Two Things


by

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I. The great Frank Santoro talks to Tim O’Shea about Cold Heat, Olde Tyme printing, and this very blog in a new, must-read interview.

In my mind, this quote is the most obviously noteworthy:

Tim Hodler is really my ace in the hole.

II. I just read the latest issue of the ACME Novelty Library, and it’s pretty much just amazing. When we started Comics Comics, we often said that we wanted to avoid covering the obvious big names (Ware, Crumb, Clowes, etc.) too much, but after this and the other most recent volumes of Ware’s work, I’m really starting to rethink that. Ware’s just too good to ignore. (So are those other guys, really.) I think Dan might be writing about this one, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief, and just note a couple things:

1. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a comic before that featured a character that I felt such profound sympathy for at some points, and so viscerally hated at others. The range of emotional effects and subtleties of characterization that Ware is able to achieve is really astounding. I don’t care what anybody says.

And

2. There are zero, count them, ZERO self-deprecating jokes or comments in this book. In fact, though people still complain about them constantly, Ware has included that kind of thing in his work less and less as time has gone on. (I don’t count the sketchbooks, both because they collect older work not originally intended for publication, and because if there was ever a place for personal artistic self-assessment, you’d think it would be in low-print-run diary/sketchbooks. Anyone who buy’s an artist’s journal hoping not to hear what that artist thinks about his work is … odd, to say the least.)

I am very, very confident that those brave critics who claim to only like Ware’s early work (because he “tediously” beats himself up too much, and has a “one-note” emotional palette) will revise their future assessments in the face of the incontrovertible evidence that he doesn’t do it as much now as he did in the work they claim to like. Or they will if they ever read something he’s drawn since last century. I mean, these critics and message-board warriors hate “one-note” art, right? So I assume they hate pounding on the same piano key over and over themselves…

(Don’t even get me started on the whole he’s-always-dark-and-negative thing. That makes about as much sense as complaining that Groucho Marx never “really got serious.”)

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18 Responses to “Two Things”
  1. BVS says:

    the new acme is totally amazing, the cover was totally not what would expect from chris ware.
    I know people say everything he does is great, and it is. but this new acme is even better.

  2. Sean says:

    You should absolutely be writing about Ware, because I think very few writers are anymore. As a lot of people have pointed out, over the last few years new ACMEs have come out late enough in the year to be overshadowed by year-end best-of lists they didn’t come out in time to be included on. Maybe the slightly earlier release date for this year’s installment will help, I dunno. And of course, he’s just been SO GOOD for SO LONG that the people who like his work have said so a lot earlier in the decade and the people who don’t can pretend he’s doing the same thing over and over.

  3. Sean T. Collins says:

    That was Sean Collins, btw.

  4. Eric Reynolds says:

    I agree with your ACME comments, Tim. It’s easy to perhaps take Chris for granted at this point, but that would be criminal. The sci-fi story in the new ish would’ve been a highwater mark for most cartoonists on its own; that it was merely a piece of a much larger and more important puzzle was just mind-bogglingly, shamefully good.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Can you imagine critics in any other medium talking about one of the acknowledged masters of the form at this point in that artists career? It’s like if Ozu released “Tokyo Story” and everyone said “Oh GOD not another sad one about family. Everyone knows Ozu hates fun.”

  6. Marc Arsenault says:

    Here’s my Ozu comment:

    “What?! Is that guy in love with knees or something? Pick the camera up off the damn floor, buddy!”

    The book description for Ware’s Datebook Vol. 2 (on Amazon, and presumably elsewhere) Just kills:

    “Straggling behind the mild 2003 success of cartoonist Chris Ware’s first facsimile collection of his miscellaneous sketches, notes, and adolescent fantasies arrives this second volume, updating weary readers with Ware’s clichéd and outmoded insights from the late twentieth century.

