05 Mar, 2014
Posted by Elizabeth Goldman in Blog
Liz here! I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask writer/artist Howard Chaykin some questions about his return to The Shadow for the first time in almost 30 years, with Dynamite Entertainment’s The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow #1 released May 7, New York City, and who would win in a fight; The Shadow or Batman. Keep reading to hear what Howard has to say!
LG: In May you return to The Shadow for the first time in 28 years with The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow, a six issue series. How does it feel to come back to such an iconic character after all this time?
HC: A lot of people seem to identify me with pulp and pulpish stuff, but the truth is I was never a part of that aspect of fandom, nor was I a fan of THE SHADOW. That said, I don’t in any way believe that fannish admiration of a concept or character makes for a perfect relationship.
In my case, a bit of distance and detachment from the original material paid off, I believe, in a fresh take on a character and concept that, to be completely fair, had died in 1949, disappearing into the ether along with the rest of the pulp magazine universe, as paperback originals, comic books, and television picked up the slack.
LG: I live in Kew Gardens, Queens, where I learned that you lived as a child. How does growing up in New York City influence your storytelling? Does it help you to write a classic New York City character like The Shadow?
HC: I grew up in Kew Garden Hills, on the other side of Queens Boulevard. You have better pizza. I’m not sure that growing up in New York helps or hurts those of us who play in the crime comic book business. To paraphrase Peter Allen, self justifying as always, “Everybody hip in New York came from somewhere else.” And for the record, this is a road trip book—we leave the states and head for Europe early on in the series.
LG: In 1986 you wrote and penciled The Shadow Blood and Judgment, bringing Cranston into modern day New York for the first time with added firepower. Will this story make any significant changes to The Shadow we know now?
HC: What do you mean, “penciled?” With no exceptions I can recall, I haven’t delivered anything but finished art for the past thirty years.
For the record, in both direct and indirect ways, THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW sets up THE SHADOW: BLOOD AND JUDGMENT.
And for the further record, thanks for spelling JUDGMENT correctly.
LG: Speaking of bringing a story into the modern day world we’re used to, your classic story American Flagg took place in 2031, with Reuben born in the far off year 2000 on planet Mars, and now you’re writing The Shadow, set on 1950’s Earth – that’s quite the gap! Which time period is more difficult for you to write, the way future or the distant past? Which one do you think is more fun to write/draw?
HC: See–? You spell JUDGMENT correctly, then leave out the ! in AMERICAN FLAGG!. The lord giveth and the lord taketh away. (sorry Howard!)
I’ve reached a point in my life, and a few lessons recently learned have confirmed this, that I have little or no interest in drawing science fiction stuff. I can still write it, but given my preferences, it’s either contemporary stuff, or period material, and by period, I’m not particularly interested in anything earlier than, say, the war with Mexico.
LG: How does writing and drawing a book differ from just doing one or the other? What are some of the challenges of taking on both roles?
When I’m doing script and art, I have no one to blame but myself. That’s a challenge in itself. As annoying as it might have been to Nick and the DYNAMIC crew, I didn’t start artwork on issue one until issue six was written and rewritten.
LG: Aside from ‘the wealthy young man about town’ himself, which character were you most excited to revisit?
HC: As you noted above, the story takes place in 1950. LAMONT CRANSTON may be a wealthy man about town, but young he no longer is.
MARGO LAINE is a terrific character—waspish, a bit cruel, but fair in her assessment of both Cranston and the Shadow.
LG: Who would win in a fight; Batman or The Shadow?
The Shadow, hands down. He has two weapons, shoots to kill, and unlike Batman, who had a bad day when he was eight and is still whining about it, The Shadow has no guilt and no wound in particular, other than that narcissistic self righteousness that informs all heroes of his ilk.
LG: In honor of my indie comics column, what are a few of your absolute favorite under-the-radar books we should all be reading right now?
HC: Sorry to say, I’m not reading any comics right now, over or under the radar. As I’ve indicated elsewhere, the pleasure I once derived from reading comics now comes to me from their making.
A huge thanks to Howard Chaykin and the Dynamite Crew for this interview. I think we’re all excited to get our hands on another Howard Chaykin Shadow book. Midnight in Moscow #1 is available to pre-order here, before it sells out! Also, grab your Blank Authentix Cover Variant while you can, and then find someone worthy of depicting your favorite Shadow character.