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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comic Book Moments – Day 266

Here is the latest cool comic book moment in our year-long look at one cool comic book moment a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at the journey of Chalky White, and seeing as how it’s in a Chris Ware comic, well, let’s just say it is not an easy life for Chalky…

Acme Novelty Library #17 continues the story of Rusty Brown (which began in #16), an exceptionally nerdy young fellow living in Omaha, Nebraska in the 1970s. It is also the story of Chalky White, another exceptionally nerdy boy who just moved to Omaha with his sister and his mother.

In the first part, Chalky is given Rusty’s desk at school – what no one knew at the time was that Rusty had brought his cherished Supergirl action figure to school with him (against the rules), so Rusty, naturally, has been freaking out about the fate of Supergirl. Chalky, meanwhile, upon seeing the Supergirl figure, realize that he and Rusty likely have a lot in common – so how does he manage to relate to Rusty?

I’m going to show you a quick scene of the two interacting (click to enlarge the pages), and since these pages are more casually cruel than they are “cool,” I’m going to then show you a piece Ware does inside the comic that is more on the “cool” side – a diagrammed “life of Chalky White” – it’s quite amusing (and sad, too, of course).

Ware is an amazing comic book creator. One of the best ever, really.


Shit. Ware always gets to me. He’s master at what he does while at the same time presenting his work as anthesis to every comic out there because he strips his work of any hope. Fitting the very definition of “anti-life” if you will.

Jimmy Corrigan continues to be a prized possession in my collection.

I feel like I’m in a small minority here, but I just don’t get Ware’s appeal to people. What little I’ve seen of it has seemed sad and repellant. I just don’t enjoy reading that in my comic books and comics. Not everything has to be big fights and monster-punching, but Ware’s stuff just seems too dark, too obscure and too real for me to enjoy. And boring.

Again, I know I’m in the minority here, but I’m getting tired of what seems like a lot of independents and marginal stuff recently in your daily Cool Comic Book Moments. How about a return for a while to big superhero moments, preferably from days gone by?

I can’t say that I like Ware’s work, but he’s an amazingly talented guy — even though I don’t enjoy reading his stories., it definitely affects me. Very evocative stuff.

I don’t really care for Chris Ware either; his work always make me angry or sad, especially the Rusty Brown series. Yet I read almost anything by him and I can’t explain why. If comics are suppose to elicit a response on an emotional level, then Ware is a master at that because no mainstream comic or creator can get that out of me (other than a really bad, “why did I buy this” book). There is brilliance in his stuff, but it’s depressing to witness.

nice to see chris get some love on this list though thought the meaness of the bullies to Rusty and Chalky over their supergirl was not nice. this shows that chris is one talent who could make the big two go omg his work is amazing

I feel like the “Cool Comic Moments” kind of petered out a few weeks ago.

The last few have been…OK, I guess, but this is just…bad. This is a joke, right?

What’s cool about this?

I guess I’m old and un-hip, but the story is not fun or moving or emotional. It’s kind of a bland “very special episode” kind of after-school special feel.

The artwork and the layout are…pedestrian, I think is the word.

If this is a “cool” example of Ware’s stuff, what can the rest be like?



Let me cast a vote for more indie stuff. We’ve had plenty of superhero moments.

Chris Ware has mad skillz; for his own reasons, he chooses to use them to depict misery, alienation and futility. I’d find a steady diet of his stuff pretty wearing, but in small doses it’s very pretty to look at.

Doug M.

Here’s what I know about Chris Ware- He goes out of his way to make his art “lifeless” as he can get. there’s no cutesy, humorous formula to play with. It is almost as if you’re looking at cold, emotional reflection of the world itself and you don’t like what’s looking back at you. Whether you like him or not is matter of taste, but you can’t deny the man doesn’t have skill in provoking an emotional response.

Everything Ware does is worthy of its presence in “A year of cool comic book moments” this is just one of the better, highly compressed example of Ware’s skill.

Shit, I gotta get myself more Chris Ware’s works..

I’d find a steady diet of his stuff pretty wearing, but in small doses it’s very pretty to look at.

It really makes his publishing style work, in that regard.

One giant comic every year.

That way you’re not getting the pain every month. Just once a year.

And I’ll second Doug in a vote for more indie stuff. How about some Seth and Jason’s works??

Surprised there hasn’t been a Promethea entry. The whole damn series is chockfull of cool moments with J.H. Williams III going ultra-epic.

Everything Ware does is worthy of its presence in “A year of cool comic book moments” this is just one of the better, highly compressed example of Ware’s skill.

Yeah, it’s really difficult finding compressed examples.

Just flipping through this specific issue, for example, there’s tons of brutal moments.

Here’s a quick example:

Alice White is Chalky’s older sister – she’s displeased about moving to Nebraska as well, and losing her very best friend, Gretchen.

