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An afternoon with the archbishop of fun: In conversation with Howard Chaykin

"I'm not going to compete for the attention of an audience that is perfectly happy with a template"

Howard Chaykin
Image credit: Popverse/Howard Chaykin

Warning: This interview includes swearing and language some readers may find offensive.

There’s a saying in comics that goes a little something like this: if you want an opinion, go ask Howard Chaykin. Okay, it might not be something official yet – but after a conversation with the seminal mind behind American Flagg, Black Kiss, and The Divided States of Hysteria at his GalaxyCon Richmond table this year, it’s a sentiment that could stick pretty well, whether fans and readers like it or not when it’s all out on the table.

Over the course of a half-hour conversation, Howard Chaykin shared with Popverse his thoughts on conventions, rock star status in the comics industry, and the state of comics vs. the state of what we wish comics still were.

Popverse: How’s things going? What’s this show been like for you?

Howard Chaykin: In what sense? What do you mean? Like…how do I feel about the people involved?

Sure. Let's start with that.

My experience is that the convention is my client and the conventioners are my clients and my customers. I’m here to be of service to them in that regard. Which means — well I mean it's a subjective and sliding scale — but I believe that what the conventioner who comes to my table is entitled to is engagement. I treat them like people. I'm not particularly nice, I’m not overtly kind, I'm not encouraging, but I'm pleasant within certain friends.

Entertaining. Maybe “entertaining” is the operative word we’re looking for here [laughs]

I think so. I'm fun. I'm the archbishop of fun! But I take no prisoners, and I don't self mythologize. I don't have this concocted persona of nonsense that surrounds me. I'm not interested in creating a false front or a facade for people to functionally deal with.

You are what you are and that’s what people should expect at these types of functions, is what you’re saying?

Well, I certainly don't think I'm flattering myself when I say that. [laughs] I think it's true. There are people — who's name I will not mention — they've created this semi mystical self-mythologizing which makes my head explode because the audience buys into that bullshit because they are easily pandered to and patronized. It's like Americans being intimidated by people with British accents.

Howard, you’re inherently smarter if you sound British…everyone knows that.

Well, it's like a Rodney Dangerfield bit — he goes, “These kids in France, they must be really smart, they all speak French!” I just don't buy into it. I mean I'm a proletarian by birth. I’m self-raised, I'm self-educated. I'm an autodidact. And as someone who came into this business, like all of us, inoculated by comic books with a religious fervor, comic books is a calling and

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Chloe Maveal

Chloe Maveal: Chloe Maveal is the Editor-In-Chief of the guerilla website The Gutter Review, and is a freelance essayist who specializes in British comics, pop culture history, and the subversive qualities of “trashy” media. Their work has been featured all over the internet with bylines in 2000 AD, The Treasury of British Comics, Publishers Weekly, Polygon, Comics Beat, and many others.


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