The Art of Daniel Clowes: Master Cartoonist

A book review article by: Jason Sacks

I've always thought that the greatest compliment that one professional can give another is a heartfelt recognition of the greatness of the other person's work. When a great novelist compliments another writer's work and means it sincerely, or when a great athlete talks about the skills of one of his compatriots, that recognition has an extra strong impact.

At Emerald City Comicon 2012 I got a chance to visit with my friend John Fleskes of Flesk Publications. If you've never heard of John's business and love art (and if you're reading an article on this site, I know you love art), you owe it to yourself to check out John's site and the work that his company produces. All you have to do is to pick up one of the books that John has released (Danny Djeljosevic and I recommend Xenozoic) to know how much John cares about publishing books of the absolute highest quality and production values.

John and I got to talking about the art books that have been published lately that he likes, and one of the first names to come out of his mouth was Abrams ComicArts, who have published great books celebrating the art of such comic luminaries as Jaime Hernandez, Harvey Kurtzman and now Daniel Clowes. When John Fleskes, who has produced some of the finest art books in history, praises a line of books, you know it's a real and sincere compliment.

And this book about Daniel Clowes really is spectacular. If you've never leafed through an Abrams ComicsArts artist profile book, you’re missing one of the great aesthetic experiences in art reproduction you can imagine. Every image presented in this book -- and there's an unbelievably generous selection of images in The Art of Daniel Clowes -- is impeccably reproduced. Every tiny line is reproduced perfectly, each stroke of brush on a page of original art can be traced by the finger, and every color is perfectly in register. This book succeeds perfectly in the most important level -- the reproduction is so great that the book itself almost falls away and you can glory in the work itself.

And what a glorious collection of art is presented here! The work in this book, as you might expect, spans Clowes's entire career, from his early days of struggle with his virtually ignored Lloyd Llewellyn all the way up to his tremendously acclaimed work on Ice Haven and Mister Wonderful, not to mention scads of commercial and sketchbook art featuring people like Orson Welles, Glenn Beck and Frankenstein.

Chip Kidd and Chis Ware provide profiles of their friend in this book, and we get three essays about Clowes and his work that are so interesting and so insightful that I instantly put the writers on my hate list for writing better essays about comics than I do.

The front of the book contains an insightful interview of Clowes that is fascinating to me for a few reasons. One is that though the interview is clearly done without the interviewer and interviewee in the same room, the piece has a surprising amount of flow and rhythm to it. Clearly Clowes was inspired by the questions he was asked -- something I often find hard when I conduct an email interview.

The other reason it's fascinating is that Clowes is very honest and interesting in his answers. I really felt I got to know the man better when reading this interview, which then gave me perspective on the master artist and his career.

The entire package is a pretty damn perfectly designed tribute to one of the greatest cartoonists in the world; a fantastically designed and presented look at the career of one of the most insightful creators currently working in comics. It's perfectly assembled by Alvin Buenaventura, who edited possibly the greatest magazine ever produced about comics, the astonishing Comics Art.

My friend John was right. Abrams ComicArts has produced yet another masterwork, a worthy tribute to the great Daniel Clowes.


 

Jason Sacks is Publisher of Comics Bulletin. Follow him at @jasonsacks, email him at jason.sacks@comicsbulletin.com or friend him on Facebook.

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