The upstart comic book publisher First Comics formed in 1983. They were an independent comic book publisher that did not answer to the Comics Code Authority, so their stories could have more mature themes that included political intrigue, graphic violence, tougher language, and, (what else?) sex. Howard Chaykin was a creator who excellently fit that bill.
As an artist, he had cut his teeth on the usual superhero fare at DC Comics and Marvel Comics, and he was good at it. But I prefer his more stylish work with nonsuper DC characters like Blackhawk and The Shadow and his independent work on his very adult series Black Kiss, which he also wrote. His work has a strong, stylish, film noir feel. I lovehow he draws clothes.
In 1983, First Comics debuted the series American Flagg! which was written and illustrated by Chaykin. The series played right into Howard’s strengths. It was a series set in the dystopian future of 2031 (not so distant now, is it?), in which the US government had relocated to Mars and on Earth corruption and population control, both in size and in thought, were in full swing. A corrupt organization known as The Plex is in charge in the States and says it wants to return America to its former glory by 2076. I guess you could say they want to make America great again.
Except they really don’t want that. The Plex is secretly selling the country off to the new superpowers of the Brazilian Union of the Americas and the Pan African League. Former television star Reuben Flagg discovers the plot and decides to stop it. And the series goes from there.
Since this is my monthly post of great comic book covers, let’s look at the cover.
There’s the cool Dutch Angle, which lends movement to the scene. We are in the middle of a pitched air battle at night, which is set up nicely by the lighting of the scene coming from the cockpit dashboard. (Is it called a dashboard in a cockpit?) The use of flat black is strong, although I’m not crazy about the halftone shading. It kind of works, but there’s something about that I don’t like. It’s a minor quibble I have with the artistic choice made by Chaykin for the look of the series.
Chaykin handles the forced perspective of the scene really well. It’s not an easy thing to do to draw part of a character so close to the “camera” with the rest far away. It works really well in this scene. There is also no dialog or the usual comic book sensational text on this cover. It’s just the action of the scene that sells the book.
Oh! And the woman in the scene isn’t shown having her pants off, something many American Flagg! covers featured. I don’t know if that adds or detracts to the greatness. I’ll let you make the call.
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Images used under Fair Use.
Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.