While she’s complaining about her mother (I believe it’s to her diary), we get this quick bit…

He captures the exquisite sadness of Chalky while also the even more impressive reaction of his sister, who is taken aback by this expression of unfiltered emotion.

What makes this a cool comic book moment is that it is a supreme example of masterful literary storytelling, greatly enhanced by the use of the comic medium.

I would bet money that if you replaced the characters in that top panel with a couple of superheroes, and placed it in a story where it was the aftermath to a big battle where one of the team was lost, people would be falling over themselves to praise the innovative layout, the stark design reflecting the emotions of the characters, the unique use of the comics medium etc etc.

The praise that gets heaped on the silent issue of GI joe or Alpha flight or the Ditko scene of spider-man under the machinery is equally valid here.

I mainly buy superhero comics, but I like comics – the medium – and this sort of thing is as much why.

Thanks dr matt.

Also, while a computer screen is definitely not the best venue for Ware’s work, to call his design and draughtmanship pedestrian is… well I can only hope that was satire.

Also, while I can appreciate that his work is depressing, I’ve always found it to be cathartic. Reading Jimmy Corrigan was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life and I found the ending to be very uplifting.

Agreed, Julian.


September 24, 2009 at 5:20 pm

The artwork and the layout are…pedestrian, I think is the word.

You think his layouts are pedestrian???

You may not like his stories or artwork, which is cool, but to say his layouts are every day is just blatantly untrue.
His work has a look and feel all to it’s own, and he constantly plays with layouts.
Unless I’ve missed all the other books with 31 panels to a page…

Yeah, it’s sad, but it’s also hilarious. I feel like people miss that Ware invites you to laugh about our pains.

Ware and Kirby constantly compete with my favour as best comic book creator ever. I certainly have enough love for both. No way is Chris Ware anti-life. How is a poignant show of life’ s sadness and cruelty anything but infused with some of life’s most powerful and abiding moments. We are are tears as much as our laughs. Ware is the farthest thing removed from misanthropy and nihilism that comics has to offer. Compare the profound sympathies for the human condition that Ware expresses on these panels Brian has kindly shown us to the nasty, truly depressing and rather unredeeming measures of violence that repeatedly show up in contemporary death soaked Big Two superhero comic books (especially DC). Ware is a bright light compared to some of the mainstream stuff.

Well said, benday-dot.

I like seeing the indie stuff here. Even when I don’t like the scenes, it’s still cool to see new stuff that I’m not familiar with.

He is great, but his work is WAY too depressing. He could be my favorite comics author if he did work I could read without getting depressed myself.

Life is to short to dwell in something else’s misery.

But I’ll buy anything he does.

Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

I think this is only the second time I’ve seen an example of Chris Ware’s work (I believe Brian may have posted another example of his work in one of his other columns somewhere), and I have to admit, it just didn’t click with me. It didn’t click with me, that is, until I read that brilliantly poignant panel Brian just posted in the comments with Chalky’s sister taking his glasses off in bed. There’s a real emotional juxtaposition there – I completely sympathize with poor Chalky, wondering why the cold cruel world out there is so hostile to him when all he’s doing is being his own honest-to-goodness self – after all, he’s just a kid and that’s all he knows how to be. Simultaneously, I totally get the sister looking down at this little dweeb clutching his super hero action figure and reeking of snack foods and is so clueless as to not understand what it is about him that the nobody likes. It’s sad and tragic and smirk-inducing all at the same time.

I’ll think I’ll have to give Chris Ware a shot now, but I think I’ll approach him tentatively and only in small doses. I’ve always been aware of the keen beauty there is in sadness, but a read like this is just too heavy to take in large installments.

Thanks again Brian for turning me on to something I probably wouldn’t have otherwise even known to check out.

This is amazing. I really like th eindy spotlights.

As for the people who don’t like it over the SH stuff… maybe a bit more of a mix, rather than a bunch o findy stuff in a row. SH Monday, Indy Tuesday etc.

It’s very well put together, and while parts of it could be universal, I must say, after reading American indie comics and seeing movies/TV shows about school, it makes it seem like all Americans had shitty, brutal times at school.

Well, then, if people like indy stuff so much and we’re going to have more here, how about some Strangers in Paradise? I don’t recall if we’ve already had some here and there are certainly many cool moments in that series. And I certainly second a vote for Promethea, and would add Tom Strong to that as well.

Call me callous, but I don’t really feel for the kids. I got picked on sometimes myself as a kid, but I got over it pretty easily. Life sucks sometimes.

That being said, though…I liked the sounds effects in the snow.

I like you Chalky!…boo hooo hoo!

Ware’s stuff is incredible. Almost as incredible as some of the comments.

This is beautiful! Thanks, Brian (I know I’m four years late, posting here, but hey).

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