• Chris-ware-hero

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

Illustration

WOW, aka a preview of Chris Ware's new and very brilliant magnum opus, Building Stories

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

It’s been a very long time since comics widened their scope beyond superheroes and science fiction for anyone to dismiss them as the creative property for only those interested in such stuff.

The illustrative vanguard for progressive, independent and socially challenging comics that Art Spiegelman spearheaded with RAW magazine and his own Maus graphic novel, drove this point home and into the collective literary psyche. It has since been followed-up by a number of key cartoonists who have widened its wake and filtered through some of the most extraordinary and genre-defying narratives that modern readers have had the pleasure of eyeballing. To them, we say thanks (and keep it up).

Chris Ware, who is widely-known to dismiss in self-deprecating tones any personal merit adjoined to his work (rumour has it he is collecting up and destroying one of his earliest published endeavours), is perhaps not ready to receive this thanks or the praise his latest, indubitable magnum opus Building Stories will inspire. But applause it will get (and probably stunned silence quickly followed by imaginative combinations of swear words, as was the case in our studio when this advance copy arrived).

  • Chris-ware-01

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

Building Stories is (insert swear-verb) lovely to look at. Ware delivers in many different bits of printed matter (pamphlets and broadsheets, hard- and cloth-bound books, one-pagers and a something like a games board), a collection of comics that has no real beginning or end because that is what regular books do and Chris Ware can do without.

In short (and it has to be that way even if my notes tell me something different) the story/one-big-“emotional prevarication” occupies a single building in Chicago and follows its inhabitants; a lonely landlady, a lonely-but-together couple, and a lonely woman. Isolation, both mental and physical is Ware territory – together with dry-or-die humour – this work reminds me how devastatingly beautiful it can be.

If you wanted to, you could work hard to read it chronologically but then that would do away with the memory-like quality of individual stories and their extraordinary, almost musical, handling of space and time. It is this, the way rhythm and movement is conducted through the various scales and formats in Building Stories and how it is played out in recurring graphic themes, that elevates Ware to master-status.

  • Chris-ware-03

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

“I learned how to structure a page and how to think about comics in a language and not as a genre” he told Christoper Irving for NYC Graphic Novelists, and it’s a pretty good visual syntax – multi-directional type; sub-narratives that run down the edges or in the top corners of pages, the subjects of which appear and disappear in the lead stories which run in tandem across generations; huge floating heads in the centre of psychological, schematic illustrations; open-sided architectural renderings that perform like comic panelling and compliment a narrative which, like a home, knows that action is never exclusive to a single frame (or room).

If anything Chris Ware has written has pleased you (and we don’t see why they would not have. On paper his Fantagraphic bio reminds us he has won more awards, some of which never before bestowed on a cartoonist, than he has published comics), you will not be disappointed when this boxed collection arrives to make your hands sweat and your heart ache and your eyes bleed. Because, whether he likes it or not, that is how good comics can be and Chris Ware’s Building Stories is a prime example.

  • Chris-ware-06

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-07

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-10

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-14

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-11

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-18

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-26

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-21

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-22

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-20

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-19

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-27

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

  • Chris-ware-13

    Chris Ware: Building Stories. Published by Jonathan Cape.

Building Stories is out in October.

Portrait9

Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

Most Recent: Illustration View Archive

  1. List

    The London-based French illustrator Malika Favre has had another big year, adding even more breadth to her already impressive portfolio of work. In the summer she was invited to Tenerife by a Spanish design collective called 28ymedio to take part in its Illustrated Journey project, which aims to “help fight the economic crisis in Spain by promoting the Canary Islands and bringing a new stream of tourism.”

  2. Main2

    You can do a lot in a year, I’m told, and proof if any was needed comes in the form of Cynthia Kittler. Just last year we listed her as one of our Students of the Month for her “kind, quiet illustration,” and checking by her website again this year I found that not only is she no longer a student, but she’s being regularly commissioned by the likes of The New York Times and Die Zeit magazine for editorial illustration which is not only as quiet and kind as it was last time we checked in, but also incredibly resonant now.

