The Smartest Kid On Earth

Without a doubt, this is the single most depressing thing I have read so far in my entire life.

Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth is a graphic novel by Chris Ware about, well, Jimmy Corrigan. The original series was published in Ware's monthly comic book Acme Novelty Library, and then gathered into a single graphic novel in 2005. It is still in print as of this writeup, and can be purchased directly from Random House for $19.95, plus shipping.

The art is marvelous, and is heavily inspired by early 20th century comic books, such as Gasoline Alley. Ware combines a very simple, sparse, subtle style of line art with a more tightly-packed panel layout. The end result is more, smaller panels on a page, but each of them is just as effective at conveying a meaning as any other conventional comic.

There are two stories responsible for the tone of the book: one of them is Jimmy, circa age 6, meeting a childhood hero named "The Superman" for the first time, and The Superman's resulting date with his single mother and his escape from Jimmy's house in the wee morning hours the next day. The second is Jimmy, circa age 35, finding a suicide note on a coworker's desk, and then watching the same coworker (wearing a familiar superhero costume) jump to his death from a building across the street.

Both of these are in the first ten pages.

The note? The note says:

I sat across from you for six months and you never once noticed me!