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CSBG Archive

The Comic Book Alphabet of Cool – W

We continue our tour through the alphabet, with a different cool comic book item each day, from A to Z!
Here‘s an archive of A-T.

Today we look at one of the very greatest comic book creators working today.

Chris Ware is one of the most inventive and breathtaking comic book creators still producing regular comics today.

I find it an absolute delight to know that every year I can count on a new edition of Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library to come out to absolutely thrill me, whether it is with a continuing narrative or if it is with some one-off projects (like Building Stories).

Last year, I named the latest edition of Acme Novelty Library my Top Comic of 2008, and 2008 had a lot of good comics in it.

What Ware does with his work is, while having a clear and definitive influence from the works from such early 20th Century legends like Winsor McKay and Frank King, create an almost unique way of delivering comic book content, with a sprawling style that presents you with interconnected panels of intricately depicted figures delivering the story almost all at once to you.

It’s really a marvelous approach.

Here is a perfect example of his style, in this simply stunning “life of” piece he did fairly recently about a young man’s older brother during the 1930s and 40s (obviously, click to enlarge – you need full-sized pages to appreciate Ware, so all of these pages can be clicked on to enlarge)….

Isn’t that just magnificent?

And Ware keeps that level of quality in almost all of his work.

A drawback I hear people say often of Ware’s work is that it is often quite depressing. And that’s roughly true – most of Ware’s characters live fairly depressing lives, but if the work is done well (and Ware certainly is), then I don’t really find that much of a drawback.

Here’s some Ware pages from Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (which was originally done in Acme Novelty Library)…

Here’s a Building Stories page…

Here’s an awesome Thanksgiving cover he did for New Yorker (he did three others that combine to form one massive page)…

And here, luckily enough, is a short story he just did for New Yorker just a couple of weeks ago!

That last one is a great look at his general tone.

Oh! He also did the poster for the film The Savages. If you’ve seen the film, you’d know that the tone of that film matches Ware PERFECTLY, which makes the decision to have him do the film’s poster a brilliant move.

Ware is a treasure, and I’m delighted that we get to get new work from him yearly (more often than that, all said and done, of course, but at least a guaranteed yearly piece of work).



That drawing of Linney is really stiff. Good movie.

I actually made it all the way through Jimmy Corrigan. That was one hell of a chore. Quite powerful, but it really leaves me not wanting to read anything more by Chris Ware

Chris Ware? Over Wizard? Over Wetworks?

Good choice. Ware’s ability to design a page is unaparalled in comics, and he’s one of the best writers the medium’s got as well. As depressing as his subject matter tends to be, I generally don’t find the work itself to be depressing, if that makes any sense.

I can appreciate his design sense, but other than that I’ve just never been able to see the appeal. Maybe I’m just a hopped-up action-junkie Philistine, but Ware — and a great many of his ilk — just don’t do it for me. Maybe it’s just that I don’t need comics to tell me the world sucks.

Enh. Chris Ware is only ‘cool’ in a McLuhanesque sense.

Love all his stuff, especially the oversized novelty books. They have some depressing content, but they’re wrapped up in such fun packaging. He’s fantastic. Good (and challenging) choice.

Wow. That is amazing stuff.

I often think the “depressing” theme is overplayed by Ware critics. This is one of the aspects of Wolk’s book I really took issue with; I find Ware’s stories to be chock full of dark, dark humor. There’s not a Ware book I can read without laughing out loud more than some supposedly “hilarious” books ever could inspire.

Anyway, when I look at Ware work, I just love comics so goddam much. Such beauty.

Chris Ware makes quantum comics. He is very awesome.

His artwork’s magnificent, yes, and unlike anything out there. I’ll give you that.

I read Jimmy Corrigan and found it to be the most depressing thing in the entire world. And the fact that my eyesight is so bad and the lettering is so small that I need to squint the whole time to read it just left me more exhausted and further depressed from the whole thing.

I dunno, I feel like a hater for no reason. I don’t really hate on Ware. I just don’t want his babies.

Hooray for Chris Ware!

Again, and I’m in the minority here and maybe I just plain don’t get it but I DON’T LIKE CHRIS WARE.

Un-fucking-readable, in my opinion. Superb draughtsmanship, poignant storytelling, absolutely ruined by stylistic ‘tricks.’ It’s like reading manga upside down underwater while somebody hits you with a boom-pole. Where do I look next? Does it matter? Why am I reading this?

*sigh* … never mind me. I’m still pissed off P wasn’t for Steve Purcell, creator of Sam and Max. Or isn’t that cool enough? Cool enough for ME, brother!


Chris Ware and Jack Kirby have insane fights in my mind over who is the best comic book creator ever. And you know they both do these crazy things with shape and structure, geometry and clear line. Awesome.

And Joe Rice is right… Ware is funny as hell. Read the Big Book of Jokes or any of the Rusty Brown stuff. Dark, scathing, hilarious and supremely poignant.

Another things about Ware is he’s an incredibly nice guy. I met him years back at a dinner party, and he thanked me for reading his comics, like I was doing him a favor. Later, he played ragtime piano for everyone. I’m jealous of him all the time.

eh. Not a Ware fan.

I think “often quite depressing” may be understating it. I read through one of the ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY collections and it was just the same emotional beats of alienation and loneliness over and over. There was no part of it that was not depressing. I think I’ve heard songs written by Morrissey that were more upbeat.

I’ll never understand how “depressing” is a criticism. Art is supposed to have an emotional effect on you. Duh.

I still need to get those Thanksgiving prints. That story about his brother is in my top five comic strips ever. He does write depressing stories, but he tells them so gracefully. His approach to narrative is like that of a cartographer, mapping out all the randomness and details of these people’s lives. Building Stories was especially depressing (though the sequences in the flower shop were beautiful) but the rest of his work Jimmy Corrigan was a therapeutic experience for me and I thought the ending was actually pretty uplifting. I think Rusty Brown is really shaping up to be his best work though. The sequence where he’s smoking up with his students or that dance that he does are hilarious.

Who’s with me for claiming for Chris Ware to draw a monthly Qausar comic? Huh, huh?


Okay, onto plan b: Art Spiegelman.

Chris Ware says more on one page (like that New Yorker cover) then most modern cartoonist/artists say in a TPB collection! He’s an incredible talent.

As for writing depressing stories?

Honestly now, are Ware’s stories centering on an individual’s life any more depressing then some large overblown crossover series churned out by DC or Marvel?

I wouldn’t say calling his work depressing is a criticism, but it is a valid reason why someone might not want to read his work. It was similar to me to films like Leaving Las Vegas and Nil By Mouth. A real ordeal to get through and had quite a big effect on me. At the same time though I’m not looking to repeat the experience.

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