The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking
Reading Chris Ware's comics for the first time can be a disorienting experience. Why does the hardcover edition of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth have such an enigmatic and ornate dust jacket? Where exactly are the author's name and the title of the work, and what is the purpose of the cover's intricate diagrams and cutout instructions? The curious few who unfold the cover are rewarded with a map that is comprised of panels of varying sizes and orientations with abrupt shifts in scale, offering a world-historic vision of multiple generations and transatlantic connections between Irish immigration and the Middle Passage (see plate 1). Arrayed on the page with a dizzying visual intensity, these tiny scenarios are punctuated cryptically by conjunctions and phrases such as "Thus," "But," "And So" and traversed by a network of arrows and lines (dashed or solid) that operates according to an initially inscrutable logic. If this seems too daunting, turning to the endpapers reveals "General Instructions," followed by an "Introduction" and five sections that culminate in an exam, all rendered in painfully tiny type that requires preternatural vision or bringing the book so close to your face that it almost touches your nose.
As the cover warns us, what we have here is definitely "a bold experiment in reader tolerance," and many will not have the time, interest, or patience for it. Put simply, this volume is not for them. But for those readers who, fascinated and challenged by the worlds that Ware has constructed, seek to gain new points of entry into his comics, this collection offers a range of multidisciplinary perspectives that we hope will inspire lively discussions and open previously unexplored avenues for research. This volume offers the first such sustained ciritical analysis of Chris Ware's already prodigious body of work, yielding a varied, provocative collection of essays that spans multiple approaches and orientations---from literary theory to urban studies, disability studies to art history, critical race theory to comics history---in order to better understand and illuminate Ware's graphic narratives.
Kuhlman, Martha B., and David M. Ball. "Introduction: Chris Ware and the "Cult of Difficulty."' In The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, edited by David M. Ball and Martha B. Kuhlman, ix-xxiii. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.