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Boing Boing on the Reprint of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook Volume One

Updated January 7, 2014


"Review: Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook Volume One 10th anniversary edition"
By Mark Frauenfelder
Boing Boing, Sep 14 2013

"Drawn & Quarterly has reprinted cartoonist Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook Volume One, which came out in 2003. It's a terrific look at the "loose" work of one of the world's best living illustrators.

Acclaimed cartoonist Chris Ware (Building Stories) reveals the outtakes of his genius in these intimate, imaginative, and whimsical sketches collected from the years during which he completed his award-winning graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (Pantheon). Acme Datebook Volume One is as much a companion volume to Jimmy Corrigan as a tremendous art collection from of one of America’s most interesting and popular graphic artists. Chris Ware has a passion for drawing that is infectiously wide-ranging in style and subject. Acme Datebook Volume One surprises the reader on every page with its spontaneity, its mordant humor, and its excellent draftsmanship. Architectural drawings from Chicago and interplanetary robot comics collide with cruelly doodled human figures, quietly troubling figure studies, and innumerable notes to self detailing artistic doubts and ideas."
 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  Lit Fest round-up highlights Chris Ware, Lynda Barry and Anders Nilsen

Updated June 5, 2013


"Five books: Graphic novelists at Lit Fest"

By Jennifer Day
The Chicago Tribune, May 25, 2013

Art Spiegelman, author of “Maus,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir that essentially legitimized cartooning as a literary form, will kick off this year's Printers Row Lit Fest on Saturday, June 8, as winner of the Chicago Public Library's Harold Washington Literary Award. With that in mind — along with the fact that some of the most interesting cartoonists working today live in Chicago — we dedicated this issue of Printers Row Journal to graphic novels. Let's kick it off with a roundup of books by some of the cartoonists who will be at Lit Fest.

Building Stories by Chris Ware

Chris Ware reimagined the very notion of what a book could be in "Building Stories," a gameboard-sized box filled with illustrated works about the inhabitants of a Chicago three-flat. It was published to critical acclaim in October and showed up on just about every list of best books from 2012. The beauty and inventive nature of Ware's work is obvious; but what makes it compelling is its careful observation of the characters who inhabit it.

The Freddie Stories by Lynda Barry

Five years ago, Lynda Barry stopped writing "Ernie Pook's Comeek," a strip that first appeared in the Chicago Reader nearly 30 years before. "The Freddie Stories" is an expanded reissue of a collection of strips about the youngest of the Mullen family. Freddie is introduced by his sister Marlys as "a gentle person" in "a juvenile delinquency world." No one gets at cringe-inducing moments of truth quite like Barry — with empathy and playfulness.

The End by Anders Nilsen

In 2006, Anders Nilsen published "Don't Go Where I Can't Follow," a heartbreaking 96-page graphic memoir about his relationship with his fiancée, Cheryl Weaver, who died of cancer in 2005. "The End" is the story of what came next: a bracing depiction of mourning and acceptance. Nilsen, who is perhaps best known for "Big Questions," uses spare drawings and empty space to make his loss palpable — and to leave room for hope.

Sammy the Mouse: Book 1 by Zak Sally

Sammy the Mouse just wants to stay home alone, but a voice from above commands him to open the door when a drunken duck comes knocking. He finds himself thrust out into a confusing and grim world. "Sammy the Mouse: Book 1" collects the first three issues of the comic book (originally published by Fantagraphics) in a lovely two-color edition hand printed by Sally.

CAKE 2012 Book

Lit Fest participant Laura Park is one of dozens of artists who will appear at the Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, June 15-16. CAKE will be on hand at Lit Fest, too, to offer a taste of this year's event. In the meantime, check out the anthology from last year's expo, "CAKE 2012 Book," which features work by Dane Martin, Anna Haifisch, Paul Nudd and many more.
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Anders Nilsen
Lynda Barry

           Featured products

The Freddie Stories
Multi-Story Building Model




The Guardian maps the rise of graphic novels, mentioning Chris Ware, Raymond Briggs, and Joe Sacco

Updated January 16, 2013


The graphic novel's spectacular rise: from kids' comics to the Costa prize
Cartoonists Joff Winterhart and Mary Talbot gain accolades that once would have seemed like a pipe dream
Becky Barnicoat
The Guardian, Friday 23 November 2012

Sitting alone in his box room, Pritt-Sticking speech bubbles on to panels drawn in disposable fountain pen, Joff Winterhart did not dream of literary fame and glory. The 38-year-old community artist from Bristol was out of work and filling his time with a project that might turn into an animation, might turn into a book, definitely wouldn't turn into a literary classic. "I kept thinking about what bad reviews it would get if it was ever published," he said. "I thought people would say it was extremely amateurish."

In the end, it turned into a 75-page comic book, Days of the Bagnold Summer, about a mother and her teenage son, and this week it was one of two graphic novels nominated for a Costa book award alongside Mary Talbot's biography of James Joyce's daughter, Dotter of her Father's Eyes. They are the first graphic novels nominated for the Costa. Against all odds, Winterhart had made literary history.

Just over 20 years ago, this sort of accolade would have seemed like a loopy pipe dream to most cartoonists. The literary establishment felt comics were for spotty kids who dreamed of being superheroes. Right-thinking adults may have guiltily re-read Tintin, or enjoyed Posy Simmonds in the Guardian and Steve Bell's political lampoonings, but comics weren't literature.

A comic book about the Holocaust starring mice changed that. Art Spiegelman's Maus, a graphic memoir about his relationship with his Holocaust-survivor father published in full in 1991, was a critical hit and in 1992 Spiegelman was awarded the Pulitzer prize. "Art Spiegelman doesn't draw comics," proclaimed the New York Times in its rapturous 1991 review. "Maus … is a serious form of pictorial literature."

Pictorial literature was born. Then graphic novels, then sequential art, then graphic memoirs. All seemed more palatable than plain old comic books, which critics still couldn't quite get their heads around. "The success of Maus was something of a false dawn," said comics historian Paul Gravett. "The comics industry thought mainstream publishers were finally going to wake up to comic books, but it didn't happen. Publishers didn't know how to market them."

Instead, there was a gradual creep. In 1998, the publishing director of Jonathan Cape, Dan Franklin, was given a manuscript by his children's division. "They said, we don't think this is for children, do you want to publish it?" he said. The book was Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs, a heartbreaking graphic memoir about the author's parents. It sold 200,000 copies. "It gave me a rather distorted view of how well comic books might do," said Franklin, "but I fell in love with the form."

Jonathan Cape began publishing a select list of comic books each year. In 2001, Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth won the Guardian first book award. "Chris Ware was a watershed," said Franklin. "Suddenly, people were talking about it. Comics had gone overground." Cape has since published some of the most respected comics of the past decade: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi about her life in Iran, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel about her secretly gay father, and Palestine, a long-form work of comics reportage by Joe Sacco.

In 2005, Faber & Faber began regularly publishing comics, and, Franklin said, there are now numerous independent publishers such as SelfMadeHero and Blank Slate "doing really, really wonderful stuff." Slowly, steadily, the comic book had cast off its superhero costume, climbed off the kids' shelf, and nestled in among the heavyweights.

But while Franklin agreed the market is growing, comic books are costly investments. Jonathan Cape publishes about 10 a year, Faber & Faber publishes two or three. "Money isn't remotely the same for comics artists as regular book authors – it's terrible," said Franklin. "They are often printed full colour, and the economics doesn't allow for a huge advance to the author." Angus Cargill, who publishes comics at Faber, says it would not be possible to greatly expand his list. "In publishing you either do loads and hope that one or two hit, or you try to find the best ones and make them count. The production costs, the time, and the fact that the comics market is smaller means we choose the second course."

Publishers are still surprised by the growing success of comics. Franklin "thought it was a joke," when he heard two Cape titles had been nominated for the Costa, and Cargill admitted the company underestimated how well author Craig Thompson's new comic Habibi would do. The 672-page love story based on a Middle Eastern fable was a huge seller. "We had to reprint it three times," he said. "There are 25,000 copies in print. Much more than we anticipated." He agreed the Costa nominations are a huge deal for comics. "It will encourage people to read books they wouldn't have done otherwise, and make places like Waterstones much more aware as well."

The director of the Costa awards, Bud McLintock, laughs off the suggestion that this year's nominations are tokenism: "The judges aren't in touch with each other, so it is just an amazing coincidence. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I heard. Graphic novels must be in the zeitgeist."

Author Wendy Holden, a judge in the best novel category for which Winterhart is nominated, thinks it's more than just zeitgeist. She was already a fan of the work of Posy Simmonds and Bryan Talbot (Mary Talbot's husband, and the illustrator of Dotter in Her Father's Eyes) so finding a comic book in her pile didn't seem strange. "I picked Days of the Bagnold Summer simply because I liked it," she said. "It was clearly one of the very best books I had read. When I heard it was the first time a graphic novel had been nominated I was surprised. To me it seems obvious that graphic novels should be considered for literary awards."
 
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware
Raymond Briggs

          



  Montreal Gazette recommends Guy Delisle, Tom Gauld, and Chris Ware's

Updated January 16, 2013


Rewind 2012: No shortage of top-shelf titles
By Ian McGillis, Gazette Literary Critic December 21, 2012

MONTREAL - Gabriel Garcia Marquez can’t write anymore. Philip Roth says he won’t be writing anymore. Gore Vidal, Nora Ephron, David Rakoff and Maurice Sendak definitely won’t be writing anymore. With an attrition rate like that, you’d be forgiven for assuming that 2012 was, for readers, a decided downer. But as the array below will attest, it has been a year of riches.

Try as I may, I can’t read everything: Alice Munro, Peter Carey, Junot Diaz, Ian McEwan, Tamas Dobozy, Will Ferguson, Peter Dubé and Tess Fragoulis are just a few whose newest books taunt me, untouched, from the bedside table. Think of what follows, then, not as an attempt at a definitive Best of 2012, but rather an account of a year in reading by someone for whom books fall only slightly below oxygen and food in the list of life’s essentials.

Chris Ware’s Building Stories (Pantheon, $55) is so original that writing about it almost demands a whole new vocabulary. From its form (14 discrete volumes of varying size and format inside a large box) to its Escher-like approach to narrative (the volumes can be read in any order), this literary objet d’art — it can scarcely be called a book as we understand that word — can make you re-experience the thrill of first encountering literature. Best of all, the innovation is there to serve an immaculately observed human-scale story of an ordinary woman in an ordinary Chicago apartment block. You sense that if Ware hadn’t gone into cartooning, he could have been Raymond Carver. Newness notwithstanding, there’s nothing “difficult” about what Ware has done, beyond his occasional use of eyeball-straining lettering — and hey, we’ve never held small type against the compact edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, have we?

Chris Ware’s colossal achievement shouldn’t obscure other advances in the thriving realm of graphic literature. Tom Gauld’s Goliath (Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $19.95) employs spare imagery and even sparer dialogue to render the hapless fall-guy giant of the Bible an existential hero. Jeff Lemire’s The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf Productions, 224 pages, $24.99) further refines the emotionally affecting way with blue-collar struggle and familial conflict that won Lemire so many fans with his Essex County trilogy. Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City (Drawn & Quarterly, 320 pages, $24.95) is the most ambitious and counterintuitively funny of Delisle’s innocent-abroad accounts of everyday living in global hot spots.

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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Guy Delisle
Tom Gauld

           Featured products

Goliath
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City




WNYC interviews Chris Ware on books, music, and comfort food

Updated January 16, 2013


The Leonard Lopate Show
Web Extras
Guest Picks: Chris Ware
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Cartoonist Chris Ware was on the show to talk about his graphic novel box set Building Stories. He shared his guest picks with us.

What have you read or seen lately (book, play, film, etc.) that moved or surprised you?

Todd Solondz's film "Dark Horse"—It didn't surprise me, because everything he does is great, but it did profoundly move me.


What are you listening to right now?

Morton Feldman's "For Philip Guston"
Vladimir Martynov's "Come In"
Philip Glass' 9th Symphony
Arvo Part's 4th Symphony


What’s the last great book you read?

Zadie Smith's NW


What’s one thing you’re a fan of that people might not expect?

Jeez, I dunno...Leaf blowers? Or maybe the aforementioned Morton Feldman...


What’s your favorite comfort food?

Vegan "meatloaf," my wife's squash lasagne.


Click the link for the podcast.
 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



  New Hampshire Sentinel Source recommends Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine for Christmas gifts

Updated January 15, 2013


Gift books for Christmas
Posted: Sunday, December 2, 2012 8:00 am | Updated: 8:48 am, Sun Dec 2, 2012.
By Tom Beer Newsday

Yes, we live in digital times, but there’s still nothing that can top a beautifully produced and illustrated book. Here are some that would make great presents this holiday season.
No, it’s not a board game. Open the rectangular box of Chris Ware’s “Building Stories” (Pantheon, $50), and you’ll find an assemblage of 14 gorgeously illustrated booklets, in different shapes and sizes, all chronicling the lives of the residents of a fictional Chicago apartment building. Ware is the innovative cartoonist behind “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth,” and there’s no correct order in which to read the various contents here. But they do add up to a magnificent, moving whole, and piecing them together is half the fun.

Adrian Tomine’s cover of the post-Sandy New Yorker — a man wielding a flashlight and wading through floodwaters to his polling place — is surely one of the iconic images to come out of the superstorm. That illustration wasn’t completed in time to get into “New York Drawings” (Drawn and Quarterly, $29.95), a collection of the artist’s work for the magazine. But what’s here — covers, comics, sketches — is in the same quietly poignant vein.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware

           Featured product

New York Drawings




Tavi Gevinson interviews Chris Ware on Rookie

Updated January 15, 2013


Work Hard and Be Kind: An Interview With Chris Ware
We talk to the cartoonist about substance abuse, storytelling, and the reality of dreams.
11/29/2012

Thanks to this wonderful piece a reader sent us that went up just the other day, I don’t really need to tell you who Chris Ware is. I will say, however, that if I could ask all humans to read just one thing, it would be any of his books. They’re not quite comic books or graphic novels; he’s almost created his own medium. Sometimes his books have pages of satirical advertisements drawn by him. Sometimes there’s no dialogue throughout an entire spread. Some panels look like complicated mazes but flow like streams of consciousness. The same characters pop up in different stories, the most overlooked details of everyday life get the most attention, and I always come away from it all feeling more connected to any person I may pass on the street and with a strong desire to create something of my own. That is, I believe, the best a person taking in a thing another person made can hope for.

Chris very generously answered, over email, my questions about his new book, being a teenager, and the reality of dreams.

TAVI: What were you like as a teenager?

CHRIS WARE: That’s a complicated question, since I think I mutated every three months or so, but a general string of adjectives might be: insufferable, desperate, scrawny, bad-skinned, triangulating, self-doubting, self-conscious, crude, and unappealing. I spent a lot of time watching television and following a program of musical taste that one of my friends unintentionally curated for me (i.e., I copied everything he liked), and I tried to make my naturally buoyant hair look longer by straightening it with a hairdryer. I attended private school until 10th grade in Omaha, Nebraska, where I wore a “formal uniform” which I modified to express my true self via footwear or digital watches that weren’t officially sanctioned by the Episcopalians. I was terminally unathletic and terrified at the thought that I might one day have to remove my shirt in public. To make up for this perceived deficiency, I stupidly got into various experimental substances, a period which ended in a moment of self-realization after buying said substances while driving my grandmother’s Oldsmobile Toronado—probably the dumbest, most shameful moment of my life—when I found myself thinking, What if I’d gotten arrested? What would that have said about me, about her, and about my mother, who tried to raise me right? Fortunately, I abandoned that particular path of inquiry.

What were your biggest influences at that time?

Because of this brief substances-experimenting I became “interested” in the idea of the 1960s (or whatever “the idea of the 1960s” meant to a Midwestern middle-class kid in the 1980s) and ended up buying a lot of so-called underground comics at head shops and out of the back room of the local comic book store from which I’d bought superhero comics as a middle-schooler. It was there, while hoping to find pornography, that I discovered RAW magazine, Robert Crumb, and Harvey Pekar, and somehow through the example of these and other artists like Gary Panter and Charles Burns came to the conclusion that the only thing I had any remote proclivity for—drawing—might possibly be employed in creating comics, which to me seemed like an untapped, slightly edgy world of expressive possibility and genuine honesty, and maybe even a way of meeting girls. (It wasn’t.) In the 1980s, popular culture was so mired in falseness and compromise that comics seemed (and still seem to me, actually) an unpretentious potential vessel for solitary authenticity. It was Robert Crumb who amazed me first artistically, Harvey Pekar who made me realize that regular life itself could be written about, and Art Spiegelman who provided the first (and still the finest) example of how it all might be synthesized into a thoughtful, readable artistic medium.

When I saw you speak last month at Unity Temple in Oak Park, someone asked you what the ACT of drawing FEELS like, and you said it was just horrible. I also read somewhere that you can’t look at any of your books because you’d notice only what’s wrong with them. There’s a page in The Acme Novelty Library with tips about being a cartoonist that make it sound miserable. If neither the process nor the product are satisfying to you, what drives you?

I don’t know. I guess I’m motivated by actually finishing something—something that I know I’ve tried my absolute hardest at and have put every bit of myself into—while the tolerability of the actual creative experience remains a distant concern. There are also those rare moments while writing and drawing where something comes up completely unexpectedly on the page—like a gesture or a facial expression on a character—which suddenly reveals something about the story or the person I simply never would have thought of just sitting around thinking. In the best of these instances, I might also realize I’ve been lying to myself about some part of my own personality for years, and that consequently there’s something I need to change.

What advice would you give to someone who is in the early stages of that and possibly struggling?

To work as hard as possible, and then, when you think you’re done, to work just a little bit harder. To know that if it feels “right” it may actually be completely wrong, and that if it feels “wrong” it may be completely right. There’s no governing principle to any of this except that strange instinct and feeling within yourself that you simply have to learn to trust, but which is always unreliably changing. To create something for people who have not been born yet. To pay attention to how it actually feels to be alive, to the lies you tell yourself and others. Not to overreach—but also not to get too comfortable with your own work. To avoid giving in to either self-doubt or self-confidence, depending on your leaning, and especially to resist giving over your opinion of yourself to others—which means not to seek fame or recognition, which can restrain rather than open your possibility for artistic development. With all this in mind, not to expect anything and to be grateful for any true, non-exploitative opportunity that presents itself, however modest. And to understand that being able to say “I don’t know what to do with my life” is an incredible privilege that 99% of the rest of the world will never enjoy.

So many of your stories—as you pointed out at that speaking event—are about people whose dreams have gone unrealized, or who are maybe creative but not necessarily talented, or who just never went after what they wanted, and now it’s too late, and they carry with them a sadness about it. From where I stand, as an admirer of your work/a person who has seen only positive reviews of your last book (and all of your books) in prestigious publications, I would say you have found success in a creative field. What part of you consistently writes the story of someone who hasn’t?

I feel extraordinarily lucky for any so-called success I’ve enjoyed, and I’m deeply grateful for every single kind word and generous sentiment I’ve received. It’s a far cry from what I experienced as a kid, and not what I ever expected my adult life would bring, though I’m sure whatever counts as drive within me was forged in that crucible of self-doubt and fear-of-being-jumped-in-the-hallway I endured in my early adolescence. Beyond that, I believe that everyone has within them some urge to create something—whether it’s a story, a picture, a song, or a child—but for one reason or another many of us simply aren’t lucky enough to be able to. [That drive] comes of trying to understand and to feel and to empathize; it’s the reason we have language and, in turn, art.

But to answer your question more directly: I went to art school, and while I did intend to write and draw comics, I also thought maybe I could be a more traditional fine artist—a painter or a sculptor or whatever. I didn’t, and while in most ways I’m grateful for the directness and artistic freedom comics provides, sometimes I still feel as if I “gave up” on something.

There’s a quotation from Picasso on the inside cover of Building Stories: “Everything you can imagine is real.” You said at Unity Temple that you can remember stories your grandmother told you and how they looked in your head more vividly than some events that actually occurred in your own life. There’s that part in one of the Building Stories booklets where one of the characters dreams that she finds an amazing book she wrote, and even though it only ever existed in her subconscious, it confirmed for her that she had that potential in her. I’d never considered giving so much validity to a reality that’s so personal and in-your-head and fictionalized, and I found it very comforting. So, how did you figure that out on your own—that something that exists only in your mind could have a valid enough reality to be a comfort?

Well, really, our memories are all we have, and even those we think of as “real” are made up. Art can condense experience into something greater than reality, and it can also give us permission to do or think certain things that otherwise we’ve avoided or felt ashamed of. The imagination is where reality lives; it’s the instant lie of backwash from the prow of that boat that we think of as cutting the present moment, everything following it becoming less and less “factual” but no less real than what we think of as having actually occurred.

Do you ever dream about any of your characters?

I do. Some of them have come to me fully formed, very vividly, in the same way that I can only really feel the presence of people who have died in my dreams. Sometimes I think [dreams are] how we sort through all of the day’s new data and file it as ideas within the story-like structure of how we imagine and remember our lives.

Do you ever dream in the style of your drawings?

No—the way I draw is intended to be completely transparent, though maybe I’m the only person who sees it that way. I consider my drawing, for better or worse, to be a way of showing things translucently, the way typography is transparent on a page—intended to be read, but not really completely seen.

Normally your books are quite carefully put together, and reading them can be like solving a maze—the order and arrangement of the panels is very purposeful and important. Building Stories is a box of books and pamphlets and broadsides and the like, but you’ve set no guidelines for where to start or finish. Why?

I wanted to make a book that had no beginning or end, and, despite the incredible pretentiousness of how that sounds, to try and get at the three-dimensionality of memories and stories—how we’re able to tell them starting at this or that point depending on the circumstance, and to take them apart and put them back together, whether to actually try and make sense of our lives or simply to tell reassuring lies to ourselves. I also wanted to make a book that seemed fun to read, and the idea of a box of nonthreatening booklets has always appealed to me. Also, I had a dream about exactly such an object.

What would you like to tell the young, impressionable minds reading Rookie?

Well, that life is a lot more serious and shorter than it seems like it will be. And that you can easily waste it. And that happiness is overrated. Be kind. This said—and I can’t talk about the rest of the world—but I’d say that you’re a member of the first generation of modern Americans whom I consider genuine, ready-made citizens. And by that I mean America has essentially exited its protracted national adolescence (approximately the 1920s through the 1980s, with the 1960s being the apex and the baby-boomer presidencies of Clinton and Bush as the hangover) and as a nation we’re at something of a deciding moment of anxious self-awareness, both as to where we’ve been drawing our resources and from what and how we’ve been weaving our moral fabric.

I’m not blowing smoke here, but I’m overall quite impressed by the seriousness, intelligence, and maturity of the generation half my age, both on the larger scale of considering social issues without the giddy recklessness of the 1960s all the way down to the way I’ve seen children and teens treat each other one-on-one. My wife is a high school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools and she regularly comes home with stories of kindness and empathy on the part of her students that I find absolutely unfamiliar to my own teen experience, which was marred by self-preservation, meanness and insobriety. There appears to be a certain clearheadedness and sense-of-place-in-the-worldedness with “the youth today” that wasn’t prevalent when I was a kid or a teen. I think there’s a sense of direness or a certain kind of embarrassment if not plain disgust at the foolish reluctance my generation and my parents’ generation might have enjoyed which you all seem to have refreshingly no time for at all, while also seeming to know how to have a fine time yet to know the relative value of fun versus what makes life important. In short, I think you’re doing great, and I’m impressed, if not a little envious. ♦
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Tavi Gevinson

          



  Washington City Paper's "gifts for nerds" lists Ware, Tomine, Clowes, and Tamaki

Updated January 15, 2013


International Ink: Gift Ideas for Comics Nerds (Part 1 of 2)
Posted by Mike Rhode on Nov. 26, 2012 at 12:30 pm
In which we take a look at a great big pile of review copies of comic books, cartoons, and graphic novels.

Somehow with the turn of the millennium, a weird cartoon switcheroo occurred, and alternative cartoonists became more mainstream than mainstream cartoonists. Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, and Adrian Tomine are regulars in the New Yorker. Ivan Brunetti edits textbooks on cartooning for Yale. Illustrations by Tom Gauld, Lille Carre, and Jillian Tamaki routinely appear in the New York Times.

Tomine and Clowes' recent, lovely art books can be found at reasonable prices: New York Drawings (Drawn & Quarterly, $30) reprints the illustrations that Tomine has done for the New Yorker, along with additional illustrations of the city. The book is almost textless, but the art is all beautiful full color. The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist, edited by Alvin Buenaventura (Abrams ComicArts, $40), is a catalog to accompany an exhibit of his work that is scheduled to arrive at the Corcoran in 2013. This book covers Clowes' entire career, even delving into unfinished sketches, layouts, and color guides alongside finished art. The text, meanwhile, explores movies based on Clowes' works, and includes essays by Chris Ware and book designer Chip Kidd.

Ware's Building Stories has been getting loads of attention this fall, but consider the academic collection, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David M. Ball and Martha B. Kuhlman (University Press of Mississippi, $55 hardcover, $28 paperback). Overall, its 15 essays are a little dense—but that's OK for this relatively difficult artist. Howard University professor Marc Singer even plunks down a 16-page essay on him.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware
Daniel Clowes

           Featured product

New York Drawings




Star Tribune lists Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware and Charles Burns in their holiday book roundup

Updated January 15, 2013


Holiday books roundup: Graphic novels
Article by: TOM HORGEN , Star Tribune staff writer Updated: November 24, 2012 - 3:33 PM
Chris Ware's "Building Stories" tops our list of graphic novel suggestions.

BUILDING STORIES
by Chris Ware (Pantheon, $50)
Apparently, no one ever told Chris Ware that print is dead. Or maybe they did and this is his fantastic rebuttal. Ware, the master behind "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," has created a batch of sad, highly detailed comics with "Building Stories." The catch is the presentation. Inside this oversized box are 14 different stories -- some are traditional books of various sizes, others are magazines, newspapers and small pamphlets. This isn't a graphic novel. It's a library ready to be explored.

THE HIVE
by Charles Burns (Pantheon, $21.95)
If David Lynch made graphic novels, they'd look something like the weird, twisted work of Charles Burns. The latest from this visionary artist is the second volume of a planned trilogy (which began with "X'ed Out" in 2010). Burns' bold pen strokes tell the story of Doug, a confused young man caught between a dream world of grotesqueries and real life -- which proves even more nightmarish.

NEW YORK DRAWINGS
by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95)
Adrian Tomine is one of the comic book world's great chroniclers of everyday insecurities, best illustrated in the graphic novels "Shortcomings" and "Summer Blonde." His warm, observational style made him a perfect cover artist for the New Yorker, a post he's held for the past decade. Collected in this beautiful 176-page hardcover are all of Tomine's covers, plus his interior illustrations and other New York-centric pieces (from a TV on the Radio poster to a random unpublished portrait of Batman).
 
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware
Charles Burns

           Featured product

New York Drawings




  Montreal Gazette calls Librairie Drawn & Quarterly, "more than just a bookstore"

Updated January 15, 2013


Drawn & Quarterly: A binding force in Mile End

The bookstore is such a vital part of the neighbourhood that it feels much older than its five years
By Ian McGillis, Special to The Gazette
November 9, 2012

“People have stopped saying things like ‘Oh yeah, that little comics shop.’ Now they just call us a bookstore.”

Chris Oliveros, founder of the acclaimed comic and graphic literature publishers Drawn & Quarterly, is describing the breakthrough in perception of the shop he opened in 2007 as the public face of his rapidly growing company. But as anyone who has spent any time at Librairie Drawn & Quarterly knows, it is more than just a bookstore. Mile End — grumblings about gentrification from some quarters notwithstanding—remains one of North America’s most vital concentrations of alternative culture, and every Bohemia needs its nerve centre and spiritual haven. Librairie Drawn & Quarterly is already so entrenched in that role that it feels a lot older than it actually is.

“For me the store is an institution, a local one but of international repute,” says Montreal writer and broadcaster Jonathan Goldstein. “I think of it in the same vein as Schwartz’s, you know? The kind of place I tell visitors in town that they have to check out. It’s like our own City Lights, a gem of a bookstore backed up by a history of publishing iconic writers and artists.”

Madeleine Thien, a peripatetic novelist who makes Mile End her home base, agrees: “I really cherish this bookstore, for the publishing and bookselling they do but also because it’s evident every time I walk in or attend an event just how passionately they care about books and the community.”

On the eve of the store’s fifth birthday, Oliveros and D&Q creative director Tom Devlin point out that it was another anniversary — the Canada Council for the Arts’ 50th, in 2007 — that got the ball rolling.

“They had a surplus of money that year,” recalls Devlin. “They approached all the publishers who typically use them and basically said, ‘Offer us your craziest idea, what you’d want to do if you got some of this extra money.’ So we ran through all these options: some sort of anthology or elaborate book, or maybe some kind of major website revamp.”

Then they came up with an idea they had both entertained independently at various points: a store. Their thinking was driven partly by practical considerations and partly by a desire to strike back against some good old-fashioned Canadian regional bias. “Very few people were aware that we were based in Montreal,” says Oliveros. “Most people just assumed we were in Toronto. Whenever we had an event, we’d have it in some bar, because, at least on the English side, there was really no other place to do it. And mainstream stores just weren’t stocking our books. So we wanted to make a community spot, yes, but we also just wanted to make people aware we were here.”

The decision to go retail made, and literally a day after the Canada Council grant was secured, Devlin was cycling down Bernard St. W. when he saw an “à louer” sign on an empty storefront at 211, between Esplanade and Jeanne Mance, the former site of a Hasidic children’s clothing store. (“I remember when I used to bring my youngest son to a garderie around the corner, we always used to stop and look at the baby mannequins in the window,” Oliveros says.) The property had been in the same family since the 1940s, and the landlord, when approached by Oliveros and Devlin, was happy with the idea it would be a bookstore.

Once the space was secured and the work on it started, a certain amount of dumb luck came into play. Original period brick turned out to be behind all four walls, and a low added ceiling turned out to conceal much higher Edwardian-era wood. “We knew we didn’t want that ugly low ceiling, but had no idea what disaster might be underneath it,” recalls Devlin. “We worried that we might financially sink the whole company just trying to open the store. When we saw what was actually there, we thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing.’ ”

Says Oliveros: “Right from the beginning the idea was to make it not just a place to sell Drawn & Quarterly books, but a store with everything that we liked. Not just other graphic novels, but other books: fiction, art, design.”

Adds Devlin: “Initially we just looked at our home bookshelves and said, ‘Hey, let’s order that and that.’ You know, ‘I like Denis Johnson, so let’s order a bunch of Denis Johnson!’ None of us had run a bookstore, but we knew we had enough space that for a while we could get away with just choosing based on personal taste. We had a little wiggle room.”

That original winging-it approach has been refined under store manager Jason Grimmer to encompass a selection whose unifying sensibility is more philosophically driven than genre-defined — hard to pin down, but you know it when you see it. For sympathetic souls, it can feel like being in the apartment of an extremely clued-in bibliophile friend.

“It’s all so well curated,” comments Goldstein. “You make discoveries there, stumble upon new favourite authors in a way that doesn’t happen when you go to Amazon already knowing what you want.”

An important element in the store’s design and layout was that it be adaptable into a performance space. There’s a well-elevated stage against the back wall, and movable central tables to allow for seating and unimpeded flow. A plan to hold music events every Sunday hit a snag when an early “secret” show by Handsome Furs drew an overflow crowd and noise complaints; from that point on, literary events were deemed best, and for the past five years the store has hosted roughly 75 readings and launches per year.

For the writing community, the store’s cachet and reputation are drawing card enough. “Doing my launches there feels like being a part of something, like getting a stamp of quality,” says Goldstein. “Plus, they’re all so nice to me.” (This reporter can concur, having done a reading there last spring, in tandem with Kevin Chong and Elise Moser, where I was treated with a deference most stores might reserve for international literary lions.)

The goodwill and community outreach effected by such events aren’t their only motivation: altruism is all fine and good, but business, as Devlin points out, is business. “You have an event and you can sell 40 of somebody’s book. Without that event, you might sell four.”

As momentum gathered and the store’s profile grew, it became necessary to shift some events to the Ukrainian Federation on Hutchison St., an equally atmospheric room with the advantage of being considerably bigger. That’s where Sunday’s fifth-birthday event, featuring three of the biggest names in graphic literature, will be held. Charles Burns is the author of the seminal graphic novel Black Hole and has illustrated every cover of the über-hip culture magazine The Believer; Adrian Tomine is at the younger end of the golden generation of comics artists and has had illustration commissions as iconic as the cover of the current issue of the New Yorker, for which he was given the daunting assignment of representing both the Hurricane Sandy flood and the presidential election in a single simple image; Chris Ware, described by Oliveros as “the most influential comics artist since Art Spiegelman,” has just published Building Stories, a monumental multi-volume boxed novel that raises the bar for the whole form.

The presence of three such heavy hitters on one bill (a music equivalent might be, say, Arcade Fire, Bruce Springsteen and Leonard Cohen sharing a stage) tells its own tale: Drawn & Quarterly is doing well. The store, confirms Devlin, is now turning a profit. “It’s only in the last year that we’ve turned the corner. I guess it’s that classic five-year business thing. Every month (this year) has been far better than the previous year’s. We’ve reached that tipping point where people from, say, Westmount know we’re here, and will make a trip here.”

Given such success, at odds with every book-retailing trend, it might be assumed that expansion or even a bit of franchising might be in the cards, but not so fast, says Oliveros. “There’s always the possibility, when you’ve got something that works, that you can expand too far and create a whole new set of problems. We believe that a store like this could work in other cities, but that would involve so much, not just in terms of investment but of having people in those other cities.”

“The space next door came up for rent a while ago, and we went back and forth on it, thinking we’d like more room,” says Devlin. “But then you start projecting: you knock out a wall and that means a second clerk over there, suddenly your rent doubles and your staffing overhead doubles and your sales only go up 10 per cent ... so we’re very cautious. We don’t want to blow this.”

Ultimately that space next door was taken by the music store Phonopolis, further cementing the street’s cultural vibe. Talking to Oliveros, it’s clear he takes some quiet pride in the part he has played in the neighbourhood’s ongoing renaissance.

“After we opened, it definitely helped change Bernard. The street had just undergone a transformation, the sidewalks were widened, but there were still empty storefronts. There weren’t nearly as many diverse stores around here. There were no cafés. And the funny thing is, when we opened, we were worried. We had that initial cushion, but it was just a one-time grant — there was no other funding after that. We worried that after the first year the publishing end might have to support this. We were wondering how long we could last.”

“Initially we did think that even if we just did this for just a year or two, it would be a fun thing we did,” says Devlin. “At the very least, we thought that years down the line we’d be laughing, saying ‘Remember that crazy store we had?’ ”

Five years on, it’s hard to picture Mile End without that store, so much so that it sometimes feels like something slightly more ineffable is going on, an alchemical process by which the books themselves seem to come alive.

“I love strolling among those wacko characters and superheroes,” says multiple award-winning novelist and Mile End resident Rawi Hage. “It is comforting to know that they live here, among us, in this neighbourhood.”

Librairie Drawn & Quarterly marks its fifth anniversary with Charles Burns, Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware, Sunday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at Ukrainian Federation, 5213 Hutchison St. Tickets cost $5, available at the bookstore, 211 Bernard St. W. Call 514-279-2224.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware
Charles Burns

          



Thestar.com interviews Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware and Charles Burns about their new work

Updated January 15, 2013


Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine and Charles Burns discuss their best work
Laura Kane
Published on Friday November 02, 2012

As three of the world’s most respected graphic novelists prepare to discuss their new books in Toronto, the changing landscape of their medium seems to be top of mind.

Chris Ware’s Building Stories is truly a book that cannot be read on a Kindle: an assortment of 14 graphic pamphlets, posters and books housed inside a large cardboard box.

Adrian Tomine’s New York Drawings is a beautiful hardcover collecting the artist’s covers, drawings and cartoons for The New Yorker.

Then there is Charles Burns’ The Hive, a disorienting, multi-layered tale that explores the theme of art as a lens to view the world. All three books are worthy arguments for art you can touch, hold and experience — not just scroll through.

It’s not a surprise then that when asked by the Star to describe a favourite page both Ware and Tomine wrote, by coincidence, about the value of print in a digital world.

Adrian Tomine, “Read Handed” from New York Drawings

This image, which appeared on the June 9 & 16, 2008 cover of The New Yorker, was my attempt to sympathetically acknowledge the plight of the independent bookseller in the Amazon age, as well as the dilemma of the modern book buyer.

When it was published, I saw this cover taped into the window of several book shops around New York. That was gratifying to me, and I felt like, in some small way, there was an unspoken conversation taking place between me, the retailer, and the store’s customers.

Chris Ware, “Building Daughter” from Building Stories

Since I don’t generally feel happy or confident about what I do, I can’t pick a “favourite” page. But if I had to choose one that sort of surprised me as I was working on it, it would maybe be this page.

It’s a newspaper-scaled spread that arranges the main character’s memories of her recently deceased father around a drawing of her sleeping daughter, printed more or less the size that a child at 10 months actually is.

Though we hear a lot lately about the usurpation of print and paper by electronic media, I believe there’s still a reason for art and storytelling that doesn’t arrive in a little glowing pit, but as a certain, real thing which one can actually hold.

Even though it was only published a few years ago, it’s an image that’s already dated. If I were to create an amended version today, there would be another person in one of the windows above, enthralled by an “e-reader” and oblivious to the commotion downstairs.

Charles Burns, pg. 19 from The Hive

Whenever I leaf through The Hive, I find myself pausing to look at this page; perhaps because it comes close to capturing that subtle feeling of loss and regret I get when summer turns to fall.

On this page, Doug, the protagonist, is walking with Sarah, his soon-to-be girlfriend. I never like “explaining” my stories, but in the centre panel, we see three groupings of figures: Doug and Sarah with hopeful, almost wistful smiles on their faces, an older hippie couple that look a little broken and sad and a young family sitting in the park, enjoying a beautiful autumn day.

Why have they all been placed together in the same panel? How do they relate to each other? Those are the kinds of questions I want my readers to ask themselves as they make their way through my story.

Adrian Tomine, Charles Burns and Chris Ware host audio-visual presentations of their respective new works on Nov. 12 at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 8:30 p.m., as part of The Beguiling’s 25th anniversary.

 
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Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware
Charles Burns

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New York Drawings




  Chris Ware discusses new work on New York Times podcast

Updated January 14, 2013


Book Review Podcast: Chris Ware’s ‘Building Stories’
By JOHN WILLIAMS
October 19, 2012

This week in The New York Times Book Review, Douglas Wolk reviews Chris Ware’s “Building Stories.” The graphic novel, which follows the residents of one building in Chicago, comes in the form of 14 different elements in a large box: a hard-bound volume or two, pamphlets and leaflets, a huge tabloid and more. Mr. Wolk writes:

The organizing principle of “Building Stories” is architecture, and — even more than he usually does — Ware renders places and events alike as architectural diagrams. He’s certain of every detail of these rooms, and tends to splay their furnishings out diagonally to show how they fit together. Every visual observation of bodies or nature is ruthlessly adjusted to the level of symbol, rendered in a minimal number of hard, perfectly even, perfectly straight or curved lines.

On this week’s podcast, Mr. Ware talks about “Building Stories”; Parul Sehgal has notes from the field; Dexter Filkins discusses Mark Owen’s “No Easy Day”; and Gregory Cowles has best-seller news. Sam Tanenhaus is the host.
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Chris Ware

          



New York Times praises Chris Ware's "magnificent new graphic novel"

Updated January 14, 2013


Inside the Box
‘Building Stories,’ by Chris Ware
By DOUGLAS WOLK
Published: October 18, 2012

The most despairing image in Chris Ware’s magnificent new graphic novel, “Building Stories” — and there are plenty of candidates — depicts a dumpy middle-aged couple, naked in their bedroom. She’s just dropped her clothes to the floor; he’s lying on the bed, oblivious to her, his face and chest illuminated by the iPad propped on his belly.