  3. Dcgoblin-wrestle_905

    In Dayoung Cho’s illustrated world, it’s the Goblin Olympics and the bunny’s on top. Tumbling top-to-tail with the tiger, it’s cheered on by an amorphous cyclops whilst a duck-billed platypus and rhino await their turn in the ring.

  4. List

    We love Thomas Slater. We love how he manages to dollop a fat helping of fun to subjects from art school to financial advice, how he so accurately distils the defining characteristics of his subjects in one fell swoop, and how his work offers a universal joy which makes him appealing for near on every audience imaginable.

  5. Listemi_ueoka_readings1

    One of my teachers had a pet hate of adverbs and adjectives. “Cut the fluff!” he’d yell after reading our essays. Emi Ueoka’s delicate drawings illustrate his point perfectly; why use more lines when a few create so perfect a picture?

  6. List

    When it came to designing the second billboard for our ongoing partnership with London Graphic Centre, Jack Hudson seemed the obvious choice. Ever since we came across his work four years ago and swiftly swept him up into our Graduates class of 2010, we’ve watched with awe as Jack’s career has gone from strength to strength. He has a supreme ability to make communicative images still steeped in charm and personality, and so we knew he would rise to the challenge of our broad “back to school brief.”

  7. Main23

    It’s all well and good making art and illustration that focuses in on humdrum observations of our meagre existences, but wouldn’t you rather have a whole bunch of images that dip their toes in the sci-fi pool of chance and dance through the stars on pronged, mythical wildflowers? I know I would, which is why I’m particularly pleased with stumbling across the work of Singeon, a French illustrator whose horny, mythological drawings and paintings are like an ever-changing ecosystem, ranging from small watercolour doodles of food (standard) to double-headed medieval babes in outer space (not so standard). He’s part of team Flickr, so if you like what you see here I urge you to go and check out even more of his work over here on his page.

  8. Main

    Switzerland-based artist Pascale Keung makes delightfully diverse work which is inspired by her chosen country’s stunning natural landscape as often as it is by wild fantasies. This series Muttsee is an example of the former, a collection of images about “a very special place in the Alps of Switzerland” where she goes to fish with her friends from time to time.

  9. Joselistculto-charles-39

    The artist known as José Ja Ja Ja not only creates damnedly detailed drawings and works as Professor of Illustration at the European Design School in Madrid; he also brews beer. Unfortunately, as I have yet to sample SALVAJE, I’ll have to laud the brilliance of his illustrations instead.

  10. List

    If you’re concerned that your bookshelf is starting to look bit run-of-the-mill then allow us to present you with a new publication to blow the others out of the water. Eventually Everything Connects is a new publication by Loris Lora, published by Nobrow, illustrating the largely unknown but absolutely fascinating commonalities which joined many of the architects, designers, filmmakers and photographers working in southern California in the Modernist era.

  11. List

    I’m all for embracing new modes of experiencing literature, but when choosing to read novels on an iPad or tablet requires that you select a dull digital alternative cover – one with a hunk of Helvetica slapped thoughtlessly over a low-res image, or similar – I can’t help by find myself reaching for a paperback. Fortunately publishers like Frenchies Les Livres Mouvants are a step ahead of their game, commissioning beautiful books covers for their digital reads which will even out the playing field.

  12. Main1

    Say welcome, one and all, to Noam Weiner. This Israeli illustrator’s recently ramped up her editorial work, illustrating for several national newspapers and magazines, often with a political or satirical bite. In an illustration for an article on criticism, she cleverly combines a deal with the devil with a hearty dose of mutual back-scratching to make a point about the tangled relationships up the tower of power. We prefer her work at its most minimalistic, when she conveys maximum meaning. Of her older work, the simplicity of her comics version of the classic kids’ adventure book Hasamba is captivating.

  13. Main

    The work of Brian Edward Miller is a cross between the digital and the retro: his sketches could easily be found in the satchel of a 1950s art student, but when put into the computer and twiddled with they look just as at home in a high-tech animation for a company like Adobe. “My goal is to provide quality illustration and storytelling with the professional hard working ideals my family modelled to me and to chase down that elusive vintage aesthetic which played such a powerful role in my childhood,” Brian states on his site. Judging by the list of people who have commissioned this guy of late, it seems like we’re not the only ones to find his work impossible to look away from.