Category: Chris Ware

Crazy, sequential batch of 1990's design

A nerdy comics-centric project I’m working on has left me with a byproduct that I figured might be of interest to a few weirdos out there, so I’ve uploaded it to the internet.

The “byproduct” is a photoset containing a decent percentage of the covers to Chicago’s “NewCity” (A free arts weekly) published from 1992ish through 1997ish (Actually: the oldest cover is from 1991, and the most recent is from November 18th, 1999 – but there are gaps throughout). A wealth of 90’s design!

Why do I have these? Comic artist Chris Ware published much of his “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” graphic novel serially in the pages of NewCity throughout the 90’s, and I’ve been steadily accumulating issues for awhile now. The bulk of these issues were handed off by Steve Dalber, who will probably be shocked to see I’m finally doing something with them.

Some “highlights,” from my skewed perspective:

  • 12/26/1991 – I think this cover is Ware’s first’s published work in Chicago?
  • 5/21/1992 – “Acme Cartoons” officially starts running – teaser on the cover in vibrant magenta!
  • 12/31/1992 – Ben Katchor cover.
  • 7/29/1993 – The Liz Phair backlash begins…
  • 9/30/1993 – Ware’s “Best of Chicago” cover.
  • 4/14/1994 – Chicago weighs in on Kurt Cobain’s Suicide.
  • 12/29/1994 – Ware / Walt Holcombe cover collaboration.
  • 9/28/1995 – Mitch O’Connell’s “Best of Chicago” cover.
  • 1/18/1996 – Tortoise grace the cover.
  • 3/7/1996 – Another Mitch O’Connell cover.
  • 10/24/1996 – A young-looking Wilco on the cover.
  • 12/25/1997 – Another Ware cover – this one’s a wraparound.

If you should have any desire to own ~230 issues of “NewCity” minus the comics, get in touch – you can have them for the cost of shipping.

New Yorker 85th Anniversary Covers Hidden Image

As I posted earlier, this week’s New Yorker magazine features four unique covers, one each by Alt Comics giants Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Adrian Tomine, and Ivan Brunetti (You can view them all here). According to The Beat, New Yorker Art Director Françoise Mouly let slip that there is a secret message hidden amongst the covers.

I spent a few minutes Googling the fragments of an address that appear in Tomine’s panels before giving up and checking the comments to see if anyone had figured it out (The address is that of The New Yorker’s Offices). An eagle-eyed reader of The Beat almost immediately identified that placing the four covers together creates a large image of New Yorker mascot Eustace Tilley, but even knowing that the image is there, it’s very subtle.

I’ve rigged an image of Eustace Tilley to overlay the four covers whenever you mouseover the image below. Switching back and forth between the overlay and the covers reveals some of the finer details of the disguised image: I particularly like how the scattered papers in Ware’s cover become fingers.

All told, we get a nice double fake:

  • An apparent break from the anniversary tradition of a reimagined Tilley illustration, instead offering an imagined ‘origin story’ for the first Tilley cover.
  • The whole of the story itself ends up being the Tilley cover.

Ware wrote up a nice appreciation of Rea Irvin (Creator of the original Eustace Tilley image) here.

Update: I’ve created a higher res version with opacity capability here.


Another Conan Chris Ware homage

One of the pieces of ‘bumper’ art on tonight’s episode of Conan’s Tonight Show was the piece below, expertly echoing the ‘circular shorthand’ style that Chris Ware has used in a number of strips and in two animated shorts for the ‘This American Life’ TV show.

Below is an example of the Ware strips I’m referring to, taken from the cover to a recent Penguin edition of ‘Candide.’

There is a long history of Conan’s bumper art paying homage to disparate pieces of visual inspiration. Awhile back, there was a great website collecting all of these homage images here, but it looks like it’s fallen off the web. In a Metafilter discussion of that site, the name Kevin Frank is floated as the mastermind of all this, and following up on that lead brought me to his Flickr account, which has a gallery of all the bumpers with commentary. In case any are missing there, it looks like the content from the first site is also up here. The internet.

An homage to Ware’s work previously surfaced in the background to a piece of Conan’s bumper art in November of 2005. If you don’t see it, Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan is the ‘Non-Conan’ drawing. Thanks to Ted Miller for originally pointing it out!

