4/17/11

Re-reading Daniel Clowes

Last summer when Daniel Clowes was promoting the release of his book Wilson, I went to hear him talk at Powell's Books.  I was struck by his comment that he thought Wally Gropius was the best comic book of the year.  Later he stated on The Daily Beast that the book was "a brilliant, hilarious, deeply complex and wholly original work that rewards a fifteenth reading as much as a first."

Since then I've read Wally Gropius, and was enthralled by the art, but wondered at the story. It seems to be led by a waking dream, from one absurd episode to the next. I wondered what Clowes saw in the book on the fifteenth reading.  So, I promised myself I'd re-read Wally Gropius, but first I wanted to align my viewpoint with Daniel Clowes.  To do that, I figured I'd re-read all the Clowes books I could get my hands on.

This weekend I spent a couple hours reading and re-reading "Ice haven" and "David Boring." The former is much more closely related in format to "Wilson," in that it's a  series of two-page stories focusing on a particular character from the town, with an artistic style particular to the character.  For example, Vida Van Der Platz is a teenager in the story, and her first appearance includes panels with love letters to her "Dear Penrod" and is titled "Seventeen."  A more baffling episode is the Blue Bunny sequence, evidently related to the thoughts of the toy blue rabbit owned by a child named George.



One thing that struck me after re-reading "Ice Haven" and "David Boring" in the same sitting was that the geologic formation in the center of the town of Ice Haven is the same shape as the hairdo of David Boring's ideal woman Wanda Kraml.  The rock appears throughout the book, including the cover, and this last page.


Compare it to this shot of Wanda's hair
 Is there something about this shape that Clowes has fixated on? Or, is it just too many re-readings on my part?  From what Clowes has said about Wally Gropius, and also from his "internal dialog" on comics via the character Harry Naybors, my guess is that it's not coincidence.

Even more curious is the fact that most of David Boring was drawn prior to 2000, and yet many of the girlfriends are perfect likenesses of Scarlett Johansson, but I'll leave that tangled thread until another time.



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