This week marks a very special release for the world of comics as legendary pulp and cult noir comic book writer/illustrator Howard Chaykin’s collected edition of his “BLACK KISS” story will be released from Dynamite Publishing. The story itself is one that carries a lot of controversy for its unabashed look into the life of a down-on-his-luck jazz player named Cass Pollack as he spirals further into a world of sex and the macabre. The story was originally published by the now defunct Canadian publisher Vortex Comics in 1980, and it is credited with opening up many doors for more ‘adult’ story-telling in the illustrated realm. Inside you can read the 10 page selection from the 12 issue collection that drops this Wednesday, and find out Why You Should Care. Read on for the skinny. (Please Note That This Preview Does Contain Adult Content)
“It’s been a long, long time . . .
Rough around the edges, and rougher still at its core, Howard Chaykin’s boundary-shattering immersion into noir at its bleakest has seen its legend as comics’ dirty little secret grow for more than two decades.
Down-on-his-luck jazz musician Cass Pollack plummets into an unrelenting nightmare of sex and death, lost in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, where life is cheap and every shadow holds a fearsome secret.
Still as smart and savage as when it was new, Chaykin’s brutally coarse masterwork is re-mastered for this Dynamite edition, which collects the entire 12-issue series.”
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Originally accused of being pornography by many retailers (in fact the printers for Vortex Comics refused to print the story for its sexual depictions) “BLACK KISS” was the brain-child of noir and mystery writer, Howard Chaykin. Chaykin, who was best known for his “AMERICAN FLAGG!” series at the time, created the story in the shadow of the looming comic book ratings system in order to, in a way, stick it to the man. His use of sexuality, language, violence, and humor garnered much controversy among industry heads while at the same time creating a very strong fanbase for the writer.
In a lot of ways “BLACK KISS” is comic book history. The kind of history that mom and dad really don’t want you to know about. While it might not be a story that harkens back to ‘the good ol’ days’, “BLACK KISS” is a true ‘cult classic’ in the industry. The best thing about this rerelease of the entire 12 issue run of the series is that it is reintroducing the world to a story it had otherwise hoped to forget. Many know that there was a comic book ratings system ‘back in the day’, but you would be very surprised how few actually know about the history of the movement and the events that surrounded it both before and after. Many writers and artists were appalled at the idea thinking it was infringing on their Constitutional Rights to free speech. Others saw it as a necessary move in order to control what was being released from publishers that were growing more and more radical in their ideas.
What Chaykin did was create a world that centered around a character that was entirely TOO human for most contemporary comic book readers at the time, and for it he was crucified by many within the industry. This didn’t come as much of a surprise to the writer and illustrator as he knew going into the project that he was pushing every button that he could with what he was doing. But at the same time this cowboy approach to comics set a new standard for writers and artists everywhere who had original ideas but were too affraid to express them.
This Wednesday it would behoove each and every one of you to go out and pick up a copy of this truly great piece of comic book history. The “remastered” prints of the pages look fantastic, and they really do a lot to make Chaykin’s now 30 year old art pop back to life. The writing is tight, intriguing, and at times gut busting. What “BLACK KISS” is to comic book fans is what “FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL! KILL!” is to cinema lovers. It is the literary equivalent to a good old fashioned Grindhouse feature or a drive-in exploitation film. For those of you who have yet to get acquainted with Chaykin’s work, do yourselves a favor and pick up “BLACK KISS” this Wednesday. You won’t regret it.
“BLACK KISS” The Graphic Novel Drops This Wednesday From Dynamite Publishing! (MSRP-$24.99)