You will never be able to read “Building Stories” on a digital tablet, by design. It is a physical object, printed on wood pulp, darn it. It’s a big, sturdy box, containing 14 different “easily misplaced elements” — a hard-bound volume or two, pamphlets and leaflets of various dimensions, a monstrously huge tabloid à la century-old Sunday newspaper comics sections and a folded board of the sort that might once have come with a fancy game. In which order should one read them? Whatever, Ware shrugs, uncharacteristically relinquishing his customary absolute control. In the world of “Building Stories,” linearity leads only to decay and death.

Arguably, the box’s central nugget of story is a sequence Ware serialized in The New York Times Magazine in the mid-2000s, which appears here in something that approximates the dimensions and binding of a Little Golden Book. The chief protagonist of “Building Stories,” a sad, lonely florist with a prosthetic leg (Ware never gives her a name), lives on the third story of a 98-year-old building in Chicago. She’s a former art student who eventually gave up on creating anything: as she explains in a pseudo-gag cartoon on the edge of the box (!), she was “just art curious.”

Below her, on the second floor, there’s a couple whose romance is utterly dead; the ground floor is occupied by the landlady, an elderly, faltering spinster. On an autumn day in 2000, the florist deals with a plumbing problem, briefly loses her cat and has a fumbling makeout session with a former classmate. An epilogue shows her, five years later, driving past the building with her baby daughter; on that section’s back cover, a wrecking ball is smashing off the corner of her former apartment. That’s what you get for chasing time’s arrow.

Instead, Ware lets his readers follow the gnarled paths memory takes as it builds and rebuilds stories. The individual elements of the box show us the building and its residents at fraught moments in their lives, or chart aspects of their existence over time. Ware has an extraordinary command of time and pacing: one bravura page depicts the florist and her husband dealing with her father’s decline over several months, every panel a perfectly composed little square, the thought balloons doubling as after-the-fact narration, and the whole thing a tribute to the look of Frank King’s old “Gasoline Alley” Sunday pages. In another sequence, we see the landlady age 80 years in 18 panels, with paper-doll tabs extending from her body. A bee who’s trapped inside the building until the florist opens a window turns up again as the star of his own comics, the closest thing to comedic relief here. (The spiritual crises and sexual neuroses of “Branford, the Best Bee in the World” amount to little more or less than any of the human characters’; in a moment of self-loathing, he concludes that he’s “an impure, disgusting slug who thinks too much of fertilizing the queen.”)

The organizing principle of “Building Stories” is architecture, and — even more than he usually does — Ware renders places and events alike as architectural diagrams. He’s certain of every detail of these rooms, and tends to splay their furnishings out diagonally to show how they fit together. Every visual observation of bodies or nature is ruthlessly adjusted to the level of symbol, rendered in a minimal number of hard, perfectly even, perfectly straight or curved lines. Elaborate strings of micro-panels explode scenes’ components outward through time or through a character’s thought patterns; mandala-ish page compositions arrange associative chains of text and pictures around a central image. The florist’s young daughter appears, practically life-size, at the middle of one of the biggest double-page sequences in the book.

“Building Stories” is one of the two enormous projects Ware has been working on since “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” made his reputation in 2000. (The other is “Rusty Brown,” apparently still in progress.) It’s so far ahead of the game that it tempts you to find fault just to prove that a human made it, and there are absolutely faults to be found. The way Ware hangs a lantern on his story’s weaker beats, for instance — when a not-quite-dead baby mouse reminds one character of a long-ago abortion, she thinks: “What a ridiculous metaphor . . . really, could it have been any more obvious? I was embarrassed for who or whatever was coming up with the script for my life” — doesn’t make them any stronger.

Still, Ware is remarkably deft at balancing the demands of fine art, where sentimentality is an error, and those of storytelling, where emotion is everything. He rejects the possibility of showing his hand in his (notably handmade) artwork, but that watertight visual surface lets him get away with vast billows of existential torment. Quiet desperation is just about the best anybody can hope for in Ware’s world. To be fair, this time he doesn’t punish all of his characters for having the temerity to be in his story. A lengthy, wordless pamphlet about the florist’s love for her daughter may be the tenderest thing Ware has ever published.

Like everything else here, it’s also slow, demanding and melancholy. Ware has earned the right to make demands of his readers, though. He’s built a whole microcosm in this box, over the course of more than a decade. You have to play by his rules to perceive its complicated splendor, or find yourself like Branford the bee, stuck behind a pane of “hard air” and unable to reach the flower beyond it.

Douglas Wolk is the author of “Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean.”

 
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Chris Ware

          



  City Paper promotes event with Chris Ware, Charles Burns, and Chip Kidd

Updated January 14, 2013


Chris Ware, Charles Burns & Chip Kidd
Tue., Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m, Free Library, 1901 Vine St.
A.D. Amorosi
City Paper

This isn’t the first time the unholy trio of the graphic novel has toured — Philly’s Free Library alone has hosted five events with the Ware/Burns/Kidd team. Expect mature themes, based on the new books that Ware (eerie, shadow-box-like Building Stories, out last week) and Philly native Burns (darkly psychedelic X’ed Out sequel The Hive, out today) are bringing. The night’s moderator, Reading-born Chip Kidd, is famed for his book-cover graphic designs, but is also a graphic novelist himself, most recently with this summer’s Batman: Death by Design. “I don’t have to worry, because all Charles and Chris have to do is present their new books and I’m home free,” says Kidd. His take on his pals’ books? “The Hive and Building Stories, prospectively, are both masterpieces, in my humble view as editor and fan.”

Tue., Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m, Free Library, 1901 Vine St., 215-686-5322, freelibrary.org.

Featured artists

Chris Ware
Charles Burns

          



Macleans lauds Chris Ware's form- "Try downloading that onto a Kindle"

Updated January 14, 2013


Form follows function in Chris Ware’s latest graphic novel
‘Building Stories’ is a Duchamp-like package of 14 separate booklets that vary in shape and size. Try downloading that onto a Kindle
by Howard Akler on Thursday, October 4, 2012


Does anyone reward anal retention like Chris Ware? His comics – a signature meld of fastidious page design, tiny impeccable script and bravura packaging – have brought him an array of accolades. He was the first cartoonist to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial, while his previous opus, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth, won the Guardian’s prestigious first book prize.

His new work, Building Stories, won’t just increase the applause; it’ll raise the roof. In it, Ware depicts the lives of four inhabitants of a three-storey apartment building in Chicago: the spinster landlady, an unhappy couple, and the main protagonist, a lonely young woman who eventually moves out to the Oak Park suburb to start a family with her architect husband. The building itself, in the voice of a sweetly brassy dame, even has a tale to tell, as does a wayward bee looking to pollinate nearby flowers.

Fittingly for its title, Building Stories adheres to that old architectural saw: form follows function. The “book” is actually a collection of 14 separate booklets of varying shapes and sizes, including traditional comic book-style pamphlets, huge broadsheets that recall the old Sunday funny pages, two clothbound volumes (one with a replica design of the classic kids series Little Golden Book on the inside covers) and a fold-out game board. Building Stories is, in fact, collected in a board game-shaped box. Ware, an afficianado of 20th century print ephemera, cites Marcel Duchamp’s Musuem in a Box as an influence, but the work is also reminiscent of The Unfortunates, avant-gardist B.S. Johnson’s novel that consisted of 27 unbound, box-encased chapters. Regardless of provenance, Ware is offering a riposte to digital publishing: Building Stories is not Kindle-able.

The format also allows Ware to indulge his taste for non-linear narrative. Read the booklets in any order and the story remains the same; offhand references in one strip – to the young woman’s ex-boyfriend or to the loss of her lower left leg in a boating accident – are elaborated upon in another. Comics are particularly well-suited to this sort of temporal play. The medium’s main component, the panel, is a deft manipulator of time. It can freeze the action, move it incrementally forward, or jump back a generation and Ware takes full advantage of his resources. The elderly landlady, for instance, requires six panels to drink a glass of milk, but can be transported back to toddlerhood in two.

All of Ware’s people, though simply rendered in the manner of Frank King’s Gasoline Alley, are put through elaborate paces on the page. They traipse through memory, tiptoe around word balloons and take circuitous routes until they come face-to-face with each other, or, more importantly, themselves. For all of Ware’s visual efficacy, his writing is informed by a singularly sadsack mentality. His characters are desperately anxious and larger external events, such as a lost cat or dying father, are often dwarfed by incessant niggling doubt. They find little solace in their half-hearted attempts to communicate with those closest to them. One of the booklets begins with the word Disconnect in large letters. When words fail, Ware falls back on pictures. He artfully arranges his panels and his pages, uses them as building blocks to contruct tangentally connected lives. In other words: he masters the form.

 
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Chris Ware

          



  Rolling Stone interviews Los Bros Hernandez, Chris Ware, and Daniel Clowes

Updated January 14, 2013


Q&A: Comix Stars Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez
Four of the greatest graphic novelists alive on cartooning, bullying and Scarlett Johansson
By Sean T. Collins
September 26, 2012

Meet the men who made comics worth caring about.

When brothers Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez – affectionately known as "Los Bros" – burst onto the moribund comics scene in 1982 with the first issue of their tag-team anthology series Love and Rockets, they pioneered a new kind of comics storytelling: more thoughtful and character-based than the taboo-shattering undergrounds of the R. Crumb era, more sophisticated and wider in scope than the superhero slugfests that dominated the stands. The "alternative comics" movement they kickstarted was soon joined by Daniel Clowes, whose series Eightball allowed him to craft long-form, novelistic stories about intense and isolated characters, eventually collected in book format as graphic novels like Ghost World and David Boring.

Several years younger than his counterparts, Chris Ware made up for lost time with The ACME Novelty Library, a solo series of staggering ambition whose diagrammatic drawings zero in on devastating emotional moments in graphic novels such as Jimmy Corrigan and Jordan Wellington Lint.

Together, they're the Four Horsemen of Altcomix, the medium's most important figures. Their latest releases – Clowes's career retrospective Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes; Ware's astonishing graphic-novel box set Building Stories, in which an apartment building's story is told in 14 separate books and pamphlets; and volume five of Gilbert and Jaime's Love and Rockets: New Stories, which sees them continue the saga of their sprawling casts of characters whose lives they've chronicled in real time for 30 years – comfortably back up that claim.

With Los Bros touring in support of Love and Rockets' 30th annniversary, and both Clowes and Ware making rare East Coast convention appearances at Bethesda, Maryland's Small Press Expo (SPX) last weekend, Rolling Stone sat down to talk shop with all four – the first time they'd been in a room together since a stopover at Chicago O'Hare in 1990. "It's almost like how Hillary Clinton couldn't go to the convention," Clowes explained. "One of us always has to be elsewhere in case something happens."

What's changed since the last time you were together?
Chris Ware: What hasn't changed?

Daniel Clowes: Chris was still in high school then. He was my ward.

Ware: [Little boy voice] Anything you say, Mr. Clowes.

Clowes: There are more than three girls at the comic conventions now.

Jaime Hernandez: Some of them even draw comics.

Until Love and Rockets started, the people who were out there saying comics could be smart were almost speaking theoretically.
Clowes: I remember when these guys came along, it was like, "OK, we finally have something!"

Ware: I came along right at the time when that sort of stuff was very visible. It was inspiring to me. I didn't have to plow the field and throw the rocks out.

Gilbert: So you didn't have to read Savage Sword of Conan.

Ware: No, but I did read Savage Sword of Conan. [Laughter]

Jaime: I sometimes think, "Well, these younger kids, a lot of them don't even know any of that old stuff!" Then I go, "What am I complaining about?"

Ware: You can look at the generation before our generation, the mainstream cartoonists – Marvel and DC guys who didn't get to keep their artwork or were treated poorly. It was much worse for them, and for the generation before that.

Clowes: Who were basically slaves.

How much do you keep up with what else is out there?
Gilbert: I don't even think of anybody else in this room when I'm drawing a comic. I don't. I don't think of anything but what I'm doing. And the last movie I saw, maybe.

Clowes: If there's somebody really good out there, you'll hear about it so much that you can't miss it.

Ware: Well, there are better cartoonists now than there ever have been. I firmly believe that. There's some amazing work being done.

Do you ever get emperor's-new-clothes'd?
Gilbert: You mean like a negative response to our work – "You guys aren't all that"?

Yeah. I've seen that happen.
Clowes: [feigning outrage] What?!

Gilbert: All four of us have established ourselves pretty well in comics, so there's not much of a threat. Young guys who say [surly voice] "Wuhh, you guys are fake, we're hot" – that never happens, because they suck. [Laughter]

Clowes: There's always gonna be that resentment. I had that when I was 25: "What makes that guy so great?" But then you hit a certain age and go, "Oh, I see."

Jaime: Sometimes, even if you don't particularly like the work yourself, you can't argue with what's on there, or what people who actually know what they're talking about are saying about it. Personally, I keep it to myself.

Gilbert: I have a pretty good eye, and I have yet to see any cartoonists that do what these three guys have done, but better. Nobody's done it, because we've placed our personalities in what we do, and that can't be repeated.

Ware: That's fundamentally the goal. You guys certainly did that amazingly well. I can't think of two other guys who did it better.

Clowes: I can't imagine doing anything like what you guys do. I like to kill the characters, be done with it and start over. "Ugh, I screwed that up, now I have to start something else." It's such a great feeling to start anew.

There's been a revival among alternative-comics circles toward a new pantheon of sci-fi/fantasy stuff, like old Heavy Metal comics.
Ware: I was not aware of this.

Gilbert: I have to toot our horn again: They don't have any personality! You're not really talking about anything but escapism. That's fine, I'm all for escapism, but the reason we do alternative comics is because it's all totally from our personality.

Clowes: I have to say I have a recently rediscovered fondness for Heavy Metal. That was a big deal when it came out: "Wow, you can draw robots with tits!" It has a certain charm to it, especially the really weird, unpleasant stuff in it. All that Richard Corben stuff was so disturbing.

Gilbert: You can tell the difference between artists: Who's the madman, and who's the guy just doin' it? That's why guys like [Joe] Kubert and [John] Buscema and John Romita, who were really amazingly skilled artists, there's just nothing there other than they're just really skilled artists. Then you see Crumb, who was just a complete nut.

Clowes: Or [Jack] Kirby, who was the opposite.

Gilbert: Or [Steve] Ditko. They're crazy men. "Who let them do this?" [Laughter]

Ware: When you talk about a pantheon . . . When I went to art school and I went to the art history classes, we were taught this very specific progression of where art came from and where it supposedly was going. It was almost like these pills you had to swallow that had been established by art critics and art writers. One of the things that appealed to me most about comics was that you can pick the ones you like and build your own personal pantheon. I've never met these younger kids who are more interested in – I just said "younger kids." I can't believe that. [Laughter] Younger artists are interested in Heavy Metal – that's great. That's something else completely to start from.

Gilbert: That's what was missing from alternative comics after us: The art got less and less good.

Jaime: Less and less important.

Gilbert: It was more about the writing. Eventually people are gonna rebel and say, "Where's the good drawings?" It's in Heavy Metal! I think that's what's happened – a backlash against blandness.

Clowes: Yeah, we spawned a lot of guys who just wanted to tell their funny little stories.

Gilbert: You read a lot of good comics like that, but you can see why Joe Public is going to see The Avengers. There's a reason.

Ware: Well, that's complicated. There's a lot of reasons for that. [Laughter]

Gilbert: It's funny: When Ghost World came out and Dan was nominated for the Oscar, I could just picture someone like Gwyneth Paltrow saying, "Dan Clowes' comic book . . . "

Clowes: And she did!

Gilbert: It was the most bizarre prediction ever. I just picked her out of a hat – I bet you somebody like that's gonna say it.

Clowes: I was sure she was gonna pronounce my name wrong, but they must have coached her. I thought that would be the perfect thing, to have the cute girl in class pronounce your name wrong when you're in the Science Fair.

Ware: A defining moment.

Gilbert: And this is probably the first time she ever mentioned a comic book in her life, and a few years later she's in Iron Man.

Ware: And Scarlett Johansson went on from Ghost World to do another comic book movie.

Clowes: I have to say she had such disdain for comics. [Laughter] They were the lowest.

Ware: I find it amazing that the stuff that I got made fun of and jumped in the hallway for reading, and spat upon – literally, some guy spit in the coat pocket of my jacket – is now mainstream culture.

Clowes: I saw an attractive teenage couple on the subway saying "Should we see Thor?" When I was a teenager, if I'd said, "Hey, wanna come over to my mom's house and read my original Kirby issues of Thor?" I'd have been peppersprayed. [Laughter]

Do you have to define yourself against that stuff anymore?
Ware: I don't think we ever did.

Clowes: Well, I would say half the interviews I do, they still ask, "With all the great comic-book movies coming out, which are your favorites?"

Jaime: It's hard to shake that old way of thinking. When I get really good responses from the mainstream, I wonder, "What are they looking at?" I can't picture them looking at our comic like an alternative fan. I picture them going "Hmm, let's study this! What is the concept with this character? Where is he going?"

Gilbert: They're waiting for the punchline. They're waiting for the kick. They don't understand how life flows – it's like, "Where's the revenge angle?"

Comics are taught in colleges now – that's a big change from even 2000 or so, when art professors would insult you to your face for that stuff.
Ware: That's what I went through. Maybe it's better. I don't know if it's better, but I found it was something to work against.

Clowes: It gave me so much energy, to be rejected like that. If everything I wanted to do in art school had been indulged, I don't think the art would have necessarily been good. I'd have just been guided along a path.

Ware: Most people who are teaching art are painters or sculptors, and they're not used to reading anything. They're not used to reading an image, they're used to looking at it. Which is fair.

Clowes: They're completely separate disciplines.

Gilbert: They're also bitter and jealous because they don't have a name and we do. [Laughter]

Ware: I've fought the idea of comics being illustration many times. To even mention them in the same breath is not helpful. If you're illustrating stories, then you're not writing comics. The real power of comics is writing as you draw.

Jaime: When I do illustration work on the side, it's totally different. I'm less than 100 percent satisfied when I finish the illustration, no matter how much work I put into it, because there's just something missing for me.

When you come to a place like this, is it a "hail the conquering heroes" moment for you?
Jaime: "These are our people?" No, though yesterday Dan dubbed us the Grand Old Men of Comics.

Ware: Absolutely not, no. I find it very painful and emotionally challenging.

Jaime: Everything is so –

Clowes: Factionalized.

Jaime:. Yeah. I know coming in here that there are people who've never heard of us.

Ware: I just feel so incredibly lucky. I never, ever thought I'd be able to make a living doing this. When I was 11 years old, I thought, "All I really wanna be able to do is my own comic book," and I'm doing it. I don't have any other real ambitions. I have nothing to conquer at all.

Gilbert: Wait – you make a living doing comics? [Laughter]

Jaime: People have asked, "When did you feel like you'd arrived?" My first issue.

Clowes: Nothing ever felt better than that.

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Chris Ware
Daniel Clowes
Gilbert Hernandez

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The Chicago Tribune interviews Chris Ware

Updated November 21, 2012


Cartoonist Chris Ware is in his own category
Christopher Borrelli
September 26, 2012

If you were building a Chris Ware, if you were constructing the most celebrated cartoonist of the past couple of decades, drawing up the plans for an Oak Park illustrator so routinely referred to as a genius that the accolade is more like fact than opinion, the first thing you would need is doubt. Preferably, self-doubt. But uncertainty, self-flagellation, humility-verging-on-delusion — any of these would work.

And though you would pour this malady straight into the foundation, you needn't worry about the sturdiness. Ware is thick with worry. He frets and cringes, wonders if he's being pretentious, worries that his worrying resembles false humility. But primarily, he doubts.

His wife, Marnie, told me he gets upset when people bring this up: "But many of us always feel 11, and no matter how much Chris accomplishes or how many people tell him he's a genius, a piece of him will probably always feel like that kid in the lunchroom who sits by himself, lonely."

When he was a child, Ware connected deeply with Charlie Brown, he said. He remembers connecting so deeply that he sent Charlie Brown a valentine. "'Peanuts' was the first comic strip with a truly empathetic cartoon character, and Charlie Brown was the first character who grabbed you by the heart. A comic strip is good for telling jokes and for looking down (on characters), but in Charles Schulz's work, you always felt through his characters. So I felt truly sorry for Charlie Brown, which is an amazing thing to produce using just four little pictures. I felt horrible for him. I gave the valentine to my mother and asked her to send it to Charlie Brown and she said OK then probably put it in the place where all the letters to Santa Claus went."

At 44, Ware, who made his name drawing such alternative classics as "Jimmy Corrigan" and "Quimby the Mouse" and the ongoing "Acme Novelty Library," is arguably now the leading practitioner of what he refers to as "the empathetic doodle." He also looks like what Charlie Brown might look like at 44. His head is bulbous yet cylindrical, his expression melancholic yet sweet. He mumbles, comes across as awkward, shy. When he was 13 and his love for comics veered into a deeper appreciation for the medium, he sent Schulz a letter, explaining he might want to be a cartoonist. But he got the address wrong and the letter was returned. It's the kind of story that, boiled down to four comic strip panels, would read like Charlie Brown.

No beginning, no ending, just a feeling.

Windows into life

The next thing you need if you're building a Chris Ware is ambition. Consider "Building Stories," his new book and first major work since "Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth," the 2000 graphic novel that won him scores of literary awards and led to Ware being invited to show his work at the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York. (Dave Eggers writing in The New York Times, called "Jimmy Corrigan" "in terms of sheer aesthetic virtuosity ... arguably the greatest achievement of the form, ever.") That said, the first thing you want to do with "Building Stories" is not read it but gaze at it, run your hands across it. A couple of weeks ago at Ware's house, when a Tribune photographer asked if he could see the book, Ware left the room and returned with a box. It didn't resemble a book. It looked more like an old board game.

He handed it to the photographer. "What is this?" the photographer asked. "My book," Ware said, then added, deadpan: "Exactly the reaction I was hoping."

The photographer put the box on his lap, lifted off the lid and marveled. Ware turned his back. I asked if this was the first time he had seen someone look at it. Exactly why my back's turned, he said, cringing out a flat smile.

You'd understand too if your latest book wasn't a book at all but 14 individual books full of ennui, stacked inside a box — 14 books that tell the interlocking stories of the residents of a Chicago apartment building. (Needless to say, there will not be a Kindle version.) The top book in the stack is rectangular and wordless, the story of a woman who, more or less, exists — she pushes her child in the stroller, seasons pass, the child grows older, the woman lonelier. Another book (its gold spine, a nod to classic Golden Books) is narrated by the building itself, which, in one sequence, tallies up every pregnancy, water drip, suicide note, cat, television and spiritual crisis that's passed though it in 104 years. There's a copy of "The Daily Bee," the newspaper ("God Save the Queen") put out by the neighborhood hive. Another book shows cutaways of apartments and unfolds like a board game.

Novelist Zadie Smith, a friend of Ware, told me, "When I read it, I kept thinking how sophisticated and unusual the rhythms were, and how fragmented it felt but fluid at the same time. I also wondered if anyone was doing anything like this in prose. There's not a lot of guidance on what you should read next, and yet the emotional effect is extraordinary. As soon as I stopped worrying about the order of the stories and just read them, it was fine."

Ware told me there's no order to the books in the box, no correct way to read through them.

"I was hoping to get at how memory actually seems to work, which isn't always chronological. I also hoped to induce that brief vertigo in the reader when one gets so deeply lost in a recollection that present seems to all but disappear and the past almost seems more real." He said one inspiration was Canadian short story master Alice Munro, who "links together brief moments of detail and texture with quick, broad passages indicating time's passage." There are no acts, no chapters. Snow piles up on windowsills, a woman remembers the smell of her father's coat, a girl catches fireflies while the faces of parents glow by the lights of their iPhones. Throughout, the art is signature Ware, dense, formal, colorful — drawing as much on the clutter of old newspaper ads as on the shadow boxes of Joseph Cornell. Each panel feels like a window into a life.

When Ware gave a short preview of "Building Stories" last spring during a cartoonists conference at the University of Chicago, cartoonist Ivan Brunetti, one of Ware's friends, had to choke back tears. "My head, and I think everyone's heads, was spinning that day. There was a collective gasp." Canadian cartoonist Seth was more blunt: He cursed, buried his head in his hands.

On the phone the other day, Seth told me: "You know how some work gives an illusion of who the artist is? You imagine R. Crumb laughing as he draws? You never get the impression Chris laughs while working. It's all hard won. When we met, I remember thinking I had to try harder. A few years ago I got depressed by him, because he was so good every new project starts to feel like a nail in your coffin. Though at some point you recognize he's in his own category. You can't compete. Picasso's contemporaries likely felt this, too."

Work speaks for itself

Once the ambition is secure, the third step in building our Chris Ware is adding the background: Ware lives on a bucolic street in Oak Park that feels a lot like a page from a Chris Ware book. On the other hand, that early September morning when I visited his home I had been reading "Building Stories" for the second time and as you might with a writer, my brain felt under the influence of his rhythms and language. I noticed the bright green and yellow leaves outside his home, the utter stillness of the morning, how it was broken by a chatter of squirrels. There was a tempo to the street and the morning, yet nothing much seemed to be happening. I also noticed the numbers on his home and no soliciting sign on his front door had been created by him — the lettering had a familiar squareness, the same blockiness with which he signs his name.

"I had a messy signature as a child," he said, "and my grandmother said this suggested I had no regard for other people. She was right." And so, to this day, he has no scribble, only a meticulously lettered signature.

When you enter his home, which he shares with his wife and 7-year old daughter, the first thing you notice is it looks a lot like his work — a 1908 Edwardian dense with right angles, clean lines and good taste. There is no obvious TV or stereo or bags from Target. The only sound is the loud tick of a grandfather clock. Tidy stacks of art books are everywhere. Penny arcade-style mechanical toys that he built in college — a two-headed wind-up cat, a mini-book dispenser — rest on a shelf. His wife, who attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (and is now chairperson/ of the science department at Prosser Career Academy), has a pair of her own landscape paintings over the dining room table. Otherwise, every wall holds a piece of original comic art from the heyday of newspaper comics and on every mantle sits a building detail from Louis Sullivan, his favorite architect. Woods are sturdy brown oaks, leather chairs black. In the living room, lighted display cabinets hold vintage toys, wooden and tin ancillary merchandise from "Peanuts," George Herriman's "Krazy Kat," Frank King's "Gasoline Alley."
 
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  Boing Boing looks forward to Building Stories

Updated November 20, 2012


Chris Ware art show in Chicago and NYC
Mark Frauenfelder Tue, Sep 4

Peggy Burns of Drawn & Quarterly wrote about two concurrent art shows taking place in Chicago and New York in conjunction with the release of Chris Ware's graphic novel, Building Stories. I've been a great admirer of Ware's for many years (so has David -- he wrote about him for The Happy Mutant Handbook), and I'm looking forward to this title.

The exhibits are mirror images of each other, splitting the 126 pages of original artwork in half between them. Each will be complete with a 3-D built version of our Building Stories S&N portfolio, which will also be on sale at each gallery along with a double-sided poster of the above. I have to say that I am in complete awe of how Chris' mind works and almost fell off my chair while looking at Adam & Carl's websites for the exhibit information. And not just awe, but feeling completely fortunate to work with him, and very very lucky that I get to see the NYC show. These times, people, these times are AMAZING!

About Building Stories:
Building Stories imagines the inhabitants of a three-story Chicago apartment building: a 30-something woman who has yet to find someone with whom to spend the rest of her life; a couple, possibly married, who wonder if they can bear each other's company another minute; and the building's landlady, an elderly woman who has lived alone for decades. Taking advantage of the absolute latest advances in wood pulp technology, Building Stories is a book with no deliberate beginning nor end, the scope, ambition, artistry and emotional prevarication beyond anything yet seen from this artist or in this medium, probably for good reason.

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Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



Chris Ware shares his past and process in comprehensive interview

Updated June 13, 2012


Chris Ware on Building a Better Comic Book
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2012
Words: Christopher Irving
Pictures: Seth Kushner
NYC Graphic Novelists

“I feel that a book influences, and has as much of a contributing effect, on the story as the drawings, ink, colors and paper,” Chris Ware observes. “To me, a book is a fairly obvious metaphor for a human body: aside from the fact that it has a spine, it’s also bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and it can harbor secrets. One can either be put off or invited into it depending on how it’s structured and what’s offered as the point of entry. It can affect how the whole story is felt. I like books. They’re my life.”

Chris is sitting in the study of his house, a Victorian holding a Wonderland of old pop culture memorabilia and art. A clock ticks in the background as he sits straight up in his leather armchair, surrounded by shelves housing record albums and books. The soft-spoken Ware’s ACME Novelty Library not only defies the standard comic book conventions, with panel layouts designed to force the reader to physically turn the book, panels drawn at a smaller than conventional size—a less capable cartoonist would fail miserably and produce something unreadable; somehow, Ware makes it work.“It’s not to exasperate the reader, but simply to find new ways of telling stories that might be more in tune with how we actually experience life,” Ware notes. “This said, I realize that being incomprehensible is occasionally the artistic result. It just seemed to me when I started trying to draw comics that the formal language of the medium was (and is) fairly limited, and that comics may have had more expressive potential locked within them than had been already discovered.


“While I’m working, I worry every few minutes about veering too close to pretentiousness or incomprehensibility. I frequently have to get up and walk around, then come back to what I’m doing to see if it honestly has the feeling I’m going for, or if the panels are in a readable order. Even if it does make sense to me, I still worry that it’s difficult to judge whether I’m accurately reading it or bringing something from within me to interpret it favorably. Needless to say, this is all a tremendously difficult line to walk as a writer and artist, but I think it’s something every writer and artist has to do, to some degree.”
Ware doesn’t give very many in-person interviews, usually preferring e-mail—it’s a shame: in person, Ware is affable and armed with a disarming and dry humor. Earlier, he was winding his living room cuckoo clock and pointed out how aggressive cuckoo clocks really are, when they’re typically thought of as friendly and warm, glossed over with the nostalgia of old things. He is one of those rare people who pull something deeper from the world around him, which makes him perfectly suited as a cartoonist and storyteller of human conflict.

“Blackbeard and Sheridan’s Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics probably was the single coalescence of early work to change my thinking about comics and what could be done with comics. That book was always open on my drawing table when I was in college.”“I don’t think I really read superhero comics that much as a kid,” Chris admits. “I think I was just looking at pictures, tracing them, and designing my own superheroes. I don’t really remember many of the stories at all. What I really remember was reading Peanuts and laughing at Peanuts and really loving Peanuts—essentially feeling a real connection to the characters. When I got into college, I started looking at turn of the century comics more closely, both from Art [Spiegelman]’s suggestion and from my friend John Keen’s; John really turned my thinking around about that, and we used to try and find old newspaper sections driving around to small town antique stores in Texas. This was long before eBay, and, needless to say, we had little luck.”

The one strip that perhaps had the most effect on Ware’s comics work—and one that is proudly displayed around his house in mementoes and framed images—is Frank King’s Gasoline Alley, a long-running daily strip that started in 1918 and was the first to have the characters age in real time. One look at King’s clean art style on Gasoline Alley and the influence is apparent in Ware’s work.

“There was a warmth and an unabashed unpretentiousness to it;” Ware reflects. “It was about family life, which really struck me as sort of gutsy and honest, because he wasn’t simply going for stupid gags or mean-spirited humor; he was really trying to get at something more tender and touching. His work made me feel as if it was ‘okay’ to take this approach, as well—and it had been what I’d been trying to do, but I’d been setting up all sorts of self-conscious art school obstacles in front of myself in the process. I just really wanted to put my deepest feelings on paper, and he helped me to start trying. I thought a lot about King’s work in art school and the feelings it provoked; I had a genuine affection for it. Of course, I loved Krazy Kat as well and I love Little Nemo and Polly and Her Pals.”

Ware had earlier exposure to classic comic strips—as well as other things vintage—when just a kid, and chances are it primed him for his further education and appreciation of old comics and design.

“For a while my mom dated a newscaster in Omaha, Nebraska who loved Krazy Kat,” Chris says. “He’d bring over the sort of lame reflex blue reprint book from the ‘70s and put Fats Waller LPs on our record player and he’d read Krazy Kat to me. I found the strip utterly baffling, but oddly compelling. I guess a lot of my interests were sparked by this fellow; he even stored a player piano in our garage that I’d play around on every day after school, he being very into ragtime as well as jazz. He was imbuing me with a variety of tastes that were sure to keep me from meeting girls from many years.”Intent on creating comics, Ware enrolled at the University of Texas with a mixed bag of painting, drawing, printmaking, and English classes. It was during this period of self-discovery that Chris snagged a job at the Daily Texan as art director, where he also created his own comics. The most he seems to have gotten from it was technical knowledge:
“[It was] a job which I realized early on was not something with which I wanted to occupy my life,” Chris states. “It was extremely time-consuming and draining, though it taught me a lot about creating images for reproduction and about printing—an invaluable experience, actually, the full-time pressmen and production people working there as integral to my education as my professors were.”

Ware looks back at his Daily Texan comics with a shrug and shake of the head, treating them as the comics equivalent of embarrassing high school yearbook pictures.

“‘Experimental’ comics,” Chris admits. “Well, basically: really pretentious, bad comics. I went through a whole period of doing comics that were about comics, which is something only an eighteen year old should do (or not at all if one can avoid it.) Then I finally starting drawing comics about real life, but without words, trying to tell stories only with pictures and to get in touch with the rhthym that pictures make in the mind when they’re read (what I’ve tiresomely called for years the ‘music’ of comics—essentially the sounds one hears when reading that can’t really be put into words, and seem to harness some odd, primal energy of emotion and action.) My best friend at the time John Keen and I prodded each other into trying ever more experimental things, sometimes with mixed and annoying results. We compared angry reader letters as if they were badges of honor. He was a really interesting cartoonist and a very intelligent person. He lives in New York now, but sadly he doesn’t draw comics anymore.”

While still at the University of Texas, Chris Ware received a call from RAW editor and Maus cartoonist Art Spiegelman, a call that came with an invite to publish in the pages of the cartoonist’s lauded magazine.

“Hearing from Art at age 19 (or whatever I was) was extremely rewarding, because he had been my personal mental curator of comics from the time I was in high school,” Chris recalls. “To suddenly pick up the phone and have him there on the other end of it was, well, shocking and flattering. And most amazingly, twenty-some years later—more than half my life—we still talk regularly and he’s always very encouraging. Back then I’d send him recent work and he’d write back or call me and talk to me about it directly, though now we’re more likely to talk about how hard it is to focus at the drawing table, our personal lives, and other young cartoonists whose work we find interesting. He’s one of my closest friends and I owe him my life. The same goes for Francoise; I don’t think cartoonists appreciate how much she and Art have done to legitimize what they do, and to go out of their ways to tell publishers and other writers about work they find interesting. I still don’t understand why there isn’t a huge coffee-table book about them both; there really should be one soon, before coffee-table books go the way of the fax machine.”

Spiegelman’s influence was not only vital to the development of Ware as a cartoonist, but helped cement a personal and cartooning philosophy.

“I learned how to structure a page and how to think about comics in a language and not as a genre. I learned how to listen to what was important inside me and to think creatively, but not pretentiously—or even worse, too theoretically. Early on, as a kid, I thought comics were only either for telling adventure stories or telling jokes, but from reading RAW and Maus and his experimental work and via various things that he said or wrote about comics he changed my thinking, from the inside out.”
One manifestation of Chris Ware’s language-based approach was to focus solely on images in his work, eliminating the old “words and pictures” cliché always used in describing comics, deconstructing it by eliminating words from his comics work.

“I was relying way too much on words and using words as a way of accounting for the deficits in my drawing, and vice versa, illustrating my words rather than actually telling stories in words and pictures,” he notes. “Art showed me He Done Her Wrong by Milt Gross in the midst of this, which was an insight; a parody of the Lynd Ward wood engraving novels of the thirties and basically something of a silent film on paper that uses composition, pattern and caricature to create rhythms and associative meanings, it loosened me up. I’ve never much warmed to Lynd Ward, much preferring the earlier Franz Masareel work, though I appreciate and revere Ward’s efforts.”

In 1990, for the Daily Texan, Ware started his strip Quimby Mouse, which was his catharsis for dealing with his grandmother’s illness and death. Ware drew Quimby for two years, and it is work that he (in his introduction to the collection of Quimby) considers his “earliest ‘publishable’ work.”Going back to Ware’s philosophy of the “music” of cartooning, Quimby employs geometric page layouts, the panels arranged to create a visual tempo between repetition and changing shape.
“Well, tempo and rhythm are really the elements than make up the nucleus of comics, I think, or at least of the nucleus of one way of telling comics,” Ware says. “Other approaches, such as where the artist illustrates text or uses large pictures with blocks of text, are fine, but it just seems to me like the real formal aim of the cartoonist is to try and harness some sense of believable motion on the page, even if the characters aren’t moving. To me, it’s the difference between starting with a melody versus starting with a chord change. I much prefer the former.”

Ware’s work also manifested itself in sculptures, a few of which (including a sculpted and workable Sparky the Singing Cat head mounted on a base) sit in his living room, automated machines that look like bygones of the early 20th century penny arcades. It’s creative exercise in a different medium for Ware, as well as a way for him to have made his creative world much more physical than allowed on a comics page.

“Sadly, the sculptural projects like the automata were more a part of my college days, when I had access to a woodshop and lots of energy and a lot less criticality of my comics,” he admits. “Ironically, the one thing I really wanted when I got out of college was a house with a woodshop where I could continue to build that sort of thing. Now I have a house, now I have woodworking equipment—but I don’t have the time because I’m too busy working on the comics. I find that building things is much more fun than drawing.”“I can’t look at it,” Ware says of his older work, emphasizing his perfectionist tendencies. “All I can see are the ineptitudes, the failures. Occasionally, I’ll be asked if a particular academic can reprint a page, and the page that’s picked is almost always one I utterly despise. But then while sifting through my files to find that particular page, I’ll sometimes find something I’ve completely forgotten and think, hmm, I guess that’s mildly interesting, or jeez, I just did something just like that but thought I did it for the first time. Sad. I don’t have a good memory at all, which is a tool that’s fairly integral to anyone who writes stories, so as a writer I have a pretty severe handicap. Then again, I don’t think my situation is much different from most people; I’m amazed at what I will forget or repress, and what others will, as well.”

“It’s extremely important to have a ruthless, pitiless view of your own work. If you don’t, someone else will. You’ve got to try and see it as accurately as you can. I amaze myself with the excuses I’ll come up with so I don’t have to go back and rewrite something due to lazy thinking or planning.”

Ware almost earned his Master’s in printmaking at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a program that the modest cartoonist did not fit in. The negative experience of not fitting in (a theme that runs rampant through Ware’s work—in everything from Jimmy Corrigan to Rusty Brown) only reinforced his decision to not finish.

“The snag was an oral report in an Art History class that I couldn’t bring myself to write,” he admits. “I got to the point where I simply could not talk about or write papers about art in a high-falutin’ way, and certainly not in front of a class of thirty of my fellow art students. Now, much to my own irritation, I guess I sometimes talk about comics in something of a brainy-sounding fashion; I guess I was implanted with that way of thinking and I’ll never get rid of it. (My wife Marnie refers to her decade following the receipt of her BFA as her ‘art school detox’ period.) Mostly, the idea of giving an oral report in front of a class just terrified me, and I never wrote the paper. Then years passed and the statute of limitations was up and I was thus without my MFA.”His dismissal of graduate school could be viewed as a failure to overcome a personal foible, though it’s also a reinforcement of his personal philosophy—a lack of pretention tempered with a self-consciousness and awareness towards his work. Ware’s refusal to view things as “high falutin’” is part of what pushes him to evolve as a cartoonist and designer, even if it happens less frequent than it did in his earlier days.

“At a certain point one just has to keep going and let things gradually change as one works,” Ware observes. “In my earlier days, my work would change much more violently with each strip. Lately, that change seems to happen only once a decade…

“I guess that’s just the way organisms grow, at least in our universe. It’s the shape of life, how trees grow: when they’re small, they change dramatically, but then they become calcified, taking on a particular, solid shape that no shifts little until they drop all their leaves and die.

