In Review: Hey Kids! Comics! #1

Comic book creators try to eek out a reasonable living against the backdrop of several decades.

The cover: This photocover, courtesy of Don Cameron, features a comic creator’s point of view of a fan who’s placed seven comics books on a table before him or her to be signed. They’re all the same issue: Powerhouse #1. The fan says, “Too many to sign? Who d’you think had to carry ’em here?” The fan’s face is only shown from the nose down, but it resembles series’ creator Howard Chaykin. Sad to say, I’ve seen, and heard, this happen to many pros at many different conventions. This is exactly the right kind of image to show where the industry is at this moment in time, leading into this saga of “fictional” comic book creators. Overall grade: A-

The story: Let me state out of the gate, if a book has Howard Chaykin attached to it, I’m going to check it out. This book covers 1945 to 2001, not in any particular order, following the paths of several people that create comic books. The issue opens on October 7, 1967, at the Broadway musical Powerhouse, which is based on the popular comic book. Meyer Hershenson and his very attractive, much younger companion are about to enter the theater when he’s recognized by a down on this luck schlemiel. Meyer recognizes the man named Irwin. An officer asks if there’s an issue, but Hershenson says there isn’t. The wealthy man takes out a couple of bills and hands them to Irwin saying he heard about Ira. “Yeah — One minute, then boom,” Irwin says. The man is escorted away by the police officer, while the couple enter the theater. Meyer tells his companion that Irwin used to work for him back in the day. “Did he ever work on Powerhouse?” she asks. “Work on it?” he responds. “Him and his dead partner made the thing up.” This shocking conclusion shows how creators are abused by businessmen when it comes to profits. This theme runs throughout this issue. These opening four pages should make a reader recall that It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman was a musical produced in 1967. How much of this is based on fact, only Mr. Chaykin knows. That could be said for much of this book, with many of the characters (Ted Whitman, Ray Clarke, Sid Mitchell, Benita Heindel) having elements of iconic creators. This peek behind the scenes is extremely interesting, though a little tough to follow with it not told in chronological order. However, this is Howard Chaykin and I’m more than willing to go the full journey with him. There are funny moments, sad moments, and ones that make one wonder whose exploits are being told. I’m more than open for more. Overall grade: A- 

The art: Howard Chaykin is an artist whose visuals I enjoy and I enjoyed this book. There are no heroes, no villains, just people trying to make a living or a profit. There is a fist thrown, but realistically, not as an over-the-top comic book cliché. The book has some gorgeous settings across several time periods. The opening page pulls into New York’s Broadway showing all the glamour and signage of the time period. The clothing of this period is great, not only on Hershenson and his date, but the characters that people the background. Irwin is a perfect beaten down older man, complete with sloppy hair and stubble on his face. 1945 looks tremendous with the characters terrific looking. I love the third panel on Page 6, with the elevator defining the panel’s shape. The layout on 7 is great with three characters getting focus at the end of three horizontal panels, while the larger ones show some neat movement from one individual. I really liked seeing the look of the bullpens where the characters worked on their publications; I’ve seen photos from several companies, but this is a new perspective. Page 9 repeats the same layout as 7 but set within a bar, and 11 repeats it again at the same locale, but ten years later. Nine panels make up 12, with each containing a character’s head reacting and commenting on a situation that becomes heated. Pages 14 through 16 neatly parallel each other as three characters move in different directions with their careers. Page 20 has a character recalling the “King” of comics, working at his board with a cigar in his mouth — I love the look of that individual. The layout from 9 returns on 23 in an entirely different setting, though with several similar characters. Page 24 is really cool for showing what occurs after the event from the previous page; the top and bottom panel nicely show the movement of many characters. The last two pages of the book are the most powerful visually, showing the contrast between two characters living two very different lives. Both characters are unquestionably famous feuding creators. This book looks great. Overall grade: A

The colors: Setting the time period of each story are the colors by Wil Quintana. The sunset and lights of Broadway are beautiful on the opening page. The bright lights of the cars on the street are very realistic. Notice how this first tale uses orange backgrounds to highlight when Hershenson is being dismissive. Browns, tans, and grays comprise the colors of the characters’ work spaces, showing that colors for an office have not changed over time. The interiors of McSweeny’s are given subdued colors one would associate with the inside of a bar. When things begin to get heated, backgrounds go red, increasing the tension. In 1965 posters brighten up an office setting because they showcase the publications of the company. Harsh oranges return on the penultimate page, providing a solid contrast for the calming, almost joyous yellows of the final page. Quintana’s work accentuates the story and visuals well. Overall grade: A

The letters: Ken Bruzenak creates this issue’s narration, scene settings, signage, dialogue, and the closing three words that promise more next month. There’s no need for sounds in this issue as the story doesn’t demand any. The narration is a different font from the dialogue, a sign of an outstanding letterer. The signage throughout this issue is tremendous: one has only to walk around New York to be confronted by a constant barrage of signs and notices that seek attention. The variety of fonts for these are many and extremely realistic. Overall grade: A

Additional material: Jed Dougherty, Ramon Torrez, & Ken Bruzenak are given this special credit for assisting in the making of this book.  What they did isn’t specifically stated, but I like this book.

The final line: Comic book creators try to eek out a reasonable living against the backdrop of several decades. These stories offer insight into what creators endured over time, with readers trying to guess whom each character was inspired by. Anything by Howard Chaykin is worth checking out and this definitely deserves your attention. Overall grade: A

To order a digital copy go to https://imagecomics.com/comics/releases/hey-kids-comics-1

To see the cover visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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