I bought the current issue/book from McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern [Issue 13 not online as yet] which is a wonderful complex object edited by Chris Ware wrapped in a Ware cover with two small comic booklets stuck in the folds. As I started enjoying it, Sally pointed me to Jason Kottke’s blog/discussion about the same book.
Here’s my response to the thread at Kottke.org:
Not to retread this thread, but I waited to reply til I had read all of the McSweeney’s in question. The book is about a certain kind of comic. Not superheroes or comic that owe much to superheroes except as a way to tell stories about disappointments, enlightenments, betrayals, and frankly neo-existential situations. In short, it’s a book about Chris Ware, his influences, his forebearers, his cosmos of co-travelers and to some extent (and I can’t tell who exactly fits in this category) his followers in art.
If you are interested in that world, visually, historically, naratively and emotionally, then this book is for you. It is not Jimmy Corrigan but the DNA from which JC sprung and about the branches of his family trees, his cousins in art.
Don’t expect X-Man, Watchman, Incredibles etc. Don’t expect Archie except in negative ironic twists. The same for Casper and Donald Duck.
This is not so much a manifesto for a kind of comic/graphic story-telling — yes a genre emerging and showing itself as something serious — as a map of explanations of why this genre has already taken off. Not explications, but examples and tales that build the larger story.
Like it or not — here it is!
What I didn’t mention above is that the current New Yorker is the Cartoon Issue. In that issue is a particularly good essay on Charles Shultz by Jonathan Franzen. But the greatest treasure in the issue is hidden inside the double fold of a Johnny Walker advert and paid for by the Honorable Mr. Walker. No link since the adverts are not online, but pick up the issue and peek inside. The pages of the advert unfold to four continuous pages worth of comic by Seth, the author of “Clyde Fans” and “Palookaville.”