On Gear Live: Geared Up: Predictions for the Upcoming iPhone Event with Sara Dietschy

Latest Gear Live Videos

Wednesday May 12, 2010 11:15 am

Forgotten Comics: Iron-Wolf by Howard Chaykin

Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Editorials, DC Comics,

Weird WorldsThe DC comics of the early 1970s were still fairly stodgy, but newcomers like Howard Chaykin, Mike Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson, Walter Simonson and others were starting to shake things up. I’ve made no secret of my love of Howard Chaykin’s work. He’s a creator who continues to challenge the form, push it, break barriers and twist it around while still having interesting things to say. If for some crazy reason, he took over Bazooka Joe, I’d start buying gum by the case.

In 1972, DC published a comic called Weird Worlds that was a Tarzan tie-in title featuring John Carter of Mars and Pellucidar adaptations. By issue #8, they dropped all the Burroughs-related stuff and went with an original, non-DCU character, Iron-Wolf, created by Chaykin. He plotted it, penciled it and inked it, and Denny O’Neil did the script. The beautiful lettering - seriously, it’s awesome - was by Walter Simonson.

The story is action-packed and a good set-up for a series: Lord Iron-Wolf refuses to turn over his planet’s resources to “allies” of the Empress of Empire Galaktika out of fear it will leave his planet open to attack.

When the Empress reveals her true colors and tries to kill Iron-Wolf, he manages to escape. From there, he proceeds to wage a one-ship campaign of intergalactic rebellion against the Empress and his pursuers. After Iron-Wolf is (spoiler alert) betrayed by his own people, he becomes an outlaw before throwing in with the rebel government and joining their “Space Navy.”

Howard’s art is not as slick as it would later and quickly become and he shows a lot of Neal Adams influence. But you can see he’s definitely experimenting with storytelling and page layout. He’s trying new things. Some traditional Chaykin touches are evident: the independent wise-cracking hero, sexy female characters named Erika Klein-Hernandez and Shebaba O’Neal, wooden spaceships made from “gravity-defying trees,” a spaceship called the Limerick Rake and even a bible reference at the end. It’s a lot of fun, 37 years later, and makes me wish I had another issue handy. Of all of Chaykin’s 70s creations, Iron-Wolf and The Scorpion (aka Dominic Fortune) are my favorites.

This issue was published in 1973, as the Republican-owned Watergate scandal that would eventually bring down President Richard Nixon was unfolding. Denny, who was also the book’s editor, was worried that this saga about a space pirate would be just “pure fantasy,” and not be “relevant.” But Denny didn’t need to worry. Writing in the letters page, he said, “For some weeks, we’ve been learning that men we trusted, men we believed in, have betrayed us. There is an almighty smell of corruption coming from places where most Americans least expected it, and a lot of faces I see on the streets are masks of anguish.” Denny proclaims that we Americans are a hardy lot and he’s not worried about the future. He also realizes that “Lord Iron-Wolf is in exactly the same situation,” so “a trio of comic book makers, intending to create a wholly imaginative story, find themselves, instead, creating a parable. A Moral Tale. A piece of Relevance.”

Weird Worlds #8 had a cover price was 20¢ and the actual story page count for the 32-page comic was 20, down from the more traditional 22-24 in an effort to cut costs in most DC titles at the time. There were also 8 pages of paid interior ads (something I bet they’d love to have now), 3 house ads and a letters page. Quite a bargain to watch a game-changer like Howard go to work.

Disclosure: I was once Howard’s editor on a project and I might have bought him dinner at some point in the process.

[Artwork: Cover to

Weird Worlds

#8 by Howard Chaykin, © DC Entertainment]



Commenting is not available in this channel entry.