By Todd Allen
To say that the original Black Kiss comic was controversial when it came out was something of an understatement. Howard Chaykin spent the ’80s pushing the sex and violence envelope in comics. In 1988, he decided to step outside the envelope (as it existed at the time) with Black Kiss: a vampire comic that involved, among other things, the Vatican’s porn collection. The book was shipped sealed in a black plastic bag — not to make the still-sealed copy more collectible, but because there was some debate whether or not the comic should be considered X-rated.
It’s been a looooooooong time since I’ve looked at Black Kiss and I don’t remember enough to comment on how it would be perceived today. There was a lot of talk about ratings systems for comics back then and you have the case of Void Indigo, cancelled partially due to retailers panicking about sex and violence concerns for a comic that wouldn’t be unusual today. OK… Black Kiss had a lot more sex than Void Indigo, but you get my point.
It sounds like Black Kiss II will be more of a prequel, than a sequel. There’s no noise about the comic shipping in a black plastic bag, but I would take the “rated Mature for graphic depictions of sex” tag seriously on this one.
Chaykin’s prime run is starting to get back in circulation with reprints of American Flagg!, Black Kiss (the original), and his revival of The Shadow all having come out in the last couple years. I don’t think his Blackhawk revival is currently in print, but the majority of his ’80s work now available again. Unless I’m blanking on something this is Chaykin’s first return to his 80’s stomping grounds with a full-blown project.
HOWARD CHAYKIN BRINGS COMICS TO THE BRINK… AGAINBLACK KISS II begins in August
Berkeley, CA – June 18, 2012 — At the close of the 1980s, Howard Chaykin pushed every limit in comics with Black Kiss, a hardboiled, erotic series that controversially merged sex, violence, and religion. The story took its protagonist from ’80s Los Angeles to the Vatican as he uncovered the secrets of bizarre vampire cult. Chaykin now returns to that sordid world with BLACK KISS II, a new miniseries with Image Comics, debuting in August.
Of the original Black Kiss, Chaykin has commented that “The California-ness of it is a really big deal,” but in BLACK KISS II, he takes readers to New York City in the early 20th century — to a country on the brink of monumental changes, where the melting pot of steaming filth, lust, and fantasy threatens to boil over. And where, as the century moves on, the fantasies that appear on flickering film will present a means for an insatiable evil to spread.
“The original series generated far more attention, notoriety and, frankly, income, than I ever anticipated.” said Chaykin. “That said, after fielding offers and requests for a follow up, it wasn’t until I was listening to Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, specifically the anthem that closes act one, ‘I’m Still Here,’ that I had any idea how or what to do with a sequel. So thanks to Image for being there at the right time, and blame Stephen Sondheim.”
The six-issue BLACK KISS II miniseries tells the story behind the events of the original Black Kiss. And like the first series, it is in Chaykin’s finely drafted black-and-white. The first issue will be in stores on August 1 and is available to pre-order now from the June issue of PREVIEWS (JUN120423). It is rated Mature for graphic depictions of sex.
Todd Allen wears a lot of hats. At various times he’s been (alphabetically), a bouncer, college professor, humor columnist, Internet producer and an NBA/WNBA Beat Writer, among other things. He’s the author of Economics of Digital Comics. You should probably read it.