More Ancient Ware

     Among really nerdy dudes who obsess over things like the beginnings of Chris Ware’s career, the primary representation of his early work has long been ‘Floyd Farland: Citizen of the Future,’ an out-of-print collection of College-era strips featuring the titular character. ‘Floyd Farland’ is illustrated in a modernist style that is completely unrecognizable when compared with Ware’s later works, so it’s somewhat difficult to trace the path of his ‘artistic development.’ It was recently pointed out to me that additional college paper-era Ware material was collected in a trade paperback called ‘Commix,’ published by Protein Storm Press in 1988.

Commixx Cover

     After I expressed interest in seeing what the book contained, Chris Rice pointed out that Mile High Comics had a copy in stock for just over cover price, so I went ahead and ordered it. The book is of the ‘Garfield’ size and shape, and contains all the fascinating developmental beginnings that I’d hoped to find in ‘Floyd Farland.’

     Included are several strips bearing the title ‘Comick Strip,’ presumably published in the Daily Texan. Four of these, which bear separate titles and appear to have been published on consecutive days, can be cut out and joined together to form a circular, infinite comic strip. There’s a brief Floyd Farland strip, an oddly postmodern page-sized lettering of the word ‘Joke,’ and an interesting precursor to the faux-advertising style that Ware became known for when The Acme Novelty Library was publishing regularly.

     This one is an interesting combination of advertising imagery and linear narrative, a disconnect that echoes another of Ware’s early works – ‘I Guess,’ which is available online here.

Early Ware Ad

Ancient Ware

     When I went through the initial information-gathering that ended up producing the sadly neglected Acme Novelty Archive site, I contacted the student newspaper at the University of Texas to see if they had archives of back issues available for perusal. My plan was to scare up some of the student strips that Chris Ware had published in the paper while attending the University.

     I love seeing the early work of cartoonists, as it adds the extra dimension of the craftsman’s learning curve to the narrative. A great example of what I’m poorly explaining can be found in the earliest volumes of Fantagraphics’ Complete Peanuts, and less-familiarly in “‘Lil Folks” and “It’s Only a Game” – collections of Charles Schulz’ pre-Peanuts and parrallel-to-Peanuts work, respectively.

     Unfortunately, my communications with the staff at the Daily Texan never really went anywhere. One of the weird perks of writing about something on the internet, however, is that every so often, someone will read it and send you glimpses of exactly what you wanted to see in the first place. Such is the case with an anonymous gentleman who sent me the following scan of the original art for one of Mr. Ware’s Daily Texan strips.

     “Here’s a scan of a strip Chris Ware did for the Daily Texan back in 1988. Sorry about the quality of the scan, but it was done through glass and in two parts. I’m not going to unmount it in order to scan it.”

     “I’m pretty sure that “Bande” was the name of many of those Daily Texan strips, all of which featured the semi-circle head guy. Chris didn’t always put the word Bande as the title though. I have others with no title, and one that has the title “Komix”, but they all feature that same character.”

Daily Texan Strip

Ware on TV

     French television channel ‘Arte TV‘ has been running a series of behind-the-scenes documentaries on various Comic Book creators throughout the month of January. One of these episodes focuses exclusively on Chris Ware. The website for the series has video clips of every episode BUT Ware’s, though they do offer a nice original flash animation of bits from Jimmy Corrigan (This is not the same animation as the one on the Pantheon site). Anyone who reads this site knows that I have an unhealthy obsession with the work of Mr. Ware, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve managed to obtain a copy of the episode in question.

     A huge thanks goes to David Pouchard for recording the program and sending me the tape (You can view David’s bibliography of Ware’s work in French publications here). I got the PAL videotape transferred to DVD (Expensive!), and am seeding a torrent of a small (but watchable) quicktime file containing the entire episode. Click here if you don’t know what a torrent is and follow the directions. Otherwise, you can grab the torrent file here. The show is mostly in English with french subtitles, so don’t worry too much about the language barrier!

     Also – why the hell don’t we have Art TV here in the US? I’d happily watch it in french if it were available to me.


     You can download the whole file the old-fashioned way here (it’s being used in a college course, so take advantage of the educational institution-sized bandwidth!), or view it in three parts here, here, and here.

Pledge Bait

     Having fallen embarrassingly behind in the maintenance of, I thought I would make an attempt at bringing the following item to people’s attention before its too late:

     Cartoonist Chris Ware and ‘This American Life‘ Host Ira Glass have collaborated on a DVD which is only available to those who donate to public radio. The DVD contains the narrated slideshow that Glass and Ware were presenting at various speaking engagements during the past year. I’ve pasted some background on the story below, taken from the official website for the DVD.

