Chaykin, Howard 1950–

views updated

Chaykin, Howard 1950–

(Howard Victor Chaykin)

PERSONAL: Born October 7, 1950, in Newark, NJ; son of Leon and Rosalind (Pave) Chaykin.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, DC Comics, 1700 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Writer, illustrator, and graphic artist.


The Scorpion, Atlas Comics (New York, NY), 1975.

(Illustrator) Samuel R. Delany, Empire: A Visual Novel, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1978.

Cody Starbuck, Star∗Reach (Berkeley, CA), 1978.

(With Michael Moorcock) The Swords of Heaven, the Flowers of Hell, HM Communications (New York, NY), 1979.

(With Alfred Bestor) The Stars My Destination, Byron Preiss Publications, 1979.

Chaos, First Comics (Evanston, IL), 1983.

(Writer and illustrator) Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!: Hard Times, First Comics (Chicago, IL), 1985.

American Flagg!: Special, First Comics (Chicago, IL), 1986.

Time2 and Time2: The Satisfaction of Black Mariah, First Comics (Chicago, IL), 1986.

(With Denny O'Neill) Ironwolf, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1986.

The Shadow: Blood and Judgement, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1987.

Black Hawk, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1987.

(Writer and illustrator) American Flagg: Southern Comfort, Graphitti Designs (Anaheim, CA), 1987.

Black Kiss, Vortex Comics (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1988–89.

(Writer and illustrator) Howard Chaykin's American Flagg: State of the Union, Graphitti Designs (Anaheim, CA), 1989.

(Illustrator) Archie Goodwin, Marvel Comics Presents Wolverine, Nick Fury: The Scorpio Connection, Marvel Comics (New York, NY), 1990.

Blood and Justice, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1991.

(Illustrator) Byron Preiss, Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination: The Graphic Story Adaptation, Epic Comics (New York, NY), 1992.

(With John Francis Moore) Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1993.

(With John Francis Moore and Mark Chiarello) Batman and Houdini: The Devil's Workshop, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1993.

(Writer and illustrator) Batman: Dark Allegiances, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1996.

(Illustrator) Roy L. Thomas, Classic Star Wars: A New Hope, Dark Horse Comics (Milwaukie, OR), 1996.

Batman: Thrillkiller, illustrated by Dan Brereton, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.

(With Gil Kane, Kevin Nowland, and Matt Hollingsworth) Superman: Distant Fires, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1998.

(With David Tischman) Son of Superman, illustrated by J.H. Williams and Mick Gray, III, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1999.

American Century: Scars and Stripes, illustrated by Marc Laming and John Stokes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.

(With David Tischman) American Century: Hollywood Babylon, illustrated by Marc Laming and John Stokes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2002.

(With David Tischman) American Century: White Lightning, illustrated by Marc Laming and John Stokes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003.

(With David Tischman and Niko Henrichon) Barnum: In Secret Service to the U.S.A., DC Comics (New York, NY), 2003.

Mighty Love, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2004.

Creator of comic-book series, including Time2, American Flagg!, and American Century; writer and/or illustrator of ongoing series, including War of the Worlds, Sword of Sorcery, Cody Starbuck, Iron Wolf, Star Wars, The Scorpion, Heavy Metal, Spider-Man, Batman, The Shadow Black Hawk, Black Kiss, Power and Glory, and Angel and the Ape. Writer for television series, including The Flash, The Viper, Earth: Final Conflict, and Mutant X.

ADAPTATIONS: Heavy Metal was adapted as an animated film, Columbia TriStar, 1981.

SIDELIGHTS: Howard Chaykin's long career as a writer and graphic artist began in the early 1970s with his illustrations for War of the Worlds for Marvel Comics and Sword of Sorcery for DC Comics. Over the years, he has freelanced for numerous comic-book publishers and has worked on some of the most popular series, as well as creating several of his own.

