Outspoken comic book veteran Howard Chaykin posted a lengthy message on Facebook Monday to attendees and organizers of comic book conventions making clear his thoughts on nostalgia, the servicing of brands, and the very nature of what should be even be regarded as comic books' signature 'brand.'
In the post - which he invites readers to share - while offering to continue signing it at conventions when requested with "grace and good humor," Chaykin is also highly critical of what's some of his most best-known work - which he calls "insipid adolescent junk." While never identifying it directly, he seemingly refers to the late 1970's Marvel Star Wars official adaptation of Episode IV and subsequent regular series that as a relative newcomer he illustrated the first ten issues of.
The following is Chaykin's full post (and can be read on Facebook) in its entirety explaining his thoughts. Warning: The post contains mature language.
TO BE CLEAR…
I'm a well-regarded and welcome guest at comic book conventions—and as those who meet me at shows have heard endlessly, my belief is that the convention is my client, the attendees are my clients’ customers—and I am present to engage and be of service to those customers, in shared respect and dignity.
That said, and to reiterate the thoughts and perspective of my post last week, in regard to my choosing to decline an invitation to this year’s San Diego ComiCon…
…If you’re inviting me to your show because of hackwork that runs the gamut in only a few issues from indifferent to dreadful, work I produced over forty years ago, in the service of what turned out, to my surprise, to be a billion-dollar brand, producing a string of comics that were part and parcel of the salvation of the company for which it was produced that has profited me no more than the paltry page rate of the time…
…If you choose to promote such an appearance at your show with images of that hackwork, because that billion-dollar brand is what first or perhaps only comes to mind when you think of me as a guest at your event…
…Then please think at least twice before you invite me to your show.
This work was done when I was an unformed and marginally skilled newcomer to comics, and is only revered because of the brand it supports—and more specifically, because the comic book business has been extraordinarily successful in convincing the majority of comic book enthusiasts that the material, the character, the product is the brand.
I strongly beg to differ. I strongly believe—fuck, I know—that the talent is the brand. Naturally, this attitude and belief system avails me nothing—since the enthusiast still loves these characters unconditionally—and in my case, nostalgically.
With all due respect, fuck nostalgia.
This obsession with junk I made in my twenties demeans and insults the actual good, clever, innovative and influential work that has sustained me in my nearly fifty-year career—work that continues to emerge from my studio to this very day.
Understand—I know full well how I am regarded by the majority of mainstream comics enthusiasts—and a certain measure of professionals, as well.
The comic book industry is a branch of show business just like all the others, and just like all the others, it tends to reward the anodyne, the variations on a familiar and frequently tired theme, at the expense of the occasionally transgressive—and certainly at the shock of the new.
That said, I’ve come to realize and grudgingly accept the fact that my genre interests and enthusiasms embarrass and perhaps even frighten the majority of those mainstream comic enthusiasts—while at the same time, because of those selfsame genre interests and enthusiasms, I’m dismissed as unworthy of interest by the art school “Graphic Novel” crowd as just another mainstream waste of time.
Maybe this will change before I’m dead…but I’m not holding my breath.
Now, not to worry. I will gladly sign these four decades old comic books at your show, and I’ll do so with grace and good humor, as I always have. You and your fellows are all too entitled to love the shrieking fuck out of this insipid adolescent junk.
I’m not here to change your minds about something you’ve loved so dearly and for so long that it’s engrained in your cultural DNA…because, as any honest man or woman would tell you, we all have things we love that remain, despite that love, pointless dreck.
I simply don’t have any that are worthy of being foisted on anyone but my all too patient wife—who puts up with me out of unconditional love.
All this notwithstanding, please don’t use my long-ago mistake of associating with this particular slab of pointless dreck as either your reason for inviting me to be a guest at your show or, at least as important to me and my self-esteem, as a calling card to your potential conventioneers.
I am not a has-been, and will not be treated as such—even if, and perhaps especially if, that treatment appears to be one of kindness—which we all know is really patronizing condescension.
Trust me on this.
Thanks for reading, and I’d be perfectly delighted if you shared the living fuck out of this, should you so choose.
I remain, as ever,
Howard Victor Chaykin—a Prince and contrarian with all too clear an understanding of his own value, thank you very much.