Dynamite's 6 issue mini-series, THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW takes the Shadow into the future, well The Shadow's future in the 1950s. Mark Waid talked to writer/artist Howard Chaykin about this series.
MARK WAID: This is the Shadow period piece that takes him beyond the familiar 1930s-1940s adventures, which seems really smart to me. Where did the basic idea of the story come from?
HOWARD CHAYKIN: To me, the most interesting aspect of the Shadow is the cancellation of the magazine in the late 1940s, freezing the character in that two decade block before the advent of television , thus making the franchise an exercise in nostalgia. As I've said elsewhere, if the same fate had befallen Superman, Batman, or, to remain in the pulp universe, Tarzan, we'd see these characters through the same scrim of misty charm.
That said, Lamont Cranston strikes me as a world weary, or just plain weary figure--and in this series, I wanted to bring that fatigue to the front and center of the material. If we take the world in which these characters exist seriously, then he's pushing fifty at the very least--and Margo is no spring chicken either. And that's where the tone and concept came from.
MW: What’s the appeal of the setting to the artist in you? Is it the fashion of the era, the architecture, the Cold War culture? Something else?
HC: All of the above. There's a sensational book entitled MANHATTAN 45, by the travel writer Jan Morris, that goes into exquisite detail in regard to that golden half decade between the glorious victory in the Second World War, and the chilly grind of the Cold War ushered in by the 1950s.
MW: I know you’re not a “fan” per se and have no nostalgia for the Shadow, but there must be something unique there that you feel you can get ahold of, right? Dynamite has a lot of classic pulp characters at its disposal. What is it about this one in particular that makes it a good fit for the kind of story you’d want to tell?
HC: To be glib and flip, it's all about the clothes, the cars, and the guns. To be more specific and honest, there's something of deep interest to me in the mindset of post World War II America, a sensibility that informs everything but the noir films of the period, as well as both literary and popular fiction of the time. It's a feeling of intangible loss, which can perhaps be traced to the fact that the men who came home with victory were so beat to shit by first ten years of depression, followed by five years of the most barbaric brutal war in human history that they simply checked out into a kind of existential despair.
MW: Who was more interested in telling this story--Chaykin the writer or Chaykin the artist?
HC: I have a holistic relationship with the two disciplines. For me, there really is no line between the two functions.
MW: One of the hallmarks of your work, to me, is that your leads are generally world- weary, skeptical, and easily exasperated, and yet despite their edge, you manage to resist imbuing your stories with a cynical tone. Is that a fair assessment?
HC: And this, Mark, is why I speak so highly of you, besides the work of course. Skeptical, not cynical could be my mantra. When James Garner died last week, the last of the three American actors whose physical appearances and delivery of performance have most influenced my visual and textual presentation was off the board. My heroes have always been my limited interpretation of Garner, Henry Fonda and William Holden--three universal skeptics who each, in their own way, defined the mid 20th century American Male--with an overlay of Neil Simon's philosophy of "Think Yiddish, go British."
MW: Can you tell I’m really, really trying hard not to ask you questions that will make you want to throw a t-square at my head? Do you understand how difficult that is?
HC: One doesn't throw t-squares, pally--we duel with them. And for the record, these are among the best questions I've ever been asked to answer.
Make sure to check out THE SHADOW: MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW. Issue #3 is currently on sale!