Friday, January 20, 2006

The Best Comic Most People Ignore

Every week, we are treated to a delight of human fraility, human emotion (building emotion, too), and the everyday adventures of the human existence. Every week since late September. And yet, I do not know if everyone is appreciating the treat. I, of course, am referring "The Funny Pages," the one-page a week segment of the New York Times Magazine devoted to essentially whatever Chris Ware wants to produce. Since September, he has provided us with seventeen excellent (okay, probably only 14 of them have been excellent) installments of his "Building Stories," detailing the life of four inhabitants of a New York City building, plus, occasionally, the building itself. And this comic is outstanding.

The art is pure Ware. You are either going to be a fan of his cartoon-like, but effusive, style, or you're not. Not much leeway there. I happen to think that it is quite good, and I think he manages to get across a series of emotions without expending that much effort.

In fact, above all, the most remarkable aspect of Building Stories is the ECONOMOY of it all. One page a week. That's all. And yet, in that one page, Ware quickly delivers emotions to us so effectively, it is like he is just injecting it directly into our veins. And the emotions he delivers are often so brutally effective, it is a sight to see. Like the one he did of the old landlady, sitting down for breakfast, suddenly recalling an invitation she received decades earlier, and how, even now, while just sitting down for breakfast, she remembers those slight tingles of regret for actions not taken. Ware makes the mundane come alive, while still remaining unmistakably mundane. This is similar to the way he makes sure to include all the little touches, like the strip that ends with a woman (the closest thing this story has to a protagonist) absent-mindedly scratching her ass while thinking about how she has avoided visiting her landlady the entire time she has lived in the building, except for when she needs her help. It's something that people do, but Ware is not afraid to SHOW it.

There's a great fight scene between a married couple that opens with the husband's ideal result of what will happen when he comes home, and Ware slowly peals back the ideal panel as it becomes less and less likely of ever occuring. Very clever there.

That being said, I must say that what I enjoy most about Building Stories is when the Building itself talks. That, I think, is the most unique discussions of life that Ware gets across, and some of the best lines occur when the Building speaks. I especially LOVED the one from last week, where the Building regrets the transformative powers of a failed relationship, as the Building itself bears the brunt of the break-up, without doing anything wrong. Says the Building, "One day I'm 'the home where the heart is,' the next I'm 'the place where that bastard lives.'" That line is sooo good!

So, yeah, The Funny Pages. Building Stories. Chris Ware. The New York Times Magazine. Do yourself a favor, and not skip it this week while looking to see if Randy Cohen approves of your behavior.

HOWEVER, just as an added treat for you folks who do not read the New York Times (or those who have missed the first 17 installments), the New York Times offers all the installments for FREE on their website here. Enjoy!!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey good call. I am loving that strip. Dunno if Ware is too scary and serious for most comics junkies (Jimmy Corrigan still gives me nightmares, in a good way, I think), but you have to give NYTimes cred for running this. I wonder if these will be collected at some point? Also, I wonder if the Times will feature any other artists in the same space?

1/21/2006 01:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of them are already collected in the new Acme Novelty Library (#16). I'm sure that -- since people like to publish everything Chris Ware creates -- it'll all get collected between a single set of covers at some point.

1/21/2006 10:37:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Good to hear!

My copy of #16 is still shrink-wrapped (I am the prototypical "pleasure delayer"...hehe).

But that's good to know!

1/21/2006 05:06:00 PM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

I've been checking out bits and pieces here and there. It's really incredible, groundbreaking stuff.

1/22/2006 03:46:00 AM  
Blogger Chad said...

I don't find Ware scary or serious.

I find him dull.

1/22/2006 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

I'll cop to ignoring this because I don't get the Times and didn't think I could follow it online. Thanks for rectifying my ignorance, Cronin!

1/22/2006 06:49:00 PM  
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1/26/2006 04:22:00 PM  

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