“I guess that’s what we all have to look forward to,” he jokes in his trademark deadpan manner.
“Chester Brown sent me a letter a few years ago mentioning that he’d talked to an academician who had come up with the idea that one of the most interesting things about comics is that the medium really mirrors the way we remember things, which is as still images, not as perceived gestures or, for lack of a better word, films,” Chris notes. “My first reaction to this was that I thought the woman must be nuts, but then I started to think about it, sifting my memory for any evidence of actual moving images, and there really weren’t any. And if there were, they were actually images I was trying to move in my memory, like puppets. If I remember conversations I had or arguments I had, I have images in my mind of frozen, yelling faces with sounds or words or a memory of sounds and words, but not moving images. I just don’t remember in movies, and that might just be me. Every generation remembers things in different ways. You could definitely say that kids four generations ago didn’t think in terms of camera editing the way we do.

“It really points to the manner by which we recreate our memories every time they’re purportedly accessed. Cognitive research apparently implies that we’re constantly rewriting our memories, and when we think we’re remembering something, we’re actually pulling sense memories and concepts from various places and simply putting them together, theater-manager style. Interestingly, this process is something along the lines of what goes into drawing comics; everything the cartoonist puts on the page is from his or her memory, the exception being the use of photo reference, but even that eventually filters through some hierarchy of memory, fusion, language, and life to coalesce into what that particular artist thinks is important, which I guess is what we call style.”Ware’s breakout signature work, Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth, is a narrative exercise in memory, imagination, and how they intersect or conflict with real life. Jimmy started as a weekly strip for Chicago’s New City and soon evolved into serialized form in ACME Novelty Library. Taking five years to complete, Corrigan follows a friendless loser’s quest to meet the deadbeat father who’d abandoned him years before. Jimmy Corrigan is not only the story of the story’s present-day Jimmy, but of his grandfather and father (both named Jimmy), as well; Ware employs parallel timelines, weaved throughout the narratives as the memories and experiences of the Jimmies culminate in the meeting of the three. Dreams play as important a part, with sudden dream sequences offering glimpses into the characters’ inner desires and torments. In Corrigan, Ware creates a sympathetic (and pathetic) protagonist, a well-meaning man-child dealing with a domineering mother and a need of a hero/father figure—be it Superman or his own father.

Jimmy Corrigan is on par with Ware’s mentor’s key work, the serialized and long-running Maus:
“I think Art said this best: in the middle of working on Maus, he felt that the initial drawings, when he was finding the story, were inadequate, and he wanted to go back and redraw the first chapter, but he realized that if he did he’d have to keep redrawing the whole thing until he got to the end—but then, of course, the end would again be different from the beginning and he’d have to start all over once more. At a certain point, one has to just let a work live with all of its inconsistencies, or somehow build this idiosyncracy into the work itself. Fortunately, life is fairly inconsistent, so that makes things a little easier. Every cartoonist works in a different way; some cartoonists are able to edit things down very tightly, which is not something I’m necessarily able to do. I try to make everything in the story integral and necessary, but there are big parts of life which aren’t.”Chris Ware’s quest for perfection in his art is obvious: his ink line is mechanical, the lines of buildings and backgrounds painstakingly laid out by hand, the lettering still done directly on the art boards. The color palette of every Ware story is just as thoughtful and decisive a part of the story as the story and drawn aspect—all of it coming together into Ware’s narrative music or language. Ironically, Ware’s classically inspired visual style has been augmented with the invention of computer coloring over traditional techniques.

“When I was offered color printing—one really has to realize what a rarity it was to receive color printing as recently as a dozen years ago—I first started preparing my colors using zip-a-tone or percentage separations, which was a process I taught myself and learned about back in college from the aforementioned pressmen and production people. I really wanted to learn how to get or at least simulate the beautiful colors of the early newsprint comics. Of course, back in the early 20th century, the separations were acid-etched by artisans, sometimes individually for each metropolitan edition of each paper, and I was of course completely unable to come even close to this sort of subtlety with dot screens; I’d set my sights on the moon and the results were always washed-out, hue-shifted or simply heartbreaking. But with the advent of computers and digital file preparation, printing is now more than ever able to recreate that intense color and I’ve been nothing but pleased for years now.”Oddly enough, as Ware was working on Jimmy Corrigan, he met the father he’d never known. Given one chance to finally meet him, Ware was deprived a second when a heart attack took his biological father from him. He surmised in print that the five hours it takes for one to read Jimmy Corrigan equals the only time he ever talked to or visited his own father.

According to Ware, it’s not so much during the writing or penciling that the memories that fuel his work come to the surface, but sometimes in the act of inking the art:
“When I’m writing, I think specifically about the story, but when I’m inking, I trudge over the same dredged-up stories of childhood attacks I’ve been replaying in my mind for years now— real or possibly completely invented; I’m no longer sure. Pathetically, I’ll still get angry about things that happened to me when I was a grade-schooler. But when I learned that Charles Schulz studied and wrote notes in his high school yearbooks, I didn’t feel quite so crazy. I think my generation of cartoonists and the previous generation are trying to hold on to something from our childhoods, trying to figure something out through our work, or change something about ourselves, whether it’s our perception of ourselves or some sort of deeply-buried frustration we never worked out—or simply trying to prove our efficacy as adults.

“I do believe that cartooning, a very memory-based art, has something fundamental to do with a constant sort of revision of ourselves and our lives, the same sort of resorting and refiling that goes on when we’re dreaming.”

Jimmy Corrigan’s collected form gave Ware a higher profile as it raked up the awards—ranging from industry awards like the Eisner and Harvey, or the American Book Award or being named one of Time’s “Ten Top Graphic Novels”. As ACME Novelty Library progressed, Ware designed paper-cutout patterns that could be constructed into three-dimensional paper models. Coupled with his early 20th century-inspired graphic design and dense, fake advertisements, ACME is just as much a personal testament of Ware’s passions as well as a showcase for his storytelling.

“I suppose most of what I admire is the control and care that the artists put into the work—and I’ve said this a million times—but also the respect for the viewer that such carefully-wrought designs seemed to demonstrate,” he says of the old design. “At the same time, I don’t think this care and respect was intentional, it was simply how things were done back then. It would’ve been unimaginable any other way. There was a controlled craft and a lack of overt sexuality to it all that I find refreshing, an antidote to today’s depravity. Over the past ten years there appears to be almost a rebirth of artists looking back at graphic art and commercial art from a hundred years ago, designers using computers to emulate that finer texture and sense of careful design, and putting more effort into work than they used to, which is nice to see. It improves the general tableau of life.”

“As for the paper sculptures, they’re something of a joke on memory, how we reconstruct things from our senses, literally rebuilding the world in our minds,” Chris elaborates on the thematic through line for most of his work. “But mostly, it’s because I just love those sorts of things; I love paper cutouts and books that have things in them that are unexpected or promise some sort of magic, for lack of a less queasy word. It’s another way of looking at a story, of thinking around a story, or of thinking around a memory.”

GRAPHIC NYC: Your comics, especially, are about memory.
CHRIS WARE: Because that’s what life is. It’s all we have.Memory is the backbone of the latest ACME Novelty Library, Lint; while part of his long-running Rusty Brown story, Lint focuses on the birth through death of supporting character Jason Lint. It exists as a stand-alone graphic novel while also functioning as part of Rusty Brown’s narrative whole.

“I guess I should be just publishing each issue as individual graphic novels, because at this point, the two collected novels won’t be done until America is absorbed into the economy of Canada,” Ware jokes. “I don’t waste time as much as I used to, at least, so I think I’m working a little more efficiently, and I haven’t had to prostitute my time with any ancillary illustration work since the 1900s. I live a very lucky life, for which I’m extremely grateful.”

Each ACME takes close to a year to complete, no longer standard comic book length, but upwards of sixty to eighty pages each.

“I think readers are already beginning to forget that what started as alternative or underground comics were just an imitation of the shoddy newsstand pamphlets but with different content and some timid format changes, if any. I was tired of that format and didn’t want to work within it; I also wanted to set a precedent for other cartoonists to do whatever they wanted. Strangely, it made a lot of cartoonists angry, as if I was trying to ruin comics, or something. Some thanks!”Ware believes in the book as object, creating an art piece that is the sum of everything from cover to cover (and in between), during a period where digital printing and distribution is quickly on the rise.

“I think there’s a place both for books and for digital content,” Ware says. “I read the news on the computer and the iPad every night; it’s the perfect tool for news. I come from generations of editors and I love newspapers, but it’s absurd to waste resources on what is essentially the rapid movement of information, especially when that information is changing by the second. Who’s reading Newsweek right now to find out about the earthquake in Japan? If there’s another terrorist incident in America, is everyone going to be standing around waiting at the newsstands for the evening edition?

“I really admire Apple’s design, and feel that the general idea and driving principle behind it almost since their inception is to make information tactile. They’re finally getting to this point now where one can manipulate information with the hands and the body. As designers, they’re also so sensitive in ways that I don’t think any other computer makers understand, as their chief designer knows it has to do with very measured, combined subtleties of tactility and weight and gesture and materials. In a way, they’re almost a nineteenth century company, more sensitive to the world of nature than to technology, or at least respectful of it. I can certainly see reading comics electronically, with the possibilities for inter-penetrability of story and image, but I think comics will have to develop into something completely different before that happens.”

The advent of the iPad and other digital readers, as well as the long-gestating online comic book model, hasn’t garnered but so many truly experimental approaches to comics. Ware took a stab with a digital comic, recently, that taps into the tactile nature of the iPad touchscreen.“Actually, I did a strip for Wired that tried to use touch-sensitivity as a poetic metaphor for how we manipulate our memories and move things around in our minds, about how the act of touching in a relationship gradually goes from one of tenderness and affection to one of anger and dominance, but they didn’t run it,” Ware reveals. “(McSweeney’s may include it in one of their digital issues, however.)


“Really, I love paper and I love books, and one of the aspects of comics I find so compelling is the illusion of movement produced by drawings printed on an inert substance— but if the medium isn’t inert, the illusion is broken. The disappointment would be akin to going to a movie theater and being forced to sit through a slideshow (which is, come to think of it, an experience I coerced audiences into with Ira Glass.) In short, what’s the point?”

 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



  A peek into the home of Chris Ware

Updated June 13, 2012


WARE’S WORLD: INSIDE THE HOME OF CARTOONIST CHRIS WARE
BY SETH KUSHNER
Trip City

In March of 2011, with six months to go before our deadline to turn in Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics to our publisher, writer Christopher Irving and I decided to take part of our advance money to travel to Chicago to cover a few last, important subjects. On top of the list was cartoonist Chris Ware, arguably one of the most influential and distinctive voices in comics today. His storytelling, design and unique aesthetic has served to inspire me for years, so I was especially excited to have him be a part of the project.

I was warned by several prominent people that Ware probably “wouldn’t do it.” But, I’ve been told such things in the past in regard to subjects, and often such warnings only help to light more of a fire under me, as it did here. From experience, I know politeness and persistence pay off, so happily on the last day of our trip, I found myself at the lovely Oak Park, Chicago home of the Ware family.

As an unabashed admirer of Mr. Ware’s work, I’ve read many an interview with him, and I’ve seen photos of his historic home previous, but I wasn’t prepared by how amazing it would be.

Ware’s collection lives throughout the warm and tastefully decorated home. Atop mantlepieces sit his handmade mechanical wonders like his Acme Book Dispenser, his Quimbies The Mouse and Sparky The Singing Cat sculptures. Behind glass doors live Gasoline Alley and Peanuts merchandise, Krazy Kat dolls, Buck Rogers rockets, and many other items of amazement from bygone eras.

My usual process on shoots which have taken place at cartoonist’s homes has been to find a spot to place each subject which might recall their work in some way. Ware’s home was a location dream come true and a bit overwhelming. I quickly decided to walk my subject through several different spots, taking a variety of portraits throughout the house. Then, so enamored with Mr. Ware’s collection, or “junk” as he calls it, I asked if I could shoot just the items, to which he happily agreed.

Presented in this gallery are a series of photos of Chris Ware, along with photos of some of the fascinating items in his collection.

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Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



R.Crumb headlines comics panel in Chicago

Updated June 13, 2012


By Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune reporter
5:18 p.m. CDT, May 20, 2012

Over the weekend, as the NATO summit was stopping traffic across the Loop and you wondered whether Chicago would ever get a grip, farther south, at the new Logan Center for the Arts, a different, more mellow kind of summit was going on, a gathering of cartooning royalty. While someone, somewhere Friday night was surely gushing to a visiting dignitary about how great Turkey is, a young Chicago art school graduate was nervously gripping the hand of cartooning superstar Chris Ware, vibrating so visibly that cartoon squiggles seemed to leap off. Ware, deadpan, patient, smiled.

A moment later, the kid said into his phone: "I touched Chris Ware! And I see Ivan Brunetti. And I see R. Crumb, but I've heard horror stories about him. If I approach and he laughs …" As he said this, Bill Ayers, Hyde Park mainstay, retired professor, former member of the Weather Underground, the kind of guy who in another life would be downtown protesting, randomly walked by, heard this and interjected:

"Oh, do it. It'd be good for you."

And so the kid, an amateur cartoonist named John Zylstra, bounced down the auditorium steps. Crumb, underground comics legend, intimidating founder of a genre, famously reclusive, just in from France, dressed in a bow tie, sports coat and tweed cap, watched what was about to happen and tried hard to hold his wide grin.

"Mr. Crumb," Zylstra said. "Sir, you are a rock star."

"A rock star," Crumb said.

"Can I get a picture?"

"Yeah, OK." They stood side by side like slats in a fence, Crumb with his lanky arms dangling at his sides, his signature smile gone. "You're my hero, so this is a big deal for me," Zylstra said. "You know, there are other cartoonists here," Crumb, said, not unkindly, waving a hand, gesturing at the living history of cartooning around them.

About a dozen miles north of the Logan Center, NATO, solemn and heavy, met in a long, horizontal aircraft carrier of a complex, McCormick Place. The Logan Center, where the University of Chicago hosted "Comics: Philosophy & Practice" — the official, academic excuse for getting together 17 of the most important alternative cartoonists of the past half-century — was tall, vertical. With its rectangular windows seemingly drawn against its plain, flat surface, it resembled a comic book page, oddly perfect for celebrating, as Ware calls cartooning, "the emphatic doodle."

In the hall where most of the conference took place, at the quiet parties afterward and at the dinners, the visiting dignitaries were a heady, legendary bunch: R. Crumb sitting next to Ware, who sat next to Daniel Clowes. Gary Panter and Joe Sacco huddling behind them; Lynda Barry napping; Phoebe Gloeckner sketching. Art Spiegelman, smoke curling around the hands bunched at his face, sat with wife Francoise Mouly, art director of the New Yorker — themselves editors of a magazine, RAW ("The Graphix Magazine Of Postponed Suicides"), that made a few careers in the room.

Most of them were staying at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue. Asked if they had been granted a motorcade to Hyde Park during the conference's three days, Leslie Danzig, program curator, said, not entirely joking: "It occurred to me today the city brings in all these police for world leaders, but this hotel shuttle taking (the artists) here, now there's real value. I mean, dear God, what if something happens to the hotel shuttle?"

Those fears were overblown.

While NATO banners fluttered along Michigan Avenue promising a safer world through global cooperation, the cartooning summit's poster (designed by Ware) promised: "Ruin your life! Cartoon and doom yourself to decades of grinding isolation …" While NATO assumed rightly it would be taken seriously and set about discussing missile defense systems and security in Afghanistan, comics conference participants wrestled with whether the art form was being taken too seriously. During his opening night remarks, Spiegelman, a Pulitzer Prize winner for his book "Maus," said he didn't want to be a writer or painter, that the vulgarity of early comics was the draw: "What's interesting to me is, with this (Roy) Lichtenstein show opening here, with Dan (Clowes) having a museum show, Robert Crumb and I have shows in France — the culture is way past whatever Lichtenstein's comic images intended."

Comics, he said, need to be in a museum before people can feel OK about them: "We're an anxiety ridden country that has always felt we should be more cultured."

Indeed, whenever things grew too academic, whenever academics tried pinning cartoonists down on why this image was placed here, there was pushback. R. Crumb heckled from the front row frequently, all weekend. Barry was more direct. During a conversation with Crumb, Panter and Brunetti, she digressed for a moment: "You know, it's hard for me not to throw spitballs when I hear people up here getting analytical: 'Why, uh, is, uh, this image placed above this.' Shut the (expletive) up!"

The Canadian cartoonist Seth sat in the front row during a conversation with Aline Kominsky-Crumb, R. Crumb's influential cartoonist wife of 42 years. He wore a cream-colored fedora and long matching overcoat, looking as though he stepped out of "The Thin Man." He raised his hand and asked Aline why, if she wanted men to like her so much when she was younger, did she draw herself so disgustingly?

"I dressed in a sexy way to attract men in my life," she explained. "But in my art I felt that ugliness, I felt that grotesqueness."

"Yeah, but that's really unusual," Seth said.

"Yeah, but do I seem like a normal woman to you?"

NATO is an organization of powerful nations, a coalition of frenemies that owe money, bicker, and whine about each other. The cartoonists of "Comics: Philosophy & Practice" formed "a big cousins picnic," as Barry put it. Both groups, however, share traits: Both memberships appear disproportionally bald. OK, one trait. In fact, though NATO meets with the goal of harmony, these cartoonists seemed to be here as much for each other as for any fans who had registered for the conference.
 
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Featured artists

R. Crumb
Chris Ware

          



  Chris Ware on Mono.Kultur

Updated January 11, 2012


Urs Bellerman

Let’s just say that I never had much respect for comics. Besides some Tintin or Disney entertainment, I was largely indifferent to what I thought of as profane jokes on the back of thin newspapers. I never explored the world of comics which I knew to be set at places like the Simpsons’ Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop, populated by teenage boys eager to sublimate adolescent fear and frustration by sucking on untouchable superhero fantasies in cellophane.

So, when I passed the window of a dedicated local comic dealer in late 2000, I had not planned to slow down, let alone go inside. But that day the usual kaleidoscope of lurid covers was dimmed by the centerpiece on display: a 380-page volume, landscape format, two inches wide, standing out visually against the rest with gravitational presence. I bought Jimmy Corrigan – The Smartest Kid on Earth without asking for the price.

It took me a while to realize what exactly I had bought, and I failed to make the connection to Art Spiegelman’s Maus – a complex analysis of Spiegelman’s relationship with his father and the family’s history against the background of the Holocaust – which I had come across as a kid, however never thought of as a comic. I simply didn’t know there was a thing called graphic novel, as coined by Richard Kyle in 1964. But like anybody who holds Chris Ware’s work in his hands for the first time, I instantly felt its creative impact.

Detailing his stories in meticulous and carefully crafted artwork, Chris Ware lays out an irresistibly beautiful world of deficits and defects. While nowadays a seemingly endless archive of superhero comics is shamelessly exploited for bland 3D animated blockbusters, Chris Ware set out to prove the narrative potential of visual writing. In stark contrast to the loud colors and simplistic world of action figures, he proposes a quiet and introverted vision in muted shades of nostalgia, exploring topics of social isolation, emotional pain and personal failure in modern life. And so Chris Ware’s comics are about sad children, lonely outcasts and depressed superheroes. Clearly they are not for fun.

But make no mistake: His work is also utterly charming and addictive. With Quimby the Mouse, Rusty Brown, Building Stories, Lint or the legendary Jimmy Corrigan, to name just a few, Chris Ware has created a body of stunning visual narratives which deservedly earned much praise, both by comic and literature critics. In addition to countless Harvey and Eissner Awards, he was the first graphic novelist to win the Guardian First Book Award in 2001 as well as being the first comic artist invited to participate at the Whitney Biennial in 2002. He was honored in the exhibition Masters of American Comics at the Jewish Museum in New York in 2007, and showed his work in solo exhibitions at, among others, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The New Yorker dubbed Jimmy Corrigan ‘the first formal masterpiece’ of the new genre.

In the meantime, Chris Ware is never short of self-deprecation. When he uses the preliminaries of Quimby the Mouse as an opportunity to advise you to ‘not pay any attention to what he is saying to you’, it might appear like a polite gesture to make you smile, whereas in fact it is an expression of a profound sense of modesty. Which was also the reason for Chris Ware insisting on an e-mail exchange for this interview, reasoning that ‘as a function of my own idiocy, spoken-word interviews and I are not a good combination’. Oh, how I would have loved to prove him wrong.

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Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



WALT & SKEEZIX on AV Club for January

Updated January 9, 2012


January 9, 2012
Noel Murray

From the start, Chris Ware and Jeet Heer have stated their intention to use Drawn & Quarterly’s collected Gasoline Alley series to serve both as an epic graphic novel and as a comprehensive biography of the strip’s creator Frank King. Ware and Heer’s fifth Gasoline Alley volume Walt & Skeezix: 1929-1930 (D&Q) takes the King bio to someplace new, adding a DVD of home movies that King shot around his home and on vacations throughout the ’20s. The significance of those films is explained more in Heer’s introduction, in which he describes the King family’s move to Florida in 1929, and how the cartoonist made the decision to keep Walt and Skeezix and The Alley Bunch in the same Northern suburb they’d always lived in—a place documented in a lot of those films on the DVD. But King did still allow his real life to bleed into the strip, whether by having Walt take trips that King and his wife and kids had previously taken, or having Walt deal with an unexpected and borderline-embarrassing windfall, as King himself did when the strip made him richer and richer in the midst of the Depression. As always, it’s that personal touch, combined with the sense of daily life passing, that makes these Walt & Skeezix volumes one of the highlights of any comics fan’s year. …
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Frank King

           Featured product

Walt & Skeezix: 1929-1930 (Volume Five)




  The Guardian asks LYNDA BARRY about CHRIS WARE

Updated July 14, 2011


Six leading graphic novelists choose their favourite peer

Peter Kuper on Robert Crumb
I was 11 or 12, growing up in Cleveland when I visited [comic-book artist] Harvey Pekar's apartment - I only knocked on his door because his paper boy said he was some guy who had comics. He kindly showed me his record collection and then pulled out a full colour original drawn by Robert Crumb. This beautiful colour pencil art showed a large cartoon character whistling while he urinated into a toilet with flies buzzing around him. It blew my mind - I had no idea that cartoon characters could have genitals!
I met Crumb a few years after I saw that drawing. He showed me his sketchbook, and I sat there looking at it for hours. I got a sketchbook and started drawing. He demonstrated that comics could address anything you wanted and pointed me in that direction.
There is a level of honesty in Crumb's work that scares, intrigues and outrages people. There are few corners of his psyche or subjects that comment on our society he hasn't shone a spotlight on. Crumb does what he does, regardless of audience response. There are very few artists who take that chance and yet are so effective.
One of the things that makes Crumb's art so accessible is its clarity. Lots of the 1960s underground cartoonists experimented with comics in many wonderful ways. Crumb generally worked in a simpler panel-to-panel format that was about character and story more than about bending the medium. He also tapped into the history of turn-of-the century comic strips such as Popeye and Krazy Kat, as well as the roots of jazz and other aspects of Americana, which felt completely fresh and yet very familiar. He managed to bring these influences to a wider public, and be both loved and hated. He ignored both reactions, and has kept drawing and inspiring new generations.

Bryan Talbot on Joe Sacco
I have many favourite graphic novelists, as diverse as Posy Simmonds, Jeff Smith, Robert Crumb and Hannah Berry, but I think I'll have to plump for Joe Sacco. He was trained as a journalist and singlehandedly created the genre of reportage in graphic-novel form. Immersing himself in a situation, his in-depth reports use the medium of sequential art - like "graphic novel", the word "comics" is such a misnomer - to its full advantage, using the mix of illustration and text to convey complex issues very directly. His books, such as Palestine, Safe Area Gora?de or his recent Footnotes in Gaza, follow his investigations and interviews, explaining the history, politics and dynamics of the situation as he goes along. The palpable sense of place and the feeling that we're personally in the presence of the people who relate their experiences to him (and us) is a testament to his storytelling skills; his work is far more intimate than that of a filmed documentary. Comics have many superficial similarities to film - the use of long shots, closeup, zooms and pans, for example - but, filtered through the perception and artistry of their authors, they are much closer to prose in the way they transmit a personal vision. Joe Sacco is a master of this medium.

Posy Simmonds on Jacques Tardi
Jacques Tardi's work is brilliantly designed and graphically immaculate, drawn in the "clear line" style, but a line that is relaxed, inventive and personal like handwriting. He's a master of black and white, and colour. His book C'était la Guerre des Tranchées (It Was the War of the Trenches) is a compassionate and meticulously researched story about patriotism and disillusion in the first world war.

Ariel Schrag on Gabrielle Bell
I've always been inspired by Gabrielle Bell's work. It's very experimental in that she uses a lot of different forms - diary comments, fiction, topical stuff. She brings in autobiography, even some science fiction. She also experiments with different mediums: colour, black and white. One of the things I like most about her is her knack for the peculiarities of dialogue. She has a really good sense of picking up on some of the weird things you might say. She is very good at characters and human relationships, and is interesting on artists' role in society. I have seen her working, and she goes through a lot of revisions. It shows how much reworking can get it to a better place.

Martin Rowson on Joe Sacco
Although Art Spiegelman's Maus [about the Holocaust] is a work of incredible importance, I think it gave the entire genre a bum steer. It then got into this terrible kind of introspective, personal, adolescent angstiness. All this "you have to be serious about this because it's a serious art form": well, it is and it isn't. Therefore, discovering Joe Sacco was a liberation. Here is somebody who is using the medium as journalism and reportage. It's taking the best bits of the underground comics of the 60s - the radicalism - with the personal immersion you got with Spiegelman. It's an extraordinarily powerful way of telling a story - a true one in this case. The fact that he places himself in the heart of it makes it gonzo journalism turned into a graphic novel, although it's not really a graphic novel, it's a sort of visual journalism. In one of his books, there is a double-page spread of a crossroads in a refugee camp in Gaza, seen from about 30ft up in the air, and it's a beautiful piece of artwork.
The whole point of the medium is that it's meant to be immediate because you consume images much more quickly than you consume text. It has to have a visceral effect, and as reportage, art and sequential visual narrative, his work is just brilliant.

Lynda Barry on Chris Ware
Chris Ware is an American cartoonist whose work is so unusual that some hesitate to call what he is doing "comics". When I read his work, I get a Wright brothers feeling of being in something big, right as it's being invented. Eventually we will know what to call what he does, but for now "graphic novel" is all we have. And it isn't the right term for what Ware is doing at all. You can see through to the middle of the heartbreaking things in his work and know why this medium is the only way to say it.
Some think what is happening in his work might be literature, and they think this is a compliment. There are books about how to read comics in a serious way as if they were literature; how to take them apart to find out what makes them go. If you do this with Chris Ware's comics, you'll find the complicated structure you've been told is there, but you'll miss everything else. Looking at a diagram of an airplane is not the same as being able to glide in one.
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware
Gabrielle Bell

          



Book Madam raves about D+Q artists!!

Updated May 19, 2011




Do comic snobs still exist? Not the people who are snobby about comics, I know those exist (and are easily dealt with via wedgie, swirly, or punching their pocket protectors until their pens break), but the luddites who refuse to see comics as a valid literary art form?

If so, they would not have had a good time at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this weekend. I, however, managed to break the bank and walk away with signed books from Chris Ware, Philippe Girard, and Darwyn Cooke. Possibly three of the most talented comics-artists today, right along with Seth, Faith Erin Hicks, Adrian Tomine, Chester Brown, Kate Beaton, Jillian Tamaki, and Jeff Lemire. They were all there too. I'm not going to link those; I don't want to spend all day linking to incredible creators and writers who were at TCAF as that would take all damn day.

I will link to Mike Holmes. I am shameless.

What's somewhat astounding to me is how many of these amazing artists are Canadian. There seems to be a large number of Canadians in the top-tiers of comics today. No one who pays attention to indie comics today would disagree that the artists I've listed are among the top-tier of comics creators today, and all but Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware are Canadian.

A lot of that can be attributed to the ineffable Drawn and Quarterly, who really set the bar for literary comics. Based in Montreal, Quebec, they have published everyone from Daniel Clowes to Julie Doucet to Lynda Barry to Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

But the Canadian goodness doesn't stop there; Conundrum Press is an incredible Nova Scotia-based publisher with an impressive list of talent. The aforementioned Philippe Girard (If you're into Guy DeLisle or more aptly, the Michel Rabagliati Paul series, Girard is for you.), Marc Bell, David Lapp, and even Jillian Tamaki. I could go on. Owner Andy Brown has a sharp eye for the weird and wonderful.

TCAF was great, the constantly-packed house was a testament to the vibrant Canadian comics community, which, much like short stories, is an art we seem to have an abundance of excellence in, yet is unfortunately somewhat overlooked by the average reader. And because of that, I offer you a list of five Canadian artists and books which you should a) read and b) give to someone to show them that comics are awesome.

1) Skim - Jilliand and Mariko Tamaki - Coming of age story, natch. Set in a private school, this (emphatic string of words)ly illustrated tale brings to life the crushing, soul-sucking world that is teenagehood. My partner read the whole thing, which is saying something as she HATES comic books.

2) Burma Chronicles - Guy Delisle - A travelogue of a regular guy who moves to Burma with his wife, a UN worker. It's the classic slice-of-life comic, set in Burma.

3)Killing Velazquez - Philippe Girard - There's a priest and a 'boy's club' and it's autobiographical. An amazing book; Girard's raw style of illustration works disconcertingly well at portraying the torment of the story.

4) Parker: The Hunter - Darwyn Cooke - The first of four, Darwyn Cooke adapts and illustrates noir author Donald Westlakes' famous Parker series.

5) Hark! A Vagrant - Kate Beaton - Gut-bustingly funny webcomics which are being turned into a book by Drawn and Quarterly. This is a book I will buy. I highly suggest not following this link until you have some serious spare time, as you will probably break the back button on your browser from clicking so much.
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Guy Delisle
Kate Beaton

           Featured products

Burma Chronicles
Hark! A Vagrant




  ACME 20 and PICTURE THIS reviewed in Newsday

Updated March 30, 2011


FANFARE
BOOKSHELF: COMICS
BY SAM THIELMAN. Special to Newsday
2 January 2011
Newsday


'Sometimes in life when we are very sad, it is good to make a chicken in winter," explains Lynda Barry in "Picture This" (Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95). "It is not a beautiful chicken, but it is a chicken that will guard you through the hours and hours, quietly." Barry's style is supremely strange - she sketches and glues on glitter; she paints and cuts out pieces of construction paper and scribbles and makes paper dolls for us. Somehow, the delicate composition of all these childish novelties produces a work - it's hard to call it a graphic novel, since there's not really a narrative as such.

It's almost a self-help book, with offbeat suggestions for feeling better (Barry includes a chicken you can trace, if you don't feel up to drawing one yourself); fabulous anecdotes involving her most famous character, a little girl named Marlys; and images of the Near-Sighted Monkey, a free spirit whose depiction seems to be a visually unflattering but deeply brave and funny portrait of the author as a young woman - er, primate.

Chris Ware never met a charisma-free jerk he didn't love. Consider "Rusty Brown," the biography of a jobless loser whose 1970s childhood proved unexpectedly fertile and funny material in his ongoing Acme Novelty Library series. Now, with "Jordan Wellington Lint" in Acme Novelty Library #20 (Drawn and Quarterly, $23.95), Ware examines one of Rusty's high school acquaintances, Jason Lint. (The character changes his name - it's a little confusing.)

The book's opening pages may be the best thing Ware's ever done: He follows Jason from zygote to toddler to teenager in a visual homage to James Joyce that brilliantly captures what it's like to be discovering so many new words and concepts at once. Since it's a Chris Ware book, Jason is also discovering emotional pain around the same time, as he watches his father hit his mother and tries to suss out the moral implications. Ware spends a lot of his time - and ours - examining the most painful moments in Jason's life. Some of these are genuinely affecting - his mother's death, for instance - and some are just unpleasant. Acme #20 is a gorgeous book, no doubt about it, but it sticks in the heart.

Is there a comic that's run longer than "Love & Rockets" and maintained the same level of quality? In a bid to keep this indie mainstay accessible to new readers, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez relaunched the series as "Love & Rockets: New Stories" (Fantagraphics, $14.99) a few years ago; like Ware and other contemporaries, they've been producing large volumes about once a year, and this year's annual is as good or better than anything Los Bros. have yet produced. [...] These vignettes are the perfect foil to Ware's unflinching realism - where Ware is pitiless and visually complex, Los Bros. are plain-spoken and sympathetic, finding pathos in even the grimiest character.[...]

Featured artists

Chris Ware
Lynda Barry

           Featured products

Picture This
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




Art in America takes on ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated March 4, 2011


NEW YORK Chris Ware’s award-winning graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan—The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000) marked a new era for the genre. Now a contributor to the New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker, Ware has also been featured in museum exhibitions, including the 2002 Whitney Biennial. The bulk of his recent show at Baumgold consisted of production drawings (all from the last four years) for the latest volume in his ongoing series “The ACME Novelty Library.” The 74-page book relates the story, birth to death, of the character Jordan Lint, of Omaha (where Ware himself, who now lives near Chicago, was born). With some exceptions, each page contains a vignette from a year of Lint’s life, starting with hazy, infant’s-eye views.

Since Ware’s customary bright colors are added digitally when the books are printed, this show allowed viewers to study his spare and precise black-ink drawings (mostly 28 by 20 inches). Multiple frames of varying sizes and shapes are packed into each page; among the bold black contours are startling shifts in scale and points of view. Faint blue pencil lines indicate shading and serve as guides for areas of color to come. There are also penciled notes in the margins: in the sheet representing baby Jordan, for example, there are comments about the formation of identity.

Like many of Ware’s characters, Lint has an unhappy life. His father is a violent alcoholic; his mother dies early. During a dissolute adolescence, Lint accidentally kills a friend while driving stoned. As an adult he philanders, embezzles, and becomes estranged from his children and successive wives, all the while plagued by recollections of his mother and deceased childhood friend. Memories and fantasies—violent, sexual and otherwise—appear in tiny drawings and text that float between and over the frames.

In the most disturbing passage, we learn about a memoir published by Lint’s son in which he reveals that Lint, enraged by his son’s emerging homosexuality, broke the child’s collarbone. This episode is represented horrifically in several pages of red-ink drawings, some remarkably Gustonesque. Even this unlikable character, though, elicits a queasy sympathy (in a testament to Ware’s characterization), because we’ve seen something of what made him the man he is. But only a glimpse. When Lint tells his lawyer, “I don’t think you realize what a bastard my dad was to me,” the reader may feel he’s in the same position as the lawyer—much is left to the imagination.

Other drawings, published in McSweeney’s and elsewhere, depict the punningly named Putty Gray and Sandy Grains. In childhood, only Sandy is nice to the nerdy, bespectacled Putty, who fantasizes about space travel. A four-frame mini-strip under the sardonic title “Laffs ’n Gaffs” shows an adult Putty with his son, who helps him clean up after Putty’s alcoholic father (“God, Dad—there’s bloody puke back here”) and commit him to a nursing home. In the final frame, Putty confesses, “I need a drink.” This taste for intergenerational ironies, along with considerable emotional sophistication, makes Ware’s tragic comics somehow reassuring, even as they explore such dark realms.
 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 makes The Austin Chronicles 2010 holiday wishlist

Updated March 4, 2011


3. Acme Novelty Library #20 "Lint" by Chris Ware. Mere words cannot adequately describe the value of Chris Ware's sequential art. This installment follows one character from birth to death, Jordan Lint. He's a homophobic, misogynistic son-of-a-such-and-such, and he gets back all the vitrol he puts into the world. One of the best grpahic representations of baby-dom I've ever seen. Just… wow!
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 reviewed by Sean T. Collins

Updated March 4, 2011


What makes a life? Is it the narrative we assemble in retrospect from the sights and sounds we remember best? Is it like comics in that regard, a combination of words and pictures stacked together to tell a story? To what degree do we act as our own cartoonists, then, picking and choosing the right combination of words and pictures to tell the story of ourselves we most want to hear? Is it possible that the way we misremember things tells us more of that story? What about the words and pictures we skip entirely? When we come to a point in the story that makes us think “Wait a minute, shouldn’t we have seen Event X or Y or Z by now, why did we skip that, shouldn’t that have been a bigger deal,” what does that tell us? What does a jump cut mean? What does an absence mean? Or what does a presence mean? What do we make of recurring marginalia that pops up when the story is supposed to be dealing with something entirely different? Is that persistence a reflection of the original absence? And who are the characters in our story? Is it fair to see them that way? Do they have any idea that’s what they are to us? Do they know how big a role they play? Do we know how big a role we’ve played in their stories? Would we even remember? Would we ever have known in the first place, or did we forget? How does it feel to find out? How do their stories affect our own? What happens when they leave our story? What happens when we leave theirs? What gets in the way of our own story? What constitutes static on the screen, blots out the image as it really is and makes it something else, however briefly? What do we do and say and think and feel in those moments that’s different from all the other moments? In what new direction will those moments send our story? What happens when we prefer the way the story used to be told? What happens when we find ourselves in a new story of someone else’s making? What happens when a turn of a page to a new set of words and images stuns us, hurts us? What happens when we reach the end of the story? What makes a story worth telling? A life worth living? Looking back, can we ever be sure that the answer isn’t “nothing”?
 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 and WILSON round out CBR's Ten Best Comics of 2010

Updated March 4, 2011


10. Wilson

Written & Illustrated By: Daniel Clowes
Published By: Drawn & Quarterly

I think this is Clowes' meanest book, but not for the reasons you think -- it's not Misanthropy On Parade like a lot of his old, witheringly sarcastic rant comics were. No, what's mean about "Wilson" is that Clowes keeps giving his loudmouth, obliviously cruel protagonist a chance, right down to the often incongruously cute cartooning and "Wilson" keeps slapping that chance away. Sympathetic portraits are often the most unflattering ones; no wonder so many people wanted to look away.

- Robot 6 Blogger Sean T. Collins

Dan Clowes always delivers for me, and Wilson was no exception. There is a school of meditation where the participants are encouraged to empty their minds by engaging in constantly opposing behavior. This book is like the embodiment of that practice, with extremely opposing styles used to tell the story of one man. While it can be read like a newspaper strip, randomly and in no particular order, there is great satisfaction to be had from piecing together the terrible contrasts and feeling out the path Clowes lays out for us.

- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Sonia Harris

Like his contemporary Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes knows how to compose a mountain of vignettes about the mundane nature of day to day life and the abrasive individuals who wallow in it with authority and spite. Clowes pulled another loser out of his hat for 2010's "Wilson," and the title character shines like a bronzed turd in the sunlight as provocatively as anyone to come before him in the pages of "Eightball."

- CBR Contributor Brian Warmoth


1. Acme Novelty Library #20: Lint

Written & Illustrated By: Chris Ware
Published By: Drawn & Quarterly

Each time around, I am astonished by how Chris Ware takes it up a notch. In "Lint," he absolutely blew my mind with this strikingly complex life study.

- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

The life of Jordan Lint in all of its contradictory glory. Or lack of glory, in typical Waresian style.

- CBR Columnist Timothy Callahan

The most lauded cartoonist around, Ware proves why he deserves every ounce of praise with this encapsulated look at the life and sorry saga of one Jordan Lint. An encapsulation in some ways of everything he's done since, Ware draws a sharp critical eye on Lint's inner thoughts and outer actions and weaves an unforgettable story about family, parenthood, responsibility, memory and how we constantly forget that, just as others are supporting characters in our lives, so are we in theirs.

- Robot 6 Columnist Chris Mautner

Chris Ware's latest foray into his "Acme Novelty Library" continues to evolve and expand with volume #20. Certainly the most elegant and beautiful object of the library it is a beautifully bound book and an object to desire. Then we look inside. A strange book, but then isn't that to be expected from this master of the an almost cubist surrealism? A culmination of sorts, as Ware's continued "Acme Novelty Library" continues to evolve and expand. "Lint" works as an incredible stand-alone novel, telling the life story of one Jordan Lint, from his experience of the exact moment of his birth to that of his death. Complete and elegant, the story is as creepy and touching as you would expect from Ware. The intimacy, vibrancy and attention to detail betray the author's affection for his character.

- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Sonia Harris

This 20th volume of Acme Novelty Library explores the life (and I mean the entire life) of Jordan "Jason" Lint, a one-time bully of Rusty Brown who is now explored in the traditional Chris Ware exceptional and microscopic detail. As Ware shows us Lint's story from birth to death you cannot help but be moved and transfixed seeing a man's life laid out as only Ware can. In "Lint" Ware continues his experimental and highly effective examination of just what the comics medium is capable of. It's a must read, and as a bonus, for those new to his work, it stands on its own just as nicely as it does a part of the larger whole of "Acme Novelty Library."

