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Following on from Ironwolf, Cody was Howie's first real go at what has since become the patented Chaykin hero: A morally ambivalent, free-wheeling good/bad guy in a decadent, sexually explicit universe who looks more than a little bit like Howie himself.

Cody is the darkest of these characters; In his previous stories being gleefully venal & treacherous, and generally only doing good if the price is right. Basically a hero, but only just. A sort of X-rated Han Solo, if you like.

Howard Chaykin was one of the early adopters of the Star*Reach approach to publishing. His creation, Cody Starbuck, debuted the first issue of the anthology Star*Reach. Four years later, in 1978, Starbuck graduated to its own one-shot. In his introduction to the 1978 Cody Starbuck unnumbered one-shot, Friedrich wrote: “Chaykin not only shakes the tree of traditional space-opera, he pulverizes it. Don’t be fooled by the professional graphics. This is a punk comic.”

Howard was just coming off a multi-issue run on Marvel’s Star Wars comics and the set-in-space Cody is Howard unfettered by the demands of a licensed corporate property. Starbuck mixes classic Chaykin elements, sex, violence, pop culture and religion, which gets an extra-special poke in the ribs. There’s even a scene in the comic that makes Friedrich’s “stomach turn with its violence,” which prompted the “adults only” label on the front cover. Inside, Starbuck is stranded on a planet where The Vatican “stretches from the North Pole of this temperate world to just south of its equator. A metropolis of wealth and culture, capital of a planetary empire, and holy birthplace of Hadrian, first Pope of the Third Reformation.” The ruling Catholic-based society tries hard to convince Starbuck that he’s a crusader for their cause, but once his memory is jarred back in place, all hell breaks loose. Chaykin plays around with panel layout and sound effects lettering and the muted, pre-digital colors nicely enhance the story. You can see his style is well on its way to his 5-years-later masterpiece, American Flagg!

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