In the early 1980s, Chaykin took a two-year hiatus and came back with American Flagg!, the series for which he is perhaps most well known. John Painz, who interviewed Chaykin for Comics2Film online, said that the two years "seemed to stew for Chaykin, who created one of the greatest comic heroes in … a long time." Painz wrote that American Flagg! "was obviously a springboard for Chaykin, to experiment, push the boarders, and create fine work. This formula has worked well for many other artists … but it seems that Chaykin pioneered the idea of change in comics, creating strange and new panel concepts, creating a multitude of different uses for type as not only type but as an important design element."

The story is set during the World War II era and features Reuben Flagg, a patriot on the order of the old Western lawman, but one who revels in the junk of American culture, including porn films and comic books. The story also features a plethora of long-legged females sporting garter belts and sexy hosiery as they go about flying jets and toting automatic weapons.

In an Atlantic Monthly article titled "Comic Books for Grownups," Lloyd Rose commented on "the brutal, porny, stylish worlds" of American Flagg! and The Shadow. Rose wrote that Chaykin "seems to have taken his inspiration from between-the-wars American illustrators like James Montgomery Flagg and J.C. Leydendecker. This nostalgic style gives the books their visual charm, but they're fair from quaint. The style is matched to a hectic, razzle-dazzle sense of movement—the images rush and tumble past you, the sound effects screech across the page." Rose noted that Chaykin's fictional future tends to be an exaggeration of contemporary society, with its more violent cities, more vicious politics, and ever-widening gap between rich and poor. Painz called Chaykin's writing "smart, funny, sexy, downright dirty in some points, and violent. Reading the American Flagg! series now … it's obvious where a lot of writers got their inspiration. American Flagg! is a beautiful science fiction epic."

In an article for Extrapolation, Tim Blackmore commented that "Chaykin's graphic language (and panache) grew more sophisticated as he worked on [American] Flagg! Early in the run he had used 'playing card' heads … to frame his page…. The later [American] Flagg! tetralogies … hinted at something even more striking. Panels which had been organized according to complex grid systems now started to move, dropping a half unit on the page, overlapping each other in an organic way. As Chaykin began to push even harder, he discovered ways of pulling the reader into the page by using his overlapping panels to zoom in on various characters. As the motion on the page became more fluid, readers became accustomed to lightning cross-cutting." Blackmore noted Chaykin's development of a page consisting of four panels held together by a small square in the center and said that such pages "work on a minimum of four levels. They introduce the subject, context, plot, and subplot, and often include symbolic action proleptic of the story. As these page designs matured and the artist became comfortable with such panel manipulation, striking mixtures of video and audio began to emerge. It almost became possible for the reader to 'hear' the page."

In a New Statesman & Society article, Roz Kaveney commented on Chaykin's contributions to the Black Hawk comic-book series featuring a chubby fighter pilot who travels with an equally plump female Soviet agent in a digital, post-economic-crash world. Kaveney called Chaykin a "mad-dog talent," but added that he has "a real vigour and a commitment to nonlinear narrative and innovative use of the comic's grid that compels respect."

Son of Superman, which Chaykin wrote with David Tischman, is a projection of what Jon Kent, the son of superhero Clark Kent and Lois Lane, would be like. They have also created a futuristic version of the Justice League, now a joint venture between government and big business, and the even-more-evil Lex Luther. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are ambassadors, and Batman is identified with Wayne Industries. Luther owns the largest company in the world.

In the authors' story arc, Superman has been missing for seventeen years, and Lois is writing and living in Hollywood with Jon, who becomes enmeshed in the plans of Lana Lang and husband Pete Wilson to take down the U.S. government, as he learns more of the whereabouts of his father. Michael Vance reviewed the book for Comic Box online and gave "very high marks" to Chaykin and Tischman and said that Superman's son "is as believable as a teenage kid looking to score a date, and as a fledgling superhero seeking to fill his father's boots."

The book was reviewed for Mad Review online by The Dean, who wrote that Chaykin "plots this all masterfully, without much of his trademark social sarcasm and the formula fits here. With an assist from David Tischman, they craft a story that is not dark, grim, or gritty. Rather, Son of Superman is uplifting and hopeful, for once a bright future rather than a apocalyptic one."