- Comics Should Be Good Columnist Kelly Thompson

The most influential cartoonist of the past quarter century assigns himself the task of chronicling an entire life, from birth (and before) to death (and beyond?). In so doing he takes an unsympathetic bit player from his massive "Rusty Brown" storyline and crafts his single finest and most moving stand-alone work to date around him; launches a virtuosic, pyrotechnic display of formal mastery yet still manages to make the most important parts the stuff he never shows you. It culminates in a final page so dizzying that I actually felt physically stunned, as if someone had taken the book from my hands and struck me in the head with it. Not just the best comic of the year, but the best comic I have ever read.

- Robot 6 Blogger Sean T. Collins
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Daniel Clowes

           Featured products

Wilson
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




WILSON and ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 featured in The Austin Chronicle's Year in Books

Updated March 4, 2011


In the graphic-novel firmament, the brightest stars (although often with the darkest lights) were Daniel Clowes' Wilson (Drawn & Quarterly); Chris Ware's Lint, aka ACME Novelty Library #20 (Drawn & Quarterly); Dash Shaw's psychedelic BodyWorld (Pantheon); and the first two issues of hentai bestial hijinks called I Want You (Pigeon Press) by Lisa Hanawalt.
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Daniel Clowes

           Featured products

Wilson
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  The Globe and Mail talks JULIE DOUCET, SETH, AND CHRIS WARE

Updated February 18, 2011


Among diehard comics fans, news of a book by Montreal’s Julie Doucet is cause for celebration. There’s only one problem: Se hasn’t really produced any comics in more than a decade.

The creator of the influential series Dirty Plotte, Doucet famously renounced comics in 2000 to explore collage, printmaking and poetry. But her resolve has done little to deter her ardent admirers (which include Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly) from trying to persuade to come back to the party.

The results of these courtships have been intriguing and even beautiful (2007’s 365 Days: A Diary being a standout), but have lacked the exuberant qualities that fuelled such seminal comics as the autobiographical opus My New York Diary.

So what should one make of My New New York Diary, a collaboration between Doucet and Michel Gondry, the mercurial filmmaker behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Green Hornet?


The brainchild of Gondry (who admits to sweet-talking the reluctant artist into taking part), My New New York Diary is an attempt to revisit Doucet’s most enduring work, and the result is as fascinating as it is frustrating.

The book features Doucet’s distinctive black-and-white illustrations, which track her misadventures in New York with the impish, impulsive filmmaker. If she has a brave face, she surely had it on when she sat down to draw this book.

Under her pen, Gondry comes off like a slacker Stanley Kubrick: Ambitious and manipulative, he is willing to do anything to achieve his vision, even if it includes lying to his “star.” Over the course of 100 pages, Gondry feeds her burned pancakes, drags her to a strip club to sketch and leaves her to buy her own groceries and restock the beer fridge.

Gondry doesn’t fare much better in his 18-minute film, which features filmed footage of Julie interacting with her drawings. Though not terribly inventive, the film is sure to be a rush for any Doucet fan, as it does an excellent job of bringing her inimitable style to animated life (wait for the dream sequence featuring her original drawings). As captivating as it is, one can’t help but sympathize with Doucet, who seems ill at ease with the entire project. At one point in the film, she calls Gondry “a bastard” for persuading her to take part.

As a sort-of sequel to a more accomplished work, My New New York Diary falls far short of its title’s promise. In the end, this project ends up revealing more about the gregarious, high-profile Gondry than it does about Doucet.

A seismic shift has taken place in the field of comics since Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library made its debut more than 17 years ago. But Acme is still with us; a sturdy, reliable stage for one of the world’s most innovative and thought-provoking cartoonists to show his stuff. Though he has earned his greatest acclaim thanks to graphic novels such as Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, he has always seemed most at home as an artist in the pages of Acme.


And for the landmark 20th issue of his flagship title, Ware refuses to disappoint, with a cradle-to-grave story of a hapless financial-services executive faced with a crumbling personal life, several crises of faith and a financial meltdown. The result is one of the best comics of 2010.

The story really begins with the cover, designed to like an old photo album or scrapbook, replete with embroidered blue fabric and an embossed gold “LINT.” That would be Jordan Lint, to whom we are introduced on the inside pages as an infant trying to make some sense of the world. Jordan retains much of the same facial expression and general disposition over the next 70 or so pages, as he frantically pursues – then falls under the wheels of – the American Dream. Like countless millions who have come before him, he is ever striving, yet, in the end, barely surviving.

In mining contemporary events – the ongoing financial turmoil in the United States – this feels like one of Ware’s riskiest stories. But it’s unspooled with such finesse and humanity that you can’t help but empathize with his philandering, felonious and ill-fated “hero.”

Of course, there are bravura moments as well. The pages featuring an excerpt from an autobiographical graphic novel by Lint’s son are unexpected and effective, while the final half-dozen pages that project us – and a feeble Lint – 10 years into the future are as complex and heartbreaking as any comic I’ve read recently.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Chris Ware is good friends with Canadian cartoonist Seth. They are both masters of their craft who share a nostalgic, deeply introspective world view. So it seems fitting that the landmark 20th issue of Palookaville, Seth’s long-running comic series, would hit the shelves at approximately the same time as Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. But somehow Seth’s latest seems like more of a milestone.

That’s probably because it also marks his departure from the familiar “floppy” format (i.e., traditional stapled comics) of the previous 19 issues, in favour of a more substantial – and more marketable – hardcover format. Like many lifelong comics fans, Seth harbours a strong emotional bond with the disposable four-colour comic books of his youth.


But the demands of retailers who require comics that are easily “shelfable” have rendered traditional comics extinct, save for a few holdouts. As Seth explains in the introduction of his handsome new Palookaville, he didn’t come to this decision easily, but did so with “no regrets.”

I don’t believe him for a minute.

Melancholy has always been an active ingredient of Seth’s best work, but with this issue he has doubled the recipe. From the apologia-as-introduction to the downhearted autobiographical strip at the back, Palookaville #20 is profoundly elegiac. On one page he reprints, in miniature, all 19 covers of his comic to date; as if they were old high-school buddies. In less able hands, this would be overwhelming, but Seth balances it all off by including a range of material, from a portfolio of his Dominion City art project to excerpts from his sketchbook.

But the main draw here is the latest instalment of his long-brewing graphic novel Clyde Fans. Set in the 1970s, this chapter switches from the delusional life of Simon Matchcard to the dilemma of Abraham Matchcard, the president of his family’s financially racked fan company. Faced with a strike by his workers and falling fortunes, Abraham sits in his office and contemplates the inevitable, as his mind wanders to hate-filled reminiscences of his largely absent father. Rendered in muted blues and blacks, it’s a stark tale of the dark side of capitalism.

As farewells go, Palookaville #20 is as bittersweet and beautiful as they come. If this is what the future holds for Seth – and for comics – I just might be persuaded to say goodbye to comic books as well.

Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Seth
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Palookaville Volume 20
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




The Stranger says ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY VOL. 20 is "awe-inspiring stuff"

Updated February 18, 2011


ACME Novelty Library number 20 came out within the last month, and even when compared to Chris Ware's usual high standards, it is an incredible book. It's the life story of a man named Jordan Lint—literally, his entire life from birth to death—and it's awe-inspiring stuff.
The most impressive part of this book is the way Ware channels the "voice" of his character through his art. As a baby, Lint sees things in expressionistic blocks. His mother's face is huge, her body is tiny. Language slowly forms inside word bubbles, evolving from swirls of messy scribbles into language. As the narrative moves through Lint's life, we start to get a broader, more adult understanding of his life. And as he ages, the colors start to dim and the story becomes more and more bitter. I won't go quite so far as to say it's Ware's best work ever, but it's goddamned close.

There's not much I can really say about this book. If I kept at it, I would just be throwing adjectives at it. If you like comics, you should absolutely read this book. Now. Do it.ACME Novelty Library number 20 came out within the last month, and even when compared to Chris Ware's usual high standards, it is an incredible book. It's the life story of a man named Jordan Lint—literally, his entire life from birth to death—and it's awe-inspiring stuff.
The most impressive part of this book is the way Ware channels the "voice" of his character through his art. As a baby, Lint sees things in expressionistic blocks. His mother's face is huge, her body is tiny. Language slowly forms inside word bubbles, evolving from swirls of messy scribbles into language. As the narrative moves through Lint's life, we start to get a broader, more adult understanding of his life. And as he ages, the colors start to dim and the story becomes more and more bitter. I won't go quite so far as to say it's Ware's best work ever, but it's goddamned close.

There's not much I can really say about this book. If I kept at it, I would just be throwing adjectives at it. If you like comics, you should absolutely read this book. Now. Do it.
 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  NPR Best Comics of 2010 Roundup Features Acme 20, Wilson, and Market Day

Updated February 9, 2011


The Most Memorable Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010, With Caveats
by Glen Weldon
December 29, 2010

I know, I know. Still yet another list, this one appearing during the last week of the year, a time when the national incidence of list-fatigue reaches its annual zenith.

Look, I’ll make you deal. I’ll keep this short. Ish.

If I’ve already written about a book, I’ll just link to it. If I haven’t, I’ll say a few words and link to someone who has.

The usual caveats apply, here: This list is not meant to be definitive – I haven’t read everything. And it’s not even intended as a "best of" list, as my personal reaction to a given comic's style and subject will likely have little to do with yours.

Because the metric I'm using is one of indelibility: The books below are the ones that I found myself thinking about for days, weeks and (on several occasions) months after I finished them. Several very good books that will surely turn up on other "Best of 2010" lists – Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Outfit; Greg Rucka and JH Williams’ Batwoman: Elegy; Marvel’s Strange Tales, Volume II; Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft and many more – didn’t quite make the final cut because, for whatever reason, they didn’t linger in my memory after I closed their covers. (I liked the first chapter of Charles Burns' X'ed Out, but its frustrating slimness (just 50 or so pages) prevented it from making a lasting impression.)

So: Here are the books that got their hooks into me this year; I'm reasonably certain they'll do the same for you.


New Work from Old … er, Experienced Hands

Market Day, by James Sturm. I loved this quiet, wistful, elegaic tale of a turn-of-the-century rugmaker finding himself, and his craft, suddenly obsolete.

Not Love but Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy! by Fumi Yoshinaga. I devoured the Oishinbo books, which turn Japanese cuisine into hugely entertaining narratives full of high-stakes culinary showdowns. This slim, delightfully manic book by the creator of the gender-flipped samurai series Ooku filled the hole those book left. Johanna Draper Carlson, over at Manga Worth Reading, praised the author's expressive style and recommended that food lovers pick it up.

Werewolves of Montpelier, by Jason. The deadest of deadpan cartoonists returns with a meditation on relationships, burglary and lycanthropy. In France. Rob Clough of The Comics Journal called it "a pitch-perfect, expertly-crafted story by an artist who is clearly working in his comfort zone."

Acme Novelty Library No. 20, by Chris Ware. I agree with critic Douglas Wolk: this latest edition finds Ware stretching himself further than he as in some time. It's exciting to see a master like Ware, known for his exacting, precise technique, loosening himself up, even if he does so with his characteristic deliberateness.

Special Exits, by Joyce Farmer. Yeah, this one got to me.

Wilson, by Daniel Clowes. A portrait of the artist as a middle-aged jerkface. Mordant, darkly funny, with a deliberately fractured approach that keeps Clowes' tone gratifyingly varied and surprising.

Heartening Debuts

Temperance, by Cathy Malkasian. I've said my piece on this ambitious, wonderfully unpredictable fantasy epic grounded in very real, and not altogether pleasant, emotions.

Make Me a Woman, by Vanessa Davis. Davis is my favorite discovery of the year, though I'm a bit ashamed to say that, as I should have known about her before. You'll see the influence of Lynda Barry and Roz Chast, but Davis' voice has a satisfyingly spiky, take-no-prisoners wryness that's all her own.

Set to Sea, by Drew Weing. Weing's largely wordless pages of maritime adventure are gorgeous things, and the tale they tell unfolds with the lulling, implacable rhythm of the sea.

Artichoke Tales, by Megan Kelso. Kelso sets up an intriguing tension between the cartooniness of her art and the serious, adult themes of war and racism that fuel her thoughtful story.

Drinking at the Movies, by Julia Wertz. A funny, smart, self-lacerating book about the kind of growing up that happens after you've told yourself your a grown-up. In the LA Times, David Ulin summed it up nicely: "...a quiet triumph, a portrait of the artist in the act of becoming, a story with heart and soul."

The Troll King, by Kolbeinn Karlsson. You haven't seen anything like this. Trust me.

Axe Cop, by Malachi Nicolle and Ethan Nicolle. "Axe ... Cop?" Yes. Axe Cop. For reminding us of comics' enormous, all-too-often untapped potential for Big Craziness.

Neko Ramen, by Kenji Sonishi. There's this cat, see. He's surly, scheming. Also, he's a cook. That runs a noodle shop. Critic Deb Aoki, who should know, dubs it "a kooky but likeable comic snack for cat-lovers (and maybe cat haters too)." Sonishi doesn't really deviate from a simple, light set-up/punchline formula, but it worked on me.

Write These Names Down: Creators You Should Know

Body World, by Dash Shaw. Shaw produces hugely inventive, very funny and thought-provoking work, whether it's this webcomic-turned-book about a small town caught in the grip of a mysterious drug, or the slightly less accessible weirdness of the Unclothed Man in the 35th Century and, especially, Bottomless Belly Button.

Blammo, by Noah Van Sciver. Inside Van Sciver's anything-for-a-laugh approach lies a smart and sometimes suprisingly poignant writer. I'll let The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater tell you more.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle, by Michael Kupperman. I attempted to verbalize my deep, abiding love for Kupperman's series on one of the first episodes of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour. Not sure I did it justice, so let me take another whack at it: PICK UP THIS BOOK. VOLUME ONE IS ONCE AGAIN IN PRINT. IT IS FUNNY. BUY IT BUY IT BUY IT.

Wild Kingdom, by Kevin Huizenga. This is some high-wire, risky storytelling, the kind that leaves you convinced another reading will deepen your experience. NOT UNRELATED: In terms of sheer number of times I've returned to a given book this year, Wild Kingdom is the winner, hands down.

You’ll Never Know, Volume II, by C. Tyler. Volume I of Tyler's comics memoir was one of the books I singled out for praise last year at this time, and the next volume only deepens and enriches the work she did in that book. What's more, volume II sees her opening up her scrapbook-style approach, pushing at its boundaries in small, satisfying ways.

Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga. Man, I loved this book, a dizzying, recursive cross between Choose Your Own Adventure and a Richard Feynman lecture.

Ax Volume I: A Collection of Alternative Manga, by various artists. What's "alternative manga," you ask? Damned if I can say. I can, however, point you to this huge, sprawling, dynamic anthology, full of distinctive voices, art that bleeds off the page, and new ideas. The Manga Curmudgeon and several other mangaphiles held a lively and thoughtful discussion of the book on Twitter earlier this year — you can check a transcript on his site.

Revolver, by Matt Kindt. Kindt's story of a man shifting between parallel realities is an exquisitely constructed, ruminative piece of work with something to say about how tragedy changes us — or doesn't.
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Featured artists

James Sturm
Chris Ware
Daniel Clowes

           Featured products

Wilson
Market Day
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




Acme 20 and Palookaville 20 in the Globe and Mail

Updated February 8, 2011


Reluctant stars of the comix universe: new works by Julie Doucet, Chris Ware and Seth
REVIEWED BY BRAD MACKAY
January 21, 2011
The Saturday Globe and Mail

Among diehard comics fans, news of a book by Montreal’s Julie Doucet is cause for celebration. There’s only one problem: Se hasn’t really produced any comics in more than a decade.

The creator of the influential series Dirty Plotte, Doucet famously renounced comics in 2000 to explore collage, printmaking and poetry. But her resolve has done little to deter her ardent admirers (which include Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly) from trying to persuade to come back to the party.

The results of these courtships have been intriguing and even beautiful (2007’s 365 Days: A Diary being a standout), but have lacked the exuberant qualities that fuelled such seminal comics as the autobiographical opus My New York Diary.

So what should one make of My New New York Diary, a collaboration between Doucet and Michel Gondry, the mercurial filmmaker behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Green Hornet?

The brainchild of Gondry (who admits to sweet-talking the reluctant artist into taking part), My New New York Diary is an attempt to revisit Doucet’s most enduring work, and the result is as fascinating as it is frustrating.

The book features Doucet’s distinctive black-and-white illustrations, which track her misadventures in New York with the impish, impulsive filmmaker. If she has a brave face, she surely had it on when she sat down to draw this book.

Under her pen, Gondry comes off like a slacker Stanley Kubrick: Ambitious and manipulative, he is willing to do anything to achieve his vision, even if it includes lying to his “star.” Over the course of 100 pages, Gondry feeds her burned pancakes, drags her to a strip club to sketch and leaves her to buy her own groceries and restock the beer fridge.

Gondry doesn’t fare much better in his 18-minute film, which features filmed footage of Julie interacting with her drawings. Though not terribly inventive, the film is sure to be a rush for any Doucet fan, as it does an excellent job of bringing her inimitable style to animated life (wait for the dream sequence featuring her original drawings). As captivating as it is, one can’t help but sympathize with Doucet, who seems ill at ease with the entire project. At one point in the film, she calls Gondry “a bastard” for persuading her to take part.

As a sort-of sequel to a more accomplished work, My New New York Diary falls far short of its title’s promise. In the end, this project ends up revealing more about the gregarious, high-profile Gondry than it does about Doucet.

A seismic shift has taken place in the field of comics since Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library made its debut more than 17 years ago. But Acme is still with us; a sturdy, reliable stage for one of the world’s most innovative and thought-provoking cartoonists to show his stuff. Though he has earned his greatest acclaim thanks to graphic novels such as Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, he has always seemed most at home as an artist in the pages of Acme.

And for the landmark 20th issue of his flagship title, Ware refuses to disappoint, with a cradle-to-grave story of a hapless financial-services executive faced with a crumbling personal life, several crises of faith and a financial meltdown. The result is one of the best comics of 2010.

The story really begins with the cover, designed to like an old photo album or scrapbook, replete with embroidered blue fabric and an embossed gold “LINT.” That would be Jordan Lint, to whom we are introduced on the inside pages as an infant trying to make some sense of the world. Jordan retains much of the same facial expression and general disposition over the next 70 or so pages, as he frantically pursues – then falls under the wheels of – the American Dream. Like countless millions who have come before him, he is ever striving, yet, in the end, barely surviving.

In mining contemporary events – the ongoing financial turmoil in the United States – this feels like one of Ware’s riskiest stories. But it’s unspooled with such finesse and humanity that you can’t help but empathize with his philandering, felonious and ill-fated “hero.”

Of course, there are bravura moments as well. The pages featuring an excerpt from an autobiographical graphic novel by Lint’s son are unexpected and effective, while the final half-dozen pages that project us – and a feeble Lint – 10 years into the future are as complex and heartbreaking as any comic I’ve read recently.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Chris Ware is good friends with Canadian cartoonist Seth. They are both masters of their craft who share a nostalgic, deeply introspective world view. So it seems fitting that the landmark 20th issue of Palookaville, Seth’s long-running comic series, would hit the shelves at approximately the same time as Ware’s Acme Novelty Library. But somehow Seth’s latest seems like more of a milestone.

That’s probably because it also marks his departure from the familiar “floppy” format (i.e., traditional stapled comics) of the previous 19 issues, in favour of a more substantial – and more marketable – hardcover format. Like many lifelong comics fans, Seth harbours a strong emotional bond with the disposable four-colour comic books of his youth.

But the demands of retailers who require comics that are easily “shelfable” have rendered traditional comics extinct, save for a few holdouts. As Seth explains in the introduction of his handsome new Palookaville, he didn’t come to this decision easily, but did so with “no regrets.”

I don’t believe him for a minute.

Melancholy has always been an active ingredient of Seth’s best work, but with this issue he has doubled the recipe. From the apologia-as-introduction to the downhearted autobiographical strip at the back, Palookaville #20 is profoundly elegiac. On one page he reprints, in miniature, all 19 covers of his comic to date; as if they were old high-school buddies. In less able hands, this would be overwhelming, but Seth balances it all off by including a range of material, from a portfolio of his Dominion City art project to excerpts from his sketchbook.

But the main draw here is the latest instalment of his long-brewing graphic novel Clyde Fans. Set in the 1970s, this chapter switches from the delusional life of Simon Matchcard to the dilemma of Abraham Matchcard, the president of his family’s financially racked fan company. Faced with a strike by his workers and falling fortunes, Abraham sits in his office and contemplates the inevitable, as his mind wanders to hate-filled reminiscences of his largely absent father. Rendered in muted blues and blacks, it’s a stark tale of the dark side of capitalism.

As farewells go, Palookaville #20 is as bittersweet and beautiful as they come. If this is what the future holds for Seth – and for comics – I just might be persuaded to say goodbye to comic books as well.

Brad Mackay is co-editor of The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist, to which he contributed a biographical essay.
 
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Featured artists

Julie Doucet
Seth
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Palookaville Volume 20
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  Acme 20 gets a starred review in Booklist

Updated February 8, 2011


The Acme Novelty Library, v.20.
Ware, Chris (Author), Ware, Chris (Illustrator)
January 1, 2011

The latest entry in Ware’s roughly annual Acme Novelty Library is devoted to a heretofore peripheral figure in his ongoing “Rusty Bown” saga, Jordan Lint, who appeared briefly in earlier installments as a school bully. Here Ware chronicles nothing less than Lint’s entire life in a series of single-page vignettes, from a newborn who sees the world in the form of benday dots to his troubled childhood, stormy adolescence, and failures as husband, father, and businessman, right up to his eventual death. Ware uses a wide palette of graphic device —isolated words, symbolic objects, and near-subliminal flashbacks—to convey Lint’s inner thoughts and hidden turmoil. The assertive Lint seems a departure from Ware’s typically hapless and passive protagonists, but he shares many of their traits, from a damaging early trauma to a near-spiritual attachment to a childhood home. And Ware’s formal mastery of the medium continues to astonish. While he uses his characteristic techniques—meticulous drawing; tiny, repetitive panels ingeniously juxtaposed; creative typography—to brilliant effect, here he adds to his arsenal with a powerful sequence depicting a harrowing experience that happened to Lint’s son, rendered in a primitive scrawl that’s all the more powerful for its radical break with Ware’s usual detached approach.

— Gordon Flagg

Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




American-Statesman reviews ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 as one of the best comics of 2010

Updated December 21, 2010


Best comics and graphic novels of 2010

Joe Gross, The Reader

Like 2009, 2010 was a spectacular year if you like art comics, graphic novels and reissues of old newspaper strips. There are more strong books coming out month to month than even the deepest pockets can keep up with.

It was a less good year if your tastes run more toward mainstream, monthly superhero comics, especially from the Big Two (Marvel and DC). Both companies raised their prices from $2.99 per 22 pages of story per issue (13.6 cents/page) to $3.99 (18.1 cents/page), a move that prompted many long-term comic book fans to (often radically) re-evaluate their weekly comics habit. DC Comics rolled back a bit, returning most monthly books to $2.99, but reducing page counts to 20 per issue (14.9 cents/page). Considering that the vast majority of mainstream comics favor multi-issue stories that can be repackaged as trade paperbacks — a trend that shows no sign of slowing down — the story value-for-money problem probably won't favor the consumer any time soon.

Nor was it a great year for those who sell comics. Though graphic novels continue to find new audiences, sales of monthly comics — like all media that can be found for free (legally or not) on the Internet — continued to slide. In toto, the entire comics market (periodical comics, trade paperbacks and graphic novels) will likely be down 5.6 percent from last year, according to comics market researcher John Jackson Miller and his blog Comicchron.com.

Locally, the story was a little different. Comic stores thrive, and Austin used-book stores usually stock a solid array of comics, collections and graphic novels. Austin Books and Comics decided to open its Sidekick Store, an occasionally opened storefront down the street from the main store's 51st Street and North Lamar Boulevard location filled with half-off graphic novels and bins of dollar comics. Austin was also blessed with its first comic convention in a long time when Wizard World Austin launched in November, offering the sorts of bargains from dealers from across the state and the country that hard-core comics fans love.

All of that said, here are 10 outstanding graphic novels and trade paperbacks. The truth is there are easily a dozen more as good. It's flush time out there for the medium; we'll see if the business part is around next year.

1. "Love and Rockets: New Stories, No. 3," Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics): About three years ago, the Hernandez brothers switched from a semi-regular comic book-size periodical to these yearly collections. The first two were typically excellent, but the third was jaw-dropping, largely because of "Browntown," a story by Jaime Hernandez. Like his brother Gilbert, Jaime has been so good for so long that it's become very easy to take his obvious genius for granted. "Browntown" brought that skill into brutal relief, a devastating story of a secret left to fester. Expertly paced, with not a line wasted, it was one of the year's best stories in any medium, a stunner from a guy who keeps finding new peaks.

2. "Acme Novelty Library No. 20: Lint," Chris Ware (Drawn and Quarterly): For a few years, Ware's work seemed to fall a little too far into misanthropic pathos. But like No. 19, "Lint" is stellar, a tour de force of compact storytelling and graphic innovation. It's the life story — birth to death — of Jordan W. Lint, who unlike many of Ware's protagonists, isn't an especially pathetic figure. Rather, he's a middle-class striver — his childhood had tragedies, but it wasn't a total disaster. He went to college, joined a frat, got married and started screwing up his life just like everyone else. When you reach Lint's deathbed, you race back to the babyhood, eager to see just how Ware put it all together, again.
 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 and EDEN on Graphic Novel Reporter's 2010 Favorites list

Updated December 21, 2010


GNR's 2010 Favorites

As 2010 winds down, we bring you our selections for the best that the year had to offer. It was a great year for graphic novels and manga, and this list is a look at our favorites. Add your comments below to share your own personal favorites!

GRAPHIC NOVELS

by John Hogan

Acme Novelty Library #20
by Chris Ware
Drawn & Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770460201

The prolific and offbeat genius of Chris Ware once again comes to life in the story of an Omaha businessman. Wildly inventive and engaging, Ware's Acme Novelty Library series continues to get better and better.

...

OUR REVIEWERS' PICKS

Peter Gutierrez:

I think a lot of my favorites this year were shared by many—books like Smile, for example. So here are some titles that might not be as well known:

Eden
by Pablo Holmberg
Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770460089
At times almost too whimsical for their own good, the four-panel strips collected here can nonetheless be counted on to startle you with their combination of imagination and profundity.
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Pablo Holmberg

           Featured products

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20
Eden




Comic Book Resources lists WILSON, THE WRONG PLACE and ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 as top comics of 2010

Updated December 21, 2010


10 BEST COMICS OF 2010

First, a disclaimer: reprints and collected editions don't count, so "Casanova" doesn't make the list. It may be a fundamentally different comic, what with the colors changing the tone and the tone changing the meaning, but it still falls into the arbitrary pitfall of "something that came out during another year, and even though it is an amazing comic, it doesn't fit our needs for this kind of end-of-the-year-listing."

Still, "Casanova." It's very good, and if this were a reprints-and-new-stuff list, it would crack the Top 10, along with "Absolute All-Star Superman." I eagerly await the recolored "Casanova: Gula" and the newness of Volume 3.

If I were to name honorable mentions, and identify those comics that don't quite make the Top 10 of 2010 but deserve some attention, and if I were to list those comics because they are pretty great and I liked them a whole lot, the rankings of the not-quite-top would look something like this:

17. "Wilson," by Dan Clowes. Clowes is one of the Top 10 great graphic novelists of all time, with "Ice Haven." "Wilson" isn't up to that level, but it has misanthropic charm and Clowesian dark humor, and it isn't as simple as it first seems.

...

9. "The Wrong Place," by Brecht Evens. While so many of the best comics this year felt insular and hermetic, Evens watercolor graphic novel seems celebrative of the sprawling relationships that make up our world. It's an illusion, of course, even within its pages, as the characters double back on themselves and the apparent sprawl is at the service of a story about a small group of people in the end. But it feels loose and lively, and Evens doesn't spend time pondering the deep connective tissue between humans when he can show the relationships in action, through gossip on the train, at dinner parties, in the bedroom. The book might conclude with a promise for more, but it's a promise that leads outside of its pages, into the world around us.

"The Wrong Place" isn't a comic about characters inside a comic book. It's a comic that engages with something greater: the messy life we lead, both joyous and sad (but mostly joyous, if we can accept it).

...

7. "Acme Novelty Library" Volume 20, by Chris Ware. I don't know how much more of the tiny lettering my eyes can take, but the strain involved with literally reading this book is surely part of the experience. The story of Jordan Wellington Lint, from his moment of birth to his moment of death, is a story of suffering, but not in the manner of the Good Book's Job. Lint is no blighted figure of legend. No metaphor for the depths of faith or the capacity to withstand loss. Lint is merely a man trying to make his way through the world, following paths he shouldn't take, maybe because that's how he was raised, or maybe just because he followed a faulty instinct. Ware's diagrammatical storytelling seems to indicate answers, but it's never as simple as "his dad was this way, so he turned out that way," even if Lint himself may fall into that trap of misunderstanding. Ultimately, this is Chris Ware showing the life of one man – not everyman – and saying, "look." And we must.
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Brecht Evens
Daniel Clowes

           Featured products

The Wrong Place
Wilson
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  D+Q titles top the Daily Cross Hatch Best Comics of 2010 Chosen by the Artists

Updated December 21, 2010


The Best Damn Comics of 2010 Chosen by the Artists

This year-end list my be my favorite annual Cross Hatch feature, if only for the fairly consistent complaints I receive from a litany of prominent cartoonists, writers, publishers, journalists, museum curators, and other industry folks. It’s always the same thing: how dare I ask them to boil down a year’s worth of comics into a list of five books? Don’t I know that we’re in the middle of a sequential art renaissance?

Fair enough, but let’s be honest, given the sheer number of folks who respond to this list each year, five seems like a pretty good cap—it took me a few hours to piece this thing together, as it is.

The other reason I love compiling this list is the opportunity to spot trends amongst those surveyed—do any books seem to stand out as clear favorites? Last year that title belonged to David Mazzucchelli’s modern sequential masterpiece, Asterios Polyp. The year prior, it was a four-way tie with Bottomless Belly Button, What it Is, Swallow Me Whole, and Skyscrapers of the Midwest all nabbing high marks.

While I wouldn’t go so far as choosing a clear “winner” for 2010, Chris Ware really did sneak in last second with the latest issue of Acme Novelty, a book that has blown away nearly everyone who has cracked open its cloth cover, your humble blogger included.

As always, I encourage readers and artists alike to contribute their own lists to the comment section below. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Ellen Abramowitz (MoCCA)
1. Body World by Dash Shaw
2. Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware
3. Artichoke Tales by Megan Kelso
4. 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz
5. To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher by William Ayers

...

Box Brown (Everything Dies)
1. ACME Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware-I can’t be too hyperbolic when talking about this book. It should be standard reading for everyone alive. It’s perfect.
2. X’ed Out by Charles Burns-Charles Burns in color? My only problem with this book (series?) is that they need to come out at least twice a year and probably won’t.
3. Pterodactyl Hunters by Brendan Leach-Best “mini-comic” I read this year. Printed on newsprint, which fits with the theme of the story.
4. Lemon Styles by David King-I’ve read through this book a number of times each time I’m equally baffled and fascinated and occasionally I laugh!
5. Pictures for Sad Children-My favorite webcomic. John Campbell innovates where others stagnate.

Jeffrey Brown (Funny Misshapen Body)
1. Acme Novelty #20 by Chris Ware-The latest by the best.
2. h day by Renee French-Normally I’m not a big fan of wordless comics, or one panel a page comics, but this book actually warrants multiple readings, and manages to convey more story and emotion than many comics with lots of words and panels in them.
3. The Playwright by Eddie Campbell and Daren White-A funny and well thought out booked that wraps up neatly but not too neatly, brilliantly drawn by Campbell. The only reason I’m not putting the Alec collection in this spot is because… well, I don’t know why. I just didn’t.
4. Market Day by James Sturm-Sturm’s art is minimal and elegant, pacing a thoughtful story that’s sad, occasionally humorous, but all in all meaningful.
5. Inside Moebius Volume 6 by Moebius-The latest volume of Moebius’s stream-of-conscious semi-autobiographical surreal books. Absolutely beautiful, and unfortunately for me, in French. Why there isn’t more Moebius available in English, I don’t know.

...

Josh Frankel (Zip Comics)
1.Market Day by James Sturm-I once had a professor who told me that progress has a tendency to destroy people as well as create new opportunities. Market Day is such a beautiful example of that sad truth that affects us to this day. That alone warrants a position on my top five list plus James Sturm’s amazing art does not hurt either.
2.The Search For Smilin Ed by Kim Deitch-Kim Deitch consistently puts out some of the most interesting and well-drawn comics out there. The Search For Smilin Ed is one the weirdest Deitch books, with aliens, demon, and pygmies. It also captures Deitch’s interest in preserving the old culture of television perfectly. Top that off with Deitch’s classic cartoon on acid trip visuals and it is a winner of a book.
3. Acme Novelty Library 20 by Chris Ware-Ware has long shown the suffering of the outcast; while that has been amazing in it’s own way, the new Acme Novelty Library departs a bit. It shows the suffering of the charismatic and somewhat likable Jordan Lint, but that in reality he is as miserable as any of Ware’s usual cast
4.Wilson by Daniel Clowes-Wilson is about a near-sociopathic curmudgeon. While the story is interesting enough, the art is the best reason to pay the price of admission. Clowes changes art styles on every page; while this may seem like a gimmick he does it so masterfully it is actually a selling point.
5. Blindspot by Joseph Remnant-(Disclosure: Joseph is illustrating Harvey
Pekar’s Cleveland, which I am publishing) Blindspot is 30 pages of amazingly witty vignettes. My personal favorite being that of Ace Goddard, a washed-up rock star. Remnant’s art is reminiscent of R. Crumb in the best of ways and is much a reason to buy as the intelligent script.

...

Brian Heater (The Daily Cross Hatch)
1. Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware
2. Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg
3. The Search for Smilin’ Ed by Kim Deitch
4. Weathercraft by Jim Woodring
5. Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis

...
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Featured artists

James Sturm
Chris Ware
Vanessa Davis

           Featured products

Market Day
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20
Make Me A Woman




USA Today's Pop Candy recommends ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 and THE WRONG PLACE

Updated December 21, 2010


Comics recs: Chris Ware, 'Night Business' and more

I've been reading lots of good comics lately, and Thursdays are when I like to share 'em with the group. Here are some books that have moved me:

- Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware (Drawn & Quarterly, $23.95). The great thing about Ware's latest book is that it's a stand-alone story, which makes it a good entry point for anyone unfamiliar with his work. (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is still the best entry point, but at 380 pages, it's a little more daunting.) This installment takes readers through the life of one character: Jordan "Jason" Lint, an imperfect man in many regards, but one we get to know as an infant all the way through to old age. Though Ware is known for filling his pages with impeccably designed images and miniscule blocks of text, he still manages to slip in thick slices of pain and meaning that resonate long after the reading experience ends.
Because you like:Jimmy Corrigan, Wes Anderson movies, animations like this one

...

- The Wrong Place by Brecht Evens (Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95). If you're the type of person who likes to pick up graphic novels just for the art, you may want to invest in this one, which tells a story in sweeping watercolor. Evens is a Belgium-based artist and The Wrong Place marks his first English book. While it tells several stories, most of them focus on a fellow named Robbie -- he's the life of the party, yet he's so popular that no one can ever seem to find him. (Certain moments reminded me of those "Louie" sketches from The State.) When the conversational style isn't a pleasure -- and it almost always is -- I simply enjoyed just gazing at the pictures.
Because you like: partying and painting, of course
See a preview: Drawn & Quarterly has posted a PDF preview on its site.


....
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Brecht Evens

           Featured products

The Wrong Place
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  Pop Matters reviews ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated December 16, 2010


Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Chris Ware's 'Lint'

by Joshua O'Neill
Pop Matters
16 December 2010

The subject of LINT is Jordan Wellington Lint, a previously minor character in Chris Ware’s universe, last seen as a high school bully tormenting Rusty Brown back in Acme Novelty #16.

Lint is a person of little consequence—just a dude muddling his way through the complexities and disappointments and pleasures of the standard-issue human life: big dreams that fizzle and fade, replaced by smaller joys of work and family; lust, love, marriage, divorce; a successful career eventually marred by scandal and greed. Jordan is kind of a cretin—cocky, self-pitying, impulsive, mendacious—but it’s nothing of great note, and I can discern no real point that Ware is making about Lint’s personality. He’s just telling his story, with great compassion and care but an unflinching and pitiless eye, no rooting interest whatsoever.

There’s a wonderful tension between the towering ambition that Ware brings to this project and the smallness of the story it tells. There’s no high drama, no intrigue—everything is pitched at the level of the kitchen sink. But Ware gives every ounce of his dizzying talent to Lint’s little life, entirely breaking down the barriers between word and image, scene and sensation, trying his utmost to write the human experience from the inside out. His pages don’t read from left to right—they branch off in multiple directions, wrap back around, contradict themselves. They are obsessively detailed pictograms of the way the mind works: in associations, reflections, digressions, fixations. They aren’t scenes, they’re memories, and in one of the book’s most poignant scenes we realize that they are often wrong.

Frozen moments are the medium here. Between Jordan’s birth on the first page and his death on the last, Ware captures hundreds of snapshots in between. The book’s title, LINT, is almost too apropos—as time sweeps Jordan along we see the little fuzzy bits that cling to him: recollections, fading sensations, the ridiculous passions and meaningless instants gradually accumulating into a history, an identity held together, like all identities are, by nothing but spittle and memory.

A brand new driver’s license; a low-riding muscle car; an incandescent blaze of searing red light; “Stairway to Heaven” blaring from the AM/FM radio. These elements all dance and intermingle on the page, sweeping you inexorably forward with an emotional rather than narrative thrust. Ware treats comics like a hieroglyphic code, a language for unlocking some unspeakable truth. Every memory, every sensation is depicted here as minimally as possible, boiled down into its essence: all the momentum, every thrum of surging teenage fervor captured in one spread as the car barrels down the empty highway and a 16-year-old Jordan gets his first taste of feeling like a man.

Chris Ware is regularly criticized for being gloomy and morose, and this book is certainly a dark and a sad one. Ware doesn’t seem particularly fond of his protagonist, and yet he’s the most fully realized character he’s ever created. Jimmy Corrigan was a cipher. Rusty Brown is a parody. Jordan Lint is the genuine article: a frustrating, utterly ordinary human. He’s not a hero with a tragic flaw.

We don’t watch his downfall. He’s a guy who acts like a jerk half the time and we watch him win and lose money, lovers and friends, the stakes always relatively small. It’s a credit to Ware’s unremitting genius that such mundane material reads as impossibly vivid, alive and even thrilling. It takes a great insight and imagination to write neither kindness nor judgment, embracing the multitudes that even the most average person contains. The callous man who abandons his first family is the same little boy who hides in a closet and weeps over the death of an ant. In some sense these are formative and important experiences, but it often feels like they’re just the things he’s dragging behind him, barnacles clinging to his hull.

