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Innovation and Design in American Postwar Magazine Illustration

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, January 18, 2017. 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM
Meeting Location: 
Board Room, Stanford Humanities Center
Workshop: 
Graphic Narrative Project
Meeting Description: 

Howard Chaykin (American Flagg!, Midnight of the Soul) in conversation with Professor Scott Bukatman (Hellboy's World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins)

Chaykin's work was pioneering, both formally and in terms of content. He is best known for the 1980s series, American Flagg!, which was far ahead of its time in the treatment of page structure, use of typography, and the density of its layered pictorial and textual information. Michael Chabon has written that: “People have been imitating, swiping from, and building on Chaykin’s experiments in panel arrangement, text-balloon placement, and parallel narration for over two decades now,” and yet his work “still startles and unsettles the eye.” Many of his techniques are now more commonly found in the work of such independent creators as Chris Ware and Dan Clowes, but Chaykin’s work significantly predates theirs and belongs to a generally more conservative realm of comics production.

Chaykin is one of the creators that emerged in the 1970s and 80s that bridged the freedom and audacity of the underground comics moment with the slick production values and storytelling chops of more mainstream production. He was a crucial figure in the fight over creators’ rights, and now serves on The Hero Initiative, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book creators, writers and artists in need.

His own influences come from across the history of American illustration and graphic design,  the fictions of Fritz Leiber and Jerome Charyn (to name two), and swashbuckling traditions on screen and page. His artistic production draws increasingly on digital technologies, further extending his experiments with design and pattern on the comics page. Some of his earlier work, apart from Flagg! includes memorable revisionist approaches to The Shadow, Batman, and Blackhawk, the adventures of his swashbuckling Dominic Fortune and his science fiction forebear Iron-Wolf, two volumes of the completely-off-the-hood Time2 and an adaptation of Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. Recent work includes (either as writer or artist or both), Marked Man, Challengers of the Unknown, Avengers: 1959, The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle, The Immortal Iron Fist.

Meeting description:
The Graphic Narrative Project is honored to be hosting the American comics creator Howard Chaykin for its first session of 2017. In this conversation, Howard Chaykin (American Flagg!, Midnight of the Soul) and academic Scott Bukatman (Hellboy's World: Comics and Monsters on the Margins) will consider the technological and aesthetic changes that occurred in magazine art in the postwar period. The move from oil painting to the faster-drying and more versatile gouache resulted in dynamic changes to the design of magazines, none more so than such "women's magazines" as The Ladies Home Journal. New names came to the fore, including Al Parker, Robert Fawcett, Coby Whitmore, Austin Briggs, and Jon Whitcomb. Chaykin and Bukatman will discuss these shifts, and closely read some of the more significant works from this period. The conversation will be followed by a Q & A.

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