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ACME Novelty Library #1 (1993), page 28. Chris Ware.
Chris Ware is one of a very few artists working in comics — honestly, a very few ever to have worked in comics — to have developed a completely unique visual style. We can look at anything Ware draws and know it’s him by the precision of his meticulous, even lines, the muted but expressive color palette, the simplification of forms that manages to seem both naturalistic and artificial. Any single Ware drawing codes for an entire way of making comics, a language the artist has created for himself from the raw material of panels and balloons.
Which makes it all the more interesting to see work by Ware done in different styles. The experience of reading a comic hammers the style the artist uses into our heads so relentlessly — the goal, after all, is that you fully believe their particular system of shapes and colors represents objective reality — and it can be easy to forget anyone can draw in a different style than we’ve seen on their most recent pages. With Ware especially, the world drawn is so rich, so much more varied in what it presents than almost anywhere else in comics, that seeing him do something outside his usual mode is almost a visceral shock.
Welcome to another installment of “Food or Comics?” Every week we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comes home and what stays on the shelves. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.
Check out Diamond’s full release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.
If I had $15:
I’d pick up Salimba ($9.99), because it’s Paul Chadwick drawing a jungle girl who fights pirates. Then I’d add Chaos War: Alpha Flight #1 ($3.99) to that pile. I’m a huge Alpha Flight fan and can’t wait to read about the original team’s new adventure, even if they are dead.
Today Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson did something that some consider too revealing even in this socially networked, airport x-ray’d age: She posted 20 movies from her Netflix “Watch Instantly” queue. Like anyone else’s, it’s a motley crew of movies made possible by a massive library of films and the power to watch any of them at any time with a few clicks of a mouse — a blend of “comfort food” you want access to at all times, unwatched stuff you’re dying to see at the next available opportunity, major investments of time or energy you haven’t been prepared to make just yet, “eat your vegetables” fare you know you ought to watch eventually, and goofy guilty pleasures you’re simply tickled to be able to watch whenever you feel like it.
This got me thinking. I know there are any number of logistical and financial reasons why such a thing doesn’t exist for comics. But we comics readers are an imaginative bunch, no? And today I choose to imagine a world where I can load up pretty much any book I can think of and read to my heart’s content. So here’s what my imaginary “Read Instantly” queue would look like, circa today. Check it out, then let us know what’s on your queue in the comments!
Acme Novelty Library Vol. 20
by Chris Ware
Drawn & Quarterly, 72 pages $23.95
(Note: I shall endeavor to be as spoiler-free as possible, but obviously if you’re the sort who would rather dive into a book like this knowing as little as possible then you may not want to click on that “continue reading” link.)
Acme Novelty Library #20 is about an asshole. The book’s main character, one Jordan W. Lint, is a bully, a coward, an adulterer, a drunkard, is frequently callous and cruel to friends and family, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In some regards he is an outright monster.
And yet, Ware manages to make us not only care, rather deeply, about this unlikeable figure but also sympathize and, to a surprising degree, understand his plight. Without condoning or excusing his behavior, Ware manages to offer a portrait that is nuanced enough to make us reflect upon our own foibles and fears. If that’s not the mark of a great artist, I’m not sure what is.
As if Memorial Day Weekend weren’t eventful enough for the nerd community, Blog Flume’s eagle-eyed Ken Parille spotted and posted the none-more-blue cover for the 20th installment of Chris Ware’s one-man anthology series, Acme Novelty Library. Subtitled “Lint,” the volume collects a chapter from the ongoing Rusty Brown graphic novel that Ware originally serialized in The Virginia Quarterly Review. The product description on Amazon reads like a bio for main character Jordan Wellington Lint; see if you can spot the quick phrase that hit me like a punch in the gut. The book hits shelves on October 12th of this year–earlier in the season than the last few releases, and hopefully early enough for the book to get ample consideration for year-end best-of listings. (Something tells me it’ll be worth considering.)