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Howard Chaykin’s Finest Hour

I didn’t know Jack Abel very well during my first few years at Marvel, which were also my first few years in New York, my first time in close proximity to the majority of comics professionals. I saw Jack once in a while when I was visiting Continuity — Neal Adams’ studio. Neal rented office space to a number of artists.  I guess I also ran into Jack occasionally when he was delivering a job to Marvel. Jack had inked several of my Legion stories back when. So, I knew of him, and knew him a little.

In 1980 or ’81 —  I forget — Jack had a stroke that paralyzed his right arm and his drawing/inking hand.

A few of us at Marvel went to visit Jack in the hospital in Queens. Roger Stern was with me, maybe one or two others, I forget. We tiptoed into Jack’s room, all unsure of what to say. Jack was almost unaware of us.  He kept staring at his inert right hand, trying to move his arm and his hand without result.  We muttered the usual platitudes and stood there stupidly. And ignored.

Then, Howard Chaykin came breezing in. Howard had been one of Jack’s roommates at Continuity.

Howard’s opening line was words to the effect, “You were a lousy inker anyway, so no great loss.” Then he proceeded to insult Jack’s talents, his ancestry, his looks, his wife, his kids…..

Jack looked up. At Howard. And fired back. And they had a raucous insult-fest.

It brought Jack back to life.

Thank you, Howard. You knew what to do and you did it, while we dimwits stood around helplessly.

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16 Comments

  1. I don't know enough about the inner workings of Continuity's publishing to explain much. I will tell the tale of the Megalith story I wrote once at some point.

  2. Anonymous

    Jim, It would be interesting to hear your opinion of Continuity Studios someday. I finally gave them a try during "Deathwatch 2000", then went back and bought practically all their stuff. What drove me crazy about them was that while I loved the concepts and characters and a good many of their stories, they never seemed to finish anything. My memory is fuzzy, but it seemed to me they would have a run of issues, then break off and go out of business right at the climax of their stories, and then a year later they would start a new run of #1's and never finish the preceding stories. To my recollection, "Deathwatch 2000" was never finished, but they went ahead and just started right again up with "Rise of Magic", which also never finished. (Unless there are issues out there I've never managed to get my hands on.)

    Anyway, it would be interesting to hear how much you knew about the studio's workings, why their comics seemed to come and go (and leave us "unfinished symphonies"), and whether you were able to take away any lessons from their example (be it what-to-do or what-not-to-do lessons). –MikeAnon

  3. James Keepnews

    I never truly appreciated Mr. Abel's work until he inked Gene Day at the end of his (Mr. Day's) life on Master of Kung-Fu (I missed his work on Paul Gulacy many years earlier for the same book), and was astonished by his facility, commanding use of rich blacks and illustrative flourish. This (these), after his stroke.

    Chaykin's kinda OK, too. :}

  4. Great story, and definitely 100% Howard. I'm with Joe- love that guy!

  5. Great story, thanks for sharing it. Sometimes it does take others to remind us who we are.

  6. Joe, do you think you can get Jim up with you to the Wizard World Central Canada Comic Con? Then, just let me know where you're drinking Root Beers and I'll eavesdrop from the table behind you!

  7. Jim, ABSOLUTELY! I'm sure we'll run into each other at some point this year! Let's make time! 🙂

  8. What a great story. It really reminds us that people who are in the last stages of life or who have suffered a debilitating illness don't lose their personalities overnight – they just have had a shock. So have we…let's share the experience and deal with it and get angry and laugh.
    Thanks Jim

  9. Hey Joe,

    Good to hear from you. Someday we have to have a root beer or two and tell stories that can't be printed. : )

  10. I think that's now my new favourite story.

  11. If I remember correctly, when I was at Topps, I think Salicrup was friendly with Jack and tried to give him work whenever he could.

  12. The positive power of … negativity? Sometimes it takes a lot of force to break the ice.

    Jack Abel was inking again by late 1981. I've read his GI JOE stories from 1982. Did he fully recover?

  13. MJK

    kintoun, I started thinking of the scene Jim wrote in Secret Wars, with Reed Richards needling the Hulk when they were all underneath that mountain, and Hulk's strength began flagging. It's definitely like something from a comic book.

    What a great story!

  14. Assuming Wikipedia is reliable, Jack Abel suffered a serious stroke in 1981.

    This story reminds me of the way Cyclops treated Wolverine in Uncanny X-Men #127 ("The Quality of Hatred!"). Following Logan's traumatic encounter with Proteus, Scott picked a fight with him claiming the gutless runt was faking his fear. Further taunts cause Wolverine to pop his claws and switch to a killing mood.

    According to Cyclops, this confrontation was necessary because Logan may become permanently gun shy if he didn’t act quickly. Chris Claremont points out that’s a fate worse than death for a mutant like Logan.

    Although Storm, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine were all visibly shaken from Proteus' reality warping powers, this test proved there were no psychological after effects. The risk Scott took in provoking Wolverine also caused Logan to reconsider his opinion about Cyclops' leadership skills.

  15. That is exactly how you do it.

  16. I love this story as it is 100% Howard. I started in the biz as Howard's assistant (he sent me up to Marvel for my first cover job in 1978) and our daily banter for the time I worked with him was exactly as you describe here! 30 years later we shared a con tour in Austalia and picked up exactly where we left off. I absolutely love that man!

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