Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth by Chris Ware
Why is it that comic book writers, “graphic novel” writers, specifically, feel so compelled to write utterly harrowing stories about loneliness and alienation and all the other emotional, hurtful themes that writers like Chris Ware, Dash Shaw, Charles Burns, Seth, Daniel Clowes, Alison Bechdel, David B., etc. write about? I mean, really? Text-only novels aren’t hardly as bleak as Fun Home, or Ice Haven, or Bottomless Belly Button. Or Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth. Holy mercy, this book is bleak. The apex of happiness appears in the first pages of this book, when a man dressed like a superhero commits suicide, leaving only a note for Jimmy. From there, Jimmy goes on an emotional journey of self-discovery, history, and inner clarity, all bleak.
I set to reading this last night, and the first hundred pages had me so depressed that I found myself on Netflix, desperately searching for a romantic comedy to stream. It barely helped.
The book is, of course, gorgeous. Chris Ware’s signature style is his rigid, geometric panel arrangements— beautifully orchestrated collections of coincidental edges, rectangles, and squares. There’s one particular drawing of a Ferris wheel towards the end that I studied for minutes before turning the page. Reading this comic is like solving a really satisfying math equation and it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that it takes similar brain functions to do so.
I should point out that the cover of this book that I posted is a scan of the weird jacket-less copy belonging to the library at Pratt. There are only a couple of weeks left before I graduate, so I’m trying to get through their comics collection with lightning speed.