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CREATOR PROFILE:

CHRIS WARE

Biography:

“The ambivalence and the cruelty of life. I think if you had to put his comics in a nutshell, that would be it… But it’s not necessarily a negative outlook, just the truth. Life is ambivalent. Seems like we can’t have the good without the bad. One thing that Ware said that really struck me was this. He said that in Jimmy Corrigan he was trying to say, mainly, that life is beautiful. The thing is, he felt like he couldn’t say that life is beautiful, because it’s too corny, so he tried to say it by drawing the story the way he did and using the amazing colours he did. The beautiful book itself was a sort of argument against all the sadness described in it. That’s a really good way of putting it, I think, and you could apply that to all of his work.”
Daniel Raeburn

Franklin Christenson Ware (1967- ) is originally from Omaha, Nebraska, but moved to San Antonio, Texas at the age of 16. In 1986 his first published comic work, Floyd Farland, appeared in The Daily Texan, the campus newspaper of the University of Texas (later published in a collected format by Eclipse Comics - if you happen to own a copy Chris Ware will exchange it for a piece of original artwork, such is his desire to eradicate all traces of it from the planet). In 1991 he moved to Chicago, Illinois, to attend the Chicago Art Institute. He was invited by Art Spiegelman to appear in the influential RAW magazine and from 1992 his weekly comic strip has featured in the Chicago local alternative newspaper, New City. Since 1993 he has been producing his own comic, The Acme Novelty Library, which features a cast of hapless characters such as Jimmy Corrigan, Quimby The Mouse, Rusty Brown, Big Tex, and Rocket Sam, but is noted as much for its immaculate design and packaging as for the stories themselves.

Essential Reading:


Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid On Earth
Pantheon, 2000

Winner of the Guardian 2001 First Book Award, Jimmy Corrigan is a 380 page intricate tale of four generations of the Corrigan family spanning 100 years. Jimmy visits his father who had previously abandoned him as a child. Among airport bars, convenience stores and modular housing Jimmy becomes involved in the lives of his father, his black adopted sister, Amy, and his grandfather, also named Jimmy.

Paul Gravett says:
Somehow characters simplified into cartoon diagrams become heartbreakingly real and life’s ambivalence and cruelty are tempered by passages of melancholic beauty.

Daniel Reaburn says:
Jimmy Corrigan may be the most physically beautiful book ever written about loneliness.

Art Spiegelman says:
This is like welcoming James Joyce into the ranks of novel writers. This new book seems to be another milestone in the demonstration of what [comics] can be.

Chris Ware says:
Mostly, I don’t know what I’m doing, but I guess at some point I realised that the basic tools inherited as a cartoonist just seemed inadequate to express a real sense of what it feels like to be alive, that there’s a sort of a ‘volume level’ always set at ‘ten’ in most comics that reads and feels like shouting or screaming, and has a sort of intensity to me that doesn’t feel ‘real’ in a way a good and carefully considered novel strives to feel. I guess I consciously tried to tone down, or quiet down - or even essentially sterilize - the approach that I was taking so that the surface of the comic strip, or the drawing of it, would have very little effect on the reader at all. I wanted the cartoon to be a transparent structure that one would simply look through, rather than look at… I found that the simpler the picture, the quieter the picture, the better it worked as something that was read, or, more importantly, something that seemed, once one was reading it, to happen before your eyes.



Acme Novelty Library Vol 20: Lint
Drawn & Quarterly, 2010

This installment of the Acme Novelty Library chronicles the life of Jordan Wellington Lint (b.1958) from cradle to grave, each year of Lint’s life represented by a few representative seconds of consciousness per page. As he grows from child to sullen teen to angry young man to repressed upstanding citizen - and moves towards his inevitable end - Lint adapts to his own social advantages, personal mistakes and the lies he tells himself to somehow end up feeling pretty okay about himself. Ware approximates Lint’s inner life at every stage through a muddled stream of overlaid thoughts, personal symbols and mislaid memories, providing insight into the mind of a bemused father, ineffectual businessman and aspiring rock musician.



Quimby The Mouse
Fantagraphics, 2003

Cleverly appropriated old-fashioned animation imagery and advertising styles of the 1920s and 1930s are put to use in Quimby at the service of modern vignettes of angst and existentialism. As this cartoon silhouette of a mouse ignominiously suffers at every turn, the spaces between the panels create despair and a Beckett-like rhythm of hope deceived and deferred (but never quite extinguished), buoying Quimby from page to page. Like Ware’s first book, Jimmy Corrigan, Quimby is saturated with Ware’s genius, including consistently amazing graphics, insanely perfectionist production values, cut-out-and-assemble paper projects, and the formal complexity of his narratives that have earned him the reputation as one of the most prodigious artists of his generation.



Chris Ware
by Daniel Raeburn
Yale University Press, 2004

A book devoted to the life and work of Chris Ware. Daniel Raeburn looks closely at Ware’s career, work methods, and graphic innovations, which include pullout, flip-up, and three-dimensional insertions, along with cut-out-and-assemble-paper projects that require construction by readers. Based on many hours of interviews with the artist, Raeburn offers fascinating insights into the connections between Jimmy Corrigan’s biography and that of his creator. In addition, the book encompasses Ware’s many other works and examines his place in the world of literature, graphic art, and popular culture.



The Comics Of Chris Ware:
Drawing Is A Way Of Thinking

edited by David Ball & Martha Kuhlman
University Press Of Mississippi, 2010

This book brings together contributions from established and emerging scholars about the comics of Chicago-based cartoonist Chris Ware. Both inside and outside academic circles, Ware’s work is rapidly being distinguished as essential to the developing canon of the graphic novel. Winner of the 2001 Guardian First Book Prize for the genre-defining Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Ware has received numerous accolades from both the literary and comics establishment. With contributions by David Ball, Georgiana Banita, Margaret Berman, Jacob Brogan, Isaac Cates, Joanna Davis-McElligatt, Shawn Gilmore, Matt Godbey, Jeet Heer, Martha Kuhlman, Katherine Roeder, Peter Sattler, Marc Singer, Benjamin Widiss and Daniel Worden.

 

Bibliography:

Graphic Novels:
Acme Novelty Library #16 - (2005 - )
Acme Novelty Library: Report To Shareholders (2008)
The ACME Novelty Date Book Vol 2 - Sketchbook 1995 to 2002 (2007)
The ACME Novelty Date Book Vol 1 - Sketchbook 1986 to 1995 (2003)
Quimby The Mouse (2003)
Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth (2000)
Floyd Farlane, Citizen Of The Future (1987)

Other:
Louis Sullivan’s Idea (2011) by Tim Samuelson & Chris Ware
The Best American Comics 2007 (2007) edited by Chris Ware
Lost Buildings: DVD & Booklet (2004) with Ira Glass
McSweeney’s 13: The Comics Issue (2004) edited by Chris Ware
Chris Ware (2004) by Daniel Reaburn

Periodicals:
The ACME Novelty Library #1-15 (1993-2001)

Design Work:
Gasoline Alley by Frank King
Krazy & Ignatz: The Komplete Kat Komics by George Herriman
Drawn & Quarterly Vol 3 edited by Chris Oliveros

Interviews:
The Comics Journal #200
The Comics Journal Special Edition Vol 4, 2004

Links:

Online Resources:
Quimby The Mouse Animation
The Ragtime Ephemeralist
Acme Novelty Toy Gallery

Reviews:
Raymond Briggs: Jimmy Corrigan

Publishers:
Drawn & Quarterly
Fantagraphics Books
Pantheon
University Press Of Mississippi