I’m going to secede my time in the opening paragraph to the creator/writer/artist of “Hey Kids! Comics” and the King of Comicbook Controversy himself Howard Chaykin. This is from his personal Facebook Page:
“HEY KIDS—COMICS! is a fictionalized history of more than a half-century of turbulence and triumph, despair and drama in the comic book racket.
Where aspiring artists climbed into business and bed with conmen and clowns, ganefs and gangsters, to create the foundations of today’s biggest entertainment business—or at least, the tail that wags the dog.
Much of it really happened, and the names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike…and since everyone was guilty of something, no one was really all that innocent.”
I use his description because as soon as I read it myself, I already knew my money would be in Chaykin’s pocket for the duration. “Hey Kids! Comics!” seemed like an insane ballsy move from a creator who, for his last series “The Divided States Of Hysteria” had received major backlash from both sides of the aisle, and everywhere else in between for the shocking, disturbing content contained in its pages (and also on one of its covers… If you want more information on that, it won’t be too hard to find. I will NOT get into it here). So, that left me to wonder “What the hell is this even going to be?” Funnily enough, it’s exactly what he promised to deliver.
“Hey Kids! Comics!” seems to be a time sprawling epic, that spans from 1945 – 2001, jumping around all the while, from the end of World War II to the movie premiere of the “Evoulteens” movie, and we get the following all the intrigue, infighting, and corruption that went on all the while. A LOT is going on in this first issue, from every side, and point of view, which makes this a dense, kind of difficult read, we’ll get to that later. This issue mostly focuses on introducing us to all of the characters (And boy there are a ton of characters in this) from the freelancers that bounce between companies (Verve and Liberty Comics… Marvel and DC respectively), to the heads of the companies themselves Bob Rose and Milt Koenigsberg (Which I believe are analogues to Stan Lee and Jack Liebowitz), to the jaded veteran creators who are constantly getting the shaft (Sid, who I believe is supposed to represent the most slighted, gifted man in comics history, Jack Kirby). Chaykin takes us from dingy drawing rooms to smokey bars and restaurants, and the dark vast landscapes of New York in amazing detail, his amazing detailed background work contrasting, with the ugly shakey lined people that fill his book that I can’t help but love. Of course, the dialogue at times is rude and crude, but that’s to be expected from the time period, especially with Chaykin controlling that world…..and it’s that authenticity we need. By the end of the issue, we’ve (kind of) met the main cast and crew, and introduced to the stakes involved.
Now, I really, really, liked this issue a lot. The early days of comics are something that has always interested me, and I always love every story I’ve ever heard. It’s a special kind of seedy and insane the way these companies were run, the dirty tricks they’d pull, and just the severe mistreatment of the actual creators and artists who helped shaped our current culture (Ironically, those creators thought their work was pure garbage meant for children and idiots), and “Hey Kids! Comics!” delivers exactly that. But there are some problems with it that stop it from being perfect, that can hopefully be resolved in future issues, as it is ongoing. In my opinion, my main gripe is that there are just so many characters, all important, and referenced by name once or twice, so it’s kind of hard to attribute who exactly each person is or their role in the story. It’s kind of the problem some people have with “Game Of Thrones” but instead of a bunch of names like “Dongdarian the Dark” or “Carl Drago” (No, I don’t watch GoT) getting confusing, it’s a bunch of “Milt’s”, “Mort’s” and “Bill”‘s that gets a bit hard to follow. This problem could easily be fixed with a character key on the front or back inside cover so that it can be easy to place for dum-dums like me. Because as much as I love Chaykin’s ugly, pulpy style, some of the characters start to look a bit samey, so you have to constantly look back and see which “Milt” or “Sid” said what. But other than that, we have a very interesting start to a fresh feeling series and a story that definitely needs to be told, even if the names are changed.
Hey Kids! Comics has launched with a very promising, dense, and sometimes confusing start. Despite the confusion, this is something I want to see unfold, so I can get a glimpse of what went into the creations that I, and a huge chunk of people in the world hold dear.
"Hey Kids! Comics!" #1
Hey Kids! Comics is an ambitious series by Howard Chaykin. It's a conduit of controversy, focused on the birth of the comic book business as we know it, and the fictionalized seedy backroom deals and personal dramas that laid the foundation for it to be the powerhouse conglomerate it is today