Friday, October 5, 2012

"Building Stories" by Chris Ware

Do you know who Chris Ware is? The he's-too-uncategorizable-to-call-a comic artist? Way back when, only us comic geeks knew about him. We waited avidly for his installments of carefully crafted, unbelievably detailed "comic strips". They're not. They're wonders of graphic design that tell a story. His artwork is cold, clinical, the stories hiding within hard clear lines, and you are suckered in by the strange palette and obsessive draftsmanship and are suddenly exposed to heart-rending tales. He's a trickster. And apparently a nice guy.

I remember when I was in college that my father said "The one person you are never allowed to marry is Chris Ware". 

In many of his collections there are cut-outs that you can construct into elaborate creations, and in this one you can build an entire paper house. Look at that toilet. This guy is nuts. But apparently a nice guy.

These days many people are familiar with his work, as he has graced the covers of The New YorkerNew York Times Magazine, and covers of Penguin Publishing's classic novels. I feel a little like a cult fan who's grumpy over their band getting big. But in the comic world you can never begrudge these hard-working, little-earning artists their fame.

And now his new collection, "Building Stories" published by Drawn & Quarterly, which I only just heard about and have yet to purchase. There is only one of his compilations that I never got, one that I knew was just too sad for me to own. But he is one of the few artists/writers of whom I've got nearly everything. It might be time to be sad.

All artwork by Chris Ware, top three images courtesy Barnes and Noble, bottom three courtesy of the Drawn & Quarterly Blog.

p.s. If you feel like it, here is the full review from Publishers Weekly which really encapsulates it better than I can:

"Ware provides one of the year’s best arguments for the survival of print. In more than 200 pages spread over 14 separate printed works that include broadsheets, booklets, and full-sized books, Ware tells the visually stunning story of a nameless woman as she lives a quiet, frustrated life in Chicago. Ware gives voice not only to his nameless heroine but to the people who pass through and fill her life, peering in on the dysfunctional couple that lives below her, the wistful memories of the woman’s ancient landlady, the old and crumbling building she lives in, and even the comedic blunderings of a bee named Branford, bringing together stories filled with grief, doubt, and self-loathing. Ware’s paper archipelago can be read in any order, making his heroine’s progression from single apartment life to dissatisfied motherhood in Oak Park, all the more personal, as if the reader is leafing through her memories, rather than following her linear story. Ware’s artwork consistently overshadows his creation’s anxieties, her frets and worries made even smaller and pettier by Ware’s intricate and expansive art. But the spectacular, breathtaking visual splendor make this one of the year’s standout graphic novels."

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