Review by Ian Keogh
Amoral 1930s adventurer Dominic Fortune was introduced by Howard Chaykin in 1975, in a black and white story conveniently reprinted after the title piece, and Chaykin has revisited the character sporadically ever since. If nothing else this collection presents the contrast of Chaykin working in pencil and ink back in the day, and digitally in 2009.
Some time has now passed since 2009, so digital Chaykin art is no longer the wonder it was then, the occasional depth glitch on show, but it’s still tidily effective, with considerable effort placed on period fashions and technology. We’re so used to seeing the 1930s solely as black and white films, and Chaykin with colourist Edgar Delgado are very effective at bringing through the actual dandified clothing.
Fortune has always been a pulp hero pastiche, but there’s possibly a triple meaning to the title of It Can Happen Here and Now. Past and present are obvious, but under the Max imprint Chaykin’s able to treat Fortune as an adult feature. There’s a juvenile glee in packing in the naked women and swearing, but also racist characters using racist language, although that’s the least of their crimes. Fortune is Jewish, and anti-Semitism is frequent, but Irish, Asians, African-Americans and people of short stature will have equal cause for offence as Fortune babysits three movie stars, eventually stumbling on a plot to overthrow President Roosevelt.
It’s a reminder that conspiracy theorists weren’t an internet invention, and Chaykin’s an absolute wizard of distraction as with all the naked cuss sideshows it almost floats by how little plot there is to the fun romp.
The Hollywood backdrop is also present in the earlier stories, with the début lacking the cynicism of the 2009 story, and because it’s only trying to be a good 1930s action film pastiche it succeeds gloriously. The same can’t be said of the 1980 colour effort, seemingly begun by Chaykin, but drawn from his layouts by Terry Austin, plotted with Len Wein and scripted by David Michelinie. The novelty of seeing Dum Dum Dugan wears off quickly in what’s an average romp set at a circus with a villain over-written to the point of being ridiculous, and Fortune lacking his voice and charm.
Separating Chaykin’s new material from his old is a story by Dean Motter and Greg Scott, previously only available online. Motter picks up on Fortune’s hand to mouth lifestyle and varies the locations while Scott supplies the period detail, although pages throughout have a weird effect that makes the art seem faded. Motter’s narrative is more standard noir detective than Chaykin’s glib and provocative personality, but it works just as well as he takes Fortune on a tour of Marvel’s fictitious countries as they were in the 1930s, while Scott keeps the doings dark.
If there’s a problem with the content it’s that when read one after the other all mine very similar territory, that of covert political manoeuvring in the years leading to the outbreak of World War II in Europe. The approaches differ, but the themes coincide.
All in all, though, it’s unlikely you’re going to see another Dominic Fortune collection, and It Can Happen Here and Now showcases what the character has to offer.