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CaricatureReview - Caricature
by Daniel Clowes
Fantagraphics Books, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Mar 12th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 11)

These 9 stories were published previously between 1994 and 1998, mostly in Eightball comic.  Clowes has a striking broad range in his style, but there’s a uniformity to his lead characters: the title story features a man who goes from fair to fair drawing caricatures of people; “Blue Italian Shit” is told by a 33-year old man reflecting on his 18-year old self; “The Gold Mommy” is a surreal tale about a man who is alone and doomed; “MCMLXVI” is about a loser obsessed with 1966; “Like a Weed, Joe” is about the summer of a teenaged boy, told by his later self; “Immortal Invisible” features a lone teenager’s last night of trick or treating on Halloween; “Green Eyeliner” is about a young woman reflecting on her life and how it got to be so lonely; and so on.  Those who have seen the movie Ghost World, which is based on Clowes’ comic of the same name, will already be familiar with the themes.  His characters suffer from a sense of alienation from the modern world, and rightly so, because they really do not fit in with other people.  They are often ungainly or even grotesque, and they are preoccupied with how their lives became so unhappy.  The humor is wry, even sour, and Clowes’ world is cruel.  Nearly always the main characters have flaws in their character that make it hard to really sympathize with them; they hurt others and reject their friends for no good reason.  They are as self-deceived and twisted as everyone else, even if they have better taste and more insight into what’s wrong with the world than most other people. 

It’s Clowes’ ability to convey the sense of his character’s disappointment with themselves that makes his work so distinctive.  But the self-narration by his characters would amount to nothing without the artwork, which is what raises Clowes’ work above that of most of his peers.  Different stories are illustrated in different styles, and he is inventive enough to keep his readers interested and amused by the images, which makes it much easier to deal with the relentlessly depressing narratives.  These unsettling stories are essential reading.  Highly recommended. 

 

Link: Fantagraphics Books


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