03
Nov 17

Five Howard Chaykin-esque Contemporary Comics

In Neon Visions, I discuss the ways in which Howard Chaykin’s work, once routinely hailed as groundbreaking in its themes and innovative in exploiting the unique properties of the comics medium, has in recent years been underappreciated or mis-understood in academic comics studies and comics fandom alike. But what about within the world of comics artists and writers? How have comics creators both within and beyond the mainstream responded to the work of an artist who expanded the boundaries of the possible in monthly adventure-genre comics? Here are five works indirectly or directly shaped by Chaykin’s influence.


Matt Fraction, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon, Casanova (Image Comics, 2006-). Superstar indie comics writer Matt Fraction is an avowed Howard Chaykin fan and a frequent collaborator, most notably on Satellite Sam, an unblinking look at the seamy underbelly of 1950s children’s television that Fraction has frequently described as “Howard Chaykin fan-fiction.” But I tend to think of Casanova as the true spiritual successor to Chaykin titles such as American Flagg! or Time2. With Brazilian artists Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon trading art duties on alternating story arcs, Casanova is a series in which Fraction transforms a deeply personal and idiosyncratic set of obsessions and preoccupations into a crypto-autobiographical thrill ride.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Fatale (Image Comics, 2012-2014). Brubaker and Phillips have carved out a distinct niche for themselves doing sophisticated crime comics in a marketplace dominated by superheroes, expanding the territory that Chaykin helped to establish with series such as The Shadow and Black Kiss. Like Chaykin, Phillips is clearly an aficionado of classic twentieth century American illustration, and his elegant, moody art calls to mind the work of illustrators such as Robert Maguire or Robert McGinnis. I could have picked just about any of their collaborations for this spot – their anthology series Criminal, their supervillain crime caper Incognito, their blacklist-era Hollywood mystery The Fade Out – but their supernatural noir Fatale seems to owe a clear debt to Black Kiss, picking up its themes of obsession, identity, and the place of women in genre entertainment and taking them in a new direction.

Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov, Fury MAX: My War Gone By (Marvel, 2012-2013). Chaykin’s Blackhawk drew acclaim and controversy for taking DC Comics’ stalwart, square-jawed, and slightly dull World War II aviator and putting him in a carefully researched, richly imagined historical context, eschewing “greatest generation” rhetoric for a nuanced look at the interlocking political forces and ideological fantasies that characterized the immediate pre-war years. Written by Garth Ennis – another sometime Chaykin collaborator, most notably on the WWI flying ace series War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle – and beautifully cartooned by Goran Parlov, My War Gone By makes a similar move with Marvel Comics’ World-War-II-hero-turned-superspy Nick Fury, transporting the character to (somewhat) more realistically imagined post-war hotspots like Vietnam and Cuba for a tale about the follies of American empire. (Side note: Goran Parlov is also the artist for Marvel’s The Punisher: Welcome to the Bayou by Baton Rouge’s own Victor Gischler, a story in which the Punisher dresses up in an LSU tracksuit.)

Ho Che Anderson, King: A Comics Biography (Fantagraphics Books, 1993-2003, 2010). Chaykin is one of Anderson’s oft-cited inspirations, and the evidence is all over his monumental graphic biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. – not only in the clashing patterns and textures and disorienting page layouts that recall Black Kiss and Time2 but also in Anderson’s consideration of both the value and danger of American mythology, in his attention to the place of human failings and foibles in grand political narratives, and in his unsettling depiction of the ways in which mass media shapes our response to and understanding of history.

Michel Fiffe, Copra (2012-). Fiffe’s one-man showcase – long available only through his Etsy store, now available digitally – began as a love letter to titans of 1980s comics such as Chaykin, Frank Miller, and Bill Sienkiewicz, filtered through an affectionate riff on John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell’s classic Suicide Squad. As the series evolved, however, it became clear that the series was something purely his own, an eye-popping visual delight whose sketch-on-the-back-of-a-notebook energy was the expression of an original and uncontainable vision. Taking secondhand scraps of genre entertainment and making them truly your own – I can’t think of anything more Chaykin-esque than that.


Brannon Costello, associate professor of English at Louisiana State University, is the editor of Howard Chaykin: Conversations and Conversations with Michael Chabon; and, with Qiana J. Whitted, coeditor of Comics and the U.S. South.

