Howard Victor Chaykin (born 1950 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American comic book writer and artist famous for his innovative storytelling and sometimes controversial material. Chaykin's main influences are the mid-20th century book illustrators Robert Fawcett, Al Parker, and others, along with a love for jazz which is often reflected in his work.
Star Wars art by Chaykin.Howard Chaykin began his career in comics as an assistant to such artists as Gil Kane and Neal Adams before going solo. His first major work was for DC Comics drawing a comics adaptation of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in Sword Of Sorcery. Although the title was well received, it lasted only five issues before cancellation. Chaykin also drew the character Ironwolf in the science fiction anthology title Weird Worlds for DC. Moving to Marvel Comics, he began work as co-artist with Neal Adams on the first Killraven story, seen in Amazing Adventures #18 in 1973.
After this, Chaykin was given various adventure strips to draw for Marvel, including his own creation, Dominic Fortune, (inspired by his Scorpion character, originally drawn for Atlas Comics,) now in the pages of Marvel Premiere. He also wrote and drew his Cody Starbuck creation for the anthology title Star Reach, one of the first independent titles of the 1970s. These strips saw him explore more adult themes as best he could within the restrictions often imposed on him by editors and the Comics Code Authority.
In 1976, Chaykin landed the job of drawing the Marvel Comics adaptation of Star Wars, written by Roy Thomas. This proved to be a massive success for Marvel, but Chaykin left after ten issues to work in more adult and experimental comics, as well the more lucrative field of paperback book covers. The next few years saw him produce material for Heavy Metal, as well as drawing graphic novel adaptations of Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and Samuel R. Delany's Empire, as well as illustrations for works by Roger Zelazny. Chaykin also created an original graphic novel called Swords of Heaven, Flowers of Hell with writer Michael Moorcock, and found time to move into film design with work on the movie version of Heavy Metal .
American Flagg #2.In 1983, Chaykin launched American Flagg! for First Comics. With Chaykin as both writer and artist, American Flagg! was a massive success and proved highly influential thanks to Chaykin's innovative storytelling and an exploration of more mature subjects still alien to mainstream comics of the time. Chaykin mixed all his previous ideas and interests - jazz, pulp adventure, science fiction and sex - into American Flagg!, but after the first twelve issues, Chaykin began to lose interest in the title and started work on new projects.
The first was a controversial revamp of The Shadow in a four-issue mini-series for DC Comics in 1985. Rather than setting the series in its traditional 1930s milieu, Chaykin updated it to a contemporary (1980s) setting and included his own style of extreme violence. Controversy of the violence aside, the title was a huge success and firmly established Chaykin as one of the major creators in comics.
He returned to full art and writing duties in the American Flagg! Special one-shot issue designed to introduce his next major work, a graphic novel series called Time2. The work - combining semi-autobiographical elements with a heavy dose of jazz, film noir and a fantasy version of New York City - resulted in two graphic novels (Time2: The Epiphany (ISBN 0-915419-07-6) and Time2: The Satisfaction of Black Mariah (ISBN 0-915419-23-8)). At one point, Chaykin told The Amazing Heroes Preview Special of plans for a third graphic novel, but it was never released. Chaykin himself has described Time2 as one of his favorites among his own output.
By 1986, Chaykin was no longer involved with American Flagg! stories, although he continued to draw covers. Sales of that title dropped drastically as his replacements were not well-received, nor did they grasp the tone which Chaykin had set. However, before Chaykin could return to the book, he revamped another DC Comics character: Blackhawk was a three-issue mini-series that gave Chaykin another chance to indulge in the 1930s milieu he loved so much, proving itself another successful revamping of a defunct DC character. Chaykin returned to American Flagg! for a final four-issue run before the title was cancelled and relaunched as Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!, but this rendition failed to recapture the glory days of the title's early years and only lasted twelve issues before cancellation. Chaykin also protested DC's proposed system of labeling comics for violent or sexual content; seeing this as censorship, Chaykin (with Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore, and Frank Miller) boycotted DC and refused to work for the company. In Chaykin's case, the boycott would only last until the early 1990s.
