Monday, 10 August 2009
Cody Starbuck was one of two 'graphic novelettes' published by Mike Freidrich in 1978 ( the other being Craig Russell's Parsifal ) and was the third appearance for Howard Chaykin's rollicking space pirate.
Following on from Ironwolf, Cody was Howie's first real go at what has since become the patented Chaykin hero: A morally ambivalent, free-wheeling good/bad guy in a decadent, sexually explicit universe who looks more than a little bit like Howie himself.
Cody is the darkest of these characters; In his previous stories being gleefully venal & treacherous, and generally only doing good if the price is right. Basically a hero, but only just. A sort of X-rated Han Solo, if you like.
In this full-length tale, any previous ambivalence is out the window, as Chaykin charts Starbuck's journey from ostensible hero to out & out, unrepentant villain, perhaps going further here than with any of his subsequent character's. At an important point in the story, Cody has a choice to make, and without batting an eyelid, he makes what we would see as the wrong choice. But, as Howie says: "And so it goes. "
Cody Starbuck is a bit of a flawed piece, for all it's brilliance. The ending is too abrupt, and, as fans said at the time, none of the stories about this character really follow on from each other, but y'know, where else are you gonna get such a blatant kicking to the Catholic Church in the form of a space opera? And fantastic early stuff like this made later masterpieces like American Flagg possible though, as you'll see, Howie was really pushing the envelope from day one.
By the way, those of a nervous disposition or who generally have small children wandering past the computer screen: There's an unbelievable scene in here that will shock even those who thought they'd seen everything Chaykin had to throw at them. You have been warned.