionable motives and feet of clay (just like in real life). This was completely diametric to my pals and I who, back then, well — we were still very much into punching and saving the day!
The other thing about his interviews that intrigued me were these little tidbits he would drop. Things about himself, his background and his profession that he never really expounded upon much until recently. Chaykin has always been a good soldier when it comes to promoting projects (an aspect of his professionalism that I’m sure his publishers adore). Yet I’m quite certain his comments in print have gotten him as much buzz as the work he creates.
And that’s why we chose to call this interview Revealed. The goal wasn’t to be sensational or provocative — in fact, not at all. We genuinely love Howard’s stuff, but were curious if the perception that many fans may have of him is at all accurate or justified. And frankly, he surprised us.
After nearly four decades in the business, you won't find a smarter writer or more graphic designer of the comic page than Howard Chaykin. However, the meat of our discussion with him today reveals more about his background, the person he is, and more importantly, the professional that he is. I, myself, find those things almost as interesting as the stories he tells. And I hope you do too.