American Flagg! #1, 1983, First Comics, Cover by Howard Chaykin.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week returning to the Eighties, the Bronze Age of Comics, when new publishers like First Comics were attracting A-level talent to create exciting, different, and very adult-oriented titles like American Flagg!
Writer/artist Howard Chaykin’s title character was Rueben Flagg, former actor, now newest member of the North American Plexus Rangers in the year 2031. Chaykin created a fascinating vision of a technologically advanced America 50 years in the future (but only 10 years away from now!), ruled by a mega-corporation known as the Plex, where Plexus Rangers defend the nation from, among other things, mutant motorcycle gangs.
Flagg and his fellow Rangers wear patriotic uniforms that are a mix of cowboy, corporate, and disco, with pleather-looking navy blue jackets with big shoulder pads and garish red- white- and blue lapels. Among the Rangers’ futuristic weaponry was the Snowball 99, a riot gun that fired a recreational drug that instantly but mobs to sleep, accompanied by the brilliant sound effect lifted from a 1950s doo-wop song: PAPAPAPAPAPA-OOOOOOO-MOW! MOW!
Flagg hated the soulless country America had become under corporate rule, and pined for the way to return America to the way it used to be. Flagg’s cover pose and expression with Old Glory herself foreshadows his determination to rediscover and rekindle the soul of the old USA and return it to its former glory. Sound familiar to today’s readers?
The cover’s trade dress is dominated by a comic title logo design that is at the same time both retro and modern, with bright colors and a stylish American Eagle shield backdrop.
Throughout the series Chaykin and other artists created a signature, eye-catching shading look, using retro (pre-computer) Duoshade illustration boards, which allowed an illustrator to "paint" the board with chemicals to reveal/add various tones of gray to art in a pattern that was still considered line art and photographed well.
Leave it to a title that seemed both futuristic and retro at the same time to be chosen as an ideal POP Retro Cover Of The Week.
Next week: A cover from the flashy, cross-hatchy Nineties!