The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon vs. Excelsior by Stan Lee vs. an Actual Comic Book
Comic books created by Stan Lee can do many things. A comic book created by Stan Lee can get a boy through a troubled childhood. A comic book created by Stan Lee can get a bunch of kids who hate reading to suddenly become interested in the written word.
But a comic book created by Stan Lee can never win a Pulitzer Prize. And that’s what a novel about comic books The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay managed to do.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
Even though The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is kind of about two guys who create a comic book hero, the book itself is the opposite of a comic book. It’s literary fiction, which means a guy like me has to concentrate in order to read it. I don’t mind concentrating if the book is really good, but we’re in the middle of football season, so Kavalier and Clay will have to wait until mid-February.
Fans of Kavalier and Clay say that you don’t have to like comic books to enjoy this book. I’ll take it a step further. It probably helps if you know nothing about comic books. I love comic books (or the idea of comic books), but Kavalier and Clay seems to be more like a period piece about the 1930s and 1940s than it is about comic books. Literary fiction that is really about comic books would never win a Pulitzer Prize.
Excelsior: The Amazing Life of Stan Lee by Stan Lee and some other guy of whom I have never heard
Stan Lee is my hero. This guy churned out comic heroes in the 1960s faster than Janet Evanovich can pump out “humorous” mysteries. Yeah, he’s a shameless self-promoter, but I don’t care. Yeah, he hasn’t written any good comic books since maybe 1968, but I don’t care. Yeah, he has a really cheesy mustache, but so would I if I could get away with it.
Stan Lee created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, the Avengers, Captain America, Thor (well, the Norse created Thor, but Stan Lee made him relevant), and the X-Men (plus a whole lot more), and he created most of them within a few years of each other. Most writers would give anything to have a 5-10 year creative run that Stan Lee had in the 1960s. I’m in awe of the guy.
Excelsior is Stan Lee’s (auto)biography. Unlike Kavalier and Clay, a reader probably has to love comic books to love Excelsior. I could read Excelsior during a football game. I could even read Excelsior on an airplane (before or after I take my completely legal pills). Even though (especially because) I can’t afford to buy many comic books anymore, I reread Excelsior once every few years. When I got rid of most of my books (and comic books), I kept Excelsior.
AN ACTUAL COMIC BOOK
I went through a phase where I loved comic books. I used to collect them, but that was before I had a wife and kids. Comic books now cost between $3.00 and $5.00 an issue, and they take about 5 minutes to read, so that’s not a good value for my money. I guess I now love the memories that older comic books provide for me. If I can read the new comic books (some of them are pretty awesome) for free, I’ll gladly do it. But I will not pay $1.00 per minute for reading entertainment.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay cost me a little over $10.00, and I’m guessing it will take me about a month to read. That means I will spend hours and hours reading it (during the summer). It will probably end up costing me pennies per minute, and that’s a pretty good value, especially if I enjoy the book.
If you like reading literary fiction, read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. All the literary folk say that you don’t have to like comic books to love it. And it won a Pulitzer Prize.
If you need light reading (and also like comic books) but want something that lasts more than five minutes, read Excelsior. It didn’t win a Pulitzer Prize, but Stan Lee should have, just for his contributions to society.
If you have lots of disposable money and not much time to read, then read an actual comic book. The five minutes spent reading a comic book will probably be enjoyable, but the comic book (and the artists who created it) probably will never win a Pulitzer Prize.
After you’ve read your comic books, read the true story of a writer’s one moment of high school glory!!
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (lookingatbooks.wordpress.com)