Sunday, December 23, 2007

BLACK KISS by Howard Chaykin


Picasa Web Albums - flameape - BK by HC

Before SIN CITY, before so many other so called raw/gritty/adult comics of the 90's and 2000's there was BLACK KISS- Howard Chaykin's seminal (pun intended) excursion into dark side of LA life Underworld- with a few very twisty twists. 

Taking equal parts from the hard-boiled crime fiction of Jim Thompson, David Goodis and James Ellroy Roman-Noir, horror-thrillers and hardcore porn; BLACK KISS was Chaykin's way of truly shunning and unburdening himself from the weight of mainstream and a sort of "mainstream-indy" comics publishing scene that was already beginning to calcify in the late 1980s. Companies like Pacific, First, Renegade, Eclipse and Dark Horse were still unwilling to truly push boundaries, continuing to publish safe (but truly well made) books like Jon Sable, Nexus, Flaming Carrot, etc.

It took a small Canadian visionary to have the moxie to publish Chaykin's sequential grab to the crotch and blow to the solar plexus of staid comicdom. Bill Marks' Vortex Comics imprint- having had successes with its self-named anthology,  critically acclaimed MR. X, Those Annoying Post Bros. and Yummy Fur, Mark's Vortex was the perfect place for Chaykin to kick some finally deserved ass.

To quote Matt Fraction from his review of BLACK KISS on ARTBOMB.NET;

"Think Brian De Palma without the goddamn MPAA standing in the way of the distribution of his films making a film about filmmakers and their toady little fans. You may come close to imagining the no-holes-barred vitriol of Howard Chaykin's poison pen and final fuck you to comics, BLACK KISS."

It was in fact a FUCK YOU to comics back then in 1988. Chaykin had had enough of the self-imposed gutless confines of what was the US comic book industry. He also is on record as having had, at the time, enough of the intellectually, emotionally and sexually illiterati of late 80's fanboy-dom- both of these factors causing a rise in ol' Howie gave him the chutzpah and determination to make a series that was both tense, witty, dangerous, sexual and funny- a series that by all conventional wisdom was doomed to be unsold.

Thank God he didn't go by the prevailing wisdom. BLACK KISS was and is a ride down the dark, venal and unflinchingly amoral world of dugs, sex clubs, corrupt cops and a few vampires for spice. Characters run circles around each other- steal from one another, commit sexual/gender gymnastics and ultimately, things go from bad to worse for all of them- particularly our "hero": jazz & heroin fatality/mensch Cass Pollack- a sort of idealized Jim Thompson-loser version of the many Chaykin-style heroes we' had come to expect since AMERICAN FLAGG!.

I'm not going to explain or give away more of the characters or plot- it's too much fun discovering  them on yer own.

Please read some of it and enjoy. THEN BUY IT, you CHEAPASS MOTHERFUCKERS.


1 comment:

Ed said...

Damn straight! This is one of my favorite Chaykin books and I really wish "Bite Club", the last of his graphic novels that I bought, had been as good.