Reuben Flagg with Raul the Cat. Artist: Howard Chaykin.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: First Comics
First Appeared: 1983
Creator: Howard Chaykin
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The history of American comic books is replete with flag-draped characters like Captain America, The Shield and similar star-spangled …

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… do-gooders — one of whom was actually named "The Star-Spangled Kid". But they mostly flourished in the 1940s. When it came to the '80s, Flagg was, as the saying goes, "not your father's patriotic-style hero."

According to the series back-story, in 1996 (13 years after the comic originally appeared), everything collapsed. Nukes were flying not just in the Middle East, but also in Western Europe. Black plague in Asia and food riots in Europe. Banking system melts down, just like many nuclear power plants. Islamic uprisings in places where you wouldn't even think there was Islam. So the U.S. government, along with the executive boards of most major corporations, moves to Mars.

Now, it's 2031. On Earth, things are worse than ever — gang wars every Saturday night, political rivalries settled by shooting matches, everybody doped up on media overload and exotic drugs, economic depression to make its century-past counterpart look like a bad hair day, and the government, still up on Mars, couldn't care less.

Into this steps Reuben Flagg, an out-of-work actor raised on Mars, transforming his screen personality into real life as he takes over the job of representing the government and enforcing its law in 21st-century Chicago. He is assisted by a talking cat named Raul and the fact that he's one of the few characters in sight with anything resembling a conscience.

Howard Chaykin, the creator of Iron Wolf, Cody Starbuck and others, created, wrote and drew American Flagg. It was published by First Comics, a start-up comics company that made a large but brief splash in the 1980s, with titles including E-Man, Grimjack, and Jon Sable, Freelance, and which had its last gasp with a Classics Illustrated revival in 1990-91. From Flagg's first issue, dated October, 1983, it was a hit.

It remained popular as long as Chaykin continued to write and draw it. Unfortunately, his interest in the series flagged after a couple of years, and he began authorizing new creative teams. It ended with its 50th issue, dated March, 1988. It was resurrected almost immediately, under the title Howard Chaykin's American Flagg. But even though Chaykin was back on board, it had lost momentum, and the new series ended after only a year.

Chaykin's Flagg is still highly regarded by many comics readers — but like much near-future science fiction, events have passed it by, rendering it just an interesting period piece.


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Text ©2000-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © First Comics and Howard Chaykin.