Monday, August 07, 2006

The Escapists #1 by Brian K. Vaughn

The Escapists #1 by Brian K. Vaughn

Gotham, New York City, Metropolis, Coast City, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Central City, Keyston City, New York City…oh, wait did I already mention New York. There’s one city that’s missing: Cleveland. For a city that has spawned Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of the original superhero, Cleveland has few superheroes of its own. Sure we have Howard the Duck, but I have a sneaky suspicion that’s because of Cleveland’s natural ability to find its way into bad jokes rather than its good qualities. Hopefully Brian K. Vaughn can change that.

I was born in Cleveland but have lived in Seattle and Boston, and yet I still think of myself as a Clevelander. Cleveland has long been the punch line to rust belt jokes and there is a perverse kind of pride one gets from living there. It’s the underdog story, and no matter whether you win or lose, being an underdog is a bragging right in itself.

Here’s another list: Jerry Seigel, Joe Shuster, Harvey Pekar, and now Brian K. Vaughn. These Cleveland natives have each revolutionized the comic industry for the better. Not only is Cleveland the home of rock and roll but it’s also the birthplace of the superhero as well as the nexus of independent comics. That is why I was giddy over the fact that Brian K. Vaughn set his homage to the already classic The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in my birthplace.

For the two of you who don’t know, Michael Chabon wrote a what should have been voted the greatest novel of the past twenty-five years (Toni Morrisooooooooooon! [a native of Lorain, Ohio, just west of Cleveland]) called The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay that followed the lives of two Jewish immigrant cousins in New York who created the superhero The Escapists. Since the novel was published it has not only won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, but also has spawned a series of comics that treat Kavalier and Clay’s lives as fact.

Vaughn does not tell the predictable Escapist story by pretending it’s an old issue, but rather focusing Max, who inherited a basement full of old Escapist comics and memorabilia after his father passed away. Years later Max’s mother also passes away. This Egger’s-like travesty results in Max inheriting $150,000 which he quickly uses to buy the long dormant rights to The Escapist. Max also recruits two friends for the roles of artist and letterer. It’s a story more fitting for a indie rather than Dark Horse comics (who have all but officially changed their name to Star Wars comics), and it’s also rather refreshing.

It’s difficult to judge a comic series based on the first issue, but the set up is intriguing enough to see where Vaughn is going. The idea of three kids going up against the big two publishers in their home court using a forgotten golden age superhero makes you wonder what Vaughn has up his sleeves. Oh, and it only costs a dollar. A dollar! Now you have no excuses.

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