Where do I start with Chris Ware's work?
December 6, 2006 1:30 PM   Subscribe

ChrisWareFilter: I want to read some Chris Ware, but I don't where to start and I'm worried I'll end up either duplicating work or reading stuff out of sequence.

I can't work out what I should read first. Jimmy Corrigan seems like an excellent book however I believe story was originally intertwined with other work (within the ACME books). Does this mean that if I buy the Jimmy Corrigan book and then get other ACME books I'll be doubling up?

Also, I can only see these works on Amazon (I'm in the UK).

The Acme Novelty Library (is this volume 1?)
Big Book of Jokes II #15 (Acme Novelty Library, 15) (Out of print I think)
The Acme Novelty Library: Vol 16
The Acme Novelty Library: No. 17
The Acme Novelty Datebook (a sketchbook, of sorts, I believe)
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
Quimby the Mouse (a collection of early work I believe)

So what happened to Library 2 - 14 ?!

Yes I've visited these pages (one two three) but it doesn't really help clear things up.

Should I be looking on eBay for the missing books? Should I just dive straight in with ACME 1 (if that's what it is)? Or should I try Jimmy Corrigan first?

posted by Glum to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Jimmy Corrigan is the main story that intertwined through all of the single ACME issues between that, the oversized, red ACME Novelty Library collection, and Quimby The Mouse, you'll have almost all of the material from the single issues up until #16 and #17, when Ware shifted from Jimmy Corrigan to Rusty Brown.

  1. Get Jimmy Corrigan.
  2. Get the giant red ACME book (which really is lovely).
  3. Get Quimby The Mouse.
  4. Then get #16 and 17.
I like the Datebook, but it is completely optional.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 1:46 PM on December 6, 2006

Jimmy Corrigan is a stunning book. I've read it so many times because it's like a favorite piece of music -- always changing each time you read it (not to mention changing as you yourself get older).
posted by allterrainbrain at 1:57 PM on December 6, 2006

Just start with the Jimmy Corrigan. It's an independant work, though it was developed from some of the material in the very early comics. Some of the ANL stuff (including the totality of issues 2 and 3, at least) is completely unrelated and other issues (6-14, I think) contain a serialization of the book.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:58 PM on December 6, 2006

Best answer: Jimmy Corrigan is a huge, monumental work, and to me encapsulates Chris Ware's aesthetic and philosophy to a degree which I believe will be hard for him to surpass. I'm glad I've read this and this story has haunted me ever since I've finished it, but it is also highly depressing, in a way that's not always constructive and helpful. Be warned that the book was written without a clear path at first, and the story really takes off in the last third of the book, after a few interesting scenes and weird filler.

The Acme Novelty Library Stockholder's Report collects all the fun fake ads and articles from the Acme Novelty Library series. It still displays dark pessimism, but is art as light as you're going to get from Chris Ware.

Quimby The Mouse represents the peak of his experimental cartoons before he found his definitive Chris Ware style, and is a great coffeetable book.

Leave out Rusty Brown for now (Acme 16 and 17). Those books are over-priced, the incomplete story is a darker, useless rehash of Jimmy Corrigan (thus far) and is kind of a self-indulgent work from Chris Ware. It's kind of depressing to think that story will go on for years, I almost wish he would abandon Rusty Brown and start something fresh. The work he recently provided to the New Yorker is more essential and poignant than Rusty Brown.
posted by jchgf at 2:34 PM on December 6, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, fastest responses so far. I'd completely forgotten about that New Yorker material - which I have sitting on my Windows desktop in PDF format.

To everyone here: your advice has been invaluable. Thanks.
posted by Glum at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2006

I actually enjoy some of the larger-format stuff, though most of the suitable stuff is out of print. Ware really does make full use of the larger page sizes, so large pages are a different experience than smaller ones. The Quimby volume is not the best place to start; it will be easier to read and enjoy once you're already familiar with Ware's sometimes complex story layout techniques. The Jimmy Corrigan book (with smaller pages, though a fold-out cover that suggests what Ware's capable of) is indeed amazing though a serious downer. Of the ones you list, I'd start with the JC book.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:54 PM on December 6, 2006

Jimmy Corrigan might be a local-downer in terms of subject matter, but it's a meta-upper in that it gives you a thrilling sense of "here's somebody amazing at work," opens your eyes and makes you think, and is beautiful on a few levels (not least of which is the structure/craft). The only similar feeling I get is from Fun Home (the 2006 book by Alison Bechdel).
posted by allterrainbrain at 2:39 PM on December 12, 2006

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