Black Kiss#7, art by Chaykin.In 1988, Chaykin created perhaps his most controversial title: Black Kiss, a twelve-issue series published by Vortex Comics which contained his most explicit depictions of sex and violence yet. Telling the story of sex-obsessed vampires in Hollywood, Black Kiss pushed the boundaries of what could be shown in mainstream comics. Even though Black Kiss shipped sealed in an "adults only" poly-bag, its content drew much criticism. This did not stop it from selling well, however, and it became one of the most successful independent comics of the time.
Chaykin returned to DC to write a three-issue prestige format mini-series called Twilight. This was another radical revamp of DC characters - this time, DC's science fiction heroes from the 1950s and 1960s, such as Tommy Tomorrow and Space Cabby. This was followed by the 4-issue mini-series Power and Glory in 1994, a superhero-themed PR satire for Malibu Comics' creator-owned Bravura imprint, which was optioned for film production, though never made into a movie.
In 1996, DC's Helix imprint published Cyberella, a cyberpunk dystopia written by Chaykin and drawn by Don Cameron. Although it was not intended as a limited series, Helix decided to end the relatively poor-selling title at 12 issues.
Chaykin began to drift out of the world of comics by the mid-1990s. With the exception of several Elseworlds stories for DC Comics, his comic output became minimal - this due to Chaykin becoming more involved in film and television work. He was Executive Script Consultant for The Flash television series on CBS, and later worked on the action-adventure series Viper.
Near the end of the decade, Chaykin started to drift back into comics and co-wrote the three-issue mini-series Pulp Fantastic with David Tischman for the Vertigo imprint of DC. Pulp Fantastic was part of Vertigo's celebrations for the new Millennium, and although it never sold well, it would see the start of Chaykin becoming more involved with comics over the next few years.
Chaykin began co-writing American Century with David Tischmann for Vertigo. This story, set in post-war America, would be a pulp-adventure strip inspired by the likes of Terry and the Pirates as well as the EC Comics war stories created by Harvey Kurtzman. 2001 also saw Chaykin become part of the creative team on Mutant X, a television series inspired by the Marvel Comics series of mutant titles.
American Century was a critical hit but sold poorly and was canceled after 27 issues. This was only the start of an intense period of work for Chaykin at DC Comics. He also quit his television and film work during the run on American Century.
His next work was Mighty Love, a 96-page original graphic novel published in 2004 and described as "You've Got Mail with super-Powers". This was acclaimed as a return to the type of work he did on American Flagg! and contained his first art in a title since the early 1990s.
2004 also saw Chaykin and Tischmann revamp Challengers of the Unknown in a six-issue mini-series for DC, as well as writing a mini-series about gangster vampires called Bite Club for Vertigo. The pair also wrote Barnum!: In Secret Service to the USA, a graphic novel in which real-life showman P.T. Barnum fictitiously comes to the aid of the U.S. government.
In 2005, Chaykin produced the six-part City of Tomorrow, a DC/Wildstorm production involving a futuristic city populated by gangster robots. Chaykin described the mini-series as "'The Untouchables' meets 'West World' at Epcot."
He also illustrated 24 College Ave, a story serialized online in 54 chapters for ESPN.com's Page 2 section. ESPN.com columnist Jim Caple wrote the text, each episode of which was accompanied by a single-panel Chaykin drawing.
In 2006, he began working on his first superhero title for DC Comics, pencilling Hawkgirl, with Walter Simonson writing, starting with issue 50. With issue 56, he stopped drawing the series, mainly to get time to work on Marvel's Blade with Marc Guggenheim, although he still draws Hawkgirl covers.
Recently Chaykin drew a two-page Black Canary origin story for DC Comics '52'.
DC in late 2006 released Guy Gardner: Collateral Damage. The 2-issue series, written and drawn by Chaykin, revolves around the Green Lantern Corps' role in an interstellar war.
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