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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 21

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Daniel Clowes’ Ice Haven!

Enjoy!

One of the most interesting aspects of Daniel Clowes’ brilliant work, Ice Haven, is that the collected work (which I’m reviewing here) is presented pretty dramatically different from its original form in the pages of Eightball. In Eightball (issue #22, specifically), the story unveils itself in the form of an old fashioned Sunday comics page (think Wednesday Comics, format-wise). It is 40 pages long.

In the collected edition, though, the strips are cut so that it is now over 90 pages long (he adds a couple of pages, as well).

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The story is effectively the same, but it is interesting to see just how dramatic the delivery is when you lay them side by side. Not to mention the dramatic difference between the ending of the original work and the ending of the collected work. I’ll get back to that later.

Anyhow, the concept of the comic is that Clowes gives us the tale of various residents of a small town called Ice Haven, all during a child kidnapping scare (with echoes of the Leopold and Loeb case). All told, about 22 separate characters get spotlighted in their own comic strip, with Clowes drawing each strip in a slightly different style (some style changes are more dramatic than others) with different storytelling approaches for each strip.

The result is a multi-layered examination of the town, with great insight into all of the various characters you meet, who each are fascinating in their own certain fashion. A neat part of the comic is that there is a mystery of what happened to the kidnapped boy, but Clowes makes it fairly clear the answers to the mystery, and yet it is plainly not the point of the comic. The mystery is secondary to Clowes’ character work, which is striking.

Here’s a few pages showing us various characters, including Random Wilder…

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two boys, Carmichael and Charles and their classmate, Paula (all three children are classmates of the kidnapped boy, David Goldberg)…

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and Mr and Mrs. Ames, detectives brought in to solve the kidnapping.

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Clowes develops each character, but at the same time, it is clear that they are all part of the same circle – Character X is connected to Character Y who is connected to Character Z, etc.

In the original work, Clowes ended with a comic book critic character breaking the fourth wall and examining the story. I thought it was cute, but I could see it causing problems for some (I know my pal Chad did not like that part at all). In the collected version, though, Clowes still has that part of the comic, but it is no longer the ending of the work, and I think the story works a lot better with the new ending.

This is one of Clowes’ best works yet, and seeing as how Clowes is really good, that’s saying something!

17 Comments

I’m a big Clowes fan, and Ice Haven made an even greater impression on me than most of his work. In college, I wrote up a list of my 100 Favorite Fictional Characters (Yeah, I know. I’m a big dork.) Anyway, I nominated Carmichael for the list. When I went back to see how much panel time he actually has, I counted that he only appears on twelve pages in the entire book. That’s how indelible the character work is.

Okay, yet again, colour me sold!

One question: The variance in page border colour… Is that intentional for each sequence, or a scanner issue? (I.e. the first example has very white pages, the second has a salmon tint to it and the third seems creamy…)

Intentional for each sequence (well, not EACH sequence, but frequently the border colors change).

Fantastic piece of work, really one of my favorite comics of all time.

I don’t know if I’m just in the wrong circles these days, but I haven’t heard from Clowes recently. The list thing I remember was a TPB of Art School Confidential – which I didn’t get because it looked like it only had a few pages of comic and the rest was film script (or sommat)

This is, to me, his best work, and certainly belongs on any “best of the decade” list. The way he used different comics genres to weave his story was astonishing. Thanks for shining a spotlight on it.

Great choice Brian! Man, I love Ice Haven. Well, I love pretty much all of Clowes stuff, but Ice Haven is one of my favorites. Like you said Brian, the way it all interconnects the characters, and with the secondary mystery story running along in the background…really great stuff.

I feel like Clowes has been absent as well – I know there was some dabbling in film directing that took him away from comics to a degree, but in 2007 he did a pretty fantastic Mister Wonderful piece for The New York Times (it ran for 18 or 19 weeks). You can find it here if anyone missed it: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/16/magazine/funnypagesClowes.html

I think he has something new scheduled for release this year. I don’t remember the details, and am too lazy to look them up, but I think I saw it on a “Things to Look Forward to in 2010″ list or something.

I e-mailed Fantagraphics around 2008 to see if an Eightball omnibus was in the pipeline.They said there would be one in 2009 to celebrate its 30th anniversary, covering issues one to eighteen, because from 19 on are already in collected form. (Although I don’t think this is true; I’m pretty sure #23, ‘Deathray’ isn’t collected anywhere.) It’s 2010; where the hell is it?!?

Clowes’ ‘Wilson’ is coming out this May, published by Drawn & Quarterly, rather than Fantagraphics; I don’t know if the publisher change had any effect on the omnibus or if D&Q are going to be handling all of his work now, though.

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder at a comic then the imaginary sex scene in Ice Haven.

And, if you can find it, the original, over-size issue of Eightball is better than the teeny, chunky graphic novel.

Bought both versions, loved them both. Not just good, great. The few people I showed it to gave it a massive shrug. I guess you need to go to comics university to get it.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 24, 2010 at 6:16 pm

So the graphic novel and the original issue are totally different?

So the graphic novel and the original issue are totally different?

Different format, and a few extra pages, but otherwise they’re the same.

But the format change, of course, IS significant.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

January 24, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Okay…

Sorry if I’m being slow here… the content is the same, just the way it’s presented (not full page strips – they go over pages now)… I think I misread at first and thought that he’d done the original as strips, and then re-did it, or something, for the collection.

I’m pretty intrigued.

Sorry if I’m being slow here… the content is the same, just the way it’s presented (not full page strips – they go over pages now)

Correct.

Although he also tacked on a new ending (which was the equal of adding about one new page of the original comic).

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