Hey Kids! Comics! #2
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Howard Chaykin
Review by Frank Lanza
There were a few cliches that kept coming to mind as I read through Hey Kids! Comics! #2. The first was “no one wants to know how the sausage is made.” This book portrays a fictional world that is very strongly based on the underbelly of the original comics scene of the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s during the time of such giants as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Shuster. For all of the great superhero books that were churned out during this time period, there was an equal amount of backstabbing, drama and underhanded business practice that came along with the funny books. We might love Superman, Captain America, Fantastic Four, and Spider-Man, but, if we could have been a fly on the wall when they were being created, we might not have bought another comic ever again.
The other saying that kept popping up in my mind as I read this book was one my father was quite fond of, “Son, you can’t buff a turd.” Chaykin certainly pours a ton of time and talent into this book, but it fails to make the end product shine. He’s handling all of the art/story/lettering chores and for the most part does so admirably. But no matter how much control or talent he might have, I think this book suffers in many aspects due to his singular creatorship of the title. First and foremost, the lettering is absolutely terrible. Not only are the word bubbles not your standard balloons, the dialog is very dense from panel to panel, and most of the time it’s nearly impossible to tell which word balloon is attributed to which character. After two issues I ended up reading through most of the dialog not even knowing who was speaking, and not really caring unless it was essential to my understanding of the story. And for the most part it wasn’t necessary at all.
I won’t completely knock Chaykin’s efforts here. His art and colors are spot on in nearly every panel, and his characterizations are classic Chaykin fare. The expressions are great, even if some of the faces come across as continuously pained. He’s also telling a fairly accurate fictional version of real-life events as we know them, and he’s added a few new elements to keep the story moving. Benita’s addition as a female creator definitely adds a few new wrinkles to an already complicated drama.
Verdict: Skip It.
Hey Kids! Comics! #2 might be one of the most cynical and pessimistic books I’ve ever read. It has its moments; there are certainly laughs and sarcasm to be found, but for the most part it’s derogatory, insulting, and ultra-cynical diatribes from every character with nary a glimpse of hope or true love for comics to be found. Maybe this is a true life retelling of Chaykin’s experiences in the business, or maybe it’s how he imagined the early days of comics were really like, but either way it does not make for an enjoyable read.