     “Ira Glass and cartoonist Chris Ware decided to co-report a story together. Ira does the sound. Chris does hundreds of drawings. The result is a 22-minute story, with sound and images, now on DVD for the first time.”

     “This story has never been on the radio. It was presented in pieces – as it was completed – on This American Life’s May 2003 “Lost in America” tour, and at Royce Hall in Los Angeles. It’s the true story of a boy named Tim Samuelson, who became obsessed with old buildings, especially the buildings of Louis Sullivan in Chicago, during the 1960’s and 70’s when they were being torn down.”

     “At one point, hearing that a favorite building at Clark and Adams is being demolished, a thirteen-year-old Tim demands to meet with the architect who’s designing the glass-and-steel building that’ll take its place: Mies van der Rohe, one of the most famous architects in the world. Tim finds van der Rohe’s office. The legendary architect meets with the teenager.”

     “Much more happens. It’s a very sad story, drawn with beautiful pictures.”


     The DVD is only available in exchange for making a hefty pledge to your local public radio station. If you’re interested, but your local ‘This American Life’ station doesn’t appear to be offering the DVD, they can probably still get it for you.

     A bit more on the DVD and packaging:

     “Audiences who saw the work presented onstage saw huge projections of Chris Ware’s drawings. The cartoon buildings were tall as buildings.”

     “To accompany the DVD, Chris has designed a 96-page book, full of never-before-published photographs of Louis Sullivan buildings, in their glory and in various states of demolition. Also, there are DVD extras: audio outtakes, a look at Chris’s pencil sketches, a high-resolution version of the movie that plays on PCs and Macs. “

     “As he worked on this, Chris said he wanted it to be the most beautiful thank you gift public radio has ever offered listeners. The whole package is this gorgeous little book, filled with photos, with the DVD tucked inside. It’s being released first and exclusively through public radio pledge drives, and not available anywhere else.”

     There’s a quicktime preview of the DVD available for viewing here.


     I’ve updated the Acme Novelty Archive pretty heavily in the last couple of days. New design, new search capability, and new database-driven content. Nearly everything that’s been submitted since I started the site is now in there, the only thing left to be done is all the categorization for the (functional, but incomplete) browse by category bit. Good times.


Mutual Appreciation Society

     Amazingly great 80-page transcription of a hybrid conversation / presentation held at the University of Minnesota by ‘This American Life‘ host Ira Glass and Acme Novelty Librarian Chris Ware. (pdf format).

Ira Glass: One of the things I find myself – as somebody who does radio – always responding to and really aware of in, in your comics, in a way, in fact, I’ve never really noticed in other comics is um, that there are pauses built in. Like in the thing you just read, the guy will say something in one panel and then there will be a panel where nobody says anything and Jimmy just sits there, and then the next thing will happen. It’s like you’re building in, you’re building in a moment in between, like you’re building in pauses, you’re controlling time and the speed of the reading.

Chris Ware: I think that just comes from, from drawing – first of all without using words, and then trying to give it a real sense of the rhythm of life. And I can’t use any other word to describe it, but there’s a certain – when I’m drawing a strip, it has to have a certain rhythm to it and I basically play through it while I’m reading it, almost like a piano roll, and if I read through it and that there’s a pause in it or there’s a rhythm in it that seems wrong, I’ll subdivide a panel to put in a space, or –

Ira Glass: You’ll actually put in a panel, which is, which will space it out?

Chris Ware: Yeah. I mean, I would think it would be analogous to what you’re doing when you’re editing an interview so that it sounds natural and if somebody, you know, coughs or burps or whatever, or they say something embarrassing –

Ira Glass: Well then, well actually, well actually, like – somebody will talk and be making their big point and you just feel like – as a producer, you feel like, “Oh, I want to slow them down.” Because, because the point will have more emotion and will come across to the listener with the emotion that the person’s feeling more if you slow them down. And so, we’re constantly taking, like, these tiny little pieces of – of blank time and inserting it between words to change the pacing.

Chris Ware: Wow.

Ira Glass: Yeah. [audience laughter]

Chris Ware: That sounds – wow – [audience laughter] Is that legal, though? [audience laughter] I mean, it almost seems like that would be –

Ira Glass: It’s lying.

Chris Ware: – prosecutable, you know.

