Chris Ware

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Chris Ware

Born Franklin Christenson Ware
December 28, 1967 (1967-12-28) (age 41)
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist
Notable works Acme Novelty Library
Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth
Awards Eisner Award, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2008

Harvey Award, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006
National Cartoonists Society Award, 1999
Guardian First Book Award, 2001

USA Hoi Fellow grant, 2006

Chris Ware (born December 28, 1967) is an American comic book artist and cartoonist, best-known for a series of comics called the Acme Novelty Library, and a graphic novel, Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. Born in Omaha, Nebraska, he resides in Oak Park, Illinois as of 2007.


[edit] Style

Ware's art is eclectic in its influences, and largely reflects his love of early 20th century American aesthetics in both cartooning and graphic design, shifting through dozens of artistic styles from traditional comic panels to advertisements to cut-out toys. Although his precise, geometrical layouts may appear to some to be computer-generated, in fact Ware works almost exclusively with "old-fashioned" drawing tools such as paper and pencil, rulers and T-squares. He does, however, sometimes use photocopies and transparencies, and employs a computer to color his strips.

His work shows tangible influence from early cartoonists, like Winsor McCay and Frank King (creator of Gasoline Alley); especially in its layout and flow. Outside the comics genre, Ware has found inspiration and a kindred soul in artist and sculptor Joseph Cornell, both men sharing a need to capture items of nostalgia, grace, and beauty within "boxes."[1]

Ware has said of his own style:

I arrived at my way of "working" as a way of visually approximating what I feel the tone of fiction to be in prose versus the tone one might use to write biography; I would never do a biographical story using the deliberately synthetic way of cartooning I use to write fiction. I try to use the rules of typography to govern the way that I "draw", which keeps me at a sensible distance from the story as well as being a visual analog to the way we remember and conceptualize the world. I figured out this way of working by learning from and looking at artists I admired and whom I thought came closest to getting at what seemed to me to be the "essence" of comics, which is fundamentally the weird process of reading pictures, not just looking at them. I see the black outlines of cartoons as visual approximations of the way we remember general ideas, and I try to use naturalistic color underneath them to simultaneously suggest a perceptual experience, which I think is more or less the way we actually experience the world as adults; we don't really "see" anymore after a certain age, we spend our time naming and categorizing and identifying and figuring how everything all fits together. Unfortunately, as a result, I guess sometimes readers get a chilled or antiseptic sensation from it, which is certainly not intentional, and is something I admit as a failure, but is also something I can't completely change at the moment.[2]

[edit] Career

Ware's earliest published strips appeared in the late 1980s on the comics page of The Daily Texan, the student newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to numerous daily strips under different titles, Ware also had a weekly satirical science fiction serial in the paper titled Floyd Farland: Citizen of the Future. This was eventually published in 1988 as a prestige format comic book from Eclipse Publishing, and its publication even led to a brief correspondence between Ware and Timothy Leary. Now embarrassed by the book, which he considers amateurish and naive, Ware is reportedly purchasing and destroying all remaining copies.

While still a sophomore at UT, Ware attracted the attention of famed Manhattan cartoonist, publisher and designer Art Spiegelman, who invited Ware to contribute to his influential anthology magazine, RAW. This led to greater acclaim, and Ware's eventual relationship with Fantagraphics Books. His Fantagraphics series Acme Novelty Library defied comics publishing conventions with every issue. The series featured a combination of new material as well as reprints of work Ware had done for the Texan (such as Quimby the Mouse) and the Chicago weekly paper New City. Ware's work appeared originally in New City before he moved on to his current "home", the Chicago Reader. Beginning with the 16th issue of the Acme Novelty Library, Ware is self-publishing his work, while maintaining a relationship with Fantagraphics for distribution and storage. This is an interesting return to Ware's early career, when he self-published such books as Lonely Comics and Stories as well as miniature digests of stories based on Quimby the Mouse and an unnamed potato-like creature.

In recent years he has also been involved in editing (and designing) several books and book series, including the new reprint series of Gasoline Alley from Drawn and Quarterly Walt and Skeezix, the on-going reprint of Krazy Kat by Fantagraphics, and the thirteenth volume of Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, which is devoted to comics. He was the editor of The Best American Comics 2007, the 2nd installment devoted to comics in the Best American series.

In 2007 Ware curated an exhibition for the Phoenix Art Museum focused on the non-comic work of five contemporary cartoonists. The exhibition, titled "UnInked: Paintings, Sculpture and Graphic Works by Five Cartoonists," ran from April 21 through August 19.[3] Ware also edited and designed the catalog for the exhibition.

[edit] Recurring characters and stories

[edit] Quimby the Mouse

Quimby the Mouse was an early character for Ware and something of a breakthrough. Rendered in the style of an early animation character like Felix the Cat, Quimby the Mouse is perhaps Ware's most autobiographical character. Quimby's relationship with a cat head named Sparky is by turns conflict-ridden and loving, and thus intended to reflect all human relationships. While Quimby exhibits mobility, Sparky remains immobile and helpless, subject to all the indignities Quimby visits upon him. Quimby also acts as a narrator for Ware's reminiscences of his youth, in particular his relationship with his grandmother. Quimby was presented in a series of smaller panels than most comics, almost providing the illusion of motion ala a zoetrope. In fact, Ware once designed a zoetrope to be cut out and constructed by the reader in order to watch a Quimby "silent movie". Ware's ingenuity is neatly shown in this willingness to break from the confines of the page. Quimby the Mouse appears in the logo of a Chicago-based bookstore "Quimby's", although their shared name was originally a coincidence[4]

[edit] Rusty Brown

Ware is currently at work on Rusty Brown, a series ostensibly about an action figure collecting manchild and his somewhat troubled childhood, but which, in Ware's fashion, diverges into multiple storylines about Brown's father's early life in the 1950s as a science fiction writer (Acme Novelty Library #19) and his best friend Chalky White's adult home life.

