New book explores meaning and importance of work by graphic novelist and cartoonist Chris Ware
April 11th, 2010
SMITHFIELD, R.I. - The innovation of artist Chris Ware, whose comics are rapidly being distinguished as essential to the developing canon of the graphic novel, is the topic of a new book co-edited by Martha Kuhlman, associate professor of comparative literature in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at Bryant University.
"The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking," published this month by the University Press of Mississippi, is an exploration of Ware and his work, from his earliest drawings in the 1990s and his Acme Novelty Library series, to his best-selling "Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth" and his most recent works-in-progress, "Building Stories" and "Rusty Brown."
Ware, who has received numerous accolades from the literary and comics establishment, is considered "one of today's most skilled contemporary graphic novelists," Kuhlman said. "There is much to appreciate in his work. His stories are intricately constructed, and he takes his medium seriously."
Kuhlman co-edited the book with David M. Ball, assistant professor of English at Dickinson College. Together they wrote the introduction, "Chris Ware and the 'Cult of Difficulty'," and Kuhlman wrote the essay titled "In the Comics Workshop: Chris Ware and the Oubapo." Other contributors are from the fields of English, history and art history and have interests that reach into architecture, urbanization, critical race theory, and disability among many others.
Kuhlman, who also recently published a chapter in the MLA volume "Teaching the Graphic Novel," incorporates Ware's work in her course on the graphic novel. "He can be very challenging to read, which is why professors like him," she said. "To really appreciate his comics, you have to slow down and decipher his diagrams and levels of narration. Students aren't really used to reading comics this way."
"We hope the essays ... will interest scholars and enthusiasts alike," Kuhlman and Ball said. "They are the beginning of a much longer conversation about the meaning and import of Ware's comics."
The book has a Facebook fan page here. The initial press run of 1,200 has sold out; the book goes into its second printing later this month.
On Saturday, May 15, Kuhlman will talk about her book and sign copies at Ada Books, 717 Westminster St., Providence, from 7-9 p.m. Contact owner Brent Legault, 401-432-6222, for more information.