Chabon's 'Escapist' escapes from novels to comics, Chaykin gives him a hand

Sun, July 13th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

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[The Escapist]It's not often that a fictional character within a fictional book comes to life in a fictional comic book. Wait, let's start over again.

Late last week Dark Horse Comics announced they would publish a quarterly comic anthology called "Michael Chabon Presents…The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist." In 2001, Michael Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the most prestigious literary award, for his novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay." The novel tells the story of Josef Kavalier and Samuel Klayman, cousins who together create the comic book hero the Escapist in the Golden Age of comics and go on to enormous commercial success. With this new book from Dark Horse, the anthology will feature stories of the Escapist and his cohorts set in the style of various comic book eras from the 40's through today. Chabon will act as guide for the book, overseeing stories written by other authors and will himself be contributing original stories.

"When I first began my research into the careers of Joe Kavalier & Sam Clay, their classic creations--the Escapist, Luna Moth and the rest--had lapsed into near-total obscurity," Chabon said in a release. "I'm delighted and very grateful that Dark Horse has decided to breathe new life into these grand old characters, and that we have the opportunity to continue the Escapist's good work using the Golden Keys of imagination and storytelling."

"This is a very exciting project for Dark Horse," Dark Horse President Mike Richardson said in a release. "Presenting the work of such a talented and esteemed author such as Mr. Chabon continues our tradition of releasing the finest books by the industry's top talent. Bringing his wonderful characters featured in 'The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist' to life on the comics' page is a true honor. Comics fans are in for a real treat!"

The first issue is set for release this December and will be 80 pages long.

CBR News has learned that comics creator Howard Chaykin ("American Flagg!") will be contributing to the first issue. In addition to the front cover art (which will be available as a promotional poster at the Dark Horse booth at Comic-Con International in San Diego later this week), Chaykin will be contributing to the interior of the book.

"I'm doing a ten page story which I'll be writing and drawing," Chaykin told CBR News Friday evening. "It'll be a '50s 'Escapist' story. It's probably going to involve a pastiche of Irving Claw. Irving Claw was the guy who took all the photographs of Bettie Paige. He's a guy who made a living selling movie star headshots who ended up getting into the business of doing pin-up modeling, sort of as a sideline, because people were constantly asking for it. That's where Bettie Paige came from. What better thing to do than to do an adventure involving sort of playful bondage with a character like the Escapist, a guy who basically gets out of tight situations."

Chaykin and Chabon were hooked up together through a previous literary collaboration.

"Somehow I ended up being asked to do the 'McSweeney's' book. McSweeney's is a magazine published by Dave Eggers, author of 'A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.' It's a quarterly arts and literary magazine. Michael guest edited an issue [('McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales ')] of genre fiction, short stories, pulp fiction, and I illustrated it. Some twenty illustrations for the likes of Steven King, Lorie King, Elmore Leonard, Rick Mooney, Nick Hornby, Michael Moorcock, just a whole bunch. Some fabulous talents. Micahel and I start talking and ended up doing this!"

While Chaykin has on occasion drawn stories written by others, generally that's not the case. Like he's doing in the "Escapsit" anthology, he usually both writes and draws his work.

"I'll tell you the truth, I'm not crazy about the idea," Chaykin responded when asked about drawing other writers' work. "I've done it a couple of times. I do it every couple of years just to remind myself what it feels like. What I find is that I don't very much like it. The stories are always great, but I much prefer doing it myself."

But when asked if he'd do it if the author was none-other than Michael Chabon, Chaykin left open the possibility.

"Always possible! Let's not get ahead of myself, I haven't done the 10 pages yet!"

Both Chabon and Chaykin will both be in attendance at Comic-Con International in San Diego this week. Chabon will be signing the afore mentioned promotional poster in the Dark Horse booth.

 
CBR News