    “Working directly in pen and ink, watercolor, and white-out whenever he makes a mistake, Ware has cannily edited out all legally sensitive and personally incriminating material from his private journals, carefully recomposing each page to simulate the appearance of an ordered mind and established aesthetic directive. All phone numbers, references to ex-girlfriends, “false starts,” and embarrassing experiments with unfamiliar drawing media have been generously excised to present the reader with the most pleasant and colorful sketchbook reading experience available. Included are Ware’s frustrated doodles for his book covers, angry personal assaults on friends, half-finished comic strips, and lengthy and tiresome fulminations of personal disappointments both social and sexual, as well as his now-beloved drawings of the generally miserable inhabitants of the city of Chicago. All in all, a necessary volume for fans of fine art, water-based media, and personal diatribe. This hardcover is attractively designed and easy to resell.”

  7. Dan Nadel says:

    I am going to attempt to write more later, but man, this volume just astounded me. Beyond its own quality, it stands in stark contrast to the equally wonderful previous volume. I mean, not to gush, but the guy just gets better and better and the work richer and richer. One thing I particularly noticed with this one is that Chris, as usual, creates single panel images that have haunted me since I read it: the flashlight on the ground, the dark expanse of the moon, and the dog ejection. Each image is so evocative on its own, but being such a smooth storyteller, he never calls attention to them as “images”. He just moves right along. Ah, it’s just such a pleasure to experience.

  8. Alex Holden says:

    I have to admit that I found the Rusty Brown work that I have read pretty taxing, but 18 was so good that I am fully back on board.

    Great point about the single images, Dan. Looking forward to reading this.

  9. William Cardini says:

    Comments on Thing One: I hope that Frank’s book has a lot of those diagrams that he printed out for the MoCCA lecture. Also I didn’t realize that Cold Heat was offset print – but what really got me about that comic was the paper.

  10. Tom Spurgeon says:

    He never left *my* end of the year lists.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Where’s all this backlash coming from? Doug’s book (which is where I’m guessing the ‘one-note’ complaint comes from) is a couple of years old now, and I can’t remember anybody taking serious potshots at the last three Acme’s–couple of blog posts, sure, but not lengthy diatribes. Some backlash towards those sketch-book diaries, but otherwise, isn’t it just that he’s on this yearly schedule now? He puts out one book a year around the biggest shopping period of the year. Are people just supposed to analyze each volume for 11 months?

  12. Frank Santoro says:

    The Ted Rall thread from last X-mas on TCJ is what everyone is referring to, I think.

  13. T Hodler says:

    I wasn’t actually thinking of Douglas Wolk’s book, except for maybe tangentially in the Groucho Marx comment at the end. And I don’t remember that Ted Rall thread in particular (though I’m sure Frank is characterizing it correctly), but was thinking of what seems like a thousand different message-board threads and blog posts and (a few less) TCJ pieces over the last few years. If you haven’t encountered the “Chris Ware is a whiner” meme, I congratulate you.

    (By the way, if “a couple of blog posts” don’t bother you, neither should mine!)

  14. Frank Santoro says:

    Yah, Tim, tell ‘em!

  15. Anonymous says:

    You need to fucking relax. I’m not bothered by your blog post. I just haven’t seen it as much as you, so thanks for the sarcastic “congratulations” but you can keep it.

    I was only responding for one simple thing–since this post obviously wasn’t intended to be the full-form criticism that I’ve seen and read you do in each and every issue of Comics Comics, which I’m a big fan of, I assumed that you posted this as a sort of conversation forum until Dan Nadel got whatever piece about the volume up. I just wanted you to extrapolate upon the “clueless critics” you tagged the post with.

    I stand corrected. That’s clearly not what you intended at all.

  16. T Hodler says:

    Hey Anonymous –

    Sorry if I misread you — the last sentence of your first comment read kind of hostile. No hard feelings on my end.

  17. Anonymous says:

    You gotta soda on your roof asshole!

  18. elvis demorrow says:

    This year, Ware and Xaime each released a book length sf story that look like new highwater marks in their careers. That is a pretty crazy statement to close out ’08 and I am loving every panel of it.