vortex comics 1988


Today happens to be Howard Chaykin’s birthday. I decided to use the occasion to write an entry about his work of erotic noir, BLACK KISS.

During the end of his masterwork, AMERICAN FLAGG, Chaykin brought BLACK KISS to Vortex (circa 1988). It’s controversial subject matter straddled the line between comics and pornography all the while remaining true to being a hard boiled noir tale.

Capping off a decade that brought us deconstruction with wanton decadence he never stopped to question what we all where here for. Instead he just assumed that everyone was in fact a bastard. With that in mind and a healthy disregard for censorship 12 issues of black (sanitized) poly bagged issues hit the stands.

Seven years before Karen Berger helped foster Vertigo at DC Comics, Chaykin as an independent creator would place the first bricks and unknowingly create the model. He brought us unapologetic adult fantasy comic. If WATCHMEN was comic’s THE GRADUATE than BLACK KISS was it’s MIDNIGHT COWBOY (with a side of VENUS IN FURS). The deviant affair shining bright in an age of falling heroes. He swore, he drew enough male genitalia to make even Dr. Manhattan blush, and he didn’t give a fuck.

What set BLACK KISS apart from those that would follow was simple. Every pencil line, every word, and every sex filled panel mattered. He was not interested in gratuitous T&A. He wasn’t out just to trade shock for quick notoriety. He wrote a story that had adult themes, for adults and he never lost the story.

Chaykin knew comics weren’t for kids anymore and it would take the rest of us a decade or two to catch up!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Howard! Now do him a favor and go read BLACK KISS.