Hey Kids! Comics! is cynical, shocking, and has the feel of someone telling stories after school, but it looks and reads like a book for grown-ups, and that’s good enough for me.
Nobody does controversial comics like Howard Chaykin. He has always been on the cutting edge of the industry and decades on, he is still shaking the tree with comics such as Divided States of America and Hey Kids! Comics!
Chaykin is a writer and artist that really made his name with the creation of American Flagg back in the 80’s. Up till then, Chaykin had been sharpening his teeth doing work for the big two, but Flagg, from First Comics, set the industry alight with it’s satirical, violent and sexy look at a Judge Dredd-style future world. If you have never read Flagg, check out the first couple of years; after that Chaykin got bored, eventually leaving the title and letting others have a go, but it never really worked, and by the time he had returned to the comic for a second series the moment had passed. However, Chaykin simply moved on to other projects including the pornographic Black Kiss mini-series that, if released today, would probably send so many people into a tailspin that the Earth’s rotation would reverse, sending us all back to 1986.
Hey Kids! Comics! is his latest series from Image, and it appears to be an exposé of the dark side of the comics industry. The big two here are called Verve and Yankee Comics, and the first issue opens in 1967 with the premiere of a big-budget version of Powerhouse, a Superman-style hero on Broadway, with the real battle centring around who actually benefits from the production.
As the story jumps forward to 2001, we see that this is a problem that continues to plague the creators involved. There’s a Stan Lee style publisher that takes the credit for the creations, and the eagle-eyed will be able to spot all your favourite writers and artists in the supporting cast. The dark and caustic dialogue shows a deep-seated resentment from the comic creators, and you have to wonder here how much has Chaykin written fresh or just remembered.
The story jumps across different time zones, from the forties to now, and it’s often a little challenging to follow everything that is going on. Imagine that: a comic book that you have to think about.
If you are an old comic book fan, you will make all the right connections here and be able to do the dot to dot and see the bigger picture, but this is not your usual comic story. It’s much more like a TV series that would never get made as the audience is too niche.
For me though, I pretty much check out everything that Chaykin does. I love his art style, slightly shaky though in places here, but he is getting on, and I know that a true evaluation of the book will only be truly possible when every issue is out.
Yes, it’s cynical, shocking, and has the feel of someone telling stories after school, but it looks and reads like a book for grown-ups, and that’s good enough for me.