Monday, 10 August 2009

Cody Starbuck

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.


  1. I've read Black Kiss. I can handle anything Howie can throw at me. How bad can it...
    Bloody Hell!

  2. erm. . .yeah. I'd forgotten all about that.

    good call, matey.

  3. My favorite Cody Starbuck scene was in StarReach comics no.1 when Cody saved a diplomat's daughter and she thanked him by giving him some oral application,just before she was returned home to her concerned Dad, with a big smile on her face...Right, then and there, I said to myself... I think I like this character.

    1. Bride, not daughter. Miss Evangeline Breedlove.

  4. I just read this issue about a week ago. I wish Chayikin would return to Cody for a graphic novel. Great stuff!

  5. I was all set to comment on Black Kiss and the oral good tidings (a Chaykin trademark, really) in Star*Reach #1, but the fine folks here already beat me to it. As far as I know, no new Cody Starbuck work from Chaykin anytime soon, but he is working on a Black Kiss prequel. I'm excited; the original was one of the pivotal books of my post-Bronze years!

  6. WOW!!! I haven't seen these pages in over 30 years! I inked most of the backgrounds when I was 18 years old and working as Howard's assistant. Thanks for posting these!! GREAT blog, btw!

  7. I think Cody's amoral ways make him a survivor in a big, complicated human universe. Deep blue heroes are much more easily anticipated - and targeted. You aren't much good promoting light if you aren't pretty well versed in darkness, too.

  8. Thanks a lot. This issue is really expensive on Amazon.