In Ware’s world life is just a bunch of stuff that happens, decisions made, consequences enjoyed or endured. Look for meaning and you’ll wind up frustrated—Jordan Lint’s life is a bunch of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It meanders around, leading only and inevitably to the grave. But the breadth of humanity between the sensitive child hoping for a pair of stilts for his birthday and the sex-obsessed narcissist who sabotages himself at every turn is stunning and flawlessly imagined. LINT may be empty of meaning, but it’s full of truth.
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




The Comics Journal reviews ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated December 16, 2010


LINT (ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #20)

Gutter Geek
The Comics Journal

It is funny but perhaps not surprising that after five years with guttergeek, we have not reviewed a single thing by Chris Ware. Not surprising in part because when we first started we had this whole hot-headed manifesto that suggested the seemingly sacriligeous proposition that not everything Ware did was necessarily or automatically “brilliant” or “art.” Well, it seemed a bold, sacriligious thing to say in 2005: after all, Yale University Press had just published the first academic press single-creator monograph devoted to a comics artist and Jimmy Corrigan was fast on track to rival Maus in the college classroom. Of course, the notion that Chris Ware was the comics genius of his generation was far from universal, and in the intervening years our friends at Hooded Utilitarian have offered some blistering salvos against that mystique while we have remains silent on the subject of Ware’s ongoing work after initially invoking his name in vain.
Of course, the other reason for the silence on the subject is that much of Ware’s work in the last five years remains in many ways incomplete. Even as Ware helped launch the new hardcover comic book fad that is sweeping the nation with his transformation of Acme Novelty Library from an irregular floppy to an irregular, pricey and often quite stunning hardbound volume, Acme largely remains as it always was a grab-bag: installments of longer serial works whose larger proportions are not yet visible and one-shot comics whose nature as one-shots won’t be fully visible until the longer works are collected in a Jimmy Corrigan-like volume. Making things even tougher for the would-be critic, since 2005 the number of venues in which Ware’s work has appeared–one-shots and serial installments alike–has grown considerably, making tracking down and reassembling the pieces of his increasingly interconnected narratives challenging if not maddening. For example, portions of the story of the protagonist of the latest edition of Acme Novelty Library, Jordan Lint, have appeared in The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith and in the Virginia Quarterly Review. Making life more complicated for the completist in us all, Lint’s story is part of (or a spin-off from) the larger ongoing narrative of Rusty Brown, whose stories have been told for more than a decade now in Acme, The New Yorker, and elsewhere.

Of course, frustrating completists is part of the point in a larger narrative that focuses on a compulsive collector of the pop culture ephemera of his youth. Lint, who Ware’s regular readers have come to know as the thuggish classmate of Rusty’s sister Alice in their Omaha school, is in many ways Rusty’s opposite, but no more likable (to put it mildly). And Lint’s story is different from what we might expect from Ware, as well. Told as a self-contained and uncharacteristically linear narrative, this is the life—from birth through death—of a “minor character,” the bully in Rusty’s megalomaniacal drama. Of course, in the end, as it turns out, Lint is a minor character in his own life as well, and that is both the tragedy and the comedy of this book, the portrait of a man who has responded with unquestioning obedience to every appetite and desire he has ever experienced while studiously erasing the consequences of his actions from his own memories. Whether it is a treasured memory of a day with his late mother which turns out to have been spent in truth with his long-suffering stepmother, or the completely eradicated memory of his brutal assault on his young son, or the crimes by which he defrauded his shareholders, this is a life of self-delusion and erasure. The reader is gulled early in the book into thinking that this person we knew only as the high school thug in Rusty Brown might actually have depths or at least scars that would make him more than he at first appears. By the end of the book we must face the fact first impressions are not always deceiving, and if anything Lint is actually less than we could have imagined.
Did I mention that, in addition to being bleak and at times emotionally jarring (especially when Ware breaks from his signature engineered style into a frenetic expressive style of Lint’s son as he recounts the day his father broke his collarbone) this book is also quite funny?Alright, the fact that I couldn’t get through the previous sentence without mentioning child abuse suggests that it is indeed a peculiar, queasy kind of humor. And it doesn’t really get better than that, does it? (Thank you. God!)
 
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Chris Ware

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  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 is Flavorwire's number one most buzzed about comic of 2010

Updated December 16, 2010


10 of the Year’s Most Buzzed About Comic Releases

by Caroline Stanley

When we saw Vulture’s post on the top 10 comics of 2010, we were surprised that many of our favorites didn’t make the cut. But obviously, a person’s taste in comic books can be extremely subjective. Forget the battle between DC and Marvel, some people only read graphic novels while others are devoted to manga. That’s why we thought it would be interesting to talk to Gabriel Fowler, owner of Desert Island in Williamsburg, about which new work created the most excitement among his regular customers this year. To be clear, this is not based on sales numbers, just the first 10 releases that came to his mind when we asked. And while you should consider the entire list required reading (or in certain cases, viewing) it’s in no particular order. Enjoy!

1. Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware

Gabriel Fowler says: “The latest and greatest work by one of the most important cartoonists working today. I’m already a fan of Chris Ware, who has done experimental comics for 25 years, but this most recent book is probably one of the most readable things that he has ever done. It’s innovative on all fronts — from the story and the lettering to the design and layout. In my world, this is a must-have book.”
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Chris Ware

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ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20 is one of the Village Voice's Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2010

Updated December 16, 2010


2010's Best Comics and Graphic Novels

An assassin for Christmas, or maybe some witchcraft and depraved subordia?

By R. C. Baker
Wednesday, Dec 15 2010

We’re sorry, but 2010 has been a dreary slog (Tea Party, anyone?), which is reflected in just about every graphic narrative that moved us this year. But we won’t let darkness visible obscure the intense artistry found in our picks of 2010’s best comics and other illustrated provocations.

...

No one, however, can transform the workaday into existentially bleak page-turners like Chris Ware. His tales of myopic relationships and enervated dreams shimmer with eloquent graphics, precisely tuned dialogue, and perfect-pitch body language. In Lint, Acme Novelty Library Vol. 20 (Drawn & Quarterly, 72 pp., $23.95), we see parents’ faces slowly come into focus through their baby’s eyes, watch the young Jordan Lint grow into an adult-scaled world, then follow his punctured ambitions and bumptious middle-aged affairs to the moment when everything contracts back down to that first dot of consciousness. Astonishing.
 
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Chris Ware

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Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  The Montreal Gazette lists ACME NOVELTY 20, PALOOKAVILLE 20 and MARKET DAY as top comics of 2010!

Updated December 14, 2010


Pictures help tell the story

Graphic novels and classic comics cover a wide range

By IAN MCGILLIS, The Gazette December 11, 2010

When it's done right, graphic literature combines the best qualities of books and film to produce a reading experience of unique immediacy. Here are some of 2010's best titles, suitable for adepts and newcomers alike.

Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth was the Citizen Kane of graphic novels, breaking new ground in form and content, and creating a legion of followers for whom the latest Ware instalment is a bona fide event. The Acme Novelty Library 20: Lint ( Drawn & Quarterly, 72 pages, $24.95) follows the life of the titular Jordan Wellington Lint of Omaha, Neb., from the womb to his last ride on a hospital gurney. Ware is a chronicler of unremarkable, even stunted lives. Lint's story offers little if anything in the way of conventional redemption; the uplift comes with Ware's implicit statement that no life, in the end, is unworthy of close attention. While Ware doesn't make it easy on the reader -lettering sometimes shrinks to sizes requiring a magnifying glass, and the sequence of the panels is at times intentionally unclear -the sense of being in the hands of a master, and of holding a book that's a thing of beauty in itself, never wavers.

Guelph-based Seth, recognizable even to non-comics followers through commissions ranging from New Yorker covers to Stuart McLean book jackets, now presents the sumptuously designed Palookaville 20 (Drawn & Quarterly, 88 pages, $20.95), the first hardcover instalment in his long-running series of works-in-progress and sketchbook fragments. Seth's aesthetic, in person as on the page, is that of a 1950s man chafing in a 21st-century context. He's a poet of the things we tend to pass without a second look: dying towns off the main highways, doomed small businesses, ungainly loners. He can invest more character and poignancy in a drawing of a gas station than most artists can in a human portrait.

Market Day, by James Sturm (Drawn & Quarterly, 96 pages, $23.95) tells the story of the rug weaver Mendleman, a proud young artisan and father-to-be who arrives in his local market one day to find that his longtime buyer is no longer there, replaced by someone with no appreciation of his work. Sturm renders the lost world of early 20th-century Eastern European Jewry with sombre-hued economy; as a writer, he unfolds his narrative with the deft, unforced momentum of an Isaac Bashevis Singer story. A story of this time and setting carries the unavoidable and awful knowledge of what came not long after; Sturm lets that knowledge stand as given and presents a moving tale of one man caught up in historical forces beyond his control. Market Day gets this reviewer's vote as graphic novel of the year.
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Seth
James Sturm
Chris Ware

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Market Day
Palookaville Volume 20
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New Haven Advocate loves D+Q's approach to print, reviews ACME 20, PALOOKAVILLE 20 and PICTURE THIS!

Updated December 9, 2010


Winter Books: Montreal-Based Drawn & Quarterly Creates Books As If They Really Matter — 'Palookaville,' 'The Acme Novelty Library' And 'The Near-Sighted Monkey Book'

By Alan Bisbor

Picture this!

'Palookaville.'

A three-word response to those who believe the printed book is dead: Drawn and Quarterly. The Montreal-based publisher Drawn and Quarterly, distributed in the U.S. by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, produces books so artfully designed and packaged that one begins admiring them even before opening the covers. Their titles feel more substantial in the hand than most contemporary books. They even smell different, giving off a nice tangy scent of thick, high-quality paper stock. Each seems like a unique hand-made object, having the heft and feel of small treasures. Show me a Kindle that can provide such beauty and tactile joy and I will concede your point about the printed book’s demise.

Palookaville
88 pages. Drawn & Quarterly. $19.99

For all that, Drawn & Quarterly books still contain, for the most part, cartoons. Take the recently published 20th volume of Seth’s Palookaville comic book title. Seth (real name Gregory Gallant) is responsible for the design of many of Drawn & Quarterly’s volumes, as well as for the design of the (ultimately) 25-volume set of the Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz for Fantagraphics Books. Seth is Drawn & Quarterly’s de facto house designer; others who do design work seem to follow the fonts, inking, style and high standards that he has established. So the release of the 20th volume of his Palookaville is an auspicious occasion. The cover features a cityscape in pink ink against a black backdrop, and the volume opens to regal-patterned endpapers. In his welcoming note, Seth explains why his former comic book — published in the pamphlet style familiar to all Spider-Man fans — is now a hardcover. His sense of loss over the comic book format is offset by new possibilities now open to him — exploited fully in this volume. In addition to the continuing saga of Palookaville — essentially, about a family business selling electric fans — Seth is able to include photographs, excerpts from his scrapbooks and sketch books, portraits, interviews and whatever flotsam catches his fancy. Palookaville might be with us for another 20 volumes, which is a good thing.

The Acme Novelty Library
108 pages. $27.50

Simultaneous with Seth’s red-letter volume, Drawn & Quarterly has published the 20th volume of The Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware, best known for his Jimmy Corrigan saga. Like Seth, Ware publishes work regularly in The New Yorker and the New York Times. His latest installment takes us into the life of Jordan Lint, a tormented loser like his previous protagonists Jimmy Corrigan and Rusty Brown. It is as handsome as any volume in the Acme series, swaddled in Ware’s antiquarian touches, from the Victorian wallpaper-like cover to the wistful scenes of Midwestern homes, muted browns, blues and greys. Within these forms, however, Ware weaves a jarringly sordid plot, relying heavily on adolescent sexual angst. Even while one admires Ware’s genius for deconstructing and then meticulously reinventing comic art formats, his stories are unsettling. You get the impression, in fact, that he is a deeply disturbed individual who is playing out his paralyzed Portnoy-like inner dramas in his “novelty library.” He makes Seth’s wistful melancholy seem uplifting.

Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book
176 pages. $29.95

Finally, and the greatest cause for celebration, is the release of Lynda Barry’s second coffee-table-sized primer on the creative process, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book. While offering quirky tips on unleashing your inner Picasso, Barry is really all about bringing joy into your life. Picture This — and even more so its predecessor, What It Is — is not just a how-to guide for making art, but nothing less than a how-to guide for living. Insights abound like haiku as she poses questions that force us to confront our fears (“What makes us start drawing? What makes us stop?”). Though perhaps a companion volume to What It Is, Picture This does not scale the same artistic heights as its predecessor. Nonetheless, it’s a far more coherent “how to” guide. The one thing the two volumes have in common is that you need both equally. Yes, need. Barry’s books meet needs, some of which you did not know you had until you picked them up. If that is not the mark of a true masterwork and potential classic, I don’t know, uh, what it is.
 
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Seth
Chris Ware
Lynda Barry

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Picture This
Palookaville Volume 20
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  The North Adams Transcript reviews ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated December 9, 2010


Investigating the dark side of families

By John E. Mitchell
12/03/2010

Friday December 3, 2010
North Adams Transcript

Books
Acme Novelty Library 20:
Lint by Chris Ware
(Drawn and Quarterly)

Even after the graphic novel explosion that has seen intellectually and creatively rich comics released by major publishers and embraced by lofty publications like The New Yorker, few creators have come close to surpassing one of the pioneers in exploring the art of the form and using it to tell a story beyond any narrative.

Creator Chris Ware has blazed a trail by making books that are entirely his own unmatched vision. With "Acme Novelty Library 20: Lint," he reveals the level to which comics compete with film and may actually be capable of filling in for the venerable old European art film styles that are now part of a bygone era.

Part of his continuing Rusty Brown narrative, "Lint" doesn’t so much chronicle the life of Jordan -- or Jason, as he prefers -- Lint, as it does let it happen in front of the reader.

Abandoned as a child by his mother and raised by a hostile father who seems to hold a grudge against his son, Lint spends his early years as a messed-up loser for whom all roads lead to disaster and meager expectations from the world around him. Like so many, Jordan the younger might not be superficially recognizable in the face -- or even lifestyle -- of Jordan the elder, but there is a ghost of a ne’er do well inside that haunts him, and sometimes seems to take control.
Ware
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tells this story through a series of episodes in which only part of the information is revealed but all of the impact.

Whereas many comics flit between grid-style storytelling and free-form paneling, Ware’s page layout reflects the levels by which he measures reality. Large panels are broken into smaller ones piled on top of each other as the narrative flows, sometimes disintegrating further, to the point that the details are lost in the tiny frame.

Other times smaller panels surround larger ones. His panel progression can be entirely instinctual, reflecting more than 100 years of comics-reading training in our culture. It can switch suddenly to a more alien structure that begs the reader to decipher the order, even as it presents visually the jumbled recollection of time that so many of us have.
The way Ware makes use of sequencing, layout and minimalist dialogue, and mixes them into sequences that are better described as visual poetry than dream sequences, bring to mind filmmakers from Peter Greenaway to Charles Taylor. Both of those filmmakers understand that the tools of their medium are really part of a coded grammar that can extend beyond the narrative to relate so many things words could never touch. Ware embraces this pursuit better than any comics creator alive today and, in doing so, reveals himself as one of our most potent artists and storytellers.
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Publishers Weekly reviews ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated December 2, 2010


Acme Novelty Library #20: Lint
Chris Ware, Drawn and Quarterly, $23.95 (72p) ISBN 978-1-77046-020-1

In previous books Ware has diagrammed intergenerational relationships and dissected the events of a single day. This stunningly realized issue of Ware's Acme Novelty Library--both the latest chapter of his in-progress Rusty Brown graphic novel, and a self-contained narrative--chronicles the entire life of Jordan Wellington Lint, who ages one year for nearly each of this book's 72 pages. Ware's project is not to objectively chart the course of a life, but to investigate the development of subjective consciousness. Lint, a secondary character in earlier chapters of Rusty Brown, takes center stage, from his origins as a blastocyte until the moment of his death. Just as cells conglomerate to form an organism, Lint's early perceptions cluster to form associations that echo throughout. Similarly, Lint has constructed a self-narrative that allows him to remain the hero of his own story until he is periodically undermined by the invasions of reality. In the book's extraordinary climax, Lint himself is confronted by the subjective experiences of another who regards Lint as the monster in a different story. As the book's final moment clarifies, our struggle for self-definition is the converse of our need to connect with others. (Nov.)
 
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  MTV Geek's Eddie Wright is changed by ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated November 30, 2010


REVIEW: The ACME Novelty Library Volume 20

by Eddie Wright
MTV Geek

To put it simply, Chris Ware's The ACME Novelty Library Volume 20, leveled me. As I finished its final page and closed the beautifully bound cover, I had a lingering, buzzing pain in my chest. A pain that felt like guilt, regret, loss, love, emotion. Everything that Ware's main character, Jordan "Jason" Wellington Lint, felt as his journey ended. The impact of the images, the complexity buried within each word, the layout of the pages, and the raw human intensity of the story affected me deeply.

The ACME Novelty Library Volume 20 is part of Ware's epic graphic novel experiment, "Rusty Brown". Jordan Lint was the school bully in previous volumes of Ware's examination of the life of a geek named Rusty Brown. But, as we learn in Volume 20, Lint is not a simple thug or a goon. There are reasons for his behavior, as there are reasons for everything humans do. Some kids are the geeks and some are the bullies.

The ACME Novelty Library Volume 20, is not an easy, nor a happy tale. Though it isn't necessarily unhappy, or dark or nihilistic either. It's the tale of a single man's life, told through a series of gloriously illustrated snapshots that feel as if we're peeking into Lint's own memories and perhaps, Ware's subconscious thoughts.

The story can at times feel chaotic as panels overlap and collide into a melange of images and text. But isn't that how it feels sometimes? Every second of every day, a thousand thoughts fire away and fight for our attention or distract us. We make the right choices and the wrong choices. We let fears overcome us or we neglect our instincts to create new, dangerous paths for ourselves. Lint is a man like any other man. He makes choices that frustrate and choices that ruin. But he's a man, and I believe that's what Ware's intentions are for this story. We're looking at a life, from birth to death. A life like a million others. A life that might feel empty, but yet a life that's been lived.

The story begins as Lint begins. We see a series of dots as his first visions are formed during his birth. We then follow him, year to year as he grows. We see him begin to understand words, first seeing gibberish text, then words like "Momma" "Dad" "Car" "Tree" "Ball" and "Jordan" as they are attached to their real-world counterparts. We see Jordan's thought processes form as he learns about violence, fear and death. We see his first experiences with hate. His first experiences with sex. His first experiences with drugs, music, love, marriage, childbirth, separation, work, money, corruption, and eventually his own mortality.

Lint is not excessively neurotic nor excessively dysfunctional. He's not excessive or extraordinary in any way. But that's exactly why this book works. When we really boil it down, none of us are excessively anything. We're all just trying to live, to breathe, to love, and to do what's right, even when it amounts to wrong.

You are this book.

Whether you're Lint, his wives, his children, or simply, a human being trying to live one day to the next, The ACME Novelty Library Volume 20 will dig into you and speak to that part that may not have the ability to speak for itself. I'm thankful for artists like Chris Ware, who have the courage to seek and display those parts of themselves, so we can see them in ourselves.

This comic is chaotic, disorganized, deeply layered and deceptively simple. It's an important work and should be read and read widely.

I highly recommend it.
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Chris Ware

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Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #20 and PICTURE THIS on Quimby's Weekly Top 10

Updated November 25, 2010


New Stuff This Week
Weekly Top 10

November 23, 2010

1. Roctober #48 $4.00 – The world’s best music magazine from the folks behind the world’s best cable-access show. A million zillion pages, b&w with tons of pictures and loads of comics.

2. Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills by R. Briggs (Microcosm) $7.00

3. Gaylord Phoenix #5 by Edie Fake $4.00 – New issue from our very own Edie. Don’t miss his event here at Quimby’s to celebrate the release of his Gaylord Phoenix book published by Secret Acres here at Quimby’s on Dec 9th!

4. X’ed Out by Charles Burns (Pantheon) $19.95 – Ever wonder what would happen if Charles Burns took over drawing TinTin? Today’s your lucky day, punk. You like eggs, don’t you?

5. Acme Novelty Library #20 Lint by Chris Ware (D&Q) $23.95 – The most recent addition of Chris Ware’s running issues. Interpret issues how you want.

6. Picture This by Lynda Barry (D&Q) $29.95 – Although I doubt this book needs any introduction, I’ll go ahead and quack a little about Lynda Barry’s exciting follow up to What It Is. These books are sort of a portable pair of life-coaches on the means and meaning in personal artistic process. Where Scott McCloud tries to crack open all the formal and technical elements of comics-making step-by-step in his “Understanding Comics” series, Lynda Barry is using rather sub-conscious processes to burrow deep into the intuitive realms of how and why content is created. It’s a pretty amorphous thing to get a handle on and Barry’s collaged approach reflects the subtleties of the fog while still assembling a book on “how to draw”. Picture This allows her to dig into the core of creating without being didactic or judgemental, writing the secret missing chapter to every “How to Draw Comics” book ever published. -EF

7. Wowee Zonk #3 (Koyama Press) $8.00 – Yo! It’s so good: Michael DeForge, Jan Avendano, Andrei Georgescu, Zach Worton, Ginette Lapalme, Selena Wong, Chris Simonen, Chris Kuzma, Dan Rocca, Patrick Kyle…And everyone really pulled out their A-game here, not a single bad apple in this whole round-up. Insanely beautiful cover art too – what planet are those colors from? -EF

8. Possum and the Pepper Spray by Pete Hodapp $4.00

9. Grime Time #3 $8.00

10. Believer #76 Nov Dec 10 Art Issue $10.00
 
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Chris Ware
Lynda Barry

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Picture This
Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  The Onion A.V. Club reviews ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #20 and PALOOKAVILLE #20

Updated November 23, 2010


November 19, 2010

By Zack Handlen, Jason Heller, Noel Murray, Leonard Pierce, Oliver Sava, And Christian Williams

Thematically, Acme Novelty Library #20 (Drawn And Quarterly) offers little that readers haven’t seen from Chris Ware before. This is the latest chapter in Ware’s serialized “Rusty Brown” graphic novel, about a sad little kid growing up in Omaha and the sad little people who drift in and out of his life. Acme #20 specifically tells the story of Jordan Wellington Lint, who appeared in Acme #16 and #17 as a cocky high-school stoner who bullies Rusty. Now Ware surveys Lint’s entire life, from birth to death—1958 to 2023—and considers how and why he became such an asshole. All the usual Ware hallmarks are evident: childhood trauma, the loss of a parent, mixed messages about race and morality, an almost crippling preoccupation with sex, an inability to forge lasting relationships, and an old house that keeps calling the protagonist back like a homing signal. But while Ware continues to work in shades of blue (emotionally speaking, that is), he’s become far more daring and varied in his storytelling. The last Acme followed Rusty’s father, a failed science-fiction writer, and included a lengthy story-within-the-story set on Mars; #20 spans 65 years and includes scenes set in churches, recording studios, football stadiums, frat houses, and mini-mansions. Formally, Ware’s work over the past few years—and especially in #20—has been as complex and playful as the early Acme strips and short stories that made him an alt-comics sensation in the mid-’90s. Here, Ware comes up with inventive depictions of how a baby Lint sees the world, how old man Lint feels during a doctor’s appointment, and how one of Lint’s sons writes about his jerk of a father in a bestselling memoir. The fragmented, time-skipping narrative can be hard to follow at times, but it fits together better when reread and when taken as a part of the “Rusty Brown” whole. What separates this work-in-progress from Jimmy Corrigan is that Ware seems to be working more intuitively, inserting rhyming images and structural parallels from chapter to chapter without overemphasizing their meaning. He’s showing how easily a shift in focus creates a shift in perception. In Rusty’s story, Jordan Lint is just a villain. In Jordan’s story, it’s not so simple… A-

...

For the new issue of Palookaville, Canadian cartoonist Seth abandons the pamphlet format—perhaps permanently—in favor of a hardcover anthology containing the latest installment of his graphic novel Clyde Fans, some samples from his sketchbooks and commercial art jobs, a lengthy photo essay about an elaborate model city he built in his basement, and a melancholy autobiographical strip about a trip to a Calgary book festival. The new format suits Seth; for much of the past decade, he’s been remarkably productive, but the work has been coming out in disconnected pieces, and hasn’t always been easy to find. (With a story as slow-paced and moody as Clyde Fans, waiting sometimes up to a year for another oblique piece of an unfinished puzzle had become less than rewarding.) That said, the material in Palookaville #20 (Drawn And Quarterly) isn’t Seth’s strongest. The Clyde Fans chapter is powerful, detailing the 1975 closing of a machine plant, with Seth using images of the plant’s significance in its community as a kind of Greek chorus in order to explicate the tragedy. But the chapter will undoubtedly be even more resonant when it appears in the finished novel, and the remaining pieces in the book—though engaging enough—feel too much like padding. (And in the case of the “I hate my life” autobiographical story, too much like whining, with little of the self-deprecating wit that Seth is capable of.) Given that Seth has had some real triumphs in recent years with mini-projects like Wimbledon Green, it’s disappointing that he doesn’t deliver a book that’s front-to-back essential. Still, as a first step to a new conception of Palookaville, this 20th volume shows lots of potential… B
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Seth
Chris Ware

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Douglas Wolk reviews the "raw" PICTURE THIS and "cooked" ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY 20

Updated November 10, 2010


Comics Raw and Cooked
Essay by Douglas Wolk

One way of thinking about drawing style in comics is to reduce it to a single axis: the continuum of styles between "raw" drawing and "cooked" drawing. Those terms are borrowed from Robert Lowell, who, in turn, borrowed them from anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss and used them in 1960 to describe two competing schools of American poetry. In comics, it's not a competition—art-comics are a little too collegial for that. But it's easy to reframe Lowell's ideas to describe what cartoonists do. Raw drawing is (or presents itself as) the barely mediated expression of the artist's impulses: it eschews rules and straight-edges, it flows directly out of the brush, it bubbles over with life. Cooked drawing originates in the conscious mind: it's precise and rigorous, with a firm distinction between "correct" and "incorrect" execution, and it's best suited to carefully planned narratives. Raw vs. cooked isn't a useful way to classify most cartoonists; most of them work somewhere between those two poles, and a lot of them change their position on the line from moment to moment. But the Canadian art-comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly has just published a pair of remarkable books that perch near opposite ends of that spectrum.

Lynda Barry, the creator of the weekly strip "Ernie Pook's Comeek," is about as invested in raw drawing—as a practitioner and advocate—as it's possible to be. Her new book Picture This is a companion piece to her earlier What It Is, which was a sort of illustrated version of her famous "Writing the Unthinkable" workshops; that one was a bunch of images and doodles and personal stories surrounding a set of writing exercises, and this one is a similar framework for drawing exercises. For Barry, though, they're very similar processes; they're all about putting a pen or brush down on paper and moving it until something comes out. Drawing, she claims, is "not something that you are good or bad at. It's something else. You move your hand and you scribble all you want and it feels very good."

As you might guess from that description, Picture This isn't particularly structured, and it's very scribbly. Its interior is in the form of four quarterly issues of an imaginary magazine, and its focus is whatever Lynda Barry feels like drawing that day. (Which means, of course, that it's gorgeous; part of why drawing feels so good to her has to be that funny pictures and wonderful shapes appear where her brush meets the paper.) There are questions meant to spur readers into making marks of their own ("Why do we stop drawing? Why do we start?"); there are panels and strips about Marlys, the pigtailed protagonist of "Ernie Pook's Comeek"; there are pasted-in words and phrases from old magazines and school papers; there are a bunch of images of a character that Barry calls the Near-Sighted Monkey. (Barry's pleasure in drawing it, a kind of ultra-stylized self-portrait, is palpable.) Most of all, there are decorations: hand-scalloped borders, circles and blocks and leaf shapes, flowers and curlicues.

Barry jokes that "if you use coloring books past the age of ten, you will wreck your imagination forever"; then she provides a bunch of shapes to trace and color and cut out, as well as a diagram to make "a chicken in winter." Is it possible to make the leap from thinking about tracing and cutting out a chicken shape to actually doing it? Not easily: Barry notes over and over that children are willing to take the risk of making pictures in a way that most adults aren't, but maybe the reason for that is that some adults—like her—have a gift for it, and others don't. And the suggestion that raw self-expression is not just a universal right but a universal delight is a little disingenuous coming from someone who's so good at it.

Way over on the other side of the stylistic scale is Chris Ware, whose artwork is cooked to the point of falling off the bone: perfectly geometrical shapes, micro-calibrated line weight, flawlessly composed images that strip everything down to iconic simplicity. The Acme Novelty Library 20 is the official title of his new book (the creator is identified only as "F. C. Ware" in the book itself), and it's the twentieth in a series that he's been publishing since 1993 (first as individual stapled comics, more recently as hardcover books). The only word that appears on its front cover, though, is "LINT": this is the life story of one Jordan "Jason" Wellington Lint, from birth to death. It's apparently a chapter of Ware's work-in-progress "Rusty Brown," but it's also a standalone volume, formally complete in itself.

Jordan Lint, like most of Ware's protagonists, is a genuinely pathetic person, although of a different ilk than the nebbishy Jimmy Corrigan or geeky Rusty Brown. Lint's world is one of privilege and instant gratification: he obeys every impulse he has, no matter who it hurts. That, of course, means that he's a moral failure every step of the way. Acme 20 runs through the crucial moments of his life as he experiences their importance—and they're not necessarily the moments that are most important to other people, as we find when off-panel events surge up from his past.

Ware, a master formalist, has actually worked up a new set of storytelling tools for this particular volume. Lint's world is dominated by language, and oversized words (that stick out in his experience) are graphic elements on almost every page. So are arrays of tiny dots, another kind of lint. At the beginning of the book, a set of Ben-Day dots form the face of baby Jordan as his consciousness coalesces and he speaks his first "mama." And at the end, as elderly Jordan is dying, his world disintegrates into dots again, as he thinks "am I... am... am..." Which, of course, bleeds through the back cover to appear, in almost imperceptible white type, as "ma... ma...."

All this precision pays off emotionally. There's a phenomenal page where we see that teenage Lint has gotten into a car accident—which we later understand has killed his friend in the passenger seat—while getting high behind the wheel. Every single graphic element on the page is significant: the huge red stop sign has been foreshadowed on the previous page (and echoes a series of little red bursts throughout the book); the spatter of dots representing the moment of impact recapitulate Jordan's birth-of-consciousness image (and are echoed in miniature by the glow of his one-hitter); the "dude" and "whoah" that erupt into the page's white space are his verbal memories of the incident; the images of Jordan lifting his head out of his hands in the hospital waiting room are as tiny as it's physically possible to get away with.

Near the end of the book, there's a section where we briefly move away from Lint's perspective and see a crucial scene from the point of view of his son. All of a sudden, the artwork isn't in Ware's standard style any more, shifting to an all-red palette as it assumes a scraggly, deliberately awkward technique partly borrowed from the super-raw cartoonist Gary Panter for five pages. It's a visual shock, it looks like nothing Ware has ever drawn before, and it drives home one of the story's points—that Lint's carefully conditioned perception of his life is entirely his own, because he's utterly oblivious to the devastation he's caused. It's also not exactly Ware being "self-expressive"—there's nothing unpremeditated about it—but he proves his mastery of his "cooked" style by simulating rawness.

For all its relentless darkness, Acme 20 is at heart a satire. There's a brutally funny gag imagining what a big-box media store will look like a decade or so from now, for instance. And the artist saves some of his choicest barbs for himself, and the limits of the mastery to which he has aspired. On the inside front cover, there's a complicated diagram that's this book's closest thing to an "about the author" paragraph: a schematic illustration of Ware, at his drawing board, producing this volume of The Acme Novelty Library, a labor that he puts in the context of his entire life-span, the amount of time it takes someone to read it—and the size of the entire Milky Way galaxy.
 
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Acme Novelty Library Volume 20




  CHRIS WARE on book design in GQ

Updated August 31, 2010


How to Judge a Book By Its Cover:
Indie comic hero Chris Ware on the excellent art of book covers

by Chris Ware

In my twelve-year-old world, Penguin books represented the promise of a really bad time.

I remember one in particular: a spring break (my first, I think, to register as such) with plans of bike rides, sleepovers, and running around outside all smacked down by a thick slab of orange slapped onto our desks—A Tale of Two Cities, to have been read upon the class's recommencement. I won't detail the Sunday night choking-down of Dickensian this-and-that that transpired before Monday morning homeroom, but the sight of yet more Penguin orange in my ensuing academic years only compounded the sour association. (Those who have seen the British documentary film 49 Up may recall the scene of the stuffy prep school subject proudly seated before his trophy wall of orange-spined Penguin books—it always gets a knowing laugh.) My aversion continued until my college years, when, suddenly and without warning, many of the Penguin spines were changed to a soothing sea foam green, and in the coolest of cases, a somber black. It was like Tums for a literary digestion still tender from its unvarying childhood diet: a simple decision by a veritable editorial genius brought Tolstoy, Flaubert, and Maugham out of the purgatory of pop-quiz acid reflux and back into my life. The lesson is simple: books, like people, aren't all the same.

As a graphic novelist, I fell into book design out of necessity, just as I fell into typography and printmaking. As a technical requirement of the style I'd chosen to tell my stories, I learned the work piecemeal, and probably poorly. Thus, the design-savvy reader should be aware: I probably have little idea what I'm talking about. It seems to me a book design should be inevitable—a book demands its own shape just as an oak sprouts from an acorn and a pine from a cone. A book is a body in which a story lives and breathes, and, like a body, it has a spine, is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, and it isn't going to go on many dates unless it can hold up its end of the conversation. If it does find its way into our life, a book can also be a companion, and sometimes a life-changing one. Concomitantly, the book cover has evolved from a simple protective wrapper into something of a contemporary striptease between author and reader, both as a means of drawing attention to and selling the book, or amplifying and even extending the book itself into the reader's mind and fingertips.

As far as real book designers go, I've only met a few, but they strike me as thoughtful, well turned-out, and desperately cutthroat people. What surprises me the most is how shamelessly art directors rip each other off; a clever cover will sometimes be imitated as quickly as two or three months after originally appearing. Book designers, you should know, have to be ready to create something new, exciting, and original almost every day in order to eat, and a certain degree of burnout smokes out the weaker specimens; I can't imagine coming up with cover after cover without at some point resorting to an out-of-breath take, intentional or not, on someone else's great idea. This urge toward ever-freshness brings the profession perilously close to that of fashion, and the worst examples of such greet us at the grocery store checkout among the tabloids, gum, and ring pops. But the best of it, those that last, have recently been appearing from Penguin (yes, Penguin, not just the bearer of boring spring break assignments anymore!), following a path led by designer Paul Buckley into beautiful new ways of graphically proffering the written word.

Leafing through this collection of designs, it should be clear that whatever the focus groups say about book buyers and how they are daily dropping like flies, designers, despite their frailty, sure are a sophisticated lot. Where once typography and illustration used to collaborate to spoil a narrative moment before a book was even opened, type and pictures now operate independently, hinting at a disposition, a feeling, or a slippery state of mind harmonious with, or at odds with, a book's title (or the expectations that title might suggest.)

Such an ineffable approach to design is much more in line with the higher aims of literature than it ever has been, and the methods are just as varied: a thousand-word-picture's worth of associations activate the flatly abutting images of Paul Buckley's covers for Don DeLillo, yet Greg Mollica's typographical palimpsests for Paul Auster disclose that author's penchant for narrative play in a world of letters. What I don't get, and I doubt the lay reader will either, is that even within all of the strikingly different and varied covers presented here lie branches and twigs of directions that seem perfectly good but were snipped or pruned in favor of more presentable (or saleable) shapes. Ron Currie's Everything Matters! is an especially dispiriting case of literally a dozen ideas being unaccountably ditched, the reader made privy to the ruthless rendering a book cover sometimes suffers.

But isn't a book, especially a work of fiction, ideally a work of art? As the reader peruses the anecdotes that detail each cover's creation, he or she should pay special attention to the degree to which each author's involvement and opinion shapes the final result. I personally find the relationship fascinating, having been on both ends of it, and being squarely in the camp that whatever the author wants, he or she should have. It doesn't always work out this way, however, and sometimes sensibly; authors are not always "visual people," but they might have an insight into a book's core that a designer might not. Some authors, of course, don't care at all and happily relinquish the reins. (I should add here that John Updike, whose knowledge of printing and typesetting informed his profession, claimed he could not begin writing a book until he first imagined its spine.)

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WARE and BARRY participate in discussion panel

Updated November 9, 2009



 
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Lynda Barry

          



  Chris Ware in The Architects Journal

Updated August 12, 2009


Top 10 comic book cities: #2 Chris Ware’s Chicago

From Radiant City to Mega City One, the Architects’ Journal presents a selection of the greatest illustrated urban spaces

Chris Ware’s Chicago

Chris Ware is the most accomplished comic book illustrator and cartoonist working today. Perhaps ever. For this reason alone his work, published as the Acme Novelty Library by Fantagraphics Books, is worth checking out. However Ware is also fascinated by architecture - and actually uses buildings and sections through them - as a narrative structuring device.

Ware is nostalgic for the late 19th and early 20th century: he thinks all forms of design were more accomplished then, more carefully crafted - just better. Consequently all his art is hand-drawn hand-coloured in astonishing detail.

Many stories are set in Chicago and its suburbs. In Jimmy Corrigan: the smartest kid on Earth, Ware depicts the skyscrapers of Louis Sullivan and roadside diners in the outlying districts with equal care - each panel, a Patrick Caulfield. (After Ware, Julian Opie seems pointless). Ware’s skill in arranging panels on a page mesmerise: time, and the rate at which it passes, is endlessly played with.

In Building Stories, first published in the New York Times as a series of 25 one-page strips, a building becomes the framework for a story to unfold, with rooms and elevations used as comic panels. ‘Reading’ these works is demanding: the rewards, however, are great.

If Ware has an analogue in the architectural profession its Peter Zumthor. One phrase unites them: ‘no compromise’.
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Chris Ware interviewed by The Chicago Tribune

Updated June 1, 2009


Chris Ware: A peek inside his art and soul
Graphic novelist to appear at Printers Row Lit Fest

By Christopher Borrelli | Tribune reporter
May 30, 2009

There is humility.

Then there is humility as practiced by artist Chris Ware. He is a Mt. Rushmore-size monument to self-doubt and deflation. "Annoying," "self-conscious," "overwrought," "over thought," "constipated" -- the Oak Park cartoonist is rarely at a loss for briars of self-laceration aimed at his work, and even at his own humility. Which is a bit hard to reconcile with the work itself -- so original and praised that Ware, routinely hailed as a genius, won an American Book Award in 2000 and landed in the Whitney Biennial in 2002.

"Inexplicably," he said.

On June 6, at the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, Ware will have a public discussion with one of his heroes, cartoonist Lynda Barry -- an opportune time to reconnect with him and his work. Next year is the 10th anniversary of his masterwork, "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," which remains one of a few comics (including Art Spiegelman's "Maus") with the staying power of great literature. It has been a quiet decade since -- he has done covers for The New Yorker and a few disparate projects and collections but had no "Corrigan"-size triumphs. Until now: Ware is finishing a pair of graphic novels, one based on his work for The New York Times Magazine. He chatted with the Tribune via e-mail this week. Here is an edited sample of comments he sent. Like his work, his replies were dense, dizzying, thoughtful and unfailingly self-deprecating.


These pages are from "Jimmy Corrigan," which began as a series of deeply melancholy strips in Newcity Chicago. Asked if his outlook has changed much since those days, he replied:

"I juxtaposed the cramped story of an emotionally paralyzed person with pages of [hopefully] beautiful compositions and color. But over the past years, as I've written more stories about people who are confident -- or at least not completely afraid of life -- this approach hasn't been as fitting. I think having a daughter has changed me more than anything. Not only did I not realize it was possible to love someone so much, it's taken me outside of myself -- a process of maturation which was long overdue."

On the complexity of his comics: "Comics are more an art of reading [rather] than looking. My use of naturalistic color and dead, simple drawing is an attempt to re-create, more or less, the left/right-brain process of conception and perception directly on the page. I believe that the development of language -- of naming, categorization, conceptualization -- destroys our ability to see as we age. As children, as we learn what things are, we are slowly learning to dismiss them visually. As adults, entirely submerged in words and concepts, we spend almost all of our time thinking and worrying about the past and the future, hardly ever looking at or engaging with the world visually. ... By their density, I try to make my pages reflect the texture of the natural and psychological world. But I'm certainly not trying to test anyone's patience."

