Propaganda escapes into the Escapists
“We can break through the panel borders and free a fictional character from the printed page. We can convince the world that the Escapist is real.”
These are the words of Maxwell Roth, writer and copyright owner of the new Escapist. Together with two friends he’s determined to publish a comic on this golden age hero, created by Kavalier and Clay back in the 30s. But they need a hook, they need that USP.
Maxwell’s spent his entire inheritance on the rights to the Escapist so he just can’t afford to be another indy publisher, lost in the arse end of Previews after all the big boys have divvied up the superhero dollar. Which is why they come up with the idea of Denny putting on the Escapist suit and making a few carefully chosen appearances. Unfortunately, the first such outing ends up with Denny, as the Escapist, thwarting a supermarket hold up and the footage being all over the national news. From this point on the Escapist is a huge success, but with that success comes the unwanted attention of the big comic company who decide they want the character back. And they’ve got money, and lawyers, big, expensive lawyers who intend to get the rights to the Escapist come what may. After that, things start to really go wrong…
(You never know what strange secrets Dad has down in the basement. Art by Phillip Bond from The Escapists. Published Dark Horse.)
The joy of the Escapists as a comic is dissecting the layers of meta-fiction that Vaughn has decided to put in here. The talk of breaking through the panel borders by Maxwell is nothing to the games Vaughn’s playing in the book. There’s layer upon layer of fiction here, the Escapists themselves creating new adventures of the fictional Escapist who was in turn created by Kavalier & Clay, two Cleveland writers with more than a passing resemblance to Siegel and Shuster who in turn were created by Michael Chabon (Chabon’s latest novel, the extremely good The Jewish Policeman’s Union, won this year’s Nebula Award an is nominated for the Hugo too – Joe) for his book the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Layer upon layer upon layer.
The art is an interesting mix of styles and techniques as well. The everyday tale of the three kids is drawn first by Phillip Bond and then by Steve Rolston, after Bond hit deadline trouble. Both excellent artists and with remarkably similar styles. Phillip Bond’s art is, as usual, amazing, but Rolston’s art is damn fine as well.
(A quick aside and a question to anyone who may know; Why, oh why, oh why, oh bloody why is Phillip Bond’s Wired World not available anywhere? I can’t even find the thing scanned in on the web. Someone somewhere must be in a position to publish this. Please? Bloody hell, Bond’s married to a Vertigo editor – surely they could publish it.)
Now, on top of this great artwork by Bond and Rolston telling us the tale of the three comic kids, there’s also the vastly different styles of veteran Eduardo Barreto drawing the tales of the vintage Escapist and Jason Shawn Alexander draws the modern, grim and gritty tales as told by our three young comic creators. Three completely different styles, yet fusing seamlessly and telling one coherent story.
And it’s all hugely entertaining. Something trying to be this smart, this know it all clever can be an awful mess if not handled just right but Vaughn handles it perfectly, delivering an entertaining and original comic that deals with everyday life and a little superheroing at the same time.
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.