[edit] Building Stories

Ware recently finished work on "Building Stories", which first appeared as a monthly strip in Nest Magazine. Installments have since appeared in a number of publications, including The New Yorker, Kramer's Ergot, and most notably, the Sunday New York Times Magazine. "Building Stories" appeared weekly in the New York Times Magazine from September 18, 2005 until April 16, 2006.

[edit] The Super-Man

The Super-Man is an antihero who wears a similar caped costume to Superman, but also has a domino mask and receding hairline. Ware has said in interviews[citation needed] that he imagines that if the popular fictional superhero Superman were real, he would be much like Ware's Super-Man. Although, after reading what Ware's Super-Man has done, many fans doubt that a real-life version of the famous fictional superhero would ever be like Ware's.

The Super-Man originally appeared as God in Ware's early work, wreaking Romans 12:19 vengeance on people who annoyed him. The Super-Man later turned up in Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth as an assumedly unseen mentor. In a particularly poignant scene, Jimmy sees the Super-Man standing on the cornice of a skyscraper. Seeing Jimmy, he waves, to Jimmy's delight. The Super-Man then crouches as if to take off flying, but instead falls to his death. It is easy to perceive the Super-Man's purpose as a metaphorical stand-in for Jimmy's long-absent father[original research?].

In a series of strips appearing in the Chicago Reader, the Super-Man is seen walking about naked, eating a live deer, stealing money, killing people who annoy him, gambling, and kidnapping a young girl and living with her in the wild until she grows up, whereupon he impregnates her, grows bored with her and the child, then flies off. He then spends the next several million years in one spot, pondering it all even as the Earth falls away about him. His last thought remains of the girl and his child.

These strips have been compiled and published in 2005 as part of a book titled The ACME Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Saturday Afternoon Rainy Day Fun Book. Yet they are deliberately[citation needed] not listed in the table of contents.

[edit] Non-comics work

Ware is an ardent collector of ragtime paraphernalia and publishes an annual journal devoted to the music titled The Ragtime Ephemeralist.[5] He also plays the banjo and piano. The influence of the music and its era can be seen in Ware's work, especially in regard to logos and layout. Ware has designed album covers and posters for such ragtime performers as the Et Cetera String Band, Virginia Tichenor, Reginald R. Robinson, the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, and Guido Nielsen. He has also designed covers and posters for non-ragtime performers such as Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire and 5ive Style. [1] Ware also designed the façade of the San Francisco writing lab and pirate store 826 Valencia. In October 2005 Ware designed the elaborate cover art for Penguin Books' new edition of Voltaire's Candide. In 2004, Ware worked with Ira Glass of This American Life to create illustrations for a slideshow called Lost Buildings, which is now available as a book and DVD set.[6] In 2007 he animated a sequence for the This American Life television series on Showtime and also contributed to the show as a color consultant. Ware recently created the poster art for the film The Savages.

[edit] Awards and honors

Over the years his work garnered several awards, including the 1999 National Cartoonists Society Award for Best Comic Book for Acme Novelty Library.

In addition, Acme Novelty Library won the 1996 and 2000 Eisner Awards for Best Continuing Series, as well as the 2000 Eisner for Best New Graphic Album. Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth won the 2001 Eisner for Best Reprint Graphic Album. In 2008, Ware won the Best Writer/Artist: Drama Eisner for Acme Novelty Library #18. Ware has won the Best Colorist Eisner four times, in 1996, 1998, 2001, and 2006. His publication design has been awarded the Eisner six times, in 1995–1997, 2001–2002, and 2006.

Ware has won the Harvey Award for Best Letterer four times, in 1996, 2000, 2002, and 2006. He has won the Best Colorist Harvey Award in 1996–1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004. He also won the Best Cover Artist Harvey Award in 2000. Ware won the Harvey Award for Excellence in Production/Presentation five consecutive years, from 1995–2000. In addition, Acme Novelty Library won the Best Continuing Series Harvey Award in 1995, and the Best Continuing or Limited Series in 1995–1996. Acme Novelty Library also won the Best Single Issue or Story Harvey Award in 1997 and 2000. The Jimmy Corrigan book won the 2001 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work. In 2006, Ware was awarded the Harvey for Best Cartoonist.

With Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Harvey Kurtzman, Robert Crumb and Gary Panter, Ware was among the artists honored in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, New York, from September 16, 2006 to January 28, 2007. Ware is also the first comics artist to be invited to exhibit at Whitney Museum of American Art biennial exhibition, in 2002. In May 2006 he exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Ware's graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth won the 2001 Guardian First Book Award, the first time a graphic novel has won a major United Kingdom book award. It also won the prize for best album at the 2003 Angoulême International Comics Festival in France.

In 2006, Ware received a USA Hoi Fellow grant from United States Artists, an arts advocacy foundation dedicated to the support and promotion of America's top living artists.

[edit] Notes and references

[edit] External links

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