Reading: Beth Nissen on Chris Ware

jimmyspread3.jpg

(a single page from Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware; click on the image to expand it)

Catching up on some articles on Chris Ware’s work that were referenced in other texts that I’m reading, I was particularly interested to read these analogies from Ware about the structure of the complex and non-liner nature of his graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan.

The book’s remarkable jacket, which unfolds to a 24″ x 16″ blueprint of the multiple Jimmy Corrigan storylines, was proofed five times. “It’s complex,” admitted Ware, who did the proofing himself. “It’s kind of like a Web page, smashed down.”

Nissen, Beth, A Not-So-Comic Book
cnn.com, 3 October 2000, retrieved 24 March 2007

“…I first drew Jimmy Corrigan in 1990 in Austin,” [where Ware produced weekly cartoon strips for a college paper] “but I started developing his story in 1993. It was like a tree, growing outwards.”

Nissen, Beth, Transcript: An interview with Chris Ware
cnn.com, 3 October 2000, retrieved 24 March 2007

Jimmy Corrigan is undoubtedly one of the most complex non-linear stories every published. This non-linear narrative is evidently not a construct; it is also how the graphic novel was drawn, like a tree that grows in three dimensions and many different directions at once.

Ware likens the fold-out book jacket to a web site. Complex web pages of different overlapping pages, sections and levels are frequently summarised in ‘site maps’. These attempt to ‘flatten’ an effectively three dimensional virtual space into a single flat atlas of interconnecting linked pages. It’s an old age solution to modern age technological problem: facilitating navigation in virtual spaces by applying a flat surface to explain and map it.

Many of Ware’s drawings are smaller than that: The characters and neat lettering in his panels are often eye-strainingly tiny. (This reader neaded a strong light and a magnifying flass to see all the details and read every last word.)

“I don’t actually draw them that small — the original drawings are about double the size you see in the book,” said Ware. “But I have them reduced a very small image. Smaller makes for a more compact world, a little magical world.”

Nissen, Beth, A Not-So-Comic Book
cnn.com, 3 October 2000, retrieved 24 March 2007

An architect is normally employed to produce drawings that will determine the construction of buildings, usually on paper or on a computer screen. The plan of a building drawn by an architect will be many times smaller than the finished building. But the original comic strips produced by a comic strip artist will frequently be reduced before appearing in their finished published form. It’s not just a difference of scale, it’s a different approach to the connection between the drawing and the finished product.

 

 

 

 

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  1. 1 STWALLSKULL » Interesting Links: March 30, 2007

    […] Reading: Beth Nissen on Chris Ware […]




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