Thursday, December 07, 2006

art studs & pencil stubs

This morning's read: #17 in Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library series, featuring no-luck bucktoothed Rusty Brown, secret superhero & possessor of a disturbing helmet of red hair. Ware, I've determined, is the Michelangelo of the "joli laid": homely characters who are at the same time beautiful & the essence of human. It's still snowing in this issue (part two of Rusty's story) & the school bullies continue to carry out their time-worn tricks with expert unctuousness. Ware gives us classroom scenes in blue, black, ochre, & olive--one can practically smell the canned peas & the tyranny--& includes himself as a prominent figure: Mr. Ware, art teacher. The creator of Jimmy Corrigan & "Building Stories" (which ran this year in the New York Times Magazine) seems to be endlessly uncertain of his own joli-laid status, yet in this latest Acme graphic novel, new & cute girl Alice White, besieged by indigestion, sequesters herself in a bathroom stall & spots a bit of graffiti (printed in a neat hand suspiciously similar to the artist's) above the toilet paper on an otherwise blank wall. "Mr. Ware is a stud." The sequence of panels is classic Chris Ware: clever, self-referential, layered, funny, & melancholy all at once. As for his implied question, well, if I had such an inventive, profound body of work to my name, I'd be feeling pretty studly indeed.


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