Monday, 8 August 2011
Kiss and Tell
Howard Chaykin is an American comic book artist. He began working as a pro in the early 70s for DC, Marvel and Heavy Metal, and collaborated on two original graphic novels — Swords of Heaven, Flowers of Hell with Michael Moorcock. He shared studios with amongst others Jim Starlin, Jim Sherman and Frank Miller, and between 1983-6 his first venture as artist and writer was American Flagg! which combined his love of jazz, pulp, SF and sex. This was well received and two years later, prompted by the success of Miller's Dark Knight Returns and the associated sudden trendiness (and money) in comics, Vortex Comics launched Chaykin's Black Kiss.
Sensing the moment was right, Chaykin took his work to the next level in an adults only 12-part story of hard-boiled noir and lesbian vampires, a combination that I for one found irresistable. I was not alone; Chaykin describes it as "probably, on a per-page basis, the most profitable book I've ever done."
Sold in sealed plastic bags on the top shelf, Black Kiss was still heavily criticised for it's graphic depictions of sex and violence, mainly because these were usually on the same page, so that despite Chaykin's many other projects, this is the one he'll be remembered for.
The artwork is of its time; it has much in common with Frank Miller's style and attitude; they both draw to arouse themselves and their (mostly) male readers. Yes, they reinforce tawdry cliches about comic book audiences and their desires, although the (spoiler alert) transexual twist was quite innovative for 1988. If you can't forgive the dodgy politics and blatant 'smut sells' agenda, just put your judgement on hold and enjoy some deft strokes and a daft yarn.