Have you ever wanted to feel as if you were standing there when the classic creators of the 40’s and 50’s began framing the history of the comic books we love today? This Charlie Tonic book update is pointed directly at all those comic readers out there who have followed my rambling writing over the last few years. I ask each of you, how many books (not talking seqeuntial art this time) have you read over the last few years that you simply could not put down? How many books have you read that not only promise epic adventure, but deliver a layered story that adapts real comic history for fictional characters? If you answer is zero, read on because I have a book that may not necessarily be a stranger to comic fans, but is one I can recommend without reservation.
Back in October of 2005 I found myself in Washington DC sharing an afternoon with comic legend Jim Steranko at the Washington DC Comic-Con (which was, conincidentally, the very first convention that I covered for Comic Related). As we talked, he mentioned Michael Chabon and the Escapist. The name Chabron rang a bell, but beyond seeing the movie Wonderboys I hadn’t had a chance to take in any of his written work at that point. Steranko is a very interesting storyteller and tale he wove of how he served as the inspiration for both The Escapist and DC’s Mister Miracle character rolled out during the conversation that followed and succeeded in peaking my curiosity. Always open to a good book, I wandered into a Dupont Circle bookstore on my way back to my hotel, picked up a copy of Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and started reading. After I opened that first page, I barely know where the next two days went. I devoured this book. When it ended I was both sad to see it done and, suprisingly, excited by the possibility of reading it a second time. In the end, it wasn’t just the best book I had read that year but it has become one of my favorites and led to my following Chabon’s work as a fan from that point forward.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay debuted in the fall of 2000 to critical success. It’s achievements to date include a Notable Book of 2000 by the American Library Association, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the New York Society Library Prize for Fiction, the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, the Commonwealth Club Gold Medal and a little award called the Pulitzer Prize. Let’s just say this book has street cred in addition to entertainment value.
Through the eyes of Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier, the lead characters of this tale, we walk through comic history and beyond gaining a deeper understanding of what life may have been like for the Jerry Siegels, the Joseph Shusters, the Joe Simons and the Jack Kirbys and, of course, the great Will Eisner. These legends birthed a generation of heroes that would fill adult and child alike with wonder for decades to come. These people made comics what they are today and this book lets you feel like you were there when it all started. Better yet, that comic angle is only part of what truly does turn out to be an amazing adventure that is the life story of two individuals
I humbly ask that you don’t do me a favor, but rather do yourself one by going out and reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Whether you are a comic fan or not, you will not be sorry but I advise you to carve out a day or two just in case it takes hold of you like it did me.