On compassionate work versus depressing work:

"I am frequently accused of just trying to bum people out. This, of course, is not my aim at all. I'm only trying to get at moments when I've felt life itself extending and overwhelming me in all directions at once. Compassion has always been my aim, and that's not an easy thing to figure out in a medium that's custom-built for joke-telling. But I won't lie and say that in my youth I didn't wake up nearly every day with an unaccountable feeling of fear and dread -- I don't think it's the writer's aim to lie about happiness or to present the world in a way that's facile."

n influences: "By the time I got to college, I genuinely wanted to make what I thought of as an adult comic. It was 'Maus' that cemented that impulse for me. Before that, I read 'Peanuts,' superhero comics -- graduating into the underground comics of Robert Crumb and Kim Deitch and Gilbert Shelton when I became enamored of the 1960s for a time in high school. I don't think it's possible to overstate the importance of Crumb to any aspiring cartoonist. We all go through a 'Crumb period.' The work of Daniel Clowes led me toward a more considered way of working, in keeping with the disposition of fiction. I wanted to make comics that get at feelings that connect to the deepest moments of our lives, reading Tolstoy, Flaubert, Flannery O'Connor, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov and Carver to help gain the confidence to figure it out. I knew, however, the most doomed approach would be to simply create stories that felt 'literary.' I discovered I could even use the non-reputation of comics as a means of disarming readers, allowing a more intimate and honest reading experience."

On his years at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

"I was told that representative imagery was illustrative, anything that appealed to one's emotions was sentimental and that if artwork didn't make a point, then it wasn't valid. So I was already imbued with a fair amount of self-consciousness by the time I left in 1993. For decades, the imagery of comics had become a sort of visual shorthand for the banality of American culture, and to think of it being an expressive language was simply too much for the art establishment of that time to accept. It's funny how weak-willed I seem in retrospect, and how conservative many of my instructors were about the language of comics. That said, I had some truly wonderful teachers who didn't follow the party line."

Chris Ware will be appearing at the Printers Row Lit Fest at 3:15 p.m. June 6 on Center Stage.

 
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  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19 reviewed by Seth for the Globe and Mail

Updated February 27, 2009


28 notables
share their favourite books of the year
December 20, 2008
SETH
GLOBE AND MAIL

It's Chris Ware's The Acme Novelty Library, number 19 (Acme Novelty Library). Though this small oblong hardcover is in fact a periodical of sorts, and does contain a serialized segment of a much longer work in progress, do not allow these facts to prevent you from purchasing it. The story within its covers is entirely self-contained and fully satisfying as a complete work. If the number 19 were not displayed on the spine you would have no idea whatsoever that this is but a small section in a grand work to come. And a remarkable work it is.

The "graphic novel" is broken into two parts. In one half we observe William "Woody" Brown, a failed science-fiction writer/high school English teacher as he reflects back on a disastrous first love that has shaped (or perhaps misshaped) his entire adult life. In the other half of the story, we read Woody's first science fiction novella, The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars. The two halves mirror each other and produce a work of remarkable complexity and emotional impact. A work about time and memory and how the past never really vanishes and how we are shaped by hurt. Ware also pulls off a very difficult stunt: He lets us know that Woody has written a excellent and well received science fiction story and then he has the bravado to produce that story for us to read - and yes, it is terrific.

As with all of Ware's works, the book is exquisite in its design, its drawing and its production. The real genius is in the storytelling techniques Ware uses - breaking every action down to its smallest gesture - revealing the subtle power of the comics medium in the hands of a master cartoonist. This is, hands down, the best "comic book" you will read this year. I think it might simply be the best book, period.


Seth is a Toronto-based cartoonist. His new book, George Sprott: 1874 - 1975, will be published in the spring.
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ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19 reviewed by The LA Times

Updated February 27, 2009


Acme Novelty Library 19
Geoff Boucher
Dec 1 2008
LOS ANGELES TIMES

...Mediocrity most excellent: The latest issue of Chris Ware's always fascinating series "The Acme Novelty Library" (from publisher Drawn & Quarterly) has reviewer Richard Gehr marveling at its loopy worlds of heartbreak: "Bleak, yet brilliant. The party line on Chris Ware's ongoing Rusty Brown graphic novel is in no danger of wavering with its latest installment ... the Chicago cartoonist's operating trope this time around is low-brow -- even no-brow -- science fiction. Following some typically self-abnegating boilerplate ('The contents of this volume ... should not be interpreted as an artistic response to recent criticisms and/or reviews of this periodical'), the book opens with 'The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars.' Attributed to one W. K. Brown (one F. C. Ware holds the copyright on the 'Library' itself), the 33-page faux-SF story demonstrates yet again Ware's genius for mimicking the mediocre, exquisitely. A study in blues, oranges, and browns, Brown's 'Seeing Eye Dogs' recounts a romance gone savagely wrong during a mission to colonize Mars." [Village Voice]

 
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  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19 reviewed by Angela Caperton

Updated February 27, 2009


Existential Graphic Science Fiction
The Acme Novelty Library
Number 19
November 28, 2009
Angela Caperton


Angela and I both like comics.

From super-heroes to Carl Barks’ ducks, I have a keen appreciation of classic comic art in all its forms. While I don’t read a lot of current titles, there are a few that I especially look forward to – anything by Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, Ed Brubaker’s innovative storytelling, and Jason Lutes’ amazing Berlin. But one comic is a true treasure when it shows up – never more than once or twice a year.

There really isn’t anything comparable to the Acme Novelty Library.

Chris Ware has been gracing us with the Library for over 15 years now and the 19th “issue” was released just a couple of weeks ago, a trim little hardcover volume that is one of the best in years. One never knows what a number of the library will look like – some issues have been comic book sized while others have been smaller or gigantic, near tabloid size. The production and packaging is always meticulously detailed and artistic.

Judged merely as design pieces, the Library is impressive, but Ware’s art and writing are equally masterful. His drawings are often tiny but beautifully rendered in the style of early 20th Century cartoonists, with a modern touch, and his stories are elaborate, dark internal landscapes of pathos and little triumphs of the human spirit, tinged with just enough surrealism to keep them from being mundane.

Issue 19 tells the latest chapter in the life of middle aged schoolteacher Rusty Brown, a character who has appeared in a gradually shifting state in Ware’s universe for many years. Originally introduced in a series of strips that poked loving (if brutal) fun at grown-up toy collectors, Brown has evolved into a fully realized person, continually trying to come to grips with the indifference of the world and his continuing sense of wonder that usually fails to provide any protection against the slings and arrows of life.

The first half of 19 is a science fiction story, told in a kind of retro, vaguely Braburyian style. In the story of a tragic attempt to colonize Mars, we follow the narrator through his training and into the dangerous tedium of space, one of four humans and three dogs sent to the Red Planet in a polite terraforming scheme that goes terribly awry, with episodes of unspeakable violence and horror and, ultimately a metaphor for loneliness that may define the human condition.

The art of Ware’s tale is in the telling, the detail that captures and satirizes the culture of late 50s America, much as a sensitive piece of sci-fi from the era might have, but skewed.

Mdway through the book, we learn that the comic we have been reading, “The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars,” is actually Rusty Brown’s imagining of an award winning science fiction story by his father, a failed journalist and unsuccessful author who has left behind a body of work for his son’s appraisal. Through Rusty’s eyes, we see his father’s life, love, and hope unfold as a projection from the story, sad and wistful through the filter of a son who shares the same fatal belief that life should be better than it is.

Darkly funny, heartrending in places, and astonishing in its layers of feeling and meaning, Ware’s narrative is visual poetry.

In a world that was as good as it should be, he would win the National Book Award.
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ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19 reviewed by Warren Peace

Updated December 10, 2008


Acme Novelty Library: The annual mind-blowing reaches to multiple planets
Acme Novelty Library #19
By Chris Ware
WARREN PEACE
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 2008


I find it hard to talk about Chris Ware's comics, since I feel intimidated by the talent on display; I don't feel like I'm able to verbalize what it is that he does so well, and any arguments I might make would seem weak and poorly-justified. But never let it be said that I back down from a challenge; here's a sort of stream-of-consciousness look at the latest chapter in the ongoing "Rusty Brown" opus:

The opening section of this story is a fascinating science fiction story about life on Mars. For somebody who seems to disdain genre entertainment (unless that attitude is limited to superheroes, due to their dominance of the comics medium), Ware has put together an excellent bit of sci-fi. Or maybe it's just a good delivery mechanism for a bit of dark psychological exploration. Whatever the case, it's a perfectly-paced bit of revelation, full of mundane details about life on another planet and the loneliness that results from complete isolation from the rest of the human race. The protagonist and narrator of the tale is one of two couples sent to colonize Mars, and when things don't go perfectly, he starts to lose his grip on reality, turning into a murderous maniac. But since he's the one telling the story, this isn't apparent from the start; it's a slow, subtle reveal, and Ware captures the transition perfectly. At first, his actions seem fairly reasonable given the circumstances, but we gradually see how far gone he is as his actions become nastier and more obsessive. It's harrowing stuff, only exacerbated by the tone almost unvarying dryness of the narration, focused on the mundanity of life. And Ware nails the details, from the simple aspects of daily life to the goofy, not-exactly-realistic 50s-era science, to the awful actions of his character. It's a totally believable story, at least from a character standpoint. And the art works perfectly to relate the story, conveying those little details in the small panels that Ware does so well and regularly opening up to reveal the emptiness of the Martian landscape:

And then, we get the reveal the this has all been a story called "The Seeing-Eye Dogs of Mars", written by Rusty Brown's father. He's doing some reminiscing, looking back at the magazines and anthologies that published his stories, and this leads us to the real meat of the volume, as he flashes back to his post-collegiate youth and his first love. But if you expected this to be a happy tale of youthful romance, you don't know Chris Ware. Yep, Woody (as he was nicknamed at that time, after brand name of his electric typewriter) is a typical Ware character, barely able to muster the courage to speak in public, full of twisted emotions and crippling neuroses. But he does manage to score with a secretary at the newspaper where he works writing obituaries, mostly because she decides to deflower him on a lark. And of course, he falls deeply in love, even though it's completely obvious that she is not serious about him in the slightest. Cue lots of scenes of Woody obsessing over her, planning to get married and live happily ever after, even though she will barely give him the time of day. Except for when she shows up to screw him again. It's painful to watch, but while Woody is plenty pathetic, Ware doesn't make him a hateful, simpering doofus; instead, he humanizes him, to the point that we feel sorry for him and maybe even empathize with his plight. Maybe it's the wonder and confusion he seems to feel at first-time sexual intimacy, narrating lines like "It was weird...she'd always seemed so feminine before...but now she was weighty, solid...hairy...I mean, did all women look like this?" While he doesn't seem like a well-rounded individual, he has realistic emotions and reactions to his experiences, and we can see how they affected his entire life. In fact, we even get a flashback within this flashback to his childhood, in one sequence that sees him take drastic action to confess his love to her, he races up the stairs to her apartment and thinks back on everything that got him to that point, everything that he wants to tell her. As is probably obvious, she rejects him, and he spirals into a pit of despair, getting even more pathetic, masturbating to the smell of a science fiction magazine of his that she once touched. And just when he seems to be getting over her and doing some writing of his own, she shows up again, starting the cycle all over. It kicks off a horrible cycle that Ware illustrates by cramming a page full of about as many tiny (about one square centimeter) panels as he can, as if he's zooming out from what had previously been a close-up on the details of Woody's life and taking the long view as everything continues to fall apart. Just when everything is at its worst, he gets "rescued" by the woman who he ends up marrying, and we see that he settles for a life with her, forever pining for the woman he loved who didn't really love him back.

It's a bleak portrait (which really isn't too much a surprise with Ware), but a fascinating, compelling one, due to the masterful presentation. Ware knows all the right moments to show, how to vary the size of the panels and how to convey the perfect (repressed) emotions through seemingly simple character art. It's beautiful, and amazing to watch as it plays out. And while the entire book is narrated, either by the protagonist of the sci-fi story or by Woody himself, so much more is visible in the artistic details. We see how various elements in Woody's life integrate themselves into his story, from the blind dog he had as a boy to the color of his characters' wife's hair (the text states that it is red, like Woody's wife's, but the images show it as brown, like his lover's). And one detail that I liked is that Chalky White's sister, who Woody seemed to be obsessed with in previous volumes, is not a virginal beauty that awakens new life in him, a la American Beauty, but simply reminds him of his lost love, right down to her similar disdain for science fiction.

There are plenty of other nice artistic techniques as well, including a recurring "fuzzy" image that is the result of Woody breaking his glasses:

And that tendency to place large panels on the page to cause a sort of pause that demonstrates the character's loneliness continues in the main story, showing Woody as lost in the newsroom where he works as his protagonist is on Mars:

Ware keeps this sort of rhythm going for most of the book, with a large panel taking up about one fourth of the space on each page, to the point that it becomes noticeable whenever he eliminates it, usually to speed up the narrative during especially quick-moving sections. It's such assured work that these choices don't even seem to be choices; they're just the natural flow of the story.

It's amazing, all around. As a chapter in the "Rusty Brown" serial, it does a great job of filling in the background of one of the characters, but it works so well as a stand-alone story that it doesn't need any other material to prop it up. I can't wait to see how it will factor into the rest of Rusty's story; will he make the same mistakes his dad did? Having seen some glimpses of Rusty's future in the big Acme Novelty Library book from a few years ago, the outlook is not positive. But I'll still be there to watch as Ware breaks hearts and blows minds.
 
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Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Library #19




  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19 reviewed by Vice

Updated November 28, 2008


LITERARY - 9 NEW COMICS THAT ARE GOOD
Nick Gazin
November 2008
VICE

Our November "No Photos" Issue comes out this weekend, and is filled with tons and tons of drawrers and the different drawrings they draw. To get your peepers ready for this graphic onslaught, here are a bunch of a recent comics we think you should buy.

Acme Novelty Library #19
by Chris Ware
Pubished by Acme Novelty Library
Chris Ware has been thoroughly coopted by the New Yorker boredom mill at this point, but he's still got the best illustrative chops of anybody living besides Crumb. Like everything else he's ever done, the new Acme Novelty is about depressed chubby people who are lonely. If you've been trying to kill yourself but need a little boost-up I recommend reading this and then taking in an early-evening screening of Synecdoche.
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Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Library #19




ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #19 reviewed by Onion AV Club

Updated November 28, 2008


Comics Panel: November 7, 2008
Reviewed by Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Tasha Robinson
November 10th, 2008
ONION AV

After going nearly two years without publishing a new chapter of his epic graphic novel Rusty Brown, Chris Ware returns with an installment that represents the cartoonist at his most and least inspired. Acme Novelty Library #19 (Drawn & Quarterly) opens strong, with an illustrated rendition of a science-fiction short story written by the protagonist's father, Woody, about an ill-fated attempt to colonize Mars. While the art in the SF section stays squarely in Ware-ville, with tiny figures isolated in boxy frames, the writing falls somewhere between classic pulp fiction and the shaky unreliability of a Dan Clowes narrator. The result is a story that begins in hope and ends in horror, like one of Ware's "Rocket Sam" cartoons rendered as something more substantive than a sick joke. The rest of Acme #19 follows Woody Brown from the start of his career writing obits for an Omaha newspaper to his settling down as a monumentally depressed middle-school teacher with a geeky son of his own, and focuses mainly on Woody's first, deeply pathetic sexual relationship. The Woody Brown story is artfully rendered and emotionally painful, but it's well-trod ground for Ware, and lacks both the scope of Rusty Brown's first few installments and the originality of this issue's SF interlude. On the whole though, Rusty Brown is still proceeding nicely. Slowly, but nicely…B+
 
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Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Library #19




  BURMA, ACME 19, RED COLORED ELEGY and JAMILTI reviewed by Georgia Straight

Updated November 26, 2008


Seven graphic novels to draw you in
By Amanda Growe and John Lucas
October 16, 2008
GEORGIA STRAIGHT

Burma Chronicles
(By Guy Delisle. Drawn & Quarterly, 263 pp, $19.95)
Guy Delisle's books play to our fascination with unusual parts of the world. His latest, Burma Chronicles, comes after journeys to Pyongyang and Shenzhen (detailed in graphic novels named after these cities). Here, he and baby Louis follow his wife, Nadège, who works for Médecins Sans Frontières, to Burma. The art is playful and cartoony, lending humour to the numerous episodes that make up the book. While it captures aspects of life in Burma from the political to the pedestrian, at times reading the book feels like being subjected to someone's vacation photos in which they, rather than the place they visited, are the star.
> Amanda Growe

The ACME novelty library #19
(By Chris Ware. The Acme Novelty Library, 80 pp, $15.95)
The latest installment of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library collects Rusty Brown strips first published in the Chicago Reader between 2002 and '04. Rusty himself doesn't appear, however, as this volume focuses on his father, William "Woody" Brown, and the girl who stomped on his heart-and indirectly launched his career as a science-fiction author-in strait-laced 1950s Omaha, Nebraska. As usual, Ware's drawing is deceptively simple yet painfully precise, which in this case underscores the horn-rimmed innocence of his socially stunted protagonist and the transgressive nature of his first sexual relationship. Lightening the tone just a shade, Ware's tributes to 1950s pulp-magazine covers are as fun as the strips' story line is emotionally devastating.
> JL

Red Colored Elegy
(By Seiichi Hayashi. Drawn & Quarterly, 235 pp, $24.95)
Though you never find out what's red in Red Colored Elegy, it's safe to assume the book is an elegy for main characters Sachiko and Ichiro's tortured relationship. It's the '70s, and the two are living together despite the fact that Sachiko's family wants her to have an arranged marriage. As they struggle to strike a balance between getting by and working at what they love, they alternate between affection and contempt. Their biggest conflict, however, is over whether they are a couple. While the story sometimes falters, the drawings-which often evoke the clean lines of Inuit art-make this translation of an influential comic from the '70s worth your while.
> AG

Jamilti and Other Stories
(By Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, 174 pp, $19.95)
This collection of early short works by Rutu Modan, creator of last year's acclaimed graphic novel Exit Wounds, showcases the Israeli artist's ability to tell a compelling story in just a few pages. It also chronicles the development of her drawing, from the muted tones and stylized figures of "The King of the Lillies" to the deceptively straightforward cartoon realism of "Your Number One Fan", for which Modan adopted the ligne claire style pioneered by The Adventures of Tintin's Hergé. Of the seven stories here, "Jamilti" is the most affecting. Through its depiction of a fleeting encounter between a Tel Aviv nurse and a Hamas suicide bomber, Modan reveals something about the absurdity of war and the power of human connection.
> JL
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Guy Delisle
Seiichi Hayashi

           Featured products

Red Colored Elegy
ACME Novelty Library #19
Burma Chronicles




THE ACME NOVELTY DATE BOOK, v.2 reviewed by Booklist

Updated June 10, 2008


The Acme Novelty Date Book, v.2: 1995-2002
By Flagg, Gordon
15 March 2008
Booklist 39 Volume 104; Issue 14; ISSN: 00067385

The Acme Novelty Date Book, v.2: 19952002. By Chris Ware. 2007. 208p. illus. Drawn & Quarterly, $39.95 (9781897299180). 741.5.

Alternative-comics artist Ware reveals the impressive technical skills and thought processes behind his acclaimed graphic novels in a second collection of his sketchbook pages. The handsomely designed volume gathers hundreds of portraits, watercolors, unfinished comics pages, and other artwork. Life drawings with detailed shading display a radically different style from the simple line-work of Jimmy Corrigan (2000), Ware's chef d'oeuvre (thus far), while still lifes and cityscapes show the mechanical precision of his comic strips. Cruel self-portraits and strips entitled "I Am Filled with Despair" and "Yesterday Was a Terrible Day" suggest that the harsh worldview of Ware's graphic novels is more than a literary device for him. -Gordon Flagg
 

Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



  ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #18 reviewed by Booklist

Updated May 15, 2008


The Acme Novelty Library #18
Flagg, Gordon
15 March 2008
Booklist

Interrupting the ongoing saga of pathetic man-child Rusty Brown, subject of the previous two Acme Novelty Library volumes, Ware essays a gentler, bordering-on-sentimental tale about a lonely young woman with a prosthetic leg. In exhaustive, excruciating detail, Ware recounts her painful early adulthood: her sole love affair, which ended badly; her unfulfilling stint as a nanny; her failed attempts at becoming an artist or writer; her current dead-end job as a florist. Self-reflective to a fault, the nameless protagonist relates her story and reveals her character through extensive first-person voice-over narration, making this the most text-heavy of Ware's works. Even if the prose does most of the heavy lifting, Ware's characteristic graphic approachicy-clear drawings, meticulous compositions, and geometrically varied panels-conjures the hard-edged atmosphere offsetting the story's potential mawkishness. Applying the formal rigor of the landmark Jimmy Corrigan (2000) to a more naturalistic narrative, Ware creates a sympathetic heroine who, despite the slim book's somewhat daunting denseness, may appeal to more readers than the off-puttingly doltish Jimmy and Rusty.

Featured artist

Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Library #18




ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY #18 reviewed by Pop Matters

Updated February 7, 2008


Acme Novelty Library 18
POP MATTERS
December 10, 2008

Like all of Ware’s work, Acme Novelty Library no. 18, part of his ongoing “Building Stories” series, is about missed opportunities, the regretful remembrance of things past, and the agony and loneliness of growing up to find that you have somehow failed to successfully mature. As usual, these penitent recollections are told through Ware’s epic, blueprint-like diagrams. With the minute, technical craft of his art, Ware is able to scientifically poeticize the flow of thought with an almost-Proustian sensibility and, at his best, is able to capture the most sentimentally sloppy of moments and emotions with the most precise, categorical of means. The opening pages of Acme Novelty Library reveal a complicated labyrinth of nighttime thoughts, wherein the nameless protagonist contemplates the possibility of her own death. Each morbid prospect is visually linked to the next, only to be finally returned to where it began, creating an endless chain of circling thought. Ware counterbalances the epic grandeur of these diagrams with an elegant, understated cursive, at times imbuing the seemingly far-removed work with a delicate intimacy.

Ware’s comics are always enticing to read, primarily because they are so richly colored and delicately crafted. Sweeping, full-page drawings like the aforementioned combine the best motional qualities of film with the diagrammatic qualities of architecture and illustration. Ware is particularly talented at sustaining a set format for several pages, using a key motif to show transition and growth within the story. In one section, for example, various photographic family portraits lie in the center of the pages, presenting the official, external version of the events that surround them. As the surrounding events become more depressing and dysfunctional, the portraits point to the gap between experience and official representation. As always, the subtle changes recorded by these narrative experiments are used to further a sense of loss and agony.
 
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Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Library #18




  ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK: VOL. 2 reviewed by The First Post

Updated January 31, 2008


Setting out his Wares
Mario Bassett
THE FIRST POST
January 29, 2008

While the 18th issue of Chris Ware's acclaimed ACME Novelty Library (out now) is further proof that the man's complex and daring draughtsmanship remains practically unrivalled in comics, the second volume of Ware's personal sketchbooks, The ACME Novelty Datebook Vol 2, allows for a more intimate peek in to his determinedly miserable mindset. Comprising 201 pages covering the period 1995-2002 (during which he finally achieved mainstream acclaim with Jimmy Corrigan in 2000), the book teems with renditions of average Americans and ragtime musicians, old buildings, amusing autobiographical comic strips, jacket designs and other (mostly self-excoriating) ephemera. Ironically, his art style here - so different from ACME's dazzling-if-cold structures - possesses a clear tenderness and (whisper it) genuine affection.
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK: VOL. 2, JAMES STURM'S AMERICA reviewed by Metro Boston News

Updated December 21, 2007


Picture pages
Last-minute gifts for the comic-book nerd in your life
ROUNDUP. No gift says, “I’m going to make broad assumptions about how you enjoy spending your time,” quite like a book. If you’re going to go there, why not give the gift of a graphic novel? It’s like a book, but with pictures. Everybody loves pictures.

For the artsy-fartsy giftee:
‘The Acme Novelty Datebook, Vol. 2,’ Chris Ware
(Drawn & Quarterly, $40)
Chris Ware is the most celebrated artiste among contemporary cartoonists. (That’s what happens when you guest edit an issue of McSweeney’s and become the first cartoonist ever to have his work serialized in the New York Times.) The “Datebook” series gathers selections from his sketchbooks, giving an absolutely miserable (and lovely) portrait of what life drawing pictures for a living is like.

For the giftee who missed it the first time:
‘James Sturm’s America: God, Gold and Golems,’ James Sturm
(Drawn & Quarterly, $25)
Before he became the grand high muckity-muck at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, Sturm authored “The Golem’s Mighty Swing,” a gorgeous book about a barnstorming, all-Jewish baseball team set in the 1920s. This new volume also includes two of the artist’s earlier cracks at historical-fiction comics, the graphic novellas “Hundreds of Feet Before Daylight” and “The Revival.”

 
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Featured artists

James Sturm
Chris Ware

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James Sturm's America: God, Gold, and Golems




  ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK: VOL. 2 reviewed by the Comics Reporter

Updated December 6, 2007


December 5, 2007
CR Review: The ACME Novelty Datebook 1995-2002
Creator: Chris Ware
COMICS REPORTER


I reserve the right to write a longer piece later on, where I might try to string together what it all means or even (although I can't fathom it) to confess the shudder and heave of a major disappointment. For now I wanted to pen a brief review of the second volume of The ACME Novelty Datebook, covering the years 1995-2002, in the course of my reading of it, because I feel like I've been punched in the face I'm enjoying it that much. Ware's sketchbook materials offers up studies, notes, sketches, little paintings, and even rough cartoons. Many of them are hilarious -- I expect a lot of reviewers will republish the Mary Marvel gag -- and nearly all of them offer up some insight about or nugget from the cartoonist's life. I think I would pay half of the $40 for the China travelogue on pages 166-167 all by itself. Back when I participated in The Comics Journal's Top 100 comics of the 20th Century, I was initially perplexed by Gary Groth's insistence that we include Crumb's sketchbooks. I see that wisdom now. While Ware's work may not quite hit those heights, this modest book that some may see as a luxury item to be bought or ignored as some sort of supplement to the cartoonist's more lauded, straight-forward comics publications may end up being one of the best comics reads and one of the most enjoyable books about comics for a quality calendar year, all under the same -- and lovely -- cover. This is the book that is going with me on holiday, and I can't think of another comics-related work with which I could do that.
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Datebook: Volume Two, 1995-2002




LA Times spotlights Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions

Updated May 1, 2007


Cover me
By Richard Rayner
April 29, 2007
LA TIMES

In 1935, the British publisher Allen Lane visited Agatha Christie in the country and was miffed to discover, while waiting for the train back to London, that there was no decent book to buy at the railway station store. Shortly thereafter, he came up with his own remedy, a new imprint called Penguin, which began publishing paperbacks in the summer of 1935. Within a year, 3 million units had been shipped and a legendary brand had been created.

Book lovers tend to get a little nutty about their Penguins, wistfully eyeing the orange-spined editions of "Pride and Prejudice" and "Moby Dick" they read in college, or coveting the fiendishly tough-to-find Philip K. Dicks in the Penguin "black" SF series.

"We think about it all the time. We talk about it all the time," says Elda Rotor, executive editor of Penguin Classics in New York. "We know what we have here. The question is: How do you keep that going?"

Lane's original formula, of quality books at attractive prices, never goes out of date, although his means of brand identification — make all the books look the same — has long since ceased to work in the marketplace. So what's a publisher to do? For Penguin, one solution was to develop Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions, a new line of reissues that includes Jack Kerouac's "The Dharma Bums," Shirley Jackson's "We Have Always Lived in the Castle," and Hans Christian Andersen's "Fairy Tales." Printed on uncoated paper with ragged edges, and featuring introductions by writers like Haruki Murakami, Doris Lessing, Jonathan Lethem, Luc Sante and Eric Schlosser, these are classics the way they ought to be.

Perhaps most striking are the books' covers, which have been done by leading contemporary graphic artists such as Joe Sacco ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"), Roz Chast (Stella Gibbons' "Cold Comfort Farm") and Japanese cartooning legend Yoshiro Tatsumi (Jay Rubin's new translation of Ryunosuke Akutagawa's "Rashomon"). Chester Brown's superb continuity strips for "Lady Chatterley's Lover" make liberal use of a certain four-letter word, pushing the envelope much as Penguin did in the early 1960s, when the British government brought suit to prevent the publication of D.H. Lawrence's rediscovered masterpiece. "We're reaching out to a generation that's more visual," Rotor says. "And hopefully we're saying that these books will matter to you and are modern."

Comics, of course, are an art of compression. But when it comes to cover illustration, that compression has to evoke the larger world of the book. In his design for Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity's Rainbow," Frank Miller — yes, that Frank Miller, creator of "Sin City" and "The 300" — frames an upended V-2 rocket knifing downward through a speckled and blackened bomb crater. Once seen, never forgotten. Likewise, Charles Burns' jacket for Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel "The Jungle" features the flayed head of a cow, its single eye looking very much alive and reproachful. These images sock and shock you.

Other jackets offer a denser and more verbal experience. Chris Ware's work for "Candide" is so typically elliptical that you can spend nearly as much time with it as with the novel. For a new and substantially expanded edition of "The Portable Dorothy Parker," the Canadian artist Seth created an illustrated table of contents, then used the inside back flap of the jacket for a funny and tender continuity life. Seth uses low-key art-deco colors, ruby-red and green, to hint at the classic Parker period of the Algonquin Round Table and the early days of the New Yorker. Bits of Parker's poetry are sprinkled throughout the design.

Most often the artists are selected by Penguin art director Paul Buckley, but occasionally authors chose for themselves. Thomas Pynchon said, grandly: "Sure, I'll put 'Gravity's Rainbow' in your series — but you have to get Frank Miller." Amazingly, they did. A second case proved simpler: Paul Auster and Art Spiegelman are friends. Spiegelman's art for Auster's "New York Trilogy" shows a deep and easy familiarity with Manhattan, with the pulp fiction from which this contemporary existential masterpiece emerged and with Auster himself — an ink portrait on the back flap shows a lean and youthful Auster, fountain pen in hand, one eye blanked out by a magnifying glass. Spiegelman weaves this motif throughout, rendering a score of lost eyes staring from the background of the cover. It's a haunting conceit, emerging from the work while concentrating its meaning.

"I truly want the artists to go for it," Buckley says, although sometimes this manifests itself in unexpected ways. Take Daniel Clowes, creator of "Ghost World," who accepted the commission to do Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" just a few months before undergoing open-heart surgery. "I thought the work would resonate," says Clowes. "I began by reading the book very carefully and then waiting around to see which scenes stuck with me most. There were so many I could hardly choose. The descriptions of the creature are so specific — black hair and lips, yellow skin stretched taut over muscles etc. — that I was surprised at how unlike this any of the famous pop-culture versions are."

On the inside flap of the book — which comes out in the fall — Clowes re-creates the famous moment when, by the shores of Lake Leman, Byron, Shelley and Mary Shelley discussed the gothic horror stories they were going to write. Here, Clowes portrays the clueless Mary almost like one of the anxious, dweeby teenagers from his own strips, tweaking the very notion of "Frankenstein" and reviving the story for our wised-up, information-sated age. The effect, through different means of artistic sleight of hand, is repeated again and again throughout the series. Like those original Penguins of 70 years ago, these books will serve as capsules of time, memory and design.

Richard Rayner is the author of several books, most recently the novel "The Devil's Wind." Paperback Writers will appear monthly.
 
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Featured artists

Seth
Chris Ware
Yoshihiro Tatsumi

          



  ICV2.com spotlights Drawn and Quarterly

Updated April 24, 2007


D&Q Announces Fall Releases
ICV2.com
April 20, 2007


ACME Novelty Library #18
Drawn and Quarterly has announced its fall releases, which include the next installment of Chris Ware's award winning series, ACME Novelty Library #18 and ACME Novelty Datebook: Volume Two (1995-99), both in November. Other offerings include Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine in September, and 365 Days: A Diary by Julie Doucet and the second volume collecting Tove Jansson's Moomin, both in October.

ACME Novelty Library #18 collects pages set in Chicago in about 2000 and comes in an uncharacteristically conventional vertical trim (7" x 9-1/4"). The book is 96 full-color pages and lists for $17.95. Ware's ACME Novelty Datebook: Volume Two is a follow-up to the Datebook produced in 2003 and continues in the same manner, collecting miscellaneous watercolor, pen, ink (and white out) images circa 1995-1999. The Datebook is 208 pages, hardcover and sells for $39.95

Shortcomings first appeared in Tomine's Optic Nerve series. It follows Ben Tanaka through his struggles as a Japanese-American Gen X-er. Shortcomings is B&W, 104 pages and lists for $19.95.


Moomin Book Two
365 Days is a diary presented in Julie Doucet's unique style. It's B&W, 360 pages and sells for $29.95 MSRP.

The first volume collecting Tove Jansson's Moomin strips was just nominated for an Eisner Award (see "Eisner Nominations Announced"), and Book Two contains four new story lines for the hippo-esque star. Moomin Book Two is 88 B&W pages and has a $19.95 cover price.
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Featured artists

Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware
Tove Jansson

          



ACME Novelty Library #17 featured in Plan B

Updated March 16, 2007



 
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

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ACME Novelty Library #17




  Chris Ware on Charles Burns in VQR

Updated February 9, 2007


Charles Burns' One Eye is excerpted in the Winter 2007 Virginia Quarterly Review (Vol. 83, No. 1) along with a glowing intro from Chris Ware.

"[Burns’ images] show a remarkably colorful range of feeling and a curious compositional acumen... [The] 'internal perspectives' that they suggest... are refreshingly approachable and unassuming. I find it amazing that although they originated simply as an exercise, they ended up both uncertainly poetic and certainly lucid, with a visual clarity that is characteristically Charles’ own." -Chris Ware
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Chris Ware
Charles Burns

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One Eye




Round-Up in the Calgary Herald

Updated December 21, 2006


Books & The Arts
Graphic Fiction: Adult comic books are storming the literary world -- here's a roundup of the best of the season

Nancy Tousley
Calgary Herald
17 December 2006
C1 / Front

As few as three years ago, graphic novels were found in the Humour sections of mainstream bookstores, if they made it through the door at all. Many didn't. They looked too suspiciously like the much maligned comic book.

Now there is really no reason to keep apologizing for graphic fiction. These special books, which tell their stories with words and pictures, a.k.a. cartooning, are now being prominently displayed under their own category, with sales in North American adding up to more than $250 million a year, and climbing.

They are being published by mainstream and university presses as well as by alternative presses and self-publishers. They are being anthologized and the Best American Series has added comics to a list that includes short stories, nature and science writing, and sportswriting. The New York Times has even added a graphic fiction feature called The Funny Pages, currently running a story by the Canadian cartoonist Seth, to its trend-setting Sunday magazine. And this year, a graphic novel achieved a first by being selected as a finalist for a National Book Award in the United States.

Be warned, though. If you are after plain old comic books, don't look here. Not everything is novel length, it's true, but whatever the length don't buy graphic fiction for the kids before reading it first, unless its the chunky second volume of Hank Ketchum's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1953-54 (Fantagraphics Books, 653 pages, $29.95) or The Complete Peanuts 1961 to 1962 by Charles M. Schultz (Fantagraphics Books, 314 pages, $35.95). Some graphic fiction might contain nudity, profane language and violence, as the TV disclaimer says, or tackle issues way over the kids' heads.

Most of the graphic fiction in this roundup is in the literary vein. For readers unfamiliar with the genre, anthologies are a good place to whet your appetite. From inside the comics world come the scrumptiously printed Drawn & Quarterly's Showcase No. 4, a select menu of three new artists (Gabrielle Bell, Martin Cendreda and Dan Zettwoch), and Big Fat Little Lit, edited by Art Spiegelman (Maus) and Francoise Mouly, a banquet spread from Jules Feiffer and Maurice Sendak to Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns. And Big Fat Little Lit is intended for young readers.

Two new hardcover anthologies from hitherto unlikely publishers of graphic novels are The Best American Comics 2006, edited by Harvey Pekar and Elizabeth Moore (Thomas Allen, 336 pages, $29.95), and An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & True Stories, edited by Ivan Brunetti (Yale University Press, 400 pages, $31.74). Pekar and Brunetti, both cartoonists, have edited very handsome books that include masters of the form and relative newcomers.

There are overlaps in the cartoonists, of course: Lynda Barry, R. Crumb, Ben Katchor and Chris Ware are included in both books. I'd give the beautifully produced Yale anthology the edge for its broader scope.

Its mix includes venerated American elders such as George Herriman (Krazy Kat), Frank King (Gasoline Alley) and Schultz (Peanuts), and Canadians Marc Bell, Chester Brown, David Collier, Julie Doucet and Seth -- artists on the cutting edge of the form.

Canada's distinctive contributions to cartooning get a new history all their own in the cleverly designed Invaders From the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe by John Bell (Dundurn, 192 pages, $40). And high time, too. Most Canadians are clueless that Superman, Prince Valiant, Cerebus the Aardvark and Spawn were all created by Canadians. Bell, a senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada, aims to introduce us to our own popular culture.

Canadian cartooning started in earnest back in 1849. Bell follows it to the present, through the Dawn of the Comic Book (1929-1940), the Golden Age of Canadian comics (1941-1946), the Comix Rebellion (1967-1974), Alternative Visions (1975-1988), and new developments since 1989.

Among the latter is Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly, 272 pages, $17,95) released in paperback this year. If you don't own this brilliant bestseller yet, now is the time.

Why keep looking south of the border? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Not the least is Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese (First Second, 233
pages, $13), which was nominated for a 2006 U.S. National Book Award in the Young People's Literature category.

Clearly drawn and nicely coloured, this funny and gentle story combines the lives of three unlikely characters -- a Chinese American boy Jin Wang who wants to fit in, the Monkey King and Chen Wei, a comical embodiment of noisy negative Chinese stereotypes -- in a surprisingly twisty story about difference and self-acceptance.

The pain of adolescence and middle age sets the melancholy tone and slow, pensive drift of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library #17 (Drawn & Quarterly, 64 pages, $22), the second instalment of Rusty Brown.

This full-colour book, published by Ware, continues the events of the snowy school day in #16, in which Rusty discovers he has super powers and meets Chalky White. But it moves more deeply into the lives of main characters, who include Ware himself as the high school art teacher who tokes with his students in the back seat of a car.

Ware's exteriors of snow falling on the midwestern school work wordless magic that carry the distant, sad and beautiful ache of revisiting the past.

Two new books set in New York, which couldn't be more different, represent changing generations of artists and styles. Will Eisner's New York: Life in the Big City, with an introduction by Neil Gaiman (W.W. Norton, 448 pages, $37.50), is a hustle-bustle of vignettes of people, grates, streets, front stoops and buildings by the grand old man of American comics, a master of figural gesture, who died last year. The book collects four of Eisner's later graphic works, from 1986 to 1992, dedicated to the overflowing city that inspired him.

Lucky by Gabrielle Bell (Drawn & Quarterly, 112 pages, $22.95), which won an Ignatz award, is a terrific, wryly humorous journal in simply drawn black-and-white comics about the discomfort and ennui of being a poor, self-aware, twentysomething in New York, who models for art classes and dreams of becoming a successful artist. Bell's characters come from a generation also mined by Adrian Tomine and Daniel Clowes, but they and her drawings, which begin to recall Marjane Satrapi as the diary progresses, are clearly and engrossingly her own.

Former Calgarian Jillian Tamaki gives Edmonton a stream-of-consciousness treatment in The City of Champions in her book Gilded Lilies (Conundrum Press, 120 pages, $20), which combines nearly wordless stories and pen and brush drawings. The softcover book by this graduate of the Alberta College of Art & Design has the fresh feel of a sketchbook and shows off Tamaki's adept drawing skills.

To round out our tales of cities is Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly, 148 pages, $24.95), a graphic memoir that takes us behind the scenes of Chinese life and customs at street level, which most of us know little about, such as going to the dentist, which freaked out the French Canadian animator, who was working in Shenzhen, a city separated from the rest of the country by electric fences and armed guards. His heavily shaded pencil drawings recreate the grim look and barebones existence of a cold, oppressive city.

Ghost of Hoppers by Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books, 120 pages, $23.95) and La Perdida by Jessica Abel (Random House of Canada, 275 pages, $27.95) present complex stories about the misadventures of Latin American women by first and second wave graphic novelists, respectively. Ghost, the 22nd volume of the groundbreaking Love and Rockets series, continues the vivid, in-depth story of Maggie Chascarrillo, his punk chicana hero who now is divorced and managing an apartment building in the San Fernando Valley.

The lively panels of La Perdida form a complete graphic novel about Carla, a naive young woman who has a Mexican father she doesn't see and goes to Mexico to find herself -- only to wind up involved in a kidnapping.

