I first met David Ball a few years ago, while working on a story for my employer, The Patriot-News, about how comics were being used in high school and college classrooms. Luckily for me, Ball just happened to be teaching a class on the subject at the nearby Dickinson College. Ball was kind enough to return the favor and invite me to speak to his comics class when he taught it again a few semesters later.
Fast forward to today, where Ball is co-editor, along with Martha Kuhlman, of the new book from the University of Mississippi Press, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing Is A Way of Thinking, a collection of essays by noted comics scholars like Jeet Heer about the seminal Acme cartoonist.
Knowing Ball lived and worked next door (relatively speaking), it seemed silly for me not to get in touch with him and see if he was up for an interview. Thankfully, he was eager to talk about the book.
Why Ware? What is it about him and his comics that you feel justify a book of this nature?
Unlike many of our contributors in the collected volume, I came to Ware’s work very late and not as a dedicated reader of comics but rather as a scholar of American literature. I had known that fascinating things were going on in contemporary comics for a while, but reading Jimmy Corrigan knocked the wind out of me. The book seemed so versed in the American literary genealogy of Melville and Faulkner and Nabokov with which I was familiar, but was using techniques, referring to other comics, and stretching my brain in ways that were wholly new to me. I knew that I would need to educate myself rapidly to catch up — a still ongoing process — and that colleagues in history, art history, and comparative literature, as well as comics commentators and enthusiasts could help me better understand what I was reading. Ware quickly became a discovery I could share with others and a way I could talk to, and learn from, scholars and readers whose interests were different than mine. That kind of intellectual dialogue is what this book of essays is about, and I hope that readers of the volume will similarly find ideas that are new to them, and share in that sense of discovery. Every time I reread one of Ware’s comics, or get my hands on a new fragment of “Rusty Brown” or “Building Stories,” I find something new and unexpected. That sense of discovery is a rare thing in any art form, and I’m convinced it’s why we’ll still be reading Ware fifty years from now.
While the actual recognition ceremony for the first recipient of “The Ringo”: The Mike Wieringo Scholarship Award was on Saturday night (prior to the HeroesCon Annual Art Auction), Matt Wieringo posted the full scoop on his personal blog on Tuesday. The recipient of the $1,100 award is Katelyn Rae Rochelle, a Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) student who hopes to pursue a career in comic books after graduation. To quote Matt from his announcement: “Remember that name. I think you’ll be hearing it a lot in a couple years.”
Rochelle attended HeroesCon on Saturday and spent some time with one of her instructors, Tom Lyle, at the SCAD booth. She also hung out with Matt and his wife Suzanne. When asked about her genre preference, Rochelle expressed an interest in working in horror–potentially something with werewolves. According to Matt: “We took her around to meet a few of Mike’s friends who offered her some free, friendly advice. Todd Dezago, being Todd Dezago, teased her at every opportunity.”
When reached for comment, Dezago denied Matt’s vicious allegations. In all seriousness, Dezago said of Rochelle: “She was a good sport and is a very talented young artist. I loved the work that she sent in as samples and think that, as Matt says, we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.”