Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Howard Chaykin, and the issue is Weird Worlds #8, which was published by DC and is cover dated December 1973. These scans are from Ironwolf #1, a compilation of the entire story which DC put out in 1986. Enjoy!
Chaykin began drawing comics in 1972, and by the time this issue came out, he had quite a nice little résumé, but I don’t have any of that stuff – I’m sure I could find it fairly easily, but I just didn’t, because I suck. That’s the way it is. I did find DC’s reprint of “Ironwolf,” though, which ran in Weird Worlds #8-10, so let’s check out the first chapter of that, which came out only about a year into Chaykin’s career, so I hope it’s okay with you!
I don’t know how much DC altered Liz Berube’s colors, so I’m not going to discuss them here. I also don’t know if they cleaned up Chaykin’s lines too much – the line work does look sloppy occasionally, so I’m going to assume it’s presented as close to the original work as possible, just on slightly better paper. ‘Salright? ‘Salright.
Chaykin was 22 when he drew this (he turned 23 in October 1973), and his skill is already evident, even though the art can occasionally be messy. His figures are a bit spindly, as Ironwolf is supposed to be a big tough dude but looks a bit like a praying mantis at times (Chaykin, obviously, can draw hulking dudes – the empress’s guard is an example on this page – but he doesn’t with Ironwolf). I assume that Ironwolf’s rather awkward slap of the empress in Panel 3 is cramped because Chaykin had a lot to get onto this page – he plotted this book while Denny O’Neil scripted it, so it’s not like Chaykin was trying to work someone else’s plot into a small space. It’s also a bit unclear what Ironwolf is doing in the last panel – he’s swinging his sword, and he certainly connected with the gun, but did he split the gun in two? If so, how was the guard able to fire it? I’m not sure.
There’s a lot of cool stuff on the page, of course. Chaykin’s clothing is wild, but who knows what fashion will look like in the future, although the empress (Empress Erika Klein-Hernandez, by the way) does seem to look quite a bit like a disco diva. He does nice work with the figures – Empress Erika’s seductive pose in Panel 2 is nicely done, as is her reaction to being slapped. The way Ironwolf moves in Panel 5 is nice, even if I’m not quite sure what he’s doing. Chaykin’s inking is nice, too – he might put a bit too many lines on Ironwolf’s face in Panel 1, but in the other panels, his line work adds a nice roughness to the page, which makes the crazy future not quite as sleek as we might expect. Considering that it’s a violent, somewhat dark place, it’s probably a good idea to roughen up the artwork a little.
Chaykin does well with the old-school aesthetic of comics – that we must pack as much as we can onto a page! – as his pages can be busy but pretty easily read. With old-school artists, not only did they have to put a lot on the page, they had to move people’s eyes around the page as well, and that could be disastrous with some, but even at this young age, Chaykin showed that he understood how to do it. He expands panels where he needs to – Panel 3 is large because it’s the most important one on the page – but he doesn’t let a desire to go big interfere with his storytelling. Why the emphasis on the woman shooting a blaster poorly? Well, first of all, it allows Chaykin to draw a woman in a skin-tight outfit, and as we might know from Future Chaykin, the dude likes drawing the ladies. But it also shows her willingness to help Ironwolf and her inability to do so properly, although she does manage to hit her target. I have no idea what happened to that woman – she seems to disappear after the second chapter of “Ironwolf,” but Chaykin encapsulates her character quite well in that panel – she’s heroic but a bit goofy, and she doesn’t seem to like violence. Chaykin designs her quite well – her costume is weird, and as we see in Panel 5, she’s wearing an unusual headpiece with what turns out to be a pink wig and terrific 1970s glasses. Meanwhile, we see again that Chaykin is a bit scratchy with his line work – it’s an interesting look, as it seems to make the future a bit rougher than we might expect. And yes, Ironwolf is getting into a wooden ship. Remember above when he was talking about his planet’s “anti-gravity wood”? Apparently, it’s so sturdy it can fly through the vacuum of space!
I want to show this panel because the vampire dude is really a very early typical Chaykin face. Obviously, in later years, his male faces would become more rounded, and that would be his “classic” style, but the vampire seems to be where that would start, weirdly enough. He went from this kind of face, with the thick eyebrows, the long nose, and the long chin, and eventually it slid toward a wider face and rounder chin. Unlike a lot of the faces in this comic, this struck me as a “Chaykin” face more than the others. Feel free to disagree!
As we can see, Chaykin is already pretty good at laying out a fight, as that three-panel row is pretty good, with Ironwolf turning the dude around and smacking him across the jaw. I’m not really sure how the bounty hunter missed Ironwolf in Panel 1, but the brief fight is handled well. His line work is a bit rough, as we’ve seen, but he still does a nice job with the costumes on the characters. Ironwolf’s Scottish-influenced outfit is keen (including those thigh-high boots), while nameless girl wears two unusual yet nicely rendered outfits in the space of three panels. Chaykin also places a nice plant in Ironwolf’s stateroom, showing again the influence of foliage on Ironwolf’s world. It’s a clever little detail.
This introduction of Shebaba O’Neal (yep) is pretty nifty (the skeleton is there because the ship is old and abandoned, and apparently someone didn’t make it off the ship). He shows how tough she is as she stabs the giant monster thing, but he also keeps her in her place because Ironwolf needs to save her. I like how in Panel 4, the knife sticks out of the neck of the alien on the right, which leads us well to Panel 5, where Ironwolf sits rather cockily. We get another interesting outfit on Shebaba, as Chaykin continues to blend space opera with olde-tymey piratical action. His figure work is still a bit stiff, but this is still nice work from a neophyte.
Again, we get some nice fighting from Chaykin, as Ironwolf punches the dude in the side as he ducks under the dude’s swing, spins over his back, and then comes down and punches him in the gut as the alien dude turns. It’s this kind of thing – a moment that would last a second or two, at most – that comics do really well, and Chaykin does a nice job with it. In Panel 5, we see the excessive inking in this issue – Chaykin’s line work on Ironwolf’s face and neck is a bit much and also, strangely, a bit too lush for skin. The line work on his neck looks like it should be the inking on hair, but that’s just something that will get better with experience. Shebaba leaps at Ironwolf and he thumps her down on her butt, and while we can argue about what this says about Chaykin’s attitude toward Shebaba, the way he draws it is still well done, as Ironwolf’s and Shebaba’s poses are pretty perfect for that situation. I’m probably reading far too much into this based on what I know about Chaykin’s future, but that leather strap running across Shebaba’s crotch is … well it’s something. At least she and Ironwolf can share thigh-high boots every once in a while!
This isn’t quite “classic” Chaykin, of course, but it’s still an interesting idiosyncratic style early in his career. Tomorrow we’ll look at another comic that shows more development of Chaykin’s style, so come back to check it out! And be sure to visit the archives!
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