It seems fitting to end with Kim Dietch, a first wave graphic novelist, and two non-fiction books that defy categorizing. Deitch's latest offering, rendered with his distinctive crosshatching, is Shadowland (Fantagraphics Books, 180 pages, $23.95), a collection of improbable yarns about one Al Ledicker, Jr., the owner of a sleazy carnival where the goings-on get very surreal.

Also surreal, but in an entirely different way is The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon (Douglas & McIntyre, 133 pages,
$21), a dramatic and chilling way to read the conclusions of the 9/11 Commission in 2004.

Last -- this isn't everything on my desk but I have to stop somewhere -- from Scott McCloud, the cartoonist who wrote and drew Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics, comes Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels (HarperCollins, 264 pages, $28.95).

Watching a cartoonist dissect and discuss the elements of cartooning in cartoon form is quite simply fascinating.

ntousley@theherald.canwest.com

Colour Photo: Courtesy, Yale University Press / Excerpt from It's A Great [sic] Life if You Don't Weaken by Seth, in An Anthology of Graphic Fiction,
Cartoons, & True Stories; Photo: (See hard copy for photo description).

 

Featured artists

Chris Ware
Guy Delisle
Gabrielle Bell

           Featured products

ACME Novelty Library #17
Lucky (hardcover)
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China




  Tintin Interviews with CHRIS WARE, JASON LUTES & SETH

Updated July 18, 2006


P.O.V. (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. P.O.V. premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and innovative programs every year on PBS.


Why does the comic strip The Adventures of Tintin, about an intrepid boy reporter, continue to fascinate us decades after its publication? "Tintin and I" highlights the potent social and political underpinnings that give Tintin's world such depth, and delves into the mind of Hergé, Tintin's work-obsessed Belgian creator, to reveal the creation and development of Tintin.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Interviews
On Cartooning

Comic books are gaining acceptance as reading for grown-ups and as a serious art form. Six contemporary comic artists, including Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware, talk about Hergé's influence, visual narratives and the art of cartooning.

Follow the link below to read the interviews with CHRIS WARE, JASON LUTES, and SETH.
click here to read more

click here to download the PDF (1.55 MB)


Featured artists

Jason Lutes
Seth
Chris Ware

          



Chris Ware at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art

Updated May 7, 2006


From the Museum's website:

Chris Ware, often described as an ‘alternative cartoonist,’ is best-known as the creator of the Acme Novelty Library, publications in various formats that feature the adventures of such characters as Quimby the Mouse and Jimmy Corrigan. Not quite comic books, not quite graphic novels, Ware’s work mines art history, popular culture, and personal experience, capturing a queasy sense of reality of modern life in a “retro” style distinctly his own.

Ware’s work is notable for its clean, compelling design and the complexity of its storytelling. Characters morph from one recognizable graphic style to another as the often convoluted plots move from the present to the past to the future. His style has a timeless quality, and has been described as having “the sense that you're entering a world viewed through rose-tinted glasses, shattered though they may be.” Ware also creates three-dimensional constructions and kinetic assemblages based on his characters and their environments. For this, his first museum one-person exhibition in Chicago, Ware presents works he created when he first moved to the city over a decade ago, and works from his recent series set in a Chicago apartment building.

Chris Ware attended the University of Texas at Austin in the mid-1980s and graduate school at the School of Art at the Institute of Chicago in the early 1990s. Chris Ware’s book, Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth (2000), received the Guardian First Book Award and his work was selected for the 2002 Whitney Biennial. This exhibition is organized by MCA Curator Lynne Warren.

MCA Curator Lynne Warren leads a tour of the exhibition on Tuesday, June 20, at noon.
 
click here to read more


Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured products

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995
ACME Novelty Library #17




  Congrats to Chis Ware for his Eisner Nominations!

Updated April 7, 2006


Best Graphic Album--New: Acme Novelty Library #16, by Chris Ware (ACME Novelty)

Acme Novelty Library Annual Report to Shareholders, by Chris Ware (Pantheon)

Best Writer/Artist: Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #16 (ACME Novelty)


Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured products

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995
ACME Novelty Library #17




Breakfast with SETH, CHRIS WARE and IVAN BRUNETTI can be yours! (National Post article)

Updated March 27, 2006


Out & About: Cartoon Workshops
Arts & Life
You too can draw like this!
Vanessa Farquharson
National Post AL2
20 March 2006

Two of Canada's most celebrated cartoonists will soon draw even more attention as they step out of their dark studios and into the public eye --
breakfasting with fans and holding public workshops on how to draw comics.

Seth, whose art can be found on the most recent cover of The New Yorker is taking part in an auction along with fellow artists Chris Ware and Ivan
Brunetti, in which the winning bid includes a breakfast with all three at a diner in Vermont.

The organizers at the Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) say in a statement that "the lucky winner will share an uncomfortably small booth with [the
cartoonists], who will draw in the winner's sketchbook."

The auction is a fundraiser for a student scholarship fund. The online auction starts on eBay.com this Wednesday at 10 a.m., and concludes April 1 at 10 a.m. PT. Breakfast takes place on April 11 and the starting bid is US$1,000.

"I didn't believe anyone would bid that much to begin with," says Seth. "If James Sturm, who runs the school, hadn't assured me he already had a bidder, I wouldn't have believed it -- I wouldn't pay that much."

Seth hasn't given much thought to what he'll draw in the winner's book, but thinks they might do a "jam," in which one cartoonist starts the panel, then
another completes the next and so on.

"We'll probably just take turns going around the table and drawing whatever comes to mind," he says.

The real pressure will be the social aspect of it all. While Seth says he much prefers going for coffee with someone rather than awkwardly trying to
converse at a book signing, he also worries he will have to carry the weight of the socializing.

"I just know I'm going to be the one who'll probably have to do a fair amount of talking because I think I'm the most outgoing of the three of us," he says. "I'm hoping the conversation will be steered away from us, though, because there's nothing I like talking about less than myself."

After the auction is over, Seth will continue working on designs for Mark Kingwell's next book, as well as plugging away at his own comics, of course.

Meanwhile, Seth's close friend Chester Brown has been named the Toronto Public Library's new Writer-in-Residence. He will be hosting a workshop
called The Art of the Graphic Novel on June 3, from 1 to 4 p.m., at Toronto's North York Central Library.

He adds that it's open to anyone, no matter what level of artistic ability. "I don't think anyone's a lost cause at this sort of thing," he says.

As well, from April 3 to June 23, Brown will be available to critique manuscripts and meet individually with aspiring cartoonists to discuss their work. "You have to be 16 or older, but I think that's the only limitation," he says.

Brown, who is working on another autobiographical novel, promises he won't make fun of anyone -- he recognizes that not everybody is out to be a
professional cartoonist, anyway.

"Whenever I'm giving advice, I try not to be cruel," he says. "I'm pretty good at phrasing my opinions in a positive and encouraging way."

For more information on the workshop or critiquing sessions, call 416-395-5639. For info on the auction, go to www.cartoonstudies.org .

Black & White Photo: The most recent cover of The New Yorker.
 

Featured artists

Seth
Chris Ware

          



  MEET CHRIS WARE & SETH!

Updated March 15, 2006


WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT
CCS FUND-RAISER WITH CHRIS WARE, IVAN BRUNETTI & SETH
WIN A BREAKFAST AT THE POLKA DOT DINER! BIDDING STARTS MARCH 22!

The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) is auctioning a breakfast with three of
the world's most celebrated cartoonists. The lucky winner will share an
uncomfortably small booth with Ivan Brunetti, Seth, and Chris Ware in
White River Junction's storied Polka Dot Diner. Cartoonists will draw in the
winner's sketchbook during breakfast. Winner will also receive a tour of The
Center for Cartoon Studies.

The auction is a fund-raiser for the CCS student scholarship fund. The three
cartoonists will be visiting CCS for several days to work with students,
lecture, and discuss the making of comics.

The online auction begins on Ebay.com Wednesday, March 22, at 10 a.m.
and concludes Saturday, April 1, at 10 a.m. PST Breakfast takes place on
Tuesday, April 11. Starting bid is $1000.
click here to read more


Featured artists

Seth
Chris Ware

           Featured products

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995
Wimbledon Green




"SPEAK" exhibition-featuring D&Q artists-reviewed in the NY TIMES

Updated February 13, 2006


Art Review | 'Speak'
Expansive Worlds Seen in Small Pictures

By KEN JOHNSON
Published: February 10, 2006

The comic book never had it so good. In this age of wondrous electronic entertainment, it remains as popular as ever, and now it is being taken seriously by the sorts of people who were once concerned exclusively with the higher reaches of artistic culture. Witness R. Crumb's inclusion in last year's Carnegie International.

New Yorkers interested in comics will be looking forward to "Masters of American Comics," a major exhibition now occupying galleries in two museums in Los Angeles — the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Armand Hammer — and traveling next fall to the Jewish Museum in New York and the Newark Museum. But you don't have to wait for a taste of what contemporary comic artists have been up to, as the Pratt Manhattan Gallery is offering an excellent sampler of works by nine of the best in the business, including Mr. Crumb, Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes and Gary Panter.

Devotees of the genre will find nothing new in "Speak: Nine Cartoonists," but they should appreciate the chance to view original pages, as well as drawings and preparatory studies, rather than the usual mechanically reproduced materials. If you are less familiar with comic book art, you are in for a treat. Organized by Todd Hignite, editor of Comic Art magazine, the show requires close looking and fine-print reading, but its size is manageable, and your concentration will be well rewarded rather than exhausted.

The beauty of the comic strip is partly formal — the way it sucks you through small, boxed-in pictures into worlds that range from thrillingly expansive to poignantly intimate. Add judiciously chosen words and frame-to-frame narrative pull, and you have the ingredients of an immersive, part-cinematic, part-novelistic experience that many of us learned to love — and to which some became addicted — as children.

Contemporary comic artists, like jazz musicians, play with traditional forms, but they also explore varieties of subject matter that were unknown in comic books before the rise of the willfully indecorous underground comics in the late 1960's. Mr. Crumb, the best of the underground comic artists and a narrator whose frankness about sex rivals that of the novelist Philip Roth, is here represented, refreshingly, by something sweetly nontransgressive: the story of a little boy and his annoying younger brother spending the afternoon at home with their exhausted mom. At one point the boy becomes sexually aroused by a female visitor's cowboy boots, but nothing really outrageous happens, and what impresses most is the wonderfully earthy and supple draftsmanship and the delightful vernacular dialogue.

Stylistically, the show ranges from the faux primitivism of Mr. Panter's hilarious story about a sexy, fashion-obsessed cave girl in a futuristic city to the Precisionism of Mr. Ware's slow-moving, bittersweet tales of lonely people drawn within complex configurations of variously sized boxes. (Mr. Ware's serial strip "Building Stories" is currently running in The New York Times Magazine.)

A noirish, mournful mood hovers over the show. Art Spiegelman, creator of the great "Maus" books, is represented by an early, Expressionist-style narrative in which a young man recounts the story of his mother's suicide. The artist who goes by the single name Seth tracks with almost no words the wanderings of an electric-fan salesman through a depressed town to its eerie outskirts.

In his sensuously drawn, starkly black-and-white strip, Charles Burns leads us through a teenager's abysmally gloomy and hair-raisingly surrealistic nightmare, while in a comparatively conventional style, Jaime Hernandez tells the story of a man recently released from prison and looking for a way out of the semicriminal sexual demimonde to which he has returned.

Conceptual complexity can be mind-boggling. Mr. Clowes, creator of "Ghost World," weaves into an affectionate parody of the "Peanuts" comic strip themes of anxiety, sexual desire, murder and psychotherapy — to dizzying effect. And in his very funny, deceptively rudimentary-looking strips, Ivan Brunetti offers concise, tragicomic biographies of the French novelist Joris Karl Huysmans and the Hollywood B-movie producer Val Newton.

Despite its enduring popularity and its astonishing fertility of formal and conceptual imagination, the ambitious comic book still remains a marginal commodity compared with movies and novels. Perhaps artists possessing the right combination of talents are just too rare to generate a bigger audience. (That this show's artists are all men is an aspect that Mr. Hignite might usefully have explained, by the way.)

Yet the relative neglect may be a blessing: when expectations are low, there is little to lose, leaving the artist free to embark on amazing aesthetic and psychological adventures, like the ones on display here.

"Speak: Nine Cartoonists" remains through Feb. 25 at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street, Greenwich Village; (212) 647-7778.

[Ivan Brunetti, Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Robert Crumb, Jaime Hernandez, Gary Panter, Seth, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware.]
 

Featured artists

Seth
Chris Ware
Gary Panter

          



  Bookslut reviews Acme #16

Updated February 9, 2006


ACME Novelty Library #16 by Chris Ware

For those who kicked themselves, much as I did, for not knowing Chris Ware's work early enough to collect the original installments of The ACME Novelty Library that were later collected into the fat chunky book, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth, such latecomers will want to rush out immediately (if they haven't already done so) to buy The ACME Novelty Library #16. While there is the instant gratification of being able to read Jimmy Corrigan in its entirety, each of the slim volumes of The ACME Novelty Library provides the visually intense pleasure of fixating on the consummate artistry of Ware.

The 16th volume is the first installment of what is anticipated to be a long narrative about an obsessive collector of superhero and toy paraphernalia named Rusty Brown. His sole friend throughout his lonely life is Chalky White, who like Rusty, was once a boy fascinated by superheroes and their ability to protect the vulnerable. Unlike Rusty, though, Chalky gives up collecting comic book figures, marries, and starts a family. Yet, all this has yet to occur in the first installment, which is concerned primarily with setting up the characters and the scenery of Rusty's and Chalky's childhoods.

Our first introduction to Rusty is while he is lying in bed on a cold winter morning, saying "I love you" to an action figure doll of Supergirl while his father yells at him to shovel the snow on the driveway. This scene succinctly captures the psychological architecture within Rusty: a chubby little boy living with an uncaring father and whose consolation is a fantasy world where he has super powers.

Simultaneously, on the bottom of the same pages, a smaller set of panels show Chalky in bed, wide awake with anxious eyes. He has just moved into town and the next day will be his first day in school. Chalky and his older sister Allie are forced to live with their grandmother in Omaha, Nebraska, due to some unmentioned problem with their mother.

Like most schools, the private school which Chalky and Allie will now attend along with Rusty, and where Rusty's father teaches, is a casually cruel arena. Teachers such as Rusty's father and F.C. Ware (a cameo of Chris Ware), are absorbed by their interior monologues about their own insecurities, and therefore, ineffectual at stopping the school bullies from tormenting Rusty. In this place of tormentors and the tormented, Allie's kindness to her younger brother endows her with a particular radiance and beauty.

Not much more happens within this first volume. Like Jimmy Corrigan, Rusty Brown will surely continue progressing at a leisurely pace. Yet, such slowness in unfolding the plot allows the reader to understand the psychological drama within each of the characters. Such pacing is necessary for the double set of panels to intertwine with each other: as Rusty and Chalky's lives begin to interact, the smaller panels allow the reader to see the meeting from Chalky's perspective while the top larger panels give us Rusty's viewpoint.

That Ware's panels are so small is surely not accidental, for what Ware reveals within his narratives are the secrets and insecurities that each of us would most like to keep hidden within ourselves. One of the most memorable panels is a small panel on one bottom corner of the page (in Chalky's set of panels) that shows Allie lying in her bed, her frustration at having to move in with her grandmother and to a new school revealed in her unruly position facedown, her limbs splayed out recklessly.

The story of these two boys is a very familiar one: the sensitive ones who are the underdogs, the ones who are always bullied. However, there will be no keen-sighted and kind adult to rescue these boys; Ware's treatment of American loneliness, even while being lyrical, is the furthest thing from Hollywood inspirational movies. In Ware's stories, the adults are as consumed by fantasies and loneliness as these boys, who will grow up to be just such adults.

As with all The ACME Novelty Library volumes, there are extra features. Volume 16 includes portions of the “Building Stories” currently serialized in The New York Times Magazine, and a comic of Ware obsessing about his daughter's possible future as a high school senior. Whatever you do, don't breeze through this book. There is such craft and beauty in this graphic novel -- it deserves to be perused for hours.

The ACME Novelty Library #16
Fantagraphics
ISBN 156097513X
64 Pages
click here to read more


Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



Cartoonists' art graces the cover of Penguin Classics

Updated February 3, 2006


Penguin Classics Deluxe Editions - Nilsen, Spiegelman, Chast, Seth, Burns, Ware

A new edition of Voltaire's Candide with a cover by Chris Ware came out a few months ago; the rest are out on March 28:

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen, Cover by Anders Nilsen

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, Cover by Art Spiegelman

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, Cover by Roz Chast

The Portable Dorothy Parker, Cover by Seth

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Cover by Charles Burns

Candide by Voltaire, Cover by Chris Ware

follow the link below to see a blog-posting with pics!
 
click here to read more


Featured artists

Seth
Chris Ware
Anders Nilsen

          



  CHRIS WARE in the New York Press

Updated January 12, 2006


WARE AND THE FRAUDS

Pictures, prose and parody.

By Tim Marchman

For a reader, even one devoted to comics as a form, to admit that the best book of the season is a collection of comic strips is to admit that there is something missing on the bookshop shelves.

The new fiction most worth reading recently has been by dead people—new translations of Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings and of Witold Gombrowicz’s Cosmos. Neither counts, really. Plenty of fiction reads as if it was written by dead people—Paul Auster and Zadie Smith’s whimsical accounts of the small joys and small sorrows of the more self-consciously quaint corners of the Northeast come to mind—but none of it really matters, either. Benjamin Kunkel, in making every ambitious young man gnash his teeth with envious rage, proved himself more talented and serious than anyone so young and well-promoted ought to be, but he’s not good enough—yet—to make one forget how talented and serious he is.

Lamenting the absence of qualities in contemporary novelists basically amounts to lamenting the lack of ideas, and, more importantly, the lack of ideas expressed as emotions. These are just what you find in Chris Ware’s Acme Library of Novelty, an anthology of comic strips that was the best fiction of the season. His ideas are all about the way technology is alienating us not only from our own potential but from our ability to imagine it—the major subject of our time. While the emotional range of his work is in some ways limited, mainly playing variations on a few themes of aching emptiness, regret, shame, cruelty and remorse, that’s fitting given his themes and the contours of his medium. (It also exceeds the range of most novelists working in prose, who display little beyond a smug, preening vanity.)

Ware is probably best regarded for his meticulousness and formal mastery, but these are not really so important. His virtuosity is astonishing—there is nothing quite like Ware seizing on comic-book advertisement pages, the Sears catalogue, architectural pamphlets and children’s glow-in-the-dark maps with all the cleverness and disdain of Lennie Tristano attacking a Tin Pan Alley number—but is there to create a context, not for its own sake.

As a stylistic device, Ware’s maniacally detailed parodies of the detritus of commercial culture are the rough equivalent of the showy passages in which David Foster Wallace or Jonathan Franzen write in the language of pharmaceutical or advertising bureaucracies, but they and their imitators fail to distinguish between deadening language and the way it deadens the people who use it, mistaking meaning for purpose. They also fail to mark that in satirizing this language, they deaden their readers, who are, even if they are being subjected to clever simulacra of mindless language, being subjected to it nonetheless.

Ware avoids doing this largely because of the form in which he’s working. One is expected to read a long, parodic Wallace passage in a way one is not expected to read Ware’s parodies, which in their unrelieved regularity function as visual noise. The age demands a special kind of commercial parody, and the comic is suited for it in a way the novel isn’t. The point to note, though, is that Ware is taking advantage of the specific possibilities offered by his form, and doing something that would be unimaginable in another one. This isn’t really true of his novel-writing peers.

Equally important is that, rather than rendering an observed present, Ware renders an imagined past. If there is a disease among young, contemporary novelists, it’s their mania for trivial detail. This is understandable—one wants to show what it is like to live in a world where rather than sharing small, unique experiences with family, friends and neighbors, one has broad experiences in common with tens of millions of strangers, and so one goes to some trouble to reproduce those experiences with fidelity. Reproducing the alienating effect of modern mass culture as phenomena rather than probing its effects on the human character abuses the purpose of fiction, though, which is to imagine deeply and evoke; the very inhumanity of it strains against the localized and individual experiences upon which first-rate fiction is built.

Ware does not share this mania. Perhaps his best recurring joke is in the strip “Tales of Tomorrow,” in which an old man, recognizable from any coffee shop or bus station, is seen wearing an absurd futuristic outfit and attempting to take advantage of technology’s promise that it can replace human intimacy. In one such strip, he looks out from his window in one of the linked skyscrapers of tomorrow, linked by roads hundreds of feet over the sidewalks, sees a brick wall and slumps his shoulders. He sits beneath a giant bladder that puffs air as part of the process that allows him to call in to an audio message mailbox system; he is sad as he realizes there are no messages for him. He listens to an old record on a gramophone; he falls asleep in his chair as night falls. Later, he hurriedly races to the phone under the bladder and calls again; there is still no message. The bright colors out of a Sunday comics supplement, the rigidity of the panels and the note-perfect retro design of the strip’s title are all sleight-of-hand; the joke works because beneath the charmingly old-fashioned world of the future is an imaginary past where old men were deceived by the promises of Victrolas and rotary telephones and Louis Sullivan buildings, all of which form the visual points of reference.

Any fashionable novelist seeking to express a similar idea would doubtless have used as analogous points of reference a sleek glass skyscraper and an iPod plugged into an expensive computer. The music and the computer and the city would have been specific, so as to situate the character socially. In focusing the picture too tightly on the particulars, though, most novelists would have lost the iconographic comedy and missed both the absurdity and the despair that Ware creates.

Beneath Ware’s technique is a simple ability to feel for people caught up in rapidly changing social circumstances they can’t really understand; he’s rare in that.

Ware’s ideas and techniques are attuned to the anxieties we all feel, and that’s enough to mark him as worthy of special regard, but most important, and basic, of all is that he works with the primary building blocks of fiction—characters particular enough to be universal, and logical action. Quimby Mouse calling a girl he had a crush on in third grade after having a dream about her; Rusty Brown, whom we come to know as a grotesquely imposing and seemingly insensate man, seen as a child curled up on a bed clutching a teddy bear and sobbing about how much he hates his best friend, or falling to the ground as bullies pelt him with snowballs; these work not because of the schematism of the page layout, or the color choices, or because of the references made to classic cartoon icons, but for the same reasons that any effective fiction is moving.

Fiction and graphic fiction shouldn’t be in competition, as there are things that only Ware can give us and others that he can never give us, that only the novelist could offer. The danger is that comics, with their new and hard-won prestige, will begin to force novelistic ideas into panels and word bubbles too cramped for such usage—and that novels, already anxious about their worth, will try to transport the comic’s rendering onto pages that ought to have inward, not outward depth. We’ll never see the effusive, dithering pronouncements of the mind given the depth in a comic that they can be afforded in a book, which is good—to attempt it would ruin the comic. Some ideas and emotions can only be told in stories through indirectness and aside, ruminations and the illusion of time unique to the printed page. The novel is still the only way to assay everything too vast and equivocal to be reduced to pure symbol and formulation. It ought to be groping with those mysteries that can’t be handled elsewhere.

That Ware’s accomplishments are, in part, due to a recognition of his form’s limitations doesn’t diminish them, but it also doesn’t erase those limitations. If moments as precisely detailed and perfectly wrought as Ware’s could be expressed by more people working exclusively in words we’d gain something that we are now missing. That they aren’t is no less credit to him or his form.
click here to read more


Featured artist

Chris Ware

          



AMERICAN MASTERS in the SAN DIEGO TRIBUNE

Updated December 6, 2005


San Diego Union Tribune

'Masters': Gleeful crash course in comics
By Neil Kendricks

December 4, 2005

Too often, comics are dismissed as the illegitimate offspring of serious art and literature. The exhibition "Masters of American Comics," however, reflects the art world's efforts to catch up with the foregone conclusion that any of the medium's devotees can tell you: "Comics rule!"

Walking through "Masters of American Comics" at UCLA's Hammer Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, provides plenty of evidence to back up the argument that comics play an important role in America's cultural life, alongside music, film and the other arts. And anyone in the know about comics will agree that it's high time that the medium got the respect it so richly deserves.

The well-publicized "Masters of American Comics" won't go for want of media exposure since the show has already been covered in such high-art publications as Artforum and Modern Painters as well as notable mentions in Vanity Fair, among others. And for good reason, as anyone who experiences this exhaustive yet highly selective, historical overview can attest.

By focusing on 15 key figures in comics' still evolving history, the show examines how comics first emerged in newspapers, and gradually morphed into comic books and graphic novels expressing a dynamic range of aesthetic approaches and subject matter.

The Hammer's selection is divided among early trailblazers like Winsor McCay ("Little Nemo in Slumberland"), Lyonel Feininger ("The Kin-der-Kids"), George Herriman ("Krazy Kat"), E.C. Segar ("Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye"), Frank King ("Gasoline Alley"), Chester Gould ("Dick Tracy"), Milton Caniff ("Terry and the Pirates") and the one and only Charles M. Schultz, who needs no introduction for "Peanuts" fans.

DATEBOOK
"Masters of American Comics"

UCLA's Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 443-7000; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 250 Grand Ave., (213) 626-6222; Through March 12

The show's second half at MOCA picks up the medium's postwar trajectory to the present-day with such contemporary innovators as Will Eisner ("The Spirit"), Jack Kirby ("The Fantastic Four"), Harvey Kurtzman (Mad magazine), Robert Crumb ("Zap!" comix), Art Spiegelman ("Maus"), Gary Panter ("Jimbo") and Chris Ware ("The Acme Novelty Library").

"Masters of American Comics," with its handsome, comprehensive catalog, offers a crash course on comics' ongoing evolution and their impact on popular culture. Even novices will be able to see how McCay and Feininger's experiments with dream-like comics laid the groundwork for the medium's future. Their elegant compositions and creative page layouts in newspapers explored the medium itself as a fresh artist's palette perfect for the industrial age.

In one of McCay's self-reflexive "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend," from 1907, the cartoonist invents a character whose running commentary questions the artist's motivations for leaving ink smears on his well-tailored, albeit drawn, suit. The short narrative climaxes with the solitary figure swallowed up in a riot of black-ink marks.

McCay and Feininger weren't alone when it came to embracing the medium's ability to bend reality. Herriman joins the party with his great "Krazy Kat," where the artist radically arranged his comic strips' panels, sometimes diagonally across the page, to echo a story's anything-goes action.

Comics' narrative possibilities go through further metamorphosis with King's real-time chronicle of life in "Gasoline Alley" and Segar's introduction of his spinach-lovin' sailor Popeye in the "Thimble Theatre" stories. The exhibition demonstrates how artists like Caniff and Gould fuse cinematic influences into their art to suggest a range of expressive angles in the noirish scenarios of "Terry and the Pirates" and "Dick Tracy," respectively.

Of course, the enormous popularity and impact of Schultz's much-beloved "Peanuts" could be the subject of an exhibition onto itself. The creator of the eternally downtrodden Charlie Brown, the philosophical Linus and everyone's favorite beagle, Snoopy, remains the most important postwar American cartoonist, and his influence continues five years after his death.

At MOCA, the comics grow darker, showing the collective grip of malaise, dread and changing social mores in postwar American life as reflected in the art of Eisner, Kirby, and Kurtzman, among others.

The femme fatale in Eisner's 1947 "The Spirit" strip, "Il Dulce's Locket," could have wandered off the set of a film noir directed by Samuel Fuller, who was a skilled cartoonist himself. With her world-weary facial expression juxtaposed with her sensual curves, the woman wonders (in a dialogue balloon), "Really what is there about me that simply invites trouble?"

There is no shortage of trouble for the characters populating the Marvel Comics universe that Kirby helped to create with his bold, stylized drawings. Nothing is extraneous in his wonderfully kinetic drawings. They dazzle the eye while pushing the story forward with an undeniable, streamlined force.

In light of recent ecological disasters, Kirby's art for "Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth" – showing waves battering a half-submerged Statute of Liberty in a postapocalyptic future – has a far darker resonance today than when the artist first created the 1972 piece. This end-time paranoid vibe is pushed even further in Panter's nightmarish, 1980s punk-driven "Jimbo" comics with their chaotic compositions gorged with writhing, ragged figures that delight in the jaded pleasures of riot surfing.

Where Kirby's art belongs very much to the mainstream comics tradition, the show makes an excellent transition with Kurtzman and Crumb as guiding lights veering away from the superhero realm, eager to explore riskier territory. One of Kurtzman's drawings from a 1954 issue of Mad sums up his penchant for satire with the pseudo-headline "Humor in a Jugular Vein."

"Masters of American Comics" shows Kurtzman's lesser-known war comics like "Two-Fisted Tales" and "Frontline Comics" with stark depictions of war's violence reminiscent of the soul-ravaged imagery found in German expressionist George Grosz's World War I-inspired art.

It's not hard to see Kurtzman's influence evoked in Spiegelman's critically acclaimed works, 1986's "Maus: A Survivor's Tale" and 1991's "Maus II: And Here My Troubles Began," which won the Pulitizer Prize in 1992. Only, Spiegelman's autobiographical comics up the ante by reimagining his father's Holocaust experiences through the anthropomorphic lens of Jews as mice being tormented by Nazis depicted as cats. The story's variation on "Animal Farm" gives way to a larger allegory about the human condition.

Autobiographical comics are also ripe for probing their creators' personal idiosyncrasies and no one does that better than Crumb. By examining on his own neuroses with complete abandon, Crumb's first-person comics define the 1960s underground "comix" movement where no taboo was left untouched. The show displays a selection of his original comics art where the artist's sexually ravenous id runs amok in one drawing after another.

But the exhibition also shows a less anarchic side to comics' enfant terrible by including Crumb's music-inspired piece, 1984's "Patton," chronicling the life of Mississippi Delta bluesman Charley Patton.

From the medium's humble yet innovative origins to the cool elegance of Ware's melancholic "Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid in the World" and beyond, "Masters of American Comics" does a fine job of charting the wildly eccentriccourse that comics have taken since their inception a century ago.

Although the show's lineup of artists leaves out such luminaries as Frank Miller and Dan Clowes, along with their many female contemporaries, it succeeds in throwing a revealing light on the history of comics as a vital and distinctly American artform. Perhaps a sequel could fill in the gaps to the medium's epic story, which is still unfolding with the unspoken promise often found in the best sequential art: "to be continued."

Neil Kendricks, a San Diego artist and writer, is the film curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego.
 
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Frank King
Gary Panter

          



  TIME MAGAZINE comics feature

Updated November 28, 2005


Peanuts in the Gallery
Comics, slowly becoming appreciated as literature, are being celebrated in museums too

By RICHARD CORLISS
Posted Monday, Nov. 28, 2005

This is a tale so primal and pitiable that for many a former child it deserves to be retold on an analyst's couch. The boy has fallen in love with comic books; studied and memorized their narrative outrages, their graphic ingenuity; saved them in meticulous stacks or mold-resistant wrappers. Then he hears his mother say she was cleaning up the basement and "I threw that junk out." Junk! the child cries. Those yellowing pages of newsprint, those copies of Mad and Vault of Horror and Weird Science were my obsession, my vocation, my youth--my art.

It has taken 50 years, but what was dismissed as preadolescent fetishizing is finally being recognized as trailblazing connoisseurship. And if you don't believe it, go to a museum and see for yourself.

Two museums, in fact. The Los Angeles exhibition "Masters of American Comics," which opened Nov. 20, is an enterprise so synoptic and sprawling that it comes in sections: part at the Hammer Museum, the rest at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The show runs until March 12, then travels to Milwaukee, Wis.; Newark, N.J.; and New York City.

Some 900 works are on display in what John Carlin, a curator of the show, describes as "an art history of comics. When I started doing research, I felt this was a lost continent. Comics are one of the most important forms of artistic expression in America, and they were never given proper attention." To focus that attention, Carlin and fellow curator Brian Walker selected 15 artists who created their own visual languages and did so with distinctive graphic grace and power.

Several of the chosen 15 created enduring characters, styles and narratives from the golden age of the daily strip. Peanuts' Charles Schulz is represented, as are the creator-artists of Popeye (E.C. Segar), Dick Tracy (Chester Gould) and Terry and the Pirates (Milton Caniff). From the '50s, the emphasis segues to comic books and graphic novels. With Mad, Harvey Kurtzman virtually invented what would become the era's dominant tone of irreverent self-reference. He inspired several of the artists, including R. Crumb, whose exemplarily twisted panels first appeared in Kurtzman's post-Mad magazine Help!, and Art Spiegelman, whose Pulitzer-prizewinning Maus in 1992 cued a lot of people in to a belated appreciation of the form.

To the arbiters of art, comics had plenty of handicaps: they were disposable, popular, American and, worst of all, funny. Comics art got into museums only when reflected in the work of a "real" artist like Roy Lichtenstein. "I have all sorts of issues with the idea that a Lichtenstein painting of a comic-book panel is art, but the original comic panel it draws on is not considered art," Spiegelman says. Slowly, that attitude evolved as people learned to appreciate comics in all their uniqueness. "Comics require that the viewer read pictures, not look at them," says Chris Ware, author-artist of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and one of the medium's reigning grand masters. "This is a peculiar means of apprehension that really has no precedent in Western art."

The very first significant comics artist was Winsor McCay, who, just 100 years ago, published his first full-color page of Little Nemo in Slumberland. Here was a popular art at its onset and apogee: not a primitive Lascaux cave painting but a Sunday- supplement Hieronymus Bosch--a glorious otherworld of dreamscapes as phantasmagoric as they were funny. "He created a vocabulary for artistic creation in comics," Carlin says of McCay, "showing how they could achieve extraordinary, avant-garde things without undermining their popular appeal."

The coming generation of comics craftsmen needn't toil in the dark, nursing an inferiority complex or a grudge. "What comics are going through is like a civil rights movement," says Spiegelman. "This museum show will help." Like Hitchcock thrillers and rock 'n' roll, comics are obeying the tidal pull of pop culture. What was once forbidden is now mainstream; what was once junk is now classic.

So comics are art. Told you so, Mom.
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Featured artists

Chris Ware
Frank King

          



L.A. MUSEUMS OPEN THEIR WALLS TO COMICS

Updated October 25, 2005


October 23, 2005

MUSEUMS

An uneasy accord

L.A. museums open their walls to comics as true works of art. Is it long overdue, still an odd mix, or simply inviting cartoonists to a party they may not want to attend?

By Scott Timberg, Times Staff Writer

Last year, one of Canada's most prestigious museums approached the cartoonist Seth, whose work combines realistic, character-based storytelling with a muted, nostalgic visual style reminiscent of Edward Hopper, about a show of contemporary artists who use pop imagery. Seth's comics would be included as part of the "pop" category — an example of the kind of ore a fine artist could crush into diamonds.

A big break for the cartoonist?

"I pretty much immediately told him I didn't think this was a good idea," Seth recalls of his talk with the curator. "A lot of cartoonists, myself included, are pretty negative about that kind of art, work that treats comics as some kind of pop culture junk. I've always kind of hated that — using comics the same way you'd use soup can labels."

The art world, since World War I, has invited all kinds of objects and imagery into gallery and museum spaces, from Marcel Duchamp's urinal to Andy Warhol's soup cans and Brillo boxes to Mike Kelley's stuffed animals. Over the last few years, comics have been among them, often transformed by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein or Philip Guston or ironically "appropriated" alongside advertising or handbills.

A big, joint exhibition that arrives next month at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art and the Hammer Museum, "Masters of American Comics" is a step beyond the earlier shows that saw comics as a kind of raw material still awaiting transformation. It's hardly comics' maiden voyage into the art world, but it's the first major museum show to trace the history of the medium as an art form in itself.

As such, it serves as a window onto the awkward — at times loving, at times strained, at times merely opportunistic — relationship between these two worlds.

"I think it's been happening in fits and starts over the last 20 years or so," Scott McCloud, the author of the seminal "Understanding Comics," says of the growing connections between comics and the art world. What's new is the attitude toward comics: Until recently treated like cultural artifacts, they're increasingly regarded as the output of capital-A artists with worldviews, life stories, individual styles and a host of idiosyncrasies.

"For years, if comics received recognition from cultural institutions or the academy, it was as an anonymous cultural phenomenon," McCloud says. "Authorless and raw, like an Alan Lomax field recording. The literary world would look at the Archie comics of the '50s as an indicator of the culture that gave birth to them, but you wouldn't pay attention to the person who wrote or drew it."

The "Masters" show takes a different point of view. John Carlin, one of the exhibition's curators, says it's part of "Americans coming to grips with their own culture. American classical music is jazz, so why wouldn't American classical visual expression be comics? And if you're serious about that, then you'd have to establish a canon. Who are the masters?"

Many cartoonists, and comics fans, feel pride for the recognition. Others are conflicted. Carlin spoke with cartoonist Art Spiegelman, whose Pulitzer Prize for "Maus" in 1992 helped earn the form mainstream respect and who helped inspire the show. "He said being in a museum," Carlin reports, "was like having a notary seal put on the pact he made with the devil."

Growing among grown-ups

Book reviews offer respectful coverage of new graphic novels; publishers sell hundreds of thousands of copies; awards committees consider them alongside Philip Roth. Filmmakers, in recent years, have tackled not only superhero comics but more realistic graphic novels, with David Cronenberg's grim "A History of Violence" being only the latest example.

Between Michael Chabon's novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" (itself a Pulitzer winner), the film for Daniel Clowes' alienated "Ghost World," and Marjane Satrapi's Iranian-set "Persepolis" books, it's hard to imagine a culturally attuned American who's unaware of comics' growing adult audience.

"The reason the mainstream culture hasn't resisted is that comics fans spend money," says Fred Van Lente, a curator and board member at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art in New York's SoHo. "We've gone from growing up hiding comics when we were 16 or 17 so the other kids wouldn't find out, to seeing 'Spider-Man' and 'Spider-Man 2' explode at the box office."

Add the fact that people who grew up viewing comics as a serious, collectible medium are moving into jobs with publishers, universities and museums. It seems inevitable, then, that even a slow-moving beast like the art world would take notice.

Others point to the generation of Robert Crumb, who came of age in the '60s. "Those were the first cartoonists to see themselves consciously as artists, doing purely personal work, not making concessions to mainstream conventions," says Ivan Brunetti, a cartoonist who curated "The Cartoonist's Eye," a well-received recent group show at Columbia College Chicago's A+D Gallery. The shift from craftsman to artist among Crumb's generation, and those who emulated him, has made a rendezvous with fine arts a natural.

At the same time, says curator Carlin, comics enthusiasts have rethought their history. "It's like the late '50s, when the French critics started to look at popular Hollywood filmmakers and saw authorship. So Hitchcock and John Ford, and others who were making entertainment and weren't art-film people, got this kind of glow. That's what happened to the George Herrimans and Chester Goulds of the world," he says, naming the creators of Krazy Kat and Dick Tracy.

To others, the explanation is more straightforward. "Why are galleries and museums starting to notice comics?" asks McCloud. "I think, simply, the work's better. The best of them today are just better than the best in the '80s. Chris Ware," McCloud says, naming the author of the intricate "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth." "There's your answer: He just took comics to a different level."

A 'lower-class' genre

Those who think comics have been a rich and complex art form since Winsor McCay, whose "Little Nemo" drawings from a century ago bridged Art Nouveau and Surrealism, wonder why a show like "Masters" has taken so long to appear.

Some answer that snobbery — class-based and otherwise — is to blame. "It was a lower-class art form," says Rod Gilchrist, director of San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum, who points out that comics were typically published in workingmen's newspapers. "The language was the language of the Irish immigrant, the German immigrant. And the stories were the concerns of everyday people," he says. Civic and religious groups talked papers into canceling strips, considered threats to young people.

These days, he says, as comics have become what he calls "the soup du jour of academia," that kind of opposition seems anachronistic. "Once Warhol exhibited the Brillo boxes, the distinction between high and low was broken forever," Gilchrist says, adding that many people in contemporary art now have a working knowledge of comics.

Still, he says, "When I took my job here in 1998, a lot of my art world friends said, 'What are you doing?' And my New York friends said, 'This will be the end of your career.' "

Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer, admits that museums have been slow to acknowledge comic art. "Artists themselves have been much more open about recognizing it than institutions, perhaps because they have nothing to lose and can see the work for what it is."

