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Superman of Letters

When Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel ofsuperhero history and immigrant assimilation, The AmazingAdventures of Kavalier & Clay, was published in 2000,critics couldn’t help but note that it would make a greatcomic book. Apparently, the author was paying attention to hisreviews. This month, Dark Horse Comics publishes the first issue ofMichael Chabon Presents…The Amazing Adventures of theEscapist, which brings to life Chabon’s fascist-bashingcostumed champion in the medium for which he was made.

“Iwanted to see if the Escapist could be a viable character outside ofthe protection of the novel,” says Chabon, 40. “It’s kind of a dare tomake this work.” Though the earliest issues of his series will featurethe “handiwork” of his fictitious comics creators Joe Kavalier and SamClay (the true, human heroes of his book), it will also include newstories that pay tribute to the visual styles and dramatic tones ofcomics’ bygone decades, from the earnestness of the 1940s to thenihilism of the 1970s. It’s Chabon’s homage to the 80-Page Giantspublished by DC Comics during his adolescence, which featured originalmaterial alongside Golden Age?era reprints in volumes that sold for 25cents. “Those were such a bargain,” Chabon says. “It was like havingthe entire history of comics at your fingertips.” (The first issue of The Escapist, however, will set you back $8.95.)

While working simultaneously on a screenplay for Kavalier & Clay and a new book, Hatzeplatz(which explores a plan to turn Alaska into a Jewish homeland duringWorld War II), Chabon is hoping to tap his novelist friends, includingGlen David Gold, Jonathan Lethem, and Dave Eggers, to write theEscapist’s future exploits. “When you absorb vast quantities of comicsover a long period of time, it just becomes part of the structure ofyour imagination,” says Chabon. “There was such a stigma attached tocomics that you had to deal with them ironically if you invoked them atall. But these days, the stigma has lessened quite a bit. We’reencouraged to come out of the closet.”