Chabon Talks Superman

NPR’s Studio 360 broadcasted a fascinating radio piece about Superman and what he symbolizes Sunday. Among the many experts speaking in the show is Michael Chabon.

“I mean, you look and you pick up comic books of the 1940’s, and it’s very easy to see what’s on peoples’ minds, what’s going on,” Chabon says. “It’s the war.”

He also says Superman’s logo is a reference to the Nazi swastika. “It’s all right there. Big swastikas everywhere. And so, yeah, the swastika is a kind of Superman “S” or a Batman bat. It’s sort of the mark, the imprint that strength makes on weaker material.”

He continues: “Fascism is inherently appealing to people who have no power and are weak, and so is Superman. I mean, Superman was created by a couple of guys who had no power and were weak and wished they were strong and could do more than they could with their bodies. I mean, fascism is all about bodies and strength and power and the imposition of will. That’s what Superman is all about.”

The narrator notes that the name “Superman” comes from the writings of Friedrich Nietzche, a favorite writer of Adolf Hitler.

But he’s also a reference to the New Deal thinking of the time, Chabon says.

“Superman was initially conceived very much as a champion of the meak and the oppressed against the powerful and strong. Somebody who was going to intercede on the side of the little guy against the big bosses,” he says.

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Will the Escapist Return?

Can the Escapist escape the end?

That’s the question following the final issue of The Escapists, published earlier this month. Dark Horse still has the rights to publish a new book, and while nothing has been announced, editor Diana Schutz says plans are afoot.

“Our commitment remains firm to the character,” she said via e-mail.

Just last week, Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson talked to Schutz about creating a new Escapist-related series, “though I can’t give you any details at this point and probably not for some time,” she said.

“Don’t forget that Mike went out of his way to get the rights to publish comics based on Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer-winning novel; he is still totally passionate about Michael’s novel and about our comics,” Schutz said. “As am I. It’s the market whose support we need!”

At the stands, Escapist series have stuggled. The final issue of Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, which hit stands in November 2005, sold only 4,594 copies, according to ICv2 data. Schutz said they “learned the hard way that a nine-dollar eighty-page anthology was perhaps not the right direction to take.”

Retooled and repriced at $2.99, The Escapists faired better; issue #5 sold 12,190 copies, ICv2 says. Still, that issue ranked only 172 out of 300 comics in November.

At the very least, fans should expect to finally see the so-called “missing” Escapist stories, according to Schutz. When Dark Horse abruptly pulled the plug on the anthology in January, issue #9 was all but done and scheduled to hit shelves that week. Howard Chaykin and artist Jed Dougherty had finished a story about a battle between several decades’ incarnations of Luna Moth, and Stuart Moore and Phil Winslade completed a 1970’s tale featuring the Escapist and Hunter S. Thompson. Neither have seen print.

“We certainly have plans to print all of the ‘missing’ Escapist stories!” Schutz said. “There were several in production at the time the anthology was pulled, and I have both personal and professional reasons for wanting those to see the light of day — as do the several writers and artists who worked on them.”

Schutz said she’s not sure what form the stories will be in when they get published.

“It’s possible we’ll collect the whole darn shootin’ match into one big brick of a book, though my preference would be to find a way to thematically link certain groups of stories together and release them as miniseries first, along the lines of the Hellboy: Weird Tales anthology, for instance,” she said.

But don’t expect a return of characters Max Rothwell and Case Weaver from The Escapists. As early as September, write Brian K. Vaughan indicated at his Web site’s forum that the series, if it continued, would be without him.

“I love the book, but my finale is pretty final,” he said.

Artist Steve Rolston likewise said he hadn’t “heard of any further Escapist comics being planned,” though adding he suspected Dark Horse would work to publish the “missing” stories.

Exactly how long Dark Horse can publish comics spun from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is unclear. Schutz declined to say how long Dark Horse was allowed to publish Escapist comics, saying the contract was confidential.

“Let’s just say that I think Michael Chabon would like us to get those stories into print, too,” she said. “He’s been very happy with what we’ve done so far — both in terms of the original anthology as well as the Vaughan/[Jason] Alexander/Rolston Escapists six-issue series.”

Asked in mid-December, Chabon said he hadn’t heard anything from Dark Horse about a new series. Chabon said he was “sorry” to see The Escapists end, calling it “so great.”

“I really wish it would continue just so that I could keep reading,” he said.

Final Escapists Hits Stands

The final issue of The Escapists hit stands Wednesday.

“Thanks to everyone who loved this miniseries as much as we did,” writer Brian K. Vaughan said on his forum.

Steve Rolston and Jason Shawn Alexander illustrate the final tale of Max and Case. “When tragedy strikes, will the character that brought them together ultimately tear them apart?” the issue’s solication says. “Find out in this fantastic final issue of the Escapist’s first miniseries!”

Chabon, Cartoonists Petition for Auschwitz Paintings

More than 450 artists, cartoonists and comic book creators, including Michael Chabon, have signed a petition urging a Polish museum to return eight paintings created by an the elderly California woman who painted them while in Auschwitz, Kansas City infoZine reported today.

Other creators include Stan Lee and Art Spiegelman (Maus).

“The fundamental principle that art belongs to the artist who create it is recognized everywhere except totalitarian countries,” the petition signed by the artists said.

The group, organized by veteran comics artist Joe Kubert, called on the museum to return the paintings to Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, a retired Hollywood animator who animated famed characters like Wile E. Coyote, Speedy Gonzalez, Cap’n Crunch, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird.

The museum has argued the paintings should remain in the museum to help document the Holocaust.

Escapists #3 Hits Stores

The third part in the amazing adventure of Max and Case Weaver hits stores today.

The Escapists #3, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Steve Rolston and Jason Alexander, the issue marks the half-way mark in the six-part mini-series tale of two friends and their efforts to revive the Escapist comic franchise in the 2000’s.

“I really hope you guys are reading this comic because it’s full of goodness,” Rolston said in his e-mail newsletter today.

According to solicitations, in this issue, Case gets reckless after letterer Denny knocks-out some convenience store thieves while dressed as the Escapist. Case and Max break into the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s office during the night to give their new Escapist comic even more press. But a night watchman isn’t too far away.

“People keep begging me to tell them what new projects I’m going to take on after Runaways, but if you haven’t read this yet, it’s new to you!” Vaughan said a forum posting Tuesday. “Just try it, and I’ll buy it back from you if you don’t love it. This is seriously one of the best comics I’ve ever been involved with.”

And for those of you who like to look before buying, Broken Frontier has a five-page preview of the issue.