Chris Ware and the Comics Tradition
by Jeet Heer
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
As I’ve mentioned before, I have an piece in a new collection of critical essays devoted to Chris Ware (The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David Ball and Martha Kuhlman). Now, thanks to the wonders of Google Books, parts of that collection are now online, including the whole of my essay. You can look at the book here. The entire book is very much worth reading with many fine critical essays. You can buy a copy here.
My essay begins like this:
In 1990,Chris Ware, then a twenty-two-year-old student at the very beginning of his career, made a pilgrimage to Monument Valley, Arizona in order to investigate the life of George Herriman. Author of the classic comic strip Krazy Kat, which ran in variety of newspapers from 1913 until the cartoonist’s death in 1944, Herriman used the other worldly desert landscape of the region as the ever-shifting backdrop to his comics. Along with the adjacent area of Coconino County, Monument Valley inspired the dream-like lunar landscape that made Krazy Kat a rare example of cartoon modernism. Eager to learn more about the sources of Herriman’s artistry, Ware felt he had to see landscape of jutting buttes and flat-topped mesas that the earlier cartoonist had so creatively incorporated into his work. This hajj to the Southwest was an early manifestation of Ware’s interest in the history of cartooning, a persistent fascination that has been much more than an antiquarian passion and has had a profound influence on Ware’s body of work.