Author of the comic book series Acme Novelty Library from Fantagraphics. His design and use of color and typography make the book a joy to look at. The plots are typically depressing. Superman often shows up to ruin the day. The main character is Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth. Hearkens back to older comics such as Tintin and Asterix.

Boys, Girls, Men, Women
IF YOU KNOW JUST 10 PEOPLE . . .

You can make at least $5000.00 -- more likely $10,000 to $50,000 in your spare time!

Everyone You Know Likes Feeling Good and Everyone Loves Taking Narcotics

The beauty of Ware's writing is in the combination of the very optimistic styles of golden and silver age comic book adverts with a very self-aware cynicism. Though the book comes out sporadically and is hard to find, it is always well written and well worth the hunt.

The gems of the Acme Novelty Library aren't necessarily the stories, but the bookending small print in the books, which offers horrifying novelty items like genuine x-ray specs ("Reel with nausea at intestines squeezing partially digest food towards quivering sphincters, leaking valves sputtering green brown and yellow fluids, clenching ports emitting warm gasses and foul mists! It's awful! No limit to the fun!"), exploding miniature dogs ("What a mess, but fun! Old ladies particularly hate them. Bang!"), 'Blind' powder ("A terrifying joke. Permanently blinds your victim, takes all the joy out of their life."), and placebo birth control alongside such life necessities as Irony ("What the kids are talking about!"), Creativity, Certainty, and Reason For Living ("Printed on handy laminated wallet card, available in different colors."). Also entertaining are the occasional errata, such as:

  • As a boy, one of our artists gave a Valentine's Day card inscribed with the words "I love you" to a girl he particularly admired, and she avoided him for the rest of the year. The Acme Novelty Library regrets this error.
or the diversional activities for "those whom experience in matters of the flesh is not necessarily a defining personal characteristic." There are also ads parodying the old sales clubs that feature minor things a small country could trade for pieces of "civilisation" (such as LIP STICK: Let only 100 Businessmen have their way with Your Women) or displaying all the marvelous prizes someone could have, if only they didn't have children (as represented by the cost in number of meals it takes to feed said spawn of loins).

One of my favorite ads is reproduced below:

LIVE FOREVER: Everyone's biggest problem. How much time do I have? Is there life after death? Will I be punished for my misdeeds, or will I be rewarded? Will I be reincarnated? If so, will I come back as an insect, or as a piece of shit? Who knows? And who cares? Now that you've got the gift of immortality, you can brush your worries away. Spend money. Watch television. Kill people. It doesn't matter anymore. Stop eating. Stop breathing. Cut your legs, arms, head off. Nothing will stop you from enjoying the rich pageant we call life. Great at parties. Leap from windows, shoot self in head. Splat! Big laffs. Weird. People will ask you about it. Watch your friends as they age, get sick, and die around you. See nations crumble, continents sink. Witness the earth get swallowed by the sun, the universe thin out to nothingness. Then what? Only you know. Special powder is the trick.
No. 6002. SUPER MAGICAL POWDER.
Sale, per package . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $5.00

Definitely a grand and relentless foray into dark humor.

It should also be noted that Chris Ware also does independant graphics design work, including art design for the Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire album Oh! The Grandeur! and accompanying promotional material, and the cover and interior illustrations for The New Yorker's 2000 Young Fiction double issue. Truly one of America's underappreciated talents.

personal favourite acme ad follows
BITTERNESS
Just when you thought that your days of suffering on the playground were over, that upon reaching adulthood all the torment and emotional pain of competition would finally dissolve away, that the cruel boys and girls who wouldn't let you sit with them at lunch might finally invite you to join them for a game of minature golf - you learn that these are the same people who are now the spiteful meanies vying with you for jobs, sexual partners, and social notoriety. Even those "emotional castaways" who shared similar blubbery sessions of solitude in the dust of their own playground exiles are now vicious little assholes too. In fact, these "artists" have such a highly-developed sense of injustice that they're some of the most dangerous ones out there. It's painful, but true. And the only way for you to get what you want and what you deserve out of life is to be a nastier fuck than everyone else is. Become more interested in the mechanisms of social interaction and how you can manipulate people rather than the simpering pastime of kindly "exchanging cordialities". Imbue every glance and every comment with hateful double meaning as you seek out your opponents and vow to crush them with merciless vengeance. There are so many different ways for you to exercise this integral facet of your adulthood, in fact, that you're definitely going to need a lifetime supply of some sort of fuel to get you through it, and nothing could be more useful in keeping your ire up than maintaining a rich store of bitterness, and so we offer it here, in bulk, for those who may be sensing mild regret, humility, or just plain spiritual flaccidity. In grinding your teeth away wishing shit up the nose of those who are just as desperate and miserable and disappointed in how things are shaping up as you are, you'll breathe easy in the morning knowing that your supply of bitterness is ready to go when you are. Take some on the road your next vacation, business convention, or family visit, and make sure you "get your due". Keeps fresh in regular picnic cooler for 48 hours, or store in icebox for longer vendettas. Thaws and refreezes indefinitely. Packages of four.
No. 4320. "COMPETITIVE SPIRIT"...........................................$1.00

apologies for the lack of any meaningful content upon first submission.

Ware is surprisingly versatile when it comes to artistic style, as evidenced by the contents of the Acme Novelty Library (and elsewhere, such as BLAB!, a comics anthology and the SPX expo collection):

  • 'quimby the mouse' - simple, wordless stick men/mice acting out mundane tragedies
  • panels linked by flowcharts and diagrams - enabling one to immediately grasp actions feelings and situations, over time, at a (deceptive) glance - pushing the envelope for the fields of both graphic design and comics
  • '1930's Jimmy style' - in the style of the early action comics, somewhat subverting the idea of the "super-man"
  • 'Potato Man' - a simple, scratchy style - seen used to illustrate himself as a child
  • 'sketchbook style' - similar in feel, but with far more details and pencil than the above
  • and let's not forget his city and country landscapes (for J Corrigan) - with their fixed rigid geometries, houses have never seemed less appealing.
add to this a great sense of color theory and its ambient effects.

many of his characters and stories regard childhood, obsession and the painful effects of growing up - note:
1) 'Rusty Brown & Chalky White' - 2 anal-obsessive middle-aged toy collectors neither of whom have yet had a meaningful relationship and instead distract themselves with the speculative (read: emotional) value of childhood gewgaws
2) The novelty catalog - horrible horrible points about real life cynically brought to you through the advertising of novelty 'fetus balloons' for kids, etc
3) Jimmy Corrigan himself - fatherless, rudderless and with a near-neurosis regarding other people. In the collected J.C.'s bio notes, Ware stated that although he had an absent, mostly anonymous father, the graphic novel is only as auto-bio as that. You can infer what you like about Ware's personality, but I believe he was at one point some kind of Jimmy.

i must note though, as a graphic designer Ware was more than happy to change the dimensions and look of every issue - making them near impossible to store unless you had the ($150!) display stand in which to keep them. which is why i waited for the graphic novel.

damn his eyes.

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