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Year of the Artist, Day 339: Howard Chaykin, Part 2 – Marvel Premiere #32

by  in Comic News Comment
Year of the Artist, Day 339: Howard Chaykin, Part 2 – <i>Marvel Premiere</i> #32

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 Marvel Premiere #32, which was published by Marvel (I know, right?) and is cover dated October 1976. Enjoy!

I pointed this out on Facebook the other day, but did you guys know that a character in Big Hero 6 is reading this comic? It’s very weird – another character is reading a completely fictitious comic, but then we get a character reading this one. I wonder why the animators chose this particular one. Maybe one of them is a Chaykin fan?

This is Bill Sienkiewicz-type work before Sienkiewicz did it (I would have mentioned that when I featured Sienkiewicz, but I hadn’t seen this yet!), and it’s by far my favorite Chaykin artwork ever (yes, that even includes American Flagg!). His characters are a bit more angular than we saw yesterday, even though we’ll see some movement toward the classic Chaykin face below. He’s using a lot of black chunks, which gives the art a moody, noir feel even though this is a fairly standard space opera/Western kind of story. Notice that in some places – Panel 1, for instance – Chaykin uses blacks instead of lines, which makes the characters pools of darkness and light and creates a more impressionistic feel to the story. He uses the blacks to turn Monark into a more mysterious figure – in Panel 5, Monark looms over the figure on the ground, with his head and hands emerging from the void of his cloak. When the sheriff fires the “vortex pistol,” Chaykin gives us a really neat layout. He places the sheriff’s face on the left side of the bottom row, and he draws the agonized faces of the victims below the sheriff’s head, but “within” the lines of his jacket. The middle section, which shows the sheriff firing the pistol (and for which Chaykin uses some nice Zip-A-Tone), is part of his extended arm, as Chaykin puts it on his sleeve. We see his hand holding the pistol on the other side of Monark, who’s posing dramatically with his android-falcon. It’s a very neat layout, showing a lot of information in a limited amount of space.

This is another nice page, layout-wise, as Monark and Emanuel Shaw meet each other. Chaykin puts that unusual pattern in the center of the page, as we read down the left column, move to the large central panel, and then down the right column. Again, it’s a good way to pack the page with information but still move us around it well, and it creates natural areas for close-ups so we can see Siebold’s flirtatious smile in Panel 3, Shaw’s fearful recognition of Monark in Panel 4, and Monark’s grim determination in Panel 7. Panel 9 is terrific, too, as Chaykin uses blacks well to show Monark’s face when he lights up the cigarette, and he uses a nice rigid triangle in Panel 10 to show the hardness of Monark in general and to move us gently to the next page. This page is designed really well, and it helps us get to the point very quickly.

Monark hooks up with Robin, a native from town (as we’ll see on the next page), and as they head for her chalet, we get his backstory, and Chaykin illustrates it really nicely. He overlays the drawing of Robin and Monark with the sailing sled and Ulysses, pushing us to the right where we find the two characters, and again we get some nice Zip-A-Tone on Robin’s cloak to add some texture to it. He’s still using blacks very nicely, which allows him to draw a basic shape for Ulysses that Glynis Wein can then just daub with yellow. Monark’s history is condensed into the bottom of the page, and it’s nicely done – Chaykin uses silhouettes well, and the panel of Monark getting zapped is nice because the point of view emphasizes his hands, while the bottom panel is very neat – he superimposes Ulysses on top of Monark’s head, linking the two, and he shadows Monark’s eyes and head to make it more of a created image rather than an actual memory. Plus, more Zip-A-Tone!

The ladies love Monark, of course, so when they reach the cabin, Monark puts the moves on Robin! I love the way Chaykin uses the snow in his comic, and Panel 1 is a good example of it. He uses the blacks on the trees in the foreground and on the characters in the background to highlight them a bit and show how bleak the landscape is, and Wein’s use of light blue helps make the snow look even colder. Chaykin’s figure work is getting better (for someone as accomplished as Chaykin is, he never has been the best at fluid figure work, but he does get better!), as Monark chases Robin into the cabin in Panel 3. The way Monark leaps from the sled is nicely done, even if Robin looks a bit too tilted to stay upright. Chaykin continues to do nice work with little details, such as the weird pattern on the perch Ulysses uses in the final panel, and that’s also a nice point of view – both Monark and Robin are still fully dressed, but Ulysses both provides some privacy for them and reminds us that Monark can’t actually feel anything, so the “falcon” is feeling it for him, which makes Ulysses’s voyeurism both understandable and creepy. Chaykin, as we know, enjoys exploring some odd sex in his comics, and this is an interesting early example.

Monark does have a job to do, so he heads out to bring in Kurt Hammer, who’s joined by Brigid Siebold, the woman from earlier who seemed to be working with Shaw but I guess was just getting him set up to get killed. Anyway, Kurt and Brigid are fleeing through the frozen wastes, and I wanted to show this because of Panel 2, where we see an early iteration of the classic “Chaykin face.” Kurt’s jaw is wide and round, which makes his entire face a bit wider and rounder, and this will be something we’ll see more of going forward. It’s interesting, because Kurt is just one character and the others in the comic don’t look particularly the same, but moving forward, almost all of Chaykin’s characters – men and women – would share this general look. I wonder why he picked it.

Unsurprisingly, it’s another terrific page from Chaykin, as Kurt almost kills Monark. Once again, we get a beautifully bleak winter scene in Panel 1, with the blacks dominating while Wein adds darker blue to indicate the lateness of the day and the depth of the shadows, while Chaykin makes Monark tiny against the stark background. He uses silhouettes well, as we see in Panel 2, when Monark finds Kurt’s sled, which turns out to be a trap. Putting Monark in crosshairs is not unique, but it still works really well, especially as, again, he’s against a bleak, white background, so he stands out even more. The link between Ulysses and Monark is delineated well in Panel 5, as Chaykin again uses basic shapes for the android, while either he or Wein uses thin white ink to link Ulysses with Monark’s eye. The blacks again help make this more dramatic, as Monark turns both toward Ulysses and toward where the shot is coming from, turning just enough so he avoid the shot … although, of course, his poor horse doesn’t. It’s a tense scene, and Chaykin’s layout makes it more so.

Once more, we see the proto-“Chaykin face” in Panel 2, as Kurt thinks he has killed Monark and now wants to shoot down Ulysses as well. The big chin, the wide cheeks, even the bulbous nose, are all hallmarks of later Chaykin, seen here in a rudimentary form. It’s fascinating to me that this would become Chaykin’s standard face in another few years. I guess he dug it. This is, of course, another nice sequence, as Monark is not dead, just temporarily buried, and Chaykin wisely puts Kurt in the middle distance and Monark in the foreground, which shows him more clearly, naturally, and also allows him to have all three characters in the panel without placing Brigid too close to the reader, where she would obscure our view (if, that is, Chaykin had reversed things and shown Monark coming at Kurt from the background). These little decisions make all the difference, and it makes this scene work much better. Plus, it’s cooler to see Monark rising out of the ground like that, and had he done it behind Kurt, we wouldn’t have seen as much of it.

I guess Monark has shown up in some comics in recent years, but I have no idea what the deal is with that because I haven’t read them. It’s too bad Chaykin didn’t get to do more with the character, but that’s life, I guess. Chaykin moved on, and tomorrow we’ll look at another of his space-faring characters, a comic that I suspect Jeff Nettleton will really enjoy. Plus, maybe an added bonus? We shall see! There are plenty of added bonuses in the archives!

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