Buy your copy of Neon Visions today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


05
Nov 12

New Book Reconciles the Creative Writer’s Focus on Art with the Critic’s Focus on Cultural Studies

“Reading The Hemingway Short Story is like attending a master class on literary craft; an expert scholar-critic reveals the subtle methods and moves that produce the distinctive, memorable effects that comprise Hemingway’s literary signature.”—J. Gerald Kennedy, coeditor of French Connections: Hemingway and Fitzgerald Abroad

In The Hemingway Short Story: A Study in Craft for Writers and Readers, Robert Paul Lamb delivers a dazzling analysis of the craft of this influential writer. Lamb scrutinizes a selection of Hemingway’s exemplary stories to illuminate the author’s methods of construction and to show how craft criticism complements and enhances cultural literary studies. The Hemingway Short Story, the highly anticipated sequel to Lamb’s critically acclaimed Art Matters: Hemingway, Craft, and the Creation of the Modern Short Story, reconciles the creative writer’s focus on art with the concerns of cultural critics, establishing the value that craft criticism holds for all readers.

Beautifully written in clear and engaging prose, Lamb’s study presents close readings of representative Hemingway stories such as “Soldier’s Home,” “A Canary for One,” “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen,” and “Big Two-Hearted River.” Lamb’s examination of “Indian Camp,” for instance, explores not only its biographical contexts—showing how details, incidents, and characters developed in the writer’s mind and notebook as he transmuted life into art—but also its original, deleted opening and the final text of the story, uncovering otherwise unseen aspects of technique and new terrains of meaning. Lamb proves that a writer is not merely a site upon which cultural forces contend, but a professional in his or her craft who makes countless conscious decisions in creating a literary text.

Robert Paul Lamb received his doctorate in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University. He is author of Art Matters: Hemingway, Craft, and the Creation of the Modern Short Story and coeditor of A Companion to American Fiction, 1865–1914. He was named the 2008 Indiana Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation.

January 2013
256 pages, 6 x 9
978-0-8071-4742-9
Cloth $45.00


29
Apr 08

The News & Observer spotlights Yellow Shoe Fiction

The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC) recently ran a great feature on LSU Press and its Yellow Shoe Fiction series.  Click here to read the full article.


18
Jul 07

Pollack Wins Phoenix Award

Pollackharrietap The Eudora Welty Society has announced Harriet Pollack is the 2008 recipient of the Phoenix Award. This is an award given on occasion to an individual whose contributions to Welty Studies has been exceptional. Pollack is recognized by the Society as "a major shaping voice in all things Weltean" for two important edited collections of essays, including Eudora Welty and Politics: Did the Writer Crusade? co-edited by Suzanne Marrs. Pollack is also the co-editor of the upcoming book Emmett Till in Literary Memory and Imagination to be published by LSU Press in January 2008.


29
Mar 07

Oprah Book Club Author McCarthy Explored in New Book

This week, Oprah chose Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for her immensely popular book club. Check out CNN’s recent feature for the scoop. 080713175x_2

Gary M. Ciuba, professor of English at Kent State University, has recently published a groundbreaking study of McCarthy and several other celebrated southern authors titled Desire, Violence, and Divinity in Modern Southern Fiction: Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Walker Percy. In his book, Ciuba explores the roots of violence in southern culture by analyzing protagonist Lester Ballard in McCarthy’s Child of God. Desire, Violence, and Divinity would make the perfect compendium piece for those readers interested in delving deeper into the raw emotions that permeate McCarthy’s fiction.


15
Nov 06

Hannon Wins Southern Literary Studies Prize

Hannonfaulkner Louisiana State University Press author Charles Hannon, Faulkner and the Discourses of Culture, has won the C. Hugh Holman Award, given by the Society for the Study of Southern Literature for the best book of literary scholarship or literary criticism in the field of Southern literature published during the calendar year.

A certificate and a small honorarium was officially presented at the SSSL’s session at the MLA convention in Philadelphia in December.

Professor Anthony Sczcesiul, chair of this year’s committee, commented that “Hannon’s deep historical knowledge thickens the context for our understanding of the author and his world, while his close textual analysis, with readings often hinging on Faulkner’s revisionary processes—opens up the texts in exciting and often surprising ways.”

The Holman award was established in 1985. LSU Press’s The History of Southern Literature won the inaugural award. With a total of six awards, LSU Press has published more Holman award winners than any other publisher.