'Awesome Man' Is Super, And Maybe You Are, Too

September 25, 2011

NPR Staff

Awesome Man, the creation of author Michael Chabon and illustrator Jake Parker, can shoot positronic rays out of his eyeballs. Click here to read an excerpt of The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man.
Jennifer Chaney
Michael Chabon lives in Berkeley, Calif. which his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children. The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man is his first picture book.

Michael Chabon won a Pulitzer Prize for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay back in 2001. Ten years later, he has a new book out, called The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man.

This one may sound like a sequel, but Chabon isn't after another Pulitzer. He's looking for ohhhs and ahhhs, hearty giggles and gleeful faces as kids from coast to coast bed down for the night.

That's because Awesome Man, with his trusty sidekick Moskowitz the Awesome Dog, is a children's book — Chabon's first. His inspiration, he tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz, was his son, Abe.

"Like a lot of boys his age, he was just starting kindergarten and he was really into superheroes," Chabon says. "Dressing up in superhero costumes and running around imagining that he could fly or have titanium — sorry, adamantium — claws that come out of his hands and so on."

But Abe was also struggling with other issues, like keeping his temper and staying in control. So Chabon thought writing him a little story might help Abe work through some of his problems. And it might even be fun to read or listen to.

Awesome Man is, well, "basically awesome," as the man himself puts it. He can fly as high as a satellite and shoot positronic rays out of his eyeballs. Giant killer robots just hate that stuff, he says. Superheroes, Chabon says, have a lot to offer kids.

"There's the costume element of it," he says. "There's the fantasy element of just wishing for abilities and powers that one can't have or doesn't have, like flight for example.

"But even more than that, I think it's, to some degree, because they still haven't quite given up hope that they might be able to fly. That they might be able to have these kind of powers — that it's not completely impossible.

"The idea that you have a hidden potential that only you might know about and that the world doesn't understand or appreciate," he says. "I think that's an important element."

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