Chaykin writes but does not draw American Century, called "adult-but-mainstream comics fare, boasting rough language, brutal violence, and blatant sex," by Booklist critic Gordon Flagg. World War II veteran Harry Block is recalled to serve in Korea, but his patriotism has ebbed. After faking his death and stealing some money, he heads to Guatemala to live the life of an expatriate. Jeff Jensen wrote in Entertainment Weekly that the story is "steeped in his [Chaykin's] rich blend of ribald dialogue, epic narrative, and political intrigue."

A Publishers Weekly contributor reviewed Barnum!: In Secret Service to the U.S.A., saying that it "will delight enthusiasts of the circus, comics, or American history." Circus founder P.T. Barnum saves the life of President Grover Cleveland and then becomes an undercover intelligence agent, traveling with the circus and its performers across the country as they gather information on the evil Nikola Tesla. The reviewer noted that although circus people are often portrayed as undesirables, in this story, they are able to "use their skills of deception and illusion." Included are characters representing actual performers in the early sideshows of the Barnum circus.

Chaykin has also written for television series, including Mutant X, which is about people who have gained extraordinary powers because, without their knowledge, they were used as test subjects in a government experiment conducted by the Genetic Security Agency. Mutant X is the name of a small group of these people that is headed by the former chief of Genomax, played by Adam Kane, who did not know his work was being used for this dastardly purpose. Adam has become a multimillionaire as a result of his early investment in the internet and he is now using his fortune to build and operate a mountain fortress called Sanctuary.

Other characters include Shalimar Fox (Victoria Pratt), a beautiful young woman with superhuman strength and speed; computer whiz Jesse Kilmartin (Forbes March), who finds a family in the group and who can alter the density of his body; Brennan Mulwray (Victor Webster), whose body has unusual electrical abilities; and Lexa Pierce (Karen Cliche), who has a past in intelligence work.

Resa Nelson, in interviewed Chaykin, asking him how Mutant is different from other television series with a comic-book premise. Chaykin replied that "first and foremost, I believe, in contemporary adventure, the characters that Arnold Schwarzenegger plays, the characters that Bruce Willis plays, are superheroes. They are transcendentally superhuman. In my world, Mutant is in the grand tradition of all great ensemble shows in televison from Mission: Impossible to The A Team, with the added lagniappe of an enhanced genetic ability."

Nelson asked Chaykin how creating comics differs from creating for television. He said that comics "is material for audiences with a catalog of preconceived notions. The language is encoded with certain ideas and expectations. When you confound and contradict those expectations, you either succeed beyond your own wildest expectations or you fail so miserably that your audience is confused. Television, because it's a mass-market medium, is a much flatter audience. The audience doesn't bring the same sort of expectations to the material as a comic-book audience would."



Clute, John, and Peer Nicholls, editors, Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993, p. 209.


Atlantic Monthly, August, 1986, Lloyd Rose, "Comic Books for Grown-Ups," p. 77.

Booklist, October 15, 2001, Gordon Flagg, review of American Century: Scars and Stripes, p. 367.

Entertainment Weekly, March 30, 2001, Jeff Jensen, review of American Century, p. 64.

Extrapolation, summer, 1990, Tim Blackmore, "The Bester/Chaykin Connection: An Examination of Substance Assisted by Style," pp. 101-124.

New Statesman & Society, December 18, 1987, Roz Kaveney, review of Black Hawk, p. 42.

Publishers Weekly, November 3, 2003, review of Barnum: In Secret Service to the U.S.A., p. 56.


Comic Box, (December 17, 2003), Michael Vance, review of Son of Superman.

Comics2Film, (December 17, 2003), John Painz, interview with Chaykin.

Mad Review, (December 17, 2003), The Dean, review of Son of Superman., (December 17, 2003), Resa Nelson, interview with Chaykin.