Thursday, July 18, 2013

Chris Ware’s “Thrilling Adventure Stories”

With “Thrilling Adventure Stories” Chris Ware shows his intentions right on the title page. A heroic figure, stands boldly in his brightly colored long underwear while lightning peels out of the foreboding cloudy sky! And across this image is the bold title, “I Guess” adorned in the usual bright primary colors. It’s an image we are all very familiar with, though the title “I Guess” is a little jarring. “Isn’t that a lame title for a comic? Is that supposed to be a joke?” your mind screams at you. And Yeah, it kind of is, but it’s suppose to be because this is no ordinary super hero comic. This is a study in what makes comics work the way they do.

I love the imagery that Ware has created here, being a fan of Golden Age comics, with the whole Goofy bold figure in Red and Blue tights, threatening natural disasters and mad scientists. But here is where the similarities to Golden Age comics end

While the pictures show a man getting shot and a long john wearing superhero crashing through glass Ware comments on a story his grandmother told him about his granddad zipping himself up in his fly.

There is no distinction between caption box, word balloon, title and even sound effects. The narrative just keeps going speaking irrelevant of what is happening in the pictures.

He doesn’t even try to fit all the words into the captions or word balloons. He lets them spill over into the sound effects and billboards in the backgrounds of the picture. It gets really strange while, as you are reading you skip from caption to word balloon only to realize that you missed a word that was put as a special effect.
 Superimposed into the caption boxes and balloons of this action packed tale is a very sentimental and touching memoir, presumably the author’s, child hood and step dad.
This is a new and jarring experience even for the most experienced comic reader. So while we are reading, we are actually learning how to read this comic. And I think that’s why they truly are “Thrilling Adventure Stories”.

I found this comic in the great comic anthology, An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, & Stories edited by Ivan Brunetti

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