interview with brian k. vaughan

Published: Monday, November 7, 2005

With this week's issue #8, Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist heads into new waters with its first on-going storyline. Set in the world of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay rather than the world of heroes, the new plot will focus on two independent comic book creators' attempt to revive the Escapist. And behind this tale of creative struggle stands writer Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina, Runaways, Y: The Last Man).

Vaughan took some time out of his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about his newest job.

Max Roth and Case Weaver in Escapist #9, by writer Brian Vaughan and artist Steve Rolston.
How did you get this gig? Did your story in Amazing Adventures of the Escapist #3 play any part in that?

Michael Chabon is easily my favorite living novelist, so I jumped at the chance to contribute a story to Issue #3 of The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist.  Shortly after its release, I came home to a message on my machine from Michael, which said, "Brian, I'm calling with urgent League of the Golden Key business."

One conversation later, and I had signed up with Dark Horse to be the writer of an all-new ongoing story that will soon begin appearing in each installment of the quarterly book, which will continue to feature anthology-style stories from today's best writers and artists in the back of every issue.  You can check out my debut in Issue #8, out November 9!

As a former magician who used to perform his own (half-assed) straitjacket routine, I love the Escapist, but my favorite chapters from KAVALIER & CLAY weren't about the costumed hero, they were about his creators.  Taking a page from Mr. Chabon's novel, our story will balance the fictional adventures of the Escapist with the "real world" drama of the new creators behind the character's modern-day return. 

My collaborator for the first issue will be artist extraordinaire Philip Bond, the genius behind Kill Your Boyfriend, The Invisibles, and most recently with Grant Morrison, Vimanarama. Joining me for our second installment and beyond are the incomparable Steve Rolston (one of my favorite storytellers, best known for his work on Queen & Country, Mek, and Pounded) and fellow Q&C star Jason Alexander, who's doing the very best work of his career drawing our fictional creator's super-heroic "comic within a comic." 

They're being colored by Eisner Award winners Matt Hollingsworth AND Dave Stewart (two of the best colorists in the history of the medium), and we're being lettered by the legendary Tom Orzechowski.  Seriously, I've never worked with so many insanely talented creators on one project.

Max Roth (drawn by Philip Bond) finds his hero in Escapist #8.
Who are Maxwell Roth and Case Weaver?

They're two twenty-something aspiring comics creators, dedicated to resurrecting a long-forgotten character for a whole new generation. What I hope is a genuinely surprisingly twist at the end of our first issue will change their lives forever. 

Are they a couple? Or are they seeing other people?

I hate spoilers, so I'm afraid you'll have to stay tuned.

How will these two differ from Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay?

The biggest difference between Joe & Sam and Max & Case is the town where they bring their tales to life. Michael Chabon has already written about New York City more vibrantly than I could ever hope to, so I decided to set our young protagonists' story in my hometown of Cleveland, a city that's produced comics luminaries from Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, to mainstream superstar Brian Michael Bendis, to indie sensation Harvey Pekar (with whom I'm honored to share my first issue).

How will their Escapist differ from the incarnations readers have already encountered in the series?

That will be revealed in our second chapter, but hopefully, our Escapist will be as accessible to new readers as modern books like Ultimate Spider-Man and All-Star Superman are to fans discovering those heroes for the first time.

Jason Alexander, who Vaughan says "draws a mean Luna Moth," takes on the comic-within-a-comic portions of "The Escapist" starting with issue #9.
Will other Empire comic characters appear, like Luna Moth?

Absolutely! Jason Alexander draws a mean Luna Moth in our second chapter, and there are some other cool surprises on the way.

Will Roth and Weaver encounter any past Escapist creators during your run? Anyone, say, from Empire Comics or Fab Comics?

I don't want to say too much, but we'll definitely be exploring the elaborate history Michael Chabon has created for Kavalier & Clay's greatest creation.

How much of this story line will draw on your own experiences as a comics writer? Is there a little Vaughan in Roth?

There's a bit of me in every character I write, but Maxwell and I probably have more differences than similarities. He's a nice Jewish kid who experienced a great deal of tragedy early in his life, and I'm a spoiled suburban kid who grew up Catholic and relatively comfortable. Still, we both worked our asses off trying to break in to an industry we love, so my personal experiences certainly contributed to that aspect of his life.

What about editors or publishers? Who do Roth and Weaver have to deal with on a day-to-day basis?

Unlike me, the kids are self-publishers, so they don't have the careful guidance of a brilliant editor like Dark Horse's Diana Schutz. But Max gets a lot of help from his loyal pal Denny Jones, who you'll learn more about in our first issue.

Artist Eduardo Barreto "becomes" Joe Kavalier in this Golden Age sequence from "The Escapists."
How much input has Michael Chabon had on your story arc?

A great deal, I'm happy to say. We email often, talk on the phone from time to time, and I was even lucky enough to hang out with him in person over the summer. He reads all of my scripts, and has offered incredibly helpful feedback for each issue. I can't tell you how exhilarating (and intimidating!) it is to get to work so closely with a Pulitzer Prize-winning author.

I'm completely shameless, so I never get tired of bragging about what Michael was nice enough to say about my debut over at his blog:

"After bringing to bear on the problem his formidable knowledge of the world of comics, from the mists of the Golden Age to the Xeroxed and stapled world of the self-published zine, his sensitive grasp of character, his muscular story-telling gift, his fine ear for dialog, and a careful rereading of the source novel, he turned in a script that caused grown men, or at least one grown man, to weep for joy.

"It is a script that well meets, and perhaps even exceeds, the expectations raised by the shadow of the parent novel: the need for a sense of immersion in a 'real' world of 'real' characters. It is absolutely faithful both to the spirit of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay and Rosa Saks, and to that of the Escapist himself. And yet it is, thrillingly, unmistakably the work of Mr. Vaughan."

When your run ends, what do you hope readers take from it?

I hope that longtime fans of the Escapist will feel that our series is a worthy continuation of Kavalier & Clay's legend.  But I also set out to write a comic that would be absolutely accessible to readers who have yet to visit Empire City, so I hope we'll introduce a whole new audience to a world that I love.

Interview conducted via e-mail by Nate Raymond of the Amazing Website of Kavalier & Clay.

Michael Chabon Presents: The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist #8 hits stores November 9 with a price tag of $8.95.

Disclaimer >>> All illustrations accompanying this interview are copyright 2005 Michael Chabon. All rights reserved. The Escapist, Luna Moth, and the likeness of all other characters featured here are trademarks of Michael Chabon.