Monday, March 17, 2014

The Futures of Howard Chaykin

Howard Chaykin has worked with a number of science fiction properties in comics over the years: Star Wars, a graphic novel adaptation of Bester's The Stars My Destination, and a Watchmen-ized DC science fiction characters with Twilight. He's also done a few original science fiction charatcers:

The Hero: The tartan-wearing, outlawed lord of the planet Illium. The sort of guy willing to slap a Galactic Empress over a political disagreement.
Appearances: Weird Worlds #8-10 (1973), Ironwolf: Fires of Revolution (1992).
The Setting: The Empire Galactika in the 61st Century, a time of spaceships made out of anti-gravity wood, vampire legions, and swashbuckling. I talk about it more detail here.
The Look and Feel: probably Burroughs and Alex Raymond inspired. Futuristic guns and swords are in wide use. Most male characters dress a bit like Raymond characters, while the female ones seem to wear hippy or disco inspired outfits.

Cody Starbuck
The Hero: A space pirate. A guy who will charge a nobleman twice the ransom price to rescue his kidnapped bride-to-be then receive fellatio from the woman on the flight home.
Appearances: Star Reach #1,4 (1974, 1976), Cody Starbuck (1978), Heavy Metal (May-Sept., 1981).
The Setting: It seems to drift a little over time, but always a far future galactic society, where an empire has fallen to be replaced by feudalism. A corrupt future version of the Catholic Church is a frequent villain. The first story mentions wooden and crystalline spacecraft, but later stories show fairly standard sci-fi ships.

The Look and Feel: Initially this swashbuckling future is very Alex Raymond (probably by way of Al Williamson), but the later stories show the influence of Star Wars and probably other 70s science fiction film. The level of technology is increased in the later stories. Being in more adult publications, the series is more explicitly sexual.

Monark Starstalker
The Hero: A space vigilante, former rigger (a pilot with his nervous system linked to his ship), rebuilt by aliens and given a robot hawk that he's telepathically linked with. He's the sort of guy that's disliked by both sides in the war, but still manages to right wrongs and get the girl.
Appearance: Marvel Premiere #32 (1976).
The Setting: A space frontier in rebellion against the Federation that founded it. It has riggers that link with their ships and "terranizers" that are some sort of terraforming device.
The Look and Feel: It's sort of Western meets Science Fiction at a time of galactic civil war (a year before Star Wars and an over two decades before Firefly). The clothing and equipment is a bit like the Cody Starbuck stories this same year, but there aren't any swords.

Reuben Flagg
The Hero: An actor from Mars (who lost his job on Mark Thrust, Sexus Ranger to a CGI duplicate of himself) drafted into becoming a real-life lawman in Chicago. The sort of guy that likes to listen to jazz.
AppearanceAmerican Flagg! #1 (1983).
The Setting: A somewhat dystopian, very 80s 2031, where the U.S. government and most major corporations fled to Mars during a crisis in 1996. A media-saturated, corrupted, and violent former America is controlled by the new corporate-governmental entity known as the Plex. Many cities have become arcologies called Plexmalls.
The Look and Feel: A vague hint of the pulp era (zeppelins, stockings and garters), filtered through a whole lot of 80s. Consumerism, pervasive media with subliminal messages, a bit of Judge Dredd-ian urban dystopia. A talking cat.


Richard Balmer said...

Are the original Ironwolf stories available anywhere? Fires of the Revolution was great, but I don't know where to go looking for the originals.

Trey said...

There was a oneshot in 1987 that reprinted all the Weird Worlds stories in one place.

Anonymous said...

Love American Flagg so very much, just as glad its dystopia did not come to pass. But so many fun ideas. And let us not forget the official Plexus Ranger Battle Cry: "Wakka-Ding-Hoy!" {tm}

Only read bits and pieces of the others, but I find Chaykin's work endlessly fascinating.

The Angry Lurker said...

I loved American Flagg!

jdh417 said...

Chaykin also wrote some of the better episodes of the 90's Flash TV show. Best moment, Barry is about to get it on with a girl, cut to commercial, back from commercial, the girl is in bed saying, "It was over so fast."

(Talking about watching Tyson fight, of course.)

Aos said...

I liked Flagg, but I am uncertain that I would like it now. I had HC's full run at one point, but my second comics collection was lost during my shiftless early twenties.

Unknown said...

The front covers are very demeaning. That's what put me off from reading. It's why I hate comic books, there are no good female characters. .

Trey said...

Well, these are comics from 30 years ago and older. I think their were good female characters and are even more today.