Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Power & Glory of Howard Chaykin

The annual Gem City Comic Con takes place in Dayton next weekend. Bob Corby of Backporch Comics and SPACE is generously sponsoring a table for Sunday Comix, the Columbus, Ohio cartoonists group of which he and I are both members.  I'll be travelling there Saturday morning to put in some time behind the table.  Actually, the real reason I'm going is because I haven't attended a mainstream comics convention for nearly three years, the most recent being the last pre-Wizard World Mid-Ohio Con, and, most importantly, there are a couple of my favorite artists scheduled to attend and I really want to meet them.
One of these is Howard Chaykin, and I've been pondering lately which one--and only one--comic I wish to shove in his face and demand that he affix a signature to.  Among the list of candidates, from the works of Mr. Chaykin littering my collection of comics are

  • American Flagg!--probably his most famous work, and sort of a cliche choice if you think about it.
  • The Shadow--this four issue mini-series brought the 1930's pulp adventurer out of retirement and into the modern world of the 1980's
  • Blackhawk--this reinvention of a Golden Age character kept the legendary pilot in his WWII milieu but brought a 1980's, and distinctly Chaykin, sensibility to the tale
  • Midnight Men--a quite frankly unremarkable four issue mini-series from Marvel's Epic imprint.  Without rereading it, I couldn't even tell you what its about.
  • Marvel Premiere #32--featuring the debut of space-faring adventurer Monark Moonstalker
I thought about putting the question to you, my readers.  However, I decided the answer was pretty obvious.  It should be my favorite Chaykin comic. When I asked myself what that was, the title that leaped to mind was Power & Glory, the 1994 four issue from Malibu's creator owned Bravura line.
Power & Glory revolves around the efforts of fictional government agency the National Intelligence Agency, and its sleazy leader Malcolm LeStrange, to create a real-life American super-hero.  Unfortunately, the candidate LeStrange chooses to become A-Pex, the American is Allen Powell, a superficial, cowardly, NIA agent with a pathological fear of disease that is only amplified by the treatments that give him super-powers.  On his first outing in costume, Powell proves a potential embarrassment to the NIA and a threat to LeStrange's continued employment as NIA director.  Michael Gorsky, a dedicated if slightly disillusioned NIA agent who had been the second choice for the A-Pex experiment, is brought in to covertly do the real heroic work. Powell publicly takes all the credit, appearing on talk shows and magazine covers and having his name and image plastered on products ranging from breakfast cereal to video games and comic books.  Complicating matters is the fact that Gorsky is going through a divorce from LeStrange's assistant Avis Cutlett, who ends up sleeping with Powell until he leaves her for vapid pop star Belladonna.  Further complicating things is that the drug dealing third world head of state and rap musician, Jean-Paul M'butu, who went to school with LeStrange's son and calles the NIA head "Uncle Malcolm", is involved in secret dealings with LeStrange and wants Powell and Gorsky eliminated.  
Power & Glory is an often hilarious dark comedy that satirizes the super-hero genre, and 1990s pop culture and politics while providing generous helpings of the complex, multi-layered plotting and witty, fast paced dialogue, as well as the over the top sex and violence that fans had come to expect from Howard Chaykin. There's even a connection to American Flagg! snuck in on the very last page.
I happen to have two copies of the first issue.  It was released with two covers and I bought both of them. (Hey, don't judge me, man.  It was the 90s.  I was young and didn't know any better.  Everybody was doin' it.  We didn't realize we were helping the industry commit suicide.)  So, I can get one signed and stick it in  a bag for posterity and still have a copy to read again in the future.


  1. Oh Ray. You're still my spaz.

  2. Well, you've already decided, but I'd still recommend the Monark Starstalker issue of Marvel Premiere. I met Chaykin at a show a few years ago. Fun guy, and he actually signed three of my comics: the Monark Starstalker book (of course - that would have been my pick if he only signed one), Marvel Premiere #56, featuring Dominic Fortune, and the Ironwolf reprint edition from the early 1980s.