Before I discovered the graphic noir-magic of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, or the dark delight of Joelle Jones and James Rich (Lady Killer, You Have Killed Me, etc.) and other stand-alone comics and graphic novels, I came across American Century, the DC Vertigo series which ran from 2001 to 2003, co-written by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman, with various artists wielding the pencil, brush and mouse, including Marc Laming, Luke Ross and Lan Medina.
American Century is kind of like old Steve Canyon, Terry And The Pirates or even Wally Woods’ Cannon series, dialed up a notch for contemporary tastes and expectations. Former combat pilot Harry Black fakes his death and assumes the identity of Harry Kraft, setting off on a series of adventures, initially in Latin America, then Hollywood, Chicago, New York, Paris and even among the American south’s backroads bootlegging scene. There’s crime, mystery, thrills and sex – but more, the series a guided tour of 1950’s America, probing the good and the bad of postwar culture, with Harry continually forced to confront racism, blacklisting, corruption and violence wherever he winds up.
Co-writer Howard Chaykin is one of my comics heroes, his Black Kiss and Satellite Sam series particular favorites (more about those at some point). And I owe the American Century series for introducing me to occasional cover artist Glen Orbik (1963 – 2015) who we also see on some Hard Case Crime paperback covers. I think some or all of the American Century series has been collected into one or more trade paperbacks, but I lucked out and snagged the entire run in a couple of used bookstore ‘priced-to-move’ bundles. Which is good since, as I’ve mentioned here before, I rarely brave the comic shops back-issue bins, unwilling, unable or just too intimidated to elbow aside the hard core browsers.