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The Acme Novelty Date Book:
With the advent of film commentary tracks on DVDs, insight into creative decision-making is becoming a form of entertainment in itself. In this vein, Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Date Book acts as a kind of commentary on the cartoonist's work, such as his groundbreaking graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan and the recently released collection Quimby the Mouse. In the pages of the Date Book, which features art, ideas, and ephemera from the artist's sketchbooks between 1986 and 1995, the reader will find embryonic versions of characters and themes that appear fully formed in the pages of the Acme Novelty Library, the Ware-created comic published by Fantagraphics since 1993. Quimby, Corrigan, Big Tex, and other characters appear as sketches and in primitive versions of the published strips.
Throughout, and in crimped, crabbed handwriting, Ware also recounts dreams and memories that will inform his later work--nary a page goes by without a reference to loneliness, mortality, and casual cruelty, all popular tropes in the artist's stories. His self-doubt, another favourite theme, is apparent from the beginning as well: "God... this is awful... I should be ashamed of myself," says a cartoon version of Ware in his introduction. But for both the casual art lover interested in the creative process and fans of Ware's work, the meticulously designed Acme Novelty Date Book is a treasure trove of bleakly funny early strips, exceptionally drawn portraits and cityscapes (which reveal just how much Ware is influenced by R. Crumb), and glimpses into the artist's personality. In the latter category, a page devoted to drawings of toys from Ware's childhood, including a Batgirl doll, is worth noting. Besides referring to the doll as "my sexual totem," he notes that he remembers "once I thought I had lost 'her'.... Sat up at edge of my bed weeping piteous tears." Kind of pathetic, sure, but also hilarious, and we think no less of the artist upon learning of this. After all, as one self-affirmation in these pages goes, you have to "respect your obsessions." Whether this means a superheroine doll or comic strip characters like Nancy and Sluggo, who appear in heretofore unseen and obscene incarnations, so be it. Ware has respected his obsessions, and comics fans are all richer for it. --Shawn Conner [via]