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I have a good deal of admiration and respect for the author and professor David Ball, so when he tweets me that he’s editing a new series of books to be published by the University Press of Mississippi, I snap to attention.
And, indeed he is. Modeled on a book he co-edited with Martha Kuhlman, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, Critical Approaches to Comics Artists will be an ongoing series, each volume collecting essays from a variety of scholars on a particular cartoonist. The plan is to release two books a year, with the first book on Joe Sacco coming out in 2015. Future volumes will focus on Herge, Charles Schulz and George Herriman.
Actually, this is apparently rather old news, as Ball blogged about this stuff more than a year ago. Still, it was news to me, so I took the opportunity to quiz him over email about this series and his hopes for it.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. Today our guest is cartoonist, musician and publisher Zak Sally. Sally is known outside comics circles as the former bassist for the band Low, but inside comic circles, he’s known for great books like Like A Dog and the Ignatz series Sammy the Mouse, the collected version of which Sally will be releasing any day now from his own La Mano 21 press.
To see what Sally and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click on the link below.
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.