That’s me—I’m a comic book man.
And to be clear, not one of those guys on the similarly entitled television show – about which, don’t get me started.
Really. Please. Don’t.
No—I’ve been a comic book man since I got my first professional job as a comics artist—or, as we called it, aspirationally and achingly in those long ago days, “going pro.”
Of course, as often noted, I was utterly unprepared to do any justice to the work for which I’d been hired—and I continue to believe that my career in the 1970s was much along the lines of Blanche Dubois’ experience of “…depending on the kindness of strangers.”
It took ten years of public humiliation delivering second rate—frequently third and fourth rate, too—work to actually develop a handle on what it was that I was supposed to be doing in this field I have loved since I first discovered comics at the age of four.
And again, as often noted, I stand on the shoulders of giants—and I owe my career to many who came before me, and showed this far from gifted, not particular talented, but all too hungry and angry young man how to do the work required by this curious medium we love.
Gil Kane. Wallace Wood. Gray Morrow. Neal Adams. Joe Orlando.
These five extraordinary men were directly instrumental in making me the cartoonist I am today, and are responsible for my career…
….And when one stops and thinks for a moment about the legendary talents that were the rock on which they each built their own decades of contribution to comics, any right thinking man or woman with a genuine interest and understanding of our industry is humbled by this vast river of creative endeavor and all of its tributaries, reaching back for more than three quarters of a century.
To be clear, I’ve been obsessed with comics since, at four, my cousins Bobby and Alan gave me a refrigerator box filled with comics. I can still recall the smell of that mildewing paper.
And the covers of all those different genres in that box—funny animals, teenaged antics, westerns, crime, war, superheroes and horror—entre nous, the horror stuff not so much—left me convinced that this was who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
So, I did.
I’ve given my entire adult working life to comic books, going from a barbaric uncouth loudmouth to a sophisticated and well turned out loudmouth—or as I put it to friends, from the Jewish Robert Downey Jr. to Ed Asner portraying an unmade bed.
And, as ever, I digress.
I’m often—too fucking often, so pay attention, for fuck’s sake—referred to as a cynic. I am not a cynic.
Rather, I am a skeptic. Perhaps this is what has kept me from the frequent bitterness that is often the miasma that swarms around men and women of my age and experience in the comic book business.
Believe you me—besides not being cynical in any way, I’m also no masochist, either. I wouldn’t have spent going on forty-seven years in comics just to bitterly and grievously nurse a grudge. That’s what a rich, fulfilling and profoundly complicated personal life is for.
I love comics—if not the content, per se, but certainly the form. And my love of that form has kept me interested, kept me working, kept me young, if not in body but in mind, heart and spirit-for what is now nearly a half century.
All of which brings me to HEY KIDS! COMICS!, the first issue of which appears in stores today, Wednesday, the 8th of August.
This comic book is my act of unmistakable gratitude, a statement of unconditional love, a long overdue token of my deep appreciation for the Comic Book Men who built our business, and who’s work and, in some cases, personal attention, made it possible for me–me, of all people–to have a career, and, without irony or exaggeration, saved my life.
Thanks to them all, ghosts and shades all, many recalled with fondness or dismay, some unjustly forgotten. They live forever as long as there are some of us who love this stuff. My gratitude runs deeper than can be plumbed.
As ever, I remain,
Howard Victor Chaykin
…a man among men, and a worker among workers–and one lucky bastard, besides.