Some of the problems with a museum show have more to do with the material itself. Comics drawings are not created with a gallery space in mind: Even the curators of "Masters" concede that newspaper pages don't look quite at home on museum walls, in part because comics are a narrative as much as a visual medium. The show combines original drawings, most of them pen and ink, with mass-produced images from books and periodicals.

"Early on, the museums had a lot of trouble with this exhibition," says Carlin, "because the majority of it is essentially worthless printed pages of newspaper."

Carlin originally approached the Whitney Museum of American Art (where Chris Ware was later included in the Whitney Biennial) as a home for the show. "They said, 'We think this is interesting — we know there's something going on in this area — but we just don't think it would make a good exhibition. Prove to us that this will work on the walls of a museum.' And I think to some degree they were right, and to some degree they were wrong."

Museums have a built-in institutional drag in addressing new pop phenomena, says Tyler Stallings, chief curator at the Laguna Art Museum and a veteran of shows on surf culture and skateboard imagery.

"For collecting institutions," he says, "your changing exhibitions usually complement your mission. Most likely you wouldn't have anything in your permanent collection that has much to do with comics." Nor would your donors or the board of directors, who sometimes drive museum exhibitions, typically have personal comics collections.

Carlin thinks the delay has largely been economic. "To maintain the value of a work of art — which is essentially what the gallery system does — you have to create these boundaries of value and then reinforce them." Galleries have assigned value to paintings, sculptures and installations, but because newspaper pages are mass-produced they don't accrue value as easily as an original work.

There's also the issue of scale, says Carlin. "The gallery system we now see evolved in the '40s and '50s to manage large-scale heroic works of art, rather than intimate narrative work. Some things look better at museums and galleries, and they tend to sell at higher prices, which reinforces the system. While an artist who has an ironic relationship to pop culture, like Warhol or Jeff Koons, is still producing objects that fuel the system. Whereas comics are scraps."

Each generation of cartoonists seems to have its own reason for being uncomfortable with a gallery setting, though some have done quite well financially from the arrangement.

Charles M. Schulz, who was from the generation of craftsmen and entertainers, used to say that hanging cartoons in a museum was pretentious.

"As an art form comics do not need museum validation," punk-inspired comics artist Raymond Pettibon writes in an essay in the "Masters of American Comics" catalog. "Comics are a book medium.... They aren't hung right unless they are framed by thumbs on either side." For artists who came out of the counterculture, entering the museum can be akin to selling out.

Talk to a true believer — a comics scholar, a serious fan, a comics artist — and you'll probably end up discussing "High & Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture," a 1990 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that looked at comics, as well as advertising and graffiti, alongside work by Picasso, Lichtenstein and others. (MoMA, which has offered animation shows since the 1930s, will open "Pixar: 20 Years of Animation" on Dec. 14; fall 2006 will see "Comic Abstraction," a show about the influence of comics on contemporary artists.)

Brian Walker, a curator of the "Masters" show, the son of cartoonist Mort Walker and part of the team that now produces "Hi and Lois" and "Beetle Bailey," still recalls visiting "High & Low" and seeing a comics-inspired piece by Guston. "They had his big paintings on the wall, and then here's this little case with a couple of Crumb comic books in them. 'This is where he found the stuff that he turned into modern art.' It basically denigrated comics."

Walker, who in 1974 cofounded the Museum of Cartoon Art in Connecticut (which has since closed but may open in the Empire State Building next year), says he's gotten familiar with the idea that comics aren't really art. "I ran into that so many times — I'm basically numb to it at this point."

The antagonism, though, has come as often from the other direction: Many cartoonists have an early, formative experience with the art world that leads to a lifetime of disdain.

Often the tension starts in a college art class or at art school. Clowes, for instance, earned a BFA from the Pratt Institute in New York and turned the experience into a four-page strip called "Art School Confidential." The comic, being expanded into a Terry Zwigoff film for release next year, shows art education as dominated by pretentious trust-fund kids, nonsense-spouting professors and "self-obsessed neurotic art-girls who make their own clothes."

And this pathetic bunch considers cartooning, Clowes writes, "mindless and contemptible." His experience is not unique: Ware dropped out of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Adrian Tomine ("Optic Nerve") still tells scorching stories about the UC Berkeley art class that drove him to study literature instead.

"I find a great deal of contemporary art is disingenuous," says Seth, another art school dropout. "It's like academia: a small world where everyone is performing for each other, and where there are certain rules you have to follow. It seems kind of lazy to me."

This disenchantment with contemporary art is not limited to cartoonists. Carlin, tellingly, rethought some of his assumptions about art while a curator in New York's East Village in the early '80s. "I felt that there was something missing from my generation of artists — a respect for craft, and a work ethic," he says. "I started to get a real respect for the craft of drawing, even though it wasn't really something that the art world valued in the late 20th century.

"And then I started to hang out with cartoonists, and I realized that most of them had been precocious — but they had also worked harder at it than anybody I knew. They would really draw for six hours a day, every day of their lives. There's really no replacement for that. I grew up in this very conceptual art world where it was all about 'strategies.' "

Says Seth: "Weirdly, I think that's one of the things that's kept comics from being taken seriously since the '60s — that it's too concerned with conventional drawing and telling a story, two things the fine-arts world sort of looks down on. Getting into the depths of characterization is too earnest; it makes you suspect."

He speculates that the recent interest in comics from the fine-arts world may have to do with the resurgent value of beauty and draftsmanship. "I've found a lot of young artists are interested in drawing again."

Reaching toward the highbrow

These days, despite the sniping and condescension, cartoonists and contemporary artists are closer together than they've ever been. Comics have largely ceased to be actual popular culture — despite growing acclaim, comic books sell a fraction of what they did in the '40s and '50s — which may be why they seem more at home as the object of contemplation, scholarship and highbrow "influence."

All kinds of contemporary artists, from Americans of the "lowbrow" movement to Japanese Superflat artists such as Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara, are drawing from comics.

"It's funny — when I do studio visits I'm finding a real interest on the part of artists," says MOCA curator Michael Darling. "I'm finding Krazy Kat catalogs on their shelves, or the influence of Winsor McCay on their work."

So far, most of the controversy over the "Masters" exhibition has not been dismay that a museum is displaying cartoons but the choice of who's included and who's not. In a time when motorcycles, Armani fashion designs and dead sharks are inside museum walls, comics almost seem traditional, quaint.

"This is by no means radical territory," says David Moos, contemporary curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canadian museum that just closed a solo show of Seth's drawings and sculpture. Moos looks at the cartoonist's works in a context of Canadian landscape painters and for its ability to solve formal problems. "Why wouldn't you expect a museum to be engaged with this material?"

The future of comics in the museum may have to do with something the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art has become familiar with: quarrels over the proportion of superhero cartoons and independent comics, of one era over another.

"We get more internal fighting," says curator Van Lente, "than resistance from the outside."

Just like — after all — a regular museum.

*

'Masters of American Comics'

What: Comic strips from the first half of the 20th century

Where: Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood

When: Opens Nov. 20. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Friday and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.

Ends: March 12

Price: $5; free on Thursdays

Contact: (310) 443-7000, www.hammer.ucla.edu

Also

What: Comic books from the 1940s onward

Where: MOCA, 250 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles

When: Opens Nov. 20. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Ends: March 12

Price: $8

Contact: (213) 626-6222, www.moca.org

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives.

Copyright Los Angeles Times
 
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Featured artists

Seth
Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware

          



  Comic Relief - Graphic Novels move into the mainstream. Newsweek article.

Updated August 15, 2005


Comic Relief
Take that, Batman. Graphic novels are moving out of the hobby shop and into the mainstream.

By Rana Foroohar
Newsweek International

Aug. 22, 2005

If you have any doubt about the power of comic books, consider that they are now required reading for the future military leaders of America. In order to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, cadets from the class of 2006 must study Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel "Persepolis," a coming-of-age tale set during the Iranian revolution. It's a wise choice for the syllabus, not only because it is such a compelling read but because the simple black-and-white frames of Satrapi's family saga will likely give the cadets a better understanding of Iran than any academic text, newspaper report or strategy paper ever could. "Persepolis" shows Iranians not as banner-waving fanatics or higab-covered shadows, but as individuals—funny, fraught and often fearful of the strange, powerful forces unfolding around them. "I'm not a politician or a sociologist or a historian, but I witnessed a lot of things that happened in a place that many people are concerned about right now," says Satrapi, speaking from her Paris studio. Comics, she adds, are particularly well suited to telling her story to a global audience: "Images are an international language."

Comics are certainly having an international moment, in terms of both sales figures and increased literary respect. Global publishers say that graphic novels—which include everything from the hugely popular Japanese illustrated stories known as manga to highly sophisticated works like "Persepolis," Art Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" and Joe Sacco's "War's End"—had their best year ever in 2004 and look to grow even more in 2005. In the United States, sales of graphic novels have leaped from $75 million in 2001 to $207 million in 2004. Booksellers in America, Britain, Germany, Italy and South Korea cite graphic literature as one of their fastest-growing categories. In Borders, one of America's largest bookstore chains, graphic-novel sales have risen more than 100 percent a year for the past three years. In France, where comics have long been mainstream, sales are reaching record highs, up 13.8 percent to 43.3 million copies in 2004; indeed, five of the 10 best-selling books in France last year were comic books. Manga, which already represents 20 percent of Japan's publishing market, is also spreading rapidly in South Korea, Thailand and other countries; in many cases, locals are buying American versions of the originals in an effort to learn English.

Move over, Spider-Man. Graphic literature has finally broken out of hobby shops and into the mainstream. Superhero fantasies have given way to grittier, more pointed works grounded firmly in reality. Academics in the United States and Europe are teaching comics as literature in the classroom. Books like "Persepolis"—as well as Sacco's "Palestine" and "Safe Area: Gorazde," and Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang"—are held up not only as great literature but also as instructive guides to global conflict zones. Polish graphic artists are commemorating the country's upcoming 25th anniversary of Solidarity with a slew of new comics. Once the province of indie publishers, graphic novels are now turned out by serious houses like Pantheon in New York and Jonathan Cape in London. Museums like New York's Whitney and London's Institute of Contemporary Art exhibit cutting-edge comics as art. In France, Minister of Culture Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres presided in May over the first national celebration of comic books (one of nine officially recognized arts), knighting comics artists from Japan, France and Belgium. Said Donnedieu, "I wanted to mark my attachment to this sector of creativity, to honor its beauty, its irony, its sometime ferocity, its perpetual imagination."

Indeed, the genre knows no rules or boundaries. The term "graphic novel" was popularized by Will Eisner, one of the first artists to elevate the medium beyond pulp fare with his 1978 work "A Contract With God," depicting his childhood in a Bronx, New York, tenement. Three decades on, publishers and retailers often use "graphic novel" to distinguish one-off books from the serialized ones put out by companies like Marvel and DC Comics—but many of the artists themselves prefer the outsider status that "comics" connotes. (In Daniel Clowes's new novel, "Ice Haven," comic-book critic Harry Naybors pontificates about nomenclature, finding the term "comics" superior to the "vulgar marketing sobriquet 'graphic novel'.")

The themes—war, oppression, terrorism, racism—as well as the drawings themselves are becoming increasingly sophisticated. "For decades, comics have been little more than yet another commercial tool to cheat children out of their lunch money," says Chris Ware, author of the much-heralded "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," the story of four generations of downtrodden men in Chicago. "Slowly, that's changing, with a growing number of genuinely artistically minded people starting to draw them, and the subject matter migrating to screenplays and Hollywood films."

Every month seems to bring a new film based on a comic book. Ironically, it was a drop in sales of serialized comic books like "Superman" and "Spider-Man" that helped catalyze the movie deals. Hollywood producers keen to show off new digital technology jumped on superhero content, and reaped the rewards of the built-in audience for superhero films. The mass-market exposure of the characters, in turn, started driving more people into the comics sections of their bookstores, where they discovered manga and graphic novels. Now those genres are getting more play on the big screen, too—witness the recent film versions of Frank Miller's "Sin City," Clowes's "Ghost World," Max Allan Collins's "The Road to Perdition" and Alan Moore's Jack the Ripper tale "From Hell."

The rise of serious graphic literature is less a new phenomenon than a return to a forgotten one. Rodolphe Topffer, a German illustrator who made Europe's first interdependent combinations of words and pictures in the early 1800s, was admired by Goethe. Charles Dickens's first works used pictures. As with so many things, Europeans invented modern comics—and Americans commercialized them. By the early 20th century, comic strips had taken off in U.S. newspapers, snapped up by hordes of new immigrants who used the universal language of images to learn English. Comics remained high art on the Continent, but in the Anglo-Saxon world they became mass-market pop fare, read, discarded and used to wrap fish. The rise of the sci-fi/superhero comic books in the 1950s did little to clean up the reputation of graphic literature.

So the 1986 publication of "Maus," Spiegelman's Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel about his parents' survival of the Holocaust (Jews were drawn as mice, Germans as cats), was a revelation. "I had thought that comics were all about superheroes," says Satrapi. "I remember seeing 'Maus' and thinking, 'Wow, you can do that?' and then, 'Yeah, and why wouldn't you do that?' " For at least a decade, no other comic novel approached the significance of "Maus."

The fact that so many do now is testimony to Spiegelman's godfatherlike role in graphic literature. For years he has spread the good word about comics (with the help of his French wife, Francoise Mouly, who is in charge of cover art for The New Yorker magazine), publishing smart comic magazines and mentoring top artists like Ware, Clowes and Satrapi. Given the outsider reputation of comics, it's no wonder that these same artists now express ambivalence about their acceptance by the cultural elite. "It's a Faustian bargain," says Spiegelman, for a medium that has traditionally been populated by outsiders to be discussed by academics and bought by the cozy middle classes in mainstream bookstores. "But at least we're a category now, and there is a place for more people to see the work."


The boom in graphic literature may stem in part from the need for fresh ways to comment on the increasingly complex political and social issues of the day. When asked why comics are having a moment now, Spiegelman jokes, "I hope it's not related to the [U.S.] administration." Still, it's true that he was the first well-known artist to react to 9/11, with a series of controversial comic strips that were rejected by many newspapers and magazines before ultimately appearing in the graphic novel "In the Shadow of No Towers." The subversive power of comics allowed Spiegelman to depict falling towers and satirize the Bush government while most other writers were staying clear of the disaster zone. "Comics aren't supposed to be 'serious,' so we can say anything," notes Satrapi. "Also, the use of a drawing, rather than a photograph, can create the distance necessary to handle a sensitive topic without being cynical."

Of course, the comic book benefits from the fact that we live in a visual world, communicating as much through images as through words. But even as comics lend themselves so well to the digital age, they also have an almost artisanal sensibility that appeals at a time when so much communication is virtual and ephemeral. "Part of the pleasure of a book is its object-ness," says Spiegelman. "Graphic novels inhabit that completely." "In the Shadow of No Towers" is printed on 12 heavy cardboard pages like a children's board book. The beautifully detailed panels in "Jimmy Corrigan," almost Victorian in their intricacy, make it feel more like a piece of artwork than a novel. Creating these books is akin more to sculpting than to writing; each panel is drawn by hand, and entire novels can take a decade or more to create. "It's work for a monk," says Satrapi.

The comics universe will undoubtedly continue to expand. A number of new releases, like Clowes's "Ice Haven" (which crosses the adolescent angst of "Ghost World" with "Simpsons"-style social satire) and Satrapi's "Embroideries" (frank talk about the sex lives of Iranian women), are already racking up strong sales. In October, in honor of the 20th anniversary of "Maus," Spiegelman will publish "Meta Mouse," a collection of sketches and background work from the original. Bidding wars for hot new titles are heating up; W.W. Norton has reportedly paid a hefty advance for R. Crumb's version of the Biblical tale of Genesis. Beyond this, manga publisher Tokyopop recently cut a deal to serialize manga in the hugely popular U.S. teen magazine CosmoGirl. And rival publisher Dark Horse plans to launch a series of manga Harlequin romance novels.

Meanwhile, the movies just keeping coming, with stars like Natalie Portman, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Cage soon to be seen in comic-book adaptations. Offerings this fall include "V for Vendetta," based on an Alan Moore novel set uncomfortably close to reality in a totalitarian London under siege by terrorists. "Art School Confidential," an adaptation of Clowes's comic about a disgruntled art-school student—starring John Malkovich—is due in September. Meanwhile, Satrapi is penning a French animated version of "Persepolis" and is in discussion with an American studio about a possible English-language version. "There are still so many stories that can be told by comics," she says. "It's a relatively new medium, but I think it has a really long and beautiful future."

With Tracy McNicoll in Paris, Mary Acoymo in London, Mark Russell in Seoul and Kay Itoi in Tokyo
© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.
© 2005 MSNBC.com
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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware
Guy Delisle

           Featured products

War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea (hardcover)




D+Q Wins 5 Harvey Awards

Updated June 29, 2004


Drawn & Quarterly's whirlwind visit to the Big Apple last week was capped with five Harvey wins at the MoCCA Arts Festival at the Puck Building Saturday evening, the most of any nominated publisher and the most wins the company has ever received at one time. Chester Brown, who was in attendance to accept his awards, won for "Best Writer" and "Best Graphic Album-Previously Published Work" for his critically acclaimed, bestselling graphic novel of the Canadian Folk Hero LOUIS RIEL; A COMIC STRIP BIOGRAPHY. Chris Ware also received "Special Award for Excellence in Presentation" and "Best Colorist" for his sketchbook THE ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK. Publisher & Editor Chris Oliveros took home "Best Anthology" for the latest edition of the company's flagship series, DRAWN & QUARTERLY 5. The Harveys are named for Harvey Kurtzman, the co-founder of the seminal humor and pop culture magazine MAD Magazine, and they recognize excellence in the comic book industry. All nominations and winners are voted by the creative members of the comic book medium.
 

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Drawn & Quarterly
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Drawn & Quarterly (NEW series) Volume 5
ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  The Comics Journal features 5 D+Q titles in "2003 Year In Review"

Updated May 20, 2004


The scholarly magazine of comics criticism, THE COMICS JOUNRAL, has selected four D+Q titles - Chester Brown's LOUIS RIEL , DRAWN & QUARTERLY 5, Joe Sacco's THE FIXER and Chris Ware's ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK - on a list of only featured 13 titles from the year 2003. Igort's 5 IS THE PERFECT NUMBER received an honorable mention.
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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Igort
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Drawn & Quarterly (NEW series) Volume 5
The Fixer




LA Times features Chris ware and Acme Novelty Datebook

Updated April 19, 2004


Book Review; Features Desk
Achingly drawn conclusions; The Acme Novelty Date Book: Sketches and Diary Pages in Facsimile 1986-1995; Chris Ware; Oog & Blik/Drawn & Quarterly: 208 pp., $39.95 Quimby the Mouse; Chris Ware; Fantagraphics Books: 56 pp., $24.95 cloth, $14.95 paper Notes From a Defeatist; Joe Sacco; Fantagraphics Books: 216 pp., $19.95 Twentieth Century Eightball; Daniel Clowes; Fantagraphics Books: 101 pp., $19
Scott Timberg
Scott Timberg is an arts writer at The Times and co-editor of "The Misread City: New Literary Los Angeles."
1,574 words
8 February 2004
Los Angeles Times
Home Edition
R-6
English
Copyright 2004 The Los Angeles Times

The Partisan Review may have folded in the last year, but alienation and ennui are alive and well in American letters. Ironically, at the same time that comic-book protagonists have earned a new literary respect, they have lost the ability to transform themselves. Instead of going from estranged loner to confident superhero, they remain alienated nebbishes -- as estranged as any hero before he dons his cape.

These loners are more likely to dress in vintage Arrow shirts or thrift-shop suits: While superhero comics swooned over the technological future, characters in the "alternative" comics of the last decade tend to be downright nostalgic. It may be that working in a form that peaked in mid-century, that's never quite recovered from the onslaught of television, drives cartoonists to idealize decades past. This melancholic pining takes all kinds of forms: "American Splendor's" Harvey Pekar, whose sensibility bridges the hippie comix and the alternative cartoonists born in the 1960s, loves jug bands and Delta blues. "The world my parents grew up in doesn't seem to fit together with this one," Seth, the porkpie-wearing hero and author of the comic "Palookaville," laments in one panel, while searching for a lost cartoonist from mid-century. They make record collectors look calm.

But rarely have nostalgia and alienation been transposed into art as fully as in Chris Ware's "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth," the wrenching story of a man searching for his father, and Daniel Clowes' "Ghost World," about two sarcastic girls adrift in suburbia. Almost achingly soulful, these works brought the graphic novel acclaim, but they also showed the limits of nostalgia and alienation as artistic elements. While their characters were mooning over forgotten world's fairs or jeering fake-retro diners, the cartoonist Joe Sacco took his pen to war zones to produce "Palestine" and "Safe Area Gorazde," works that capture the daily street-level experience of the Israeli and Bosnian conflicts.

If these artists are like rock bands that have hit big, a spate of recent books collects the first vinyl singles. Like a band's early work, the quality ranges enormously.

Ware may be the most visually accomplished cartoonist in history. His style combines the look of magazine ads, old road maps, architectural drawings, retro typefaces and 1950s instruction manuals. His visual polish and use of unlikely, often muted color combinations is unmatched. The covers of "The Acme Novelty Date Book, 1986-1995" and "Quimby the Mouse" evoke the splendor of art nouveau.

Like many alternative cartoonists, Ware seems to have little interest in the visual world since the '50s; it's as if these artists are denying themselves the last half-century of visual life, judging it too lustful and worldly. But Ware makes encyclopedic use of earlier, more formal eras.

It's a surprise, then, to see that much of his early work lacks his trademark graphic sparkle and storytelling genius. "The Acme Novelty Date Book" collects self-portraits, doodles of old buildings, unlovely naked people drawn in the style of R. Crumb and some early appearances of Corrigan. And while his recent work makes imaginative use of space and sequence, these are mostly single, standing images. These drawings, many of them done as a University of Texas undergraduate, make it seem as if Ware's talent came out of nowhere.

Some of the link between the rough and polished becomes clear in "Quimby the Mouse," which collects comics from the early '90s. Many involve a prankish rodent whose tale is told almost wordlessly, evoking, at its best, Keaton or Chaplin. But most of the black-and-white stories lack inspiration. (Some of the color work, and there's not much of it, is nearly as pretty as "Corrigan.") The best stuff may be the book's title pages, which explode with language -- apologies, confessions, inside jokes, fake ads and letters from readers. "I do not think if I sent away for things you offer in the magazine that they would come to me," one writes. Another writer reveals that he uses the name Jimmy Corrigan to depress his wife's libido.

Both of these books will please Ware purists -- and may intrigue future scholars -- for their portrait of the artist. But the general reader will be happier finding his recent comics individually, which allows time to savor every page.

The recent work of Sacco, born in Malta but raised and educated on the West Coast, was inspired by New Journalism and partisan British reportage. "Safe Area Gorazde" and "Palestine" have been deservedly praised by Christopher Hitchens and the late Edward Said: They convey sides of their conflicts either too disturbing or too mundane to show up on the nightly news. Sacco's use of characters, especially those who gather around the bar after battles, brings an unsentimental human touch to these wars, which remain both well exposed and misunderstood.

"Notes From a Defeatist" collects a wide range of early, formative Sacco, including "Cartoon Genius," "Eight Characters" and "Voyage to the End of the Library." Somehow, these pieces aren't very interesting: They're the usual chronicles of losers and office drones who populate the alt-comics world, complete with the toilet humor that's the common denominator of cartoonists' early work. His visual style, closer to the head shop than that of the crisp Ware or Clowes, is lost without a good story.

Similarly, "In the Company of Long Hair" is a pro forma piece about touring Europe with a rock band. Clearly, the awkward Sacco has less fun than the shallow partyers he's touring with, but he doesn't find much that's insightful or funny.

From the evidence of these early comics, Sacco was an author in search of a subject. He found it when he began to write about war in three pieces included here. Among them is "More Women, More Children, More Quickly," which tells, from his mother's point of view, of the Fascist and Nazi raids on Malta and two other pieces written about war from the outside. These early war pieces show an urge to break out of the limits of his American experience, but their secondhand origins can lend them an earnestness. Sacco's strongest work -- including an excellent recent release called "The Fixer," set in Sarajevo -- was still to come.

Clowes' is by far the most satisfying of all these new books of old material. "Twentieth Century Eightball" includes its share of adolescent silliness and sexual weirdness: Perhaps every cartoonist needs to get this out of his system. Despite the hit-and-miss quality of its 40 strips over 100 pages, the book not only gives a good sense of where Clowes was headed, it's also got so much visual variety that even its most puerile gags make good browsing.

Some of the early comics are short and merely clever, like "Ink Studs," which ponders why rock stars get more "chicks" than cartoonists and advises women to find themselves "a cartoon Casanova." "Little Enid" is the brief debut of the jaded protagonist of "Ghost World." The strip "The Party" isn't fully developed but shows Clowes' knack with uncomfortable social settings. "On Sports" is an often funny Freudian reach about the sexual roots of baseball and football; "Art School Confidential" is a soon-to-be adapted (by filmmaker Terry Zwigoff) strip about a common cartoonist bete noire.

Clowes' real gift is an almost anthropological observation, and the masterpiece of his early work is the strip "Chicago," about his hometown. Here, a hapless narrator wanders through recent Chicago history, lamenting the phoniness of the "Ye Olde" themed bars, adorned with player pianos and names like "Q.B. Bushwackers" that sprang up in the '70s. As the '80s dawned -- "tired of being outclassed by more glamorous cities," he says -- Chicago re-imagined itself around "The Blues Brothers" and the Bears as a kind of urban lout. The last scene takes place in hell, where the devil wears a Cubs cap and "the damned are forced to drink old style beer while listening to an eternal medley of R&B standards performed by Jim Belushi and Bruce Willis."

One doesn't have to hate, or love, Chicago to be carried along on this nebbish's nostalgia trip.

 

Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  D+Q Nominated for Six Eisner Awards!

Updated April 12, 2004


D+Q is up for six different Eisner Awards for the publishing year 2003.

Best Short Story: "Monsieur Jean," by Philippe Dupuy and Charles
Berberian, in Drawn & Quarterly 5

Best Anthology: Drawn & Quarterly 5

Best Graphic Album-New: The Fixer by Joe Sacco

Best Graphic Album-Reprint: Louis Riel by Chester Brown

Best Publication Design: Louis Riel by Chester Brown

Best Comics-Related Book: The Acme Novelty Library Datebook by Chris Ware

The Eisners, along with the Harveys and the Ignatzes, are the comic book industry's most distinguished Awards. The winners are announced at San Diego Comic-con in July.

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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Chris Ware
Dupuy & Berberian

           Featured products

Drawn & Quarterly (NEW series) Volume 5
The Fixer




NY Newsday features Chris Ware and Acme Novelty Date Book

Updated January 14, 2004


COMICS: Of Mice And Supermen
By Richard Gehr. Richard Gehr writes for Spin, Blender and AARP: The Magazine.
921 words
11 January 2004
Newsday
ALL EDITIONS
D32
English
Copyright 2004, Newsday. All Rights Reserved.

PALOMAR: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, by Gilbert Hernandez. Fantagraphics, 522 pp., $39.95.

Fixated on family relationships, Gilbert Hernandez's "Heartbreak Soup" stories began appearing in 1982 in Love and Rockets, the most influential alternative comic book of its era, alongside those of his brothers Jaime and Mario. For 15 years, Gilbert's magical-realist saga, set in a nowheresville coastal town somewhere south of the border, resonated perfectly with Jaime's more pop culture-inspired stories of loopy Latinas up north.

Boasting a dauntingly large cast of mostly female characters, Gilbert's stories were often difficult to follow from issue to issue. However, his art, which combined dramatic formal compositions with a blithe cartoony spirit, was always terrific. And enjoyed now in a single long sitting, these more than 500 pages deliver an utterly engaging epic beholden to comics' unique ability to allow readers to linger in time and space. Hernandez explores Palomar, a cross between Archie Andrews' sex-obsessed Riverdale and Gabriel García Márquez's tragic Macondo, leisurely and lovingly over a 20-year time span replete with births, deaths, love affairs of every configuration, insanity and mystery.

"Palomar" begins with the arrival of Luba, a basketball-bosomed, chicken-legged mother of four children by three fathers. At the center of a world of nurturing women and desiring men, Luba's breasts dominate the town both metaphorically and graphically.

The apex of this nonlinear matriarchal masterpiece is "Human Diastrophism," a 100-page novella involving a serial killer, a plague of monkeys, the town slut's ultimately tragic political awakening and Humberto, an uncompromising young artist who might be a stand-in for Hernandez himself. In a footnote, Hernandez explains that the titular soup cures broken hearts by turning them to stone. And as "Palomar" winds down, the reviled artist is secretly rendering all of the town's citizens as life-sized stone statues deposited in the local river. Luba's adventures will continue in America, but Palomar's citizens are set memorably in stone.

THE SILVER AGE OF COMIC BOOK ART, by Arlen Schumer. Collectors Press, 192 pp., $49.95/$29.95 paper.

'The costumed hero is what the comic book is all about," Spider-Man creator Steve Ditko once said, "a costumed hero in action." The characters virtually leap off the pages of Arlen Schumer's gloriously oversized, concisely written tribute to eight artists who thrust such cultural icons as the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Dr. Strange and Green Lantern into America's collective consciousness during the 1960s and '70s.

Comic art was a matter of pure design for Carmine Infantino, whose Flash comics embodied a sleek modern sense of speed. Ditko, on the other hand, almost single-handedly inspired the psychedelic poster era through the darkly ingenious magical worlds he created for Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. No artist, however, is more closely identified with the time than Jack "King" Kirby, a virtuoso of widescreen scenes of devastation and a pioneer of surreal collage art who declared that "violence is just a well-timed dance, a ballet."

The work created by these artists - along with Jim Steranko, Gil Kane, Neal Adams, Joe Kubert and Gene Colan - could, and should, hang in museums alongside the pop art productions of, say, Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Roy Lichtenstein, who so often appropriated their techniques and sheer energy.

QUIMBY THE MOUSE, by Chris Ware. Fantagraphics Books; 68 pp., $24.95/$14.95 paper.

Chris Ware is the Samuel Beckett of alternative comics. He can't go on, but he must go on. He does so by deconstructing and reassembling primal images derived from comics' history, then transforming them into allegories for potent personal memories. With up to 168 tiny panels on a single page, his work resembles cave paintings, flow charts and electronic circuitry all at once.

"Quimby the Mouse" collects strips Ware drew for the University of Texas at Austin student newspaper in 1990-91. These were reprinted in early issues of his ongoing comic, The ACME Novelty Library, and have now been lavishly repackaged in a large-format, gold-embossed hardcover edition that might have been hand-bound sometime during the 19th century.

In a frankly sentimental introduction, Ware chronicles his affection for his late grandmother and her Omaha, Neb., home. The first half of the book focuses on Siamese twin "Quimbies," one of whom gradually withers away, leaving his counterpart to wander bereft through an empty house. The latter half updates George Herriman's timeless romantic struggles between Krazy Kat and Ignatius the Mouse, with Quimby the Mouse alternately adoring and abusing a cat's head named Sparky. (Another long piece of prose details the actual mechanical cat's head Ware constructed for his grandmother prior to her death.)

Ware seems slightly embarrassed today by the fake novelty ads, purloined imagery and other distancing effects he employed. He needn't be. Indeed, the often stunning sketchbook pages reprinted in another recent volume, "The Acme Novelty Date Book" (Drawn & Quarterly, $39.95), prove Ware to be a far more flexible artist than one might have imagined from "Quimby" and his critically adored 2000 book, "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth." Depressed and obsessed, this disturbing perfectionist is probably the cartoonist most singularly reflective of our sad, shrinking world.
 

Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  LA Weekly Features The Fixer & Acme Novelty Datebooke on Best of 2003 List

Updated December 31, 2003


Th LA Weekly has published their annual comics issue and god bless them! They feature Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook along with Joe Sacco's The Fixer as some of the best graphic novels of the year.

On Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook:

"This book reflects the humility, humor and genius of its author and forever ends the discussion of whether cartoonists should be considered artists."

On Joe Sacco's The Fixer:

"Few newscasts will give you a clearer or more indelible picture of recent global conflict than one of Joe Sacco’s books...The Fixer is no different. "


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Featured artists

Joe Sacco
Chris Ware

           Featured products

The Fixer
ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




Vancouver's Georgia Straight Reviews Louis Riel & Acme Novelty Datebook

Updated December 22, 2003


The Vancouver Weekly The Georgia Straight reviews two D+Q graphic novels in their 2003 Holiday books round-up.

John Byrne states that LOUIS RIEL is told with "masterful pacing" and that "Canada's history unfolds here with an orderly inevitability, engrossing and...enriching."

Byrne notes that the ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK has "first appearances by the entire Jimmy Corrrigan cast, and a persistent drift toward the flat architectural drawing style and desaturated palette that helped give Corrigan its emotional heft."
 

Featured artists

Chester Brown
Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




Boston Phoenix Reviews Louis Riel & Acme Novelty Datebook

Updated December 17, 2003


From the Boston weekly the Phoenix, reviewer Mike Milliard takes an in-depth look at this year's graphic novels including Chester Brown's LOUIS RIEL and Chris Ware's ACME NOVELTY DATEBOOK.

an excerpt:

"For a more intimate look at Ware’s thought processes and raw emotion, flip through the Acme Novelty Datebook: Sketches and Diary Pages in Facsimile, 1986-1995 (Drawn & Quarterly; $39.95). It is, quite literally, his sketchbook. Reproducing the febrile scribblings and manic marginalia he churned out between the ages of 19 and 28, the book leaves no doubt why Ware is one of the best artists of his generation. First, he draws anything. Sad sacks sitting in diners, household appliances, austere architecture, grotesque cartoon characters whom he subjects to gruesome demises. And he seems at home with any medium: pen and ink, gouache, watercolor, crayon, marker, colored pencil — sometimes all on the same page. Most important, he has an intuitive grasp of the vernacular of comic books. Showing the influence of Dick Tracy, Krazy Kat, and Robert Crumb, he’s synthesized them all in his own inimitable style. (And after page 28, you’ll never again look at Nancy and Sluggo the same way.)

After the neurotic, fastidious precision of Jimmy Corrigan and Quimby, it’s a surprise to see the messy, try-anything quality of these pages. No coincidence that some look like Technicolor guts were spilled on the paper; Ware’s sketchbook doubles as a diary, a window on his hang-ups and insecurities — from his troubles with women (see several self-loathing, sexually explicit cartoons) to his sadness over the death of his grandmother to his insecurities about making art. It feels voyeuristic, in a way, but it’s so visually stimulating that it’s hard to put down. As one fan wrote on Amazon.com, Ware "seems unafraid to show us his most private moments of self-doubt and insecurity. It was surprising to me that someone this talented could be such a harsh critic of his own work."

Another new title from Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly comes from Canadian cartoonist Chester Brown. Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography ($24.95) is exactly what it says it is: the starkly told story (originally serialized over 10 issues into a book) of a crucial figure in Canada’s history — yet one whom most Americans have probably never heard of. It’s a credit to Brown’s plainspoken artistry and flair for narrative that it’s a page-turner till the end.

Riel was a Métis (of mixed French and native blood) who lived in the Red River Settlement, north of Minnesota — which at that time (the mid-19th century) was not yet a part of Canada, but governed by the Hudson Bay Trading Company. To protect against further French influence in Canada, the government tried to foist an English Protestant governor on the province (soon to be Manitoba). But the Métis, resentful of this impingement on their land, turned to Riel as their leader. His journey from seminarian to community leader to member of Parliament to treasonous revolutionary to condemned man is one that Brown tells slowly and deliberately, in plain square panels and a spare understated style (influenced by the subtle caricatures of Hergé’s Tintin and Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie). His clean line and keen eye for mise en scène are perfectly suited to this bleak cipher of a story. Riel meant different things to different people. Beloved by his Métis, despised by the Protestant ascendancy, a mystic convinced he was spoken to by God and the chosen savior of his people, he was a singular and enigmatic figure. Brown makes you care. And he’s an honest historian; wherever a story’s facts are tweaked for the sake of narrative, he makes note of it. Indeed, it’s a rare comic book that comes with end notes, an index, and a bibliography."


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Featured artists

Chester Brown
Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




Montreal Hour Loves D+Q Graphic Novels

Updated December 4, 2003


Dimitri Katadotis of The Montreal Weekly THE HOUR spotlights one of the "finest publishers around" D+Q and states that everyone of our titles is an "extremely worthy" purchase. Thanks! We agree!
 
click here to download the PDF (1.86 MB)


Featured artists

Chester Brown
Igort
Chris Ware

           Featured products

5 is the Perfect Number
ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  San Antonio Current Praises D+Q Graphic Novels

Updated October 16, 2003



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Featured artists

Debbie Drechsler
Seth
Chris Ware

           Featured products

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995
Vernacular Drawings




Booklist Praises Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook

Updated October 9, 2003


From the October 1st issue....

Prolific alternative-comics artist Ware follows his epic, Jimmy
Corrigan (2000), and Quimby the Mouse [BKL S 1 03] with a collection of
sketchbook pages. Ware owes his lofty reputation largely to his awesome
command of the "grammar" of comics, and this handsome volume showcasing
his drawing ability amounts to something of a new revelation. Ware's
strips are so meticulous in their rigid perfection that they seem to
indicate an obsessive character. Yet these hundreds of life drawings,
cityscapes, doodles, preliminary sketches, and other drawings, rendered
in an impressive variety of styles, contrarily display unexpected
spontaneity and looseness. Particularly revelatory are a handful of
actual strips in Ware's familiar multipanel approach, and featuring
Jimmy, Quimby, and other characters from his long stories, that are
rendered in a rougher, almost crude style. Ware's fans will find his
marginal notes fascinating, too, for their revelations about his
creative process. Besides showing off Ware's facility and variety, this
beautifully designed book demonstrates just how much thought and
planning go into his acclaimed graphic novels.

 

Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  "Intensely thoughtful, funny, complex and beautiful": Time.com on 2 new Chris Ware books

Updated August 29, 2003


Time.com weighs in on two new books by Chris Ware: Quimby The Mouse [Fantagraphics] and The Acme Novelty datebook [D+Q}. Click below for more...
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




Acme Datebook, Summer of Love, etc, reviewed in Hartford Advocate

Updated August 25, 2003


The Advocate, Hartford's leading weekly newspaper, reviews a bunch of D+Q books past and present in this week's edition:
 
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Featured artists

David Collier
Debbie Drechsler
Chris Ware

           Featured products

Hamilton Sketchbook
ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Datebook in stores now!

Updated July 30, 2003


Chris Ware's eagerly-anticipated art book, The Acme Novelty Datebook, is in stores now! "Ware is one of the medium's outright geniuses," writes Time.com in this week's edition, "and the chance to peer into his unpolished doodles should not be missed."
Available in many fine book and comic stores or directly online by clicking below.


Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




Acme Novelty Datebook debuts at D+Q booth this week in San Diego

Updated July 13, 2003


Chris Ware's eagerly-anticipated new book, The Acme Novelty Datebook, will make its exclusive North American debut this week at Drawn & Quarterly's booth at the San Diego comic convention. Copies of this gorgeously-designed and produced cloth edition, Ware's first ever sketchbook, have just been received via Fed Ex from the printer in Holland (and as a result it will cost slightly more, $47, to help offset these expensive costs — it's a heavy book).

Also premiering at D+Q's booth will be Italian cartoonist Igort's first graphic novel in English, 5 Is The Perfect Number.

The D+Q booth will also be hosting signings by cartoonists Dupuy & Berberian (Friday - Sunday), Adrian Tomine (Saturday and Sunday), and Joe Matt (Saturday and Sunday).

D+Q will be located at # 1329 and 1428 from Wednesday July 16th until Sunday July 20th in the San Diego Convention Center.
 

Featured artists

Igort
Adrian Tomine
Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995




  Chris Ware wins Alph-Art at Angouleme 2003

Updated March 17, 2003


February 1 2003, The Guardian

The Prix Alph-Art for best graphic novel went to Chris Ware for his Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. Jimmy Corrigan won the Guardian First Book Award in 2001.
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Featured artist

Chris Ware

           Featured product

ACME Novelty Datebook Volume 1: 1986-1995





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