Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Salon.com Books: The Inimitable Chris Ware

There is a New Acme Novelty Library book coming out. I tend to find Chris Ware's work something both hard to consume and a joy to behold. Often his stories are uncomfortable and reading them can be somewhat exhaustive because, to truly understand what is being conveyed, the reader must study...and i mean STUDY the page. each page.

None-the-less, it is a reward and a warm education to read his stories...or perhaps it is better to say "behold his stories". Format and design are as much (if not more) of the narrative as the words on the page. It is hard, in my mind, to objectively review his stories as the notion of traditional 'plots' are so dominated the awe inspiring technique, you feel you're committing some heresy (or at least showing you have no palate for real art) if you dare say, even to yourself, "i don't know if i like this story." Well, for the most part, the stories are great--even if they aren't always comfortable. I recently re-read the Daniel Raeburn biography/critical review of the artist called, simply "Chris Ware". it is both a revelation and an inspiration in my own artistically oafish hands. When I read it, observed it, I wanted to share it with someone, anyone who could share my amazement. The review of Ware's new book is found on the link above. here are a few excerpts showing the intricacy at work here:

Start with the cover: a gilt-embossed design that features "the world's smallest comic strip," 110 tiny panels about love, death and heartbreak, printed not on the front or back cover -- or even the spine -- but the edge of the hard cover itself.
--
It's staggering -- the sort of work that would singlehandedly establish another artist's career -- and Ware's only started showing off. The centerpiece of "The Acme Novelty Library" is a long, wordless story about the pudgy, masked, omnipotent character that Ware sometimes calls "God" or "Superman" in his comics. (He's not named here, and the story isn't mentioned in the otherwise detailed table of contents.) It occupies 12 pages in the middle of the book, and fragments of other pages. Near the story's end, the character is in a prison cell, scraping little drawings onto the cinder blocks with a nail. Then Ware pulls back, so we can see hundreds of stick figures on the wall. If you're willing to stare at the panel hard and long enough to risk eye damage, you'll see that he's drawn a microscopic stick-figure version of the entire story up to that point. We are not worthy.

1 comment:

Dr. Wagner said...

Good stuff. I always like the Acme stuff and I am glad to know that I am not alone in feeling that it is over my head sometimes. He seems to have an obsessive compulsion to fixate on the tiniest detail.