• 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. Edithcarron-list-2-int

    How’s this for a delightful collection of images? Edith Carron is a French illustrator who has been working out of Berlin for the past seven years, and her portfolio comprises a beguiling combination of fun, socially-conscious and mischievous themes delivered in coloured pencil and print. And it’s fantastic. So much so, in fact, that The New York Times, Zeit Campus Magazin and Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazin are only three from a client list longer than we care to count who have commissioned Edith to make first-rate work, including this wonderful cover for Revue Citrus, depicting two male footballers in a loving embrace before their fans. Edith also generously posts a collection of personal work in her Journal, in which she takes snapshots from every day life and makes them look like something out of a technicolour children’s book-inspired dream. What a treat.

  2. Martinnicolausson-int-list

    It is almost exactly a year since Swedish illustrator Martin Nicolausson last appeared on the site but if it’s to become an annual tradition to check back in on his work, then you won’t find me complaining. Martin has considerable and versatile talents and particularly excels in editorial work for the likes of Icon, New Humanist and Wallpaper* magazines. But there’s also some charming self-initiated work among his recent updates, including a series dedicated to golf which actually makes this stuffy sport seem pretty darn appealing. His colour palette is often muted but he makes the most of every visual decision to ensure maximum, if sometimes quiet, impact.

  3. Samplerman-list-int

    Yvan Guillo is not an illustrator who is about to be held back by traditional practices. One day while he was sampling the tonal background of vintage comics to create a more retro feel in his own panels, he accidentally selected an area with a character in it, and his crazy new mash-up technique was born. He has continued creating works using these techniques under the pseudonym Samplerman, posting them on a Tumblr of the same name to create an extensive series. Even better, he created the word “procrastinatic” to describe such an activity. Making up formats and adjectives? Who is this enigmatic creator?

  4. Penelope-gazin-int-list

    Weird is a word that’s applied lazily to anything that’s even vaguely out of the ordinary. You start chatting to a stranger on the bus: “Weird!” You have a dream where you’re in your house, and it doesn’t look anything like your house, but all your family live there and you have your own room so it must be your house: “Weird!” You take a new route on the walk home from work for no particular reason at all: “Weird!” None of these things are weird you damn fools. Weird is MUCH more exciting than that.

  5. 1janne-kokkonen-tunica-

    We’re benevolent old things here at It’s Nice That – so much so that illustrator Janne Kokkonen reckoned that being one of our students of the month in 2013 was “one of the nicest things that had happened to me during my studies.”

  6. Margheritaurbani-list-int

    Being huge fans of Andy Rementer’s cheeky work we’ve seen illustrator Margherita Urbani’s name bandied around a lot over the past few years, whether in credits in Apartamento or The New York Times, but it wasn’t until last week that we thought to look up exactly what she does. Which, as it turns out, is quite a lot.

  7. Mattpanuska-barbara-int-list

    In ancient times Matt Panuska would have been some kind of shamanistic guide, plying his wards with ayahuasca and leading them through their subconscious with a gentle hand. Unfortunately he lives in modern-day Brooklyn, where DMT-related healing is positively discouraged, so Matt makes his living drawing images that seem born from an altered mind.

  8. Brandon-celi-cold-storage-int-8

    Covering beer-holding Furbys, flaxen-haired Nickelback chump Chad Kroeger and laptop Scrabble, Toronto-based illustrator Brandon Celi’s subjects are as varied as his work is brilliant. He works in paint to bring to life hilarious scenarios including a reimagining of the Wizard of Oz scene where the wicked witch is crushed by a house, but this time targeting surely the most evil (aesthetically, at least) of all footwear: Crocs.

  9. Christophniemann-sundaysketch-int-list

    Christoph Niemann is one of our creative heroes, an illustrator and artist whose talent, imagination and sense of humour puts him smack bang in the top drawer. So imagine our excitement when we found out he was doing an Ask Me Anything on Reddit yesterday, where he held forth on all manner of topics, from serious illustration insight to his love of butter. Here’s some of the wit and wisdom he shared…

  10. Charlottedelarue-list-3-int

    Illustrator and art director Charlotte Delarue’s varied work shows her to be an uncommonly talented illustrator, conjuring incredibly realistic portraits out of paper and pencil safe in the knowledge that she doesn’t need to do anything more to make them impressive. Her art direction is of another ilk entirely, however – she works with the likes of electro acts Chromeo, Justice and Kavinsky to draw up impactful logotypes and album artwork concepts that can be spotted from miles away, from the golden legs which reappear on almost every Chromeo album cover to Kavinsky’s mysterious blue-tinged scenes.

  11. Majic_riso

    Sophy Hollington has been busy making some sassy new printed matter. With fan art, band T-shirts, record sleeves and commissions from The New York Times and Japanese gallery Parades, Sophy’s detailed, lino-cut and Risograph printed work is gorgeous, varied and often rather strange.

  12. Joedator-self-int

    Interviewing cartoonist Joe Dator is a real honour, because he’s a total hero and also a spectacular interviewee. Listen to him talk about his working life: “Everything revolves around Tuesday. The New Yorker cartoon meeting is on Tuesday, so that’s the day we all submit our new ideas to the editor…I usually work over the weekend and by Monday night I’m in full-on lockdown to get my batch of ideas ready. Wednesday is a day off. If you ever want to socialise with a New Yorker cartoonist, Wednesday is the day to do it.”

  13. Ben_mendelwicz-collage-7-int

    New York-based illustrator Ben Mendelewicz draws comics, illustrates and animates for the likes of Adult Swim, Stussy and Funny or Die. He has contributed to Mouldmap, Happiness and Weird with comic horror stories of white collar jobs with fragmented scripts of bastardised professional jargon.