• 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. Anatortos-book-8-int_copy

    To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of French eco-building company Nobatek, London-based animator Ana Tortos designed and illustrated a book and made an animation, as well as a series of wood-panel illustrations for the interior of the Nobatek office. A huge undertaking, the project tells the story of the growth of the company through its various projects developing grass roofing, soundproof roads made of recycled tires and utilising the digestive system of earthworms to get rid of trash.

  2. Nick-vokey-coach-bird-int-list

    Oi graphic designers! What do you get up to in your spare time? Spot of kerning is it? Take the kids down to the font foundry and do a type casting workshop yeah? Well you’re really letting the side down. Nick Vokey’s a graphic designer who’s worked for The New Yorker and MIT Technology Review and in HIS spare time he makes comics about a medical doctor who coaches a local pee-wee football team and has been turned into a bird by a wizard. He’s a foul-mouthed bastard of a bird but incredibly funny indeed. Have a look at Nick’s comics and then reassess the way you use your weekends. You too could be making an hilarious bird-themed odyssey of graphic art. (This also applies to anyone who isn’t a graphic designer).

  3. Zoo_jennlivweb_copy

    Toronto-based illustrator and cartoonist Jenn Liv is a whizz with colour. With sustained attention to detail, she illustrates often quite stereotypical moments but always with a twist. There’s a great battle between two knights on a cliff edge at sunset, both just giving up; a romantic moment, flowers, a white dress, a gust of wind and the man just nonchalantly wandering off.

  4. Beyondthewildheart-int-list

    I think I might never have seen two illustrators as well paired as Faye Coral Johnson and Mike Redmond, the duo behind this charming new book Behind the Wild Heart. Faye’s work – sketchy, sweet and imperfect – seems to slot right in with Mike’s dynamic cartoony characters, and the two work together so often that it’s difficult to tell where one’s work ends and the other’s begins.

  5. Stevenchorney-int-main

    The reason design blogs and Pinterest are overcrowded with hand-painted signs, hand-made furniture and hand-printed textiles is because (you guessed it) it’s made by hand – and the joy of seeing craftsmanship is never, ever going away. The world is changing, and the more we demand, and the shorter our attention spans become, the less we’re spending time on getting things just right.

  6. 1_bratislav_milenkovic_wired_germany_copy_copy

    Belgrade-based illustrator Bratislav Milenkovic’s work is intricate and mechanical, with every detail forming the nuts and bolts of an elaborate piece of slapstick comedy. The characters, objects and abstract shapes play an equal role in Bratislav’s compositions. The lightly-airbrushed, knobbly kneed people (all with fantastic hair) are lost amongst the melee but only for the added impact of discoveries like: “oh! There’s a guy cranking an ice bucket over his own head” or “why is that guy exfoliating a Christmas tree?”

  7. Matamatyka-int-main

    LA artist Misia emailed in last week with a bunch of her drawings and paintings, and I was super impressed. She’s managed to mash up Nick Sharratt’s illustrations from Jacqueline Wilson books with The Babysitter’s Club, The Fresh Prince and a bunch of other pop culture references – all drawn in well-practiced monochromatic inks. Unique and skilful aesthetic aside, what I truly love about Misia’s drawings are the characters in them – GIRLS. Girls barefoot doing acrobatics in living rooms, girls lounging on beds listening to music, girls hanging out together doing nothing, girls wearing zigzag leggings and looking bored. These pictures remind me that I’m a girl, and being a girl is SO cool. They make me want to text every female I know and arrange some sort of day where we can watch TV for hours and eat peanut butter on crackers and cereal out the box. I hope it does the same for you.

  8. Jv-port-13-int_copy

    Having cut his teeth at Adult Swim, Joseph Veazey has since been art directing for label Azede Jean-Pierre and freelancing all over New York City. He also has a fine knack for making engaging and fun self-promotional printed matter and turning his sketchbooks into true works of art.

  9. Cameron-stewart-fight-club-2-int-list

    A comic-book sequel to Fight Club has been announced, telling the story of the original’s star Tyler Durden ten years on. Tyler, who was played by Brad Pitt in the David Fincher-directed 1999 film, will be shown to be dependent on prescription drugs, and living with his housewife spouse and a difficult young son.

  10. Timcolmant-list-gif

    Illustration portfolios don’t come much more joyful than this one by Tim Colmant, a Belgian illustrator with a knack for Memphis-inspired patterns, cheery colours and entertaining ideas. Looking around his diverse work feels like strolling into the fantasy land of Ettore Sottsass, decked out as it is in bright purple and yellow, swirling shapes and repetitive geometric patterns, and it’s more or less impossible to leave feeing anything less than happy. Feel free to try this out for yourselves.

  11. David-barnes-int-list

    “I like working at night when the world is quiet and all the residual energy is loose and flowing around in the atmosphere because most people are asleep and not gobbling it all up,” says David Barnes. “I’m not sure if that’s a real thing or not but thinking that way motivates me to stay up til 5am working distraction-free, feeding off the dreams of others.”

  12. Simon-roussin-film-projects-int-list

    In the three years since we last posted Simon Roussin’s work it appears the French cartoonist has become something of a cinephile. A huge amount of his illustrated output now comes in the form of homages to classics of the medium, including obsessive screen-printed books about the late, great Steve McQueen, Gerard Depardieu’s best bits and some of Clint Eastwood’s most brutal showdowns. Of course it goes without saying that his drawing goes from strength to strength. What’s wonderful about Simon’s film obsession is his ability to balance an addiction to the silver screen and a prolific illustration career, something my mum once told me was impossible.

  13. Mariohugo-recentlyrejected-int-list

    There was an interesting discussion on our podcast recently about why anyone would really want to watch the creative process taking place. Off the back of our visit to see what was essentially P J Harvey in a box, we’ve spent a lot of time chatting about how the creative process is slow and messy and frustrating, littered with wrong turns and dead-ends.