This title is for lovers of comic book history, and the tangled webs that were woven around the industry, written and drawn by someone who has been around long enough to know that truth is stranger than fiction, even superhero fiction.
This review of Hey Kids! Comics! Vol. 2: Prophets and Loss #1 contains some minor spoilers.
Could someone please tell me if they read the first volume of this title from a couple of years back? Howard Chaykin’s biting satire on the real goings-on in the Golden Age of the comics industry was one of my favorite books, and I have never met anyone who read it.
Possibly Chaykin is not considered mainstream enough anymore, or perhaps he is not regarded as highly as he should be, but honestly, I cannot understand why this book has not garnered a following by people who are genuinely interested in the industry.
Hey Kids! Comics! Vol. 2: Prophets and Loss #1 just seemed to materialize on the shelf at my LCS, and there was only a couple of them there by the time I arrived. I am hoping there were so few there as everyone grabbed a copy, but I am more inclined to think that the shop only ordered a couple in the first place.
To review this book is almost redundant. This is not a superhero story or an adventure of any sort, instead, it puts its focus on the creators that work at the various comic book publishing companies that produce comics.
We have Verve, GW Publications, Yankee Comics, and YC Comics, and it’s part of the fun for the reader to match the imaginary companies with their real-life counterparts. Chaykin builds the world of this book by introducing us to some very well-known players in the industry, and the eagle-eyed reader can try and figure out who the real-life counterparts are if they are real at all.
It’s an element of the book that the reader can either take or leave. You can read about the lives and loves of this cast and their interactions, and enjoy the drama, or you can try and figure out who they may or may not be representing. It makes reading Hey Kids! Comics! Vol. 2: Prophets and Loss #1 work on a few levels, and although I probably shouldn’t, I can’t help but look for the clues that a lot of what is happening in this book probably happened in real life.
In this issue, for example, we see the publication of a book entitled The Betrayal of Childhood by Martin Westgate MD. This book attacks the comic book industry and turns the public against comics, leading to a code of conduct being put in place for comics to follow. Of course, this is the famous Seduction of the Innocent book that led to the comic code authority and the demise of many publishers at that time, and here we see the effect it had from the point of view of the creators.
Chaykin is of an age to have probably first-hand knowledge of these events in comic book history, and this lends credence to every other aspect of the writing. I genuinely believe that Chaykin has incredible insight into the world of comics, and I am sure there are insights here that many readers will never have had a chance to hear about; the skill as a reader, though, is figuring out the fact from the fiction as presented.
Art-wise, Chaykin revels in the period styles he recreates. His work is perhaps a little shakier now, and I am sure he has help from co creatives on backgrounds, but I am a fan of his style, and those panels that show recreations of famous cover styles from the different comic publishers in the book are just a joy to look at.
If you are looking for something different to read this summer, I urge you to pick this book up. In fact, go order the first volume and read that too.