Friday, June 15, 2012

Howard Chaykin's Crowning Achievement

I came across an article the other day singing the praises of Howard Chaykin's Time Squared  graphic novels published by First Comics back in the 1980s. (Sorry, but the Blogger word processor does not make exponential formatting available to me; you can see over here how that title appeared when the comic was printed.) Of course, scant years earlier First Comics had also published Chaykin's American Flagg! which was also met with widespread critical acclaim.

I first saw Chaykin's artwork when he drew for DC's Sword of Sorcery and Weird Worlds in 1973. His work had a fun, hip energy to it. Just two years later he would draw a 6-page story that remains my favorite of all his forty years in the profession.

Joe Samachson was a writer during the Golden Age of Comics. He created the Martian Manhunter and co-created Tomahawk and also wrote Seven Soldiers of Victory stories for Leading Comics. That's far from all. In fact Dr. Samachson (he had earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from Yale University at the age of 23) was nearly omnipresent in various DC comics of the 1940s and 1950s, and I want to drive that point home with the following list. Samachson wrote stories featuring Superman, Superboy, Batman, Alfred, Aquaman, Starman, Johnny Quick, Sandman, Manhunter, The Boy Commandos, Zatara, Robotman, and Congo Bill. Whew!

One of his Seven Soldiers scripts was never drawn and sat for decades in an inventory drawer until editor Joe Orlando in the 1970s had a very good idea. Why not have (then-)modern artists draw one chapter each and serialize the project in successive issues of Adventure Comics? Brilliant!

Mike Grell drew The Crimson Avenger chapter, Ernie Chan drew The Star Spangled Kid, Garcia Lopez drew Vigilante, Lee Elias drew Green Arrow (and that was a fun choice since Elias had been a regular artist of G.A. a decade and a half earlier), and Dick Dillin drew bookends featuring all of the characters together. Oh yes, and Howard Chaykin drew The Shining Knight.

Mightily, majestically he drew it. Six pages at the back of 1975's Adventure Comics #438 sang with the grandeur and power of swords clanging loudly in battle. I was fortunate enough to purchase one of those six pages and I'm pleased to show it to you at the top of this page.

Howard Chaykin attended The Chicago Comicon one year in the mid-1980s and I decided I would ask him to sign the page for me. As I approached him and made my request, he curled his lip and arched his eyebrow that way he does and he asked whether I liked that page. Startled by his question, I barely audibly and sheepishly said yes, I liked it. I forget his exact response, but he indicated that he felt that job was one of his weaker efforts. I thanked him for his signature and moved along.

For decades now I have wished that I had told him NO! THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU'VE EVER DRAWN! because that's how I felt then and still do to this day. Oh well.

You can view a larger version of this great Shining Knight page over here if you like.


At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That story is quite possibly one of my favorite stories by Howard.



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