Short Questions, Endless Answers: An Interview with Howard Chaykin

02/16/2011 1:34pm
For this week's Dark Horse Presents feature, we asked assistant editor John Schork to interview comics legend Howard Chaykin about his involvement in the relaunch of this venerable title. After a few bribes and bold threats, John happily obliged. Read on!

dhp1Howard Victor Chaykin
: I got a call from Mike. You know, you’re asking me these short questions, you’re gonna get endless answers.

John Schork: That was kind of the idea.

HVC: I mean, it’s me we’re talking about. I got a call from Mike, he asked me if I’d be interested, and I said yes because I’ve got a number of projects that would be appropriate. I pitched a period crime piece, a western, and what he ultimately ended up going for, which was Marked Man, a contemporary crime piece.

JS: You might have already touched on this, but how did you choose this particular project for DHP? Was there anything about the format or DHP in particular that made you feel it was a good fit?

HVC: Well, I like serials. There’s very little of that going around these days. I’m fascinated and heartened by the fact that Marvel and DC for whatever reasons are doing these shorty pieces and backup features. I come out of a generation in which backup features were an integral part of the comic book reading experience. I suspect the reason they’re doing them has nothing to do with my experience but the fact they can’t get talent that can produce a monthly book. But who am I to judge? Well, I’ll tell ya.

The idea of doing a serial creates a series of challenges and problems, that I like the idea of solving. I really do. It means finding breaks, it means maintaining a different rhythm than a 22-page book or a big fat comic book as I call graphic novels. It’s just a different set of problems to solve and I like the idea of being given that challenge. Because so much of my interest in comics is based on narrative pacing. That’s a really big deal for me. It’s very important. It’s something I think I do very well, I mean, Christ, I teach it. It’s important for me to find new ways to take advantage of the narrative structure of comics. Toldja! Long answer short question.

JS: Is there anything you’d like to say about Marked Man? What it means to you?

HVC: In its most basic form, it’s about a guy who is a lifelong criminal and has no qualms about it. He doesn’t regard himself as an antisocial member of society—it’s just his calling—and how the reality of the situation catches up with him in a dramatic and hard-boiled way. He’s a California guy who’s unprepared for the reality of his situation to come smashing home at him.

JS: Again, we may have touched on this a bit already, but feel free to elaborate. What is it about an anthology-style book that appeals to you?

HVC: Again, it’s the opportunity to read different stuff. I grew up with comic books like Adventure, or Action, or Detective all had short pieces. And further, I’m also an EC fan. When I did my SOLO book for Mark Chiarello years back, my model was the EC stuff. I did a crime, a western, a science-fiction, a humor, and tried to do a book that touched on all of the various elements that made comics what it is I wanted to do for a living when I first saw them as a boy. I like that stuff. I have very little knowledge as to what else is appearing in this book, I’ve heard some names, so I don’t know what it’ll be compared to. But, you know, I’m in for a penny and in for a pound. I’m willing to be humbled and humiliated.

JS: Well, we’ll see what we can do to keep that from happening. I’m looking at the first issue plastered all over my cubicle and I think you’re in good company.

HVC: When is issue one coming out?

JS: April 20th.

HVC: And it’s bimonthly?

JS: Yep.

HVC: See how helpful I can be with these questions?

JS: 80 pages, no ads, bimonthly.

HVC: My god, what a big fat comic book it turned out to be! That sounds cool. Is any of it dirty?

JS: Just yours.

HVC: Ah! Thank you.

JS: Corben’s is a little racy…

HVC: The fact that Corben’s in there… you know, Richard is one of my gods. I’m a huge fan of Richard’s. As I’ve gotten older, I feel like his influence is stronger and stronger on me. And I find that bizarre, because it wasn’t something I was really conscious of. What a godly talent he is.

JS: Alright, the last one I’ve got is, what are you reading these days?

HVC: Let’s see, the new Lee Child, always, the new Stephen Hunter, always. I’m reading Megan Abbott’s first novel right now, which I think is really good. Megan Abbott is a wonderful crime writer who people don’t know about and should. She owns a flight of period of crime fiction written from a woman’s perspective. They’re dynamite. They’re kind of dirty and sleazy and fun. She’s great. Also, I love that Bernard Cornwell stuff. I’m listening to the tenth volume of the Sharpe series, which I really love.

And comics? Jason Aaron’s Scalped. Just a great book. Great [redacted]in’ book. I love Jason’s stuff, it’s really good. It’s probably the best crime comic out there right now.

Here's an exclusive first look at Howard Chaykin's Marked Man!

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