For a lot of comics fans, the publication of Michael Chabon’s THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY in 2000 was like mainstream validation, insofar as literature is considered mainstream in the 21st century. Anyway, it made comic books slightly more legitimate for mainstream literature.
Chabon’s tale was about a couple of Jewish kids (much like the creators of Superman) who end up making sense of their lives by becoming involved in the Golden Age of the budding medium. The book chronicles the rise and fall of a superhero known as the Escapist, who only existed at this point in the pages of this story.
Naturally, it didn’t stay like that for long. Dark Horse became the publisher gifted with the rights to translate the book into its native territory, and presented two separate projects: THE ESCAPISTS, Brian K. Vaughan’s extrapolation of the same conceits involved in the original story in a modern setting; and MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST.
As you might imagine, AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST is the only work to date to actually feature superhero adventures of the Escapist, as well as a few of his allies, including Luna Moth. It’s a little surprising in 2012 to report this, and to further acknowledge that Chabon has done little since the release of his own book in the comics field, something e easily could have, in any manner he chose. It is an irony that the champion of comics in the mainstream has shown little interest in them since a very visible show of support. I guess it’s not really for me to judge his decisions. As a contributor to literature in general, he’s arguably more essential.
What to make of actual comics featuring a superhero with a fake lineage and pedigree? It’s a little surreal, especially as the Escapist chiefly battles vague notions of freedom and against the forces of a conspiracy known as the Iron Chain, rather than conventional notions of supervillains. In this collection, it’s stressed that the Escapist is himself a product of legacy, much in the same way so many DC characters are (which makes it all the more ironic that in the fictional versions of his publication history that litter this volume, frequent reference is made to DC’s legal battles against the character, in the same way Captain Marvel faced the music in his similarities to Superman). It’s a little funny to have the constant suggestion that these stories are “reprints,” even though the styles are never accurate to their intended eras. It’s a fun conceit, and I don’t mean to quibble, but it’s a legitimate observation.