The following article contains content of a graphic sexual nature.
In 1988, Howard Chaykin blew minds with his erotic horror adventure comic series "Black Kiss" from Vortex Comics. Packed to the fangs with imagery many people had never seen in a comic, the series shocked and intrigued thousands of readers. The story began in Los Angeles and moved around the world, following transexual hooker Dagmar Laine as she searched for a particular reel of pornography from the Vatican's personal library. As the story deepened, the secret history of Hollywood, the Church and vampires unfolded over the course of the black and white series' 12 issues.
Now, nearly 25 years later, Chaykin returns to the world he created, ready to blow a whole new set of minds with the six-issue "Black Kiss II." Written and drawn by Chaykin once again in glorious black and white, the new series, published through Image Comics, continues the story set up in the original while moving into the future and breaking new ground. CBR News spoke with the writer/artist about returning to the world of "Black Kiss," how Steven Sondheim influenced the new series and where its story fits in with the original.
With a cast that includes the aforementioned transexual prostitute Laine, her client and former 50s film star Beverly Grove, a former junkie jazz musician named Cass Pollack and of course vampires, the original series had plenty of interesting characters to follow. Chaykin intends to revisit them while also introducing readers to new ones in "Black Kiss II."
"We'll meet most if not all of the characters from the first series, as well as new characters whose function in Beverly's life will become clear," Chaykin said.
Creating a sequel to the original "Black Kiss" isn't something Chaykin had always planned to do. In fact, it wasn't until the writer and artist heard a song from Steven Sondheim's "Follies" that a good idea for the follow-up hit him. "'I'm Still Here,' the anthem that closes the first act of 'Follies' by Stephen Sondheim, is the autobiography of an actress who's constantly reinvented herself to accommodate the trials of her life," Chaykin said. "In his book, 'Finishing the Hat,' Sondheim describes the song as being vaguely inspired by Joan Crawford's life. This triggered the structure of the prequel, and I was off and running."
While the original series was very indicative of its setting -- late 80s LA -- the new mini moves to the east coast and starts off in New York City. However, the storyline doesn't remain in one place for long, both geographically and chronologically speaking. "The new series takes place all over the world -- just wait and see," Chaykin said. "It covers the entirety of the 20th century, and the beginning of the 21st, thus dovetailing with the original in a number of places."
When it came time to nailing down a publisher for the sequel, Chaykin told CBR news that after fielding offers for years, his ultimate decision to offer "Black Kiss II" through Image was not a difficult one to settle on, and for a very simple reason. "Image was the only company that was more than willing to do exactly what I wanted to do."
Declaring that he never had any question about creating the new "Black Kiss" story in the same black and white as the original, Chaykin explained his process when writing and drawing a miniseries like this. "I write first, then develop the visuals after, since I no longer deliver pencils," Chaykin said. "I'm a brand, and my clients had better have a good idea what to expect of me at this late date. I do deliver a full script, identical in form, length, structure and content to those I deliver for other artists to illustrate."
With regard to "Black Kiss'" rather infamous reputation due to the numerous sexual scenarios' graphic depiction, Chaykin simply doesn't feel the need to top himself with the sequel. "I've always felt that the shock expressed was more of the hypocritically dutiful, 'I should be appalled by this or my (girl)friend(s) will think I'm a degenerate variety,'" Chaykin said. "You know, like all that adultery and other inappropriate sexual behavior practiced in all those Bible-belting Red States."
As for the rumors online that "Black Kiss II" has been held up in the UK by British Customs, the artist said, "At this point, I know as much as you do." He went on to explain that if there are any problems getting the book to British fans, he's awaiting word from Image Comics via Diamond Comics Distributors about the delay. "They're management. I'm labor." At press time, Image had no comment to share.
Howard Chaykin's "Black Kiss II" is on sale today