Friday, May 28, 2010

The Agony and Ecstasy of Daniel Clowes

I GUESS I expected one of those harsh, shriveled social misfits with which he he populates his books. But the comics artist I met in Los Feliz recently was a very cool, reasonably well adjusted guy.

But as I write in a piece in Sunday's LA Times: "In person, Clowes — who has created an oeuvre marked by hard-edged social criticism, over-the-top satire and obnoxious, confrontational characters — is almost disappointingly well-adjusted: He's intellectual without being weirdly intense, skeptical without being bitter, observant without being harshly judgmental."

Here is my piece on the Oakland-based Clowes and Wilson, his delightful new book about a despicable character.

I absolutely love Ghost World -- both the book and the film -- and a lot of Clowes' other work.

In some comments I didn't have room for in the piece, Optic Nerve cartoonist Adrian Tomine described how the expansion of comics, and its new respectability over the last decade, has brought many non-comics obsessives in the field -- people who come from fine art, performance art, and other fields instead of the kinds of geeky collector types who tend to make up the field. Many of these newcomers have less sense of comics history, Tomine said, but nearly all of them revere Clowes.

Clowes also talked to me about the connection he feels to the band Yo La Tengo, in his effort to be grounded in a tradition and an individual, non-corporate aesthetic and to come up with fresh ideas over a long artistic career.

More on this stuff shortly. Check out Wilson. I just wish it was longer; I'm praying for Wilson: The Lost Years.