This collection has a last-word feel to it, offering a delightful summation of a fruitful and very busy last few decades....

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MONOGRAPH BY CHRIS WARE

The noted artist, collector, and visionary offers a personal anthology/memoir, complete with junior high photos and memories of the cul-de-sacs of Omaha.

“Does the world really need another printed tome about an artist, let alone one about an admittedly marginal and rather questionable graphic novelist/artist/writer who has already littered the recycling centers and used bookstores of his home country with dog-eared examples of his own self-regard?” So asks Ware (Building Stories, 2012, etc.), deep into a collection whose Greek-derived and “somewhat self-referential” title speaks to his usual custom: writing alone, tucked away in a dark corner with pens and books. NPR host Ira Glass, who provides the preface, got him out of the house a few years ago, Ware writes, and the exposure helped him become better known to readers, but it wasn’t as if he was a hermit. He worked as a newspaper cartoonist, a graphic artist, an illustrator, and, as he writes, learned on the job to be a social being and to pay attention to deadlines and requirements, all good things for a budding artist to know. Throughout, Ware peppers his narrative with other lessons he’s learned along the way: about technique, the history of art, the links between cartoons and cinema, and yes, about life, aging, and so forth; it’s good to change your horizons and see the world, as he reckons, because “artists don’t develop in a vacuum.” The oversized book is overstuffed with art, each page spread containing numerous images, cartoon strips, sketches, mockups, snapshots, scrapbook items, and other such treasures that will be of immense appeal to fans of Krazy Kat and Joseph Cornell alike. The text is as smart and illuminating as the images, and Ware has wise things to say everywhere along the way.

This collection has a last-word feel to it, offering a delightful summation of a fruitful and very busy last few decades. Fans, of course, will want much more, but this makes a great start.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8478-6088-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Rizzoli

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION

A searching interpretation of that sonorous document the Constitution, with cartoons.

Why have a Constitution to begin with? Because, remarks film and TV writer Hennessey—who, even if his prose is bound by balloons, turns out to be quite the Constitutional scholar—the founding fathers were keenly aware that civil rights were never formally written down in Britain, “and that deeply troubled the framers.” That’s as much of an establishing conflict as is needed for a superhero piece, and Hennessey, paired with artist McConnell, does a fine job of turning the making of the document, despite all the dull stretches in the Constitutional Convention that James Madison recorded in his diary, into a drama. Happily, Hennessey is aware of the truly radical origins of the Constitution, even as he notes its conservative strains. For example, he remarks that the system of checks and balances is a remarkable innovation, even if it sometimes seems that presidential actions—as with military intervention in Vietnam and elsewhere—go unchecked. In addition, laws are difficult to make in this country for very good reason: “Otherwise we might get too many of them.” Combining words and appropriate images, sometimes comic and sometimes earnest, the narrative visits such matters as the three-fifths law of determining apportionment, the writ of habeas corpus, eminent domain and conceptions of property and freedom of assembly and movement (for instance, the Articles of Federation forbade “vagabonds and paupers” from crossing state lines). Also covered are the many guarantees Americans take for granted—not least the Ninth Amendment, which states that certain rights not enumerated (“The right to scratch a dog behind the ears?”) shall not be denied.

A sugarcoated but undiluted vehicle for schooling American readers about their rights and responsibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9487-5

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

THE VOYEURS

“Graphic memoir” only hints at the artistry of a complex, literary-minded author who resists the bare-all confessionalism so common to the genre and blurs the distinction between fiction and factual introspection.

Who are “The Voyeurs?” In the short, opening title piece, they are a mixed-gender group standing on an urban rooftop, watching a couple have sex through a window in a nearby building. They tend to find the experience “uncomfortable,” even “creepy,” though those who remain raptly silent may well be more interested, even titillated. Bell (Lucky, 2006, etc.) is also a voyeur of sorts, chronicling the lives of others in significant detail while contemplating her own. As she admits before addressing an arts class in frigid Minneapolis, where she knows the major interest will be on how she has been able to turn her comics into a career, “I feel I need to disclaim this ‘story.’ I set myself the task of reporting my trip, though there’s not much to it, and I can’t back out now. It’s my compulsion to do this, it’s my way, I suppose, of fighting against the meaninglessness constantly crowding in.” The memoir encompasses travels that take her from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and from Japan to France, while addressing the challenges of long-distance relationships, panic attacks, contemporary feminism, Internet obsessiveness, the temptation to manipulate life to provide material for her work, and the ultimate realization, in the concluding “How I Make My Comics,” of her creative process: “Then I want to blame everyone I’ve known ever for all the failures and frustrations of my life, and I want to call someone up and beg them to please help me out of this misery somehow, and when I realize how futile both these things are I feel the cold, sharp sting of the reality that I’m totally and utterly alone in the world. Then I slap on a punchline and bam, I’m done.”

Playfully drawn and provocatively written, the memoir reinforces Bell's standing among the first rank of the genre’s artists.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-9846814-0-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Uncivilized Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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