With the new Shadow: Midnight In Moscow series now in shops, we figured it was a good time to talk with the amazing Howard Chaykin. In this peer-to-peer interview, writer Dan Abnett chats with the writer/artist who is making his return to The Shadow after almost three decades…
DAN ABNETT: The Shadow. The character first appeared in 1930. He has a lineage and history as impressive as any hero in comics today. How far back does your connection to him run… not just as a creator, but as an aficionado?
HOWARD CHAYKIN: Sorry to disappoint the enthusiasts, but I'm not a fan of the original material. When I was called upon to do the book in 1985, I gather the assumption was that here's this guy who loves the 1930s–so he must be hip to the canon. Not true. I had to do a lot of catch up and research on the source stuff–and it was pretty much what I expected. a lot of junk, and a few gems.
I say this knowing it's going to piss off the fans of the stuff–you know who you are. Get over it.
DA: In the eighties, you famously (and wonderfully) re-invented him as a contemporary hero. This series takes you back to a 'period piece' (albeit '50s rather than '30s). Does a retro setting appeal to you more now, in terms of mood, atmosphere and potential? Or has the market changed?
HC: My understanding is that Dynamic has a guy doing a series that jumps off from my '80s series–so I had no interest in either following whatever was going on there, or stepping on another professional's toes. That led to doing a book that's a lead up to my four parter from 1986–with a 1950s time frame and early cold war sensibility.
DA: Tell me about this issue in particular. An issue one. There are undoubtedly many young(er) readers out there who don't know who the Shadow is, or at least don't appreciate his cultural heritage. Is this a good place to find that out, to 'jump on' as solicit speak likes to call it?
HC: Beats the hell out of me. As noted above, I'm just doing the best I can with the raw material handed to me.
DA: I am, I have to confess, a huge fan of your work. Can you tell me (forget everyone else, I'm fascinated) something about your process as a writer and artist? Where do you begin? Script or visual storytelling?
HC: It's a bit more organic than that. Concept first, then through line, a coherent ending, then working backwards to find the places to lay the pipe to get to that ending in a logical manner.
I don't start drawing the first issue of any miniseries until I've finished the script on the last. This causes occasional aggravation to clients–Hi, Nick!–but it guarantees a far more coherent, cohesive and tight narrative.
DA: There's a distinct Cold War vibe to this series, and also a hint of 'the end of an era', both in terms of the pre-war era and of the Shadow himself. Is this elegiac? Is this an ending or a beginning?
HC: I could bullshit here, but I think anyone who's paying attention can tell this is a farewell story.
DA: Where are we going next? What have you got in store in this series?
HC: A romp across Europe. A visit with Stalin. Betrayal. Communists from West Texas.
Just your average comic book–and hey, thanks for asking.
For more information on The Shadow: Midnight In Moscow go here.