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The new King of Melancholy

February 3, 2008

Paul Constant notes, in his latest column, “The Saddest Place on Earth“, that,

In spring or fall, you can almost always find something good and worthwhile on bookstores’ new-release tables, but winter is a lot rougher. In January, publishers are usually still tabulating the damages from Christmas, determining if their prestigious fall publications earned enough money to break even for the year, and book reviewers are already looking ahead to spring, when the hot new shit gets published. In the dead of winter, no publisher will ever release a novel by, say, David Foster Wallace, because the dead of winter is for misfit, unmarketable books and generic thrillers and maybe another Joyce Carol Oates novel or two.

It’s the lead-in to his discussion of two new books drawn by Chris Ware, about whom I must confess to know embarrassingly little. In fact, I know nothing about him aside from what I read in Contant’s article. For instance, I now know that “Since Charles Schulz’s passing, Ware has become the new King of Melancholy”, which is, of course, heavy, heavy praise. And, well, I did go out and look up Mr. Ware in order to have a bit better clue of what I was passing on to you all, and came across an interview Ware did for a July, 2006 episode of PBS’ P.O.V.:

Incidentally, I stole this idea of using very carefully composed naturalistic color under a platonic black line more or less directly from Hergé, as there’s a certain lushness and jewel-like quality to his pages that also seems to hint at the way we gift-wrap our experiences as memories.

I realize that this is all a rather over-thought, dogmatic and somewhat limiting way of approaching comics, especially if one tries to look at my strips as “good” drawings, because they’re not, but it’s also allowed me to finally arrive at a point where I’m able to write with pictures without worrying about how I’m drawing something, instead permitting me to concentrate on how the characters “feel.” I wouldn’t recommend this method to anyone, though; it’s just the way I work, though I certainly don’t think it’s the only way to work in comics at all.

-bd

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