Ira Glass: Well, we had the quote the same. I mean, one of the things about audio – [audience laughter and applause] – one of the things about audio that’s um, particular and different than other media is that you can edit, you can edit those, you can edit out a phrase, you can move a phrase to another place – as long as, like, they keep a certain, sort of, pitch and speed of their voice. Like, there’s so much manipulation you can do. And so the version of – like sometimes people will say, “Well, how come the people on public radio just seem so much more
articulate than people you meet?” And it’s because, man, we have edited out everything extraneous. You know, they’re talking better than they’ve ever talked in their lives. You know? And, and uh, you know, we’re making a more perfect version of them than could ever exist in nature. And – [audience laughter] And my feeling about it is like, it’s, it’s, it’s such an artificial, um, it’s such an artificial thing to sit down and tape somebody to start with. Like, you’re already not getting the real person; do you know what I mean? You’re already getting this weird approximation of parts of their personality that they feel comfortable saying in the presence of a near stranger with a tape going for an audience of a million people. Like, already – like, that’s such a weird thing that, um, to get at something where it seems like that, that they’re talking about something that means something to them and to make it come across right, putting in a pause here and there doesn’t seem like that much more manipulative than the act of recording itself. Suddenly I sound like Michel Foucault. Do you know what I mean? Like, it’s already so artificial. So I go, pshaw, a pause. They’re not ever gonna know. They just gonna think, “God, I am such, I am so expressive. Like, I left that interview, and I knew – I knew I nailed that interview with that boy, but I really nailed it. And when you put the music underneath, man, it just -.” You know? If there could be music underneath all the time…you know what the music is in the radio story? Music is like the frames on the page. Like the music actually takes it and makes it – the music takes it and makes it into something, which is larger than itself. It’s like it puts a frame around the picture, suddenly you see it as – as a cinematic thing, or you hear it as a cinematic thing when the music comes in.

Chris Ware: Well, you’re the first person I’ve ever noticed that’s ever done that – basically, where you can tell where somebody is actually about to start to tell a story, where there might be an introductory line, and then the music starts and you know that, “OK, this is the – this is where it begins.” It almost – it feels cinematic, but I’ve never heard anyone else do that before.

Ira Glass: Yeah, if you put the music in at a certain place it just creates this feeling of motion, “OK, now we’re going somewhere.” And then one of the tricks we use a lot is that if there’s music playing underneath somebody and you pull it out, whatever they say next, over the silence, sounds more important, and you pay more attention to unconsciously. And so, as a producer, if you want to be sure that people get this point, like this is the point, they must get this, or the rest of this isn’t going to work, or this is the really – like this is the most surprising thing they said, and you want to be sure that it comes across with the power that you’re feeling it, as the person putting it together, you totally pull out the music and maybe put in a little extra pause here or there.
Because you’ve only got your sound and your silence, you know, it’s like – a pretty primitive medium, you’ve got your sound, you’ve got your silence, and so you’ve got to encase the sound around..

Chris Ware: That’s true. Gee! You sound like aesthetic fascists up here, or something.

     This is just a giant pull quote – you really should read the whole thing.


     While looking up articles for the Acme Novelty Archive from my last post, I found the following piece from the July 9th, 1999 issue of Entertainment Weekly:

Double Takes


     Comic-book fans have been buzzing about a certain familiarity they’ve noticed recently: namely, that Stewie, the football-shaped-headed child who loathes his mother and invents diabolical weapons on Fox’s Family Guy, bears a striking resemblance to a comic-strip character: Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth (right), a football-shaped-headed child who fears his mother and invents things to escape from her. Chris Ware has been drawing Jimmy since 1991, creating a series of comic books called the Acme Novelty Library. A collection of Jimmy’s adventures will be published by Pantheon next spring. Says Ware, “I don’t want a book of seven years’ worth of my stuff to become available and then be accused of being a rip-off of Family Guy.”

     Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has no comment, but his production company, Twentieth Century Fox, issued this statement: “[We] maintain that Stewie is an entirely original, independently created character.” Ware says the similarities are “a little too coincidental to be simply, well, coincidental” but adds that he’ll try his best to shrug it off. “If I let it get the better of me, I wouldn’t get any work done,” notes Ware. “I’d just sit around and stew about it.” – Ken Tucker

     Reading this and then going back and reviewing some older, uncollected Jimmy Corrigan strips only make these coincidental similarities more suspicious. I offer as an example the sequence below, which appeared in Zero Zero #16 (published in 1996 – The Family Guy premiered in 1999). Click the image to see more of the strip.


     It’s all there – the character design, the extensive vocabulary and verbose tendancies, the mother issues and scientific proclivities… I’m a fan of The Family Guy, but it does begin to seem a little too coincidental. Crazy.