“If you had told me when I began that I would have my work on a museum wall, I would have thought, ‘What’s happened to civilization?’” Daniel Clowes (The New Yorker, 2012)
I’m Hannah, the work experience student at Jonathan Cape this week. As it happens, I’m a big gooey nerd for all things comics and I could not be happier when I got asked to write a guest post.
I could have spewed an ode to the new Chris Ware (I am completely sold on the book/box concept - a boox, if you will), I could have talked about how amazing I think Alison Bechdel is (and everything she’s doing for women in the comics world) but instead I give to you – my visit to the Daniel Clowes exhibition in Oakland, California.
It was with a slight sense of trepidation that I stepped into the museum of art that day – is it really wise to be comparing Daniel Clowes’ work, as great as it is, alongside other traditional art pieces? After all, despite their growing popularity, graphic novels are still frowned upon by most adults.
I was not to worry; it was by far the busiest room in the museum.
The curator had done a fantastic job, selecting key pieces showing a progression from bitter art student (by far some of his funniest work IMO) to the semi-autobiographical sketches of the Death-Ray. And of course, the pinnacle – early drawings of Enid Coleslaw. You could see the consideration for the details in every scrap – and why, 14 books down the line, he is so successful. And yes, there were comfy chairs.
What I love about Daniel Clowes (and to give them credit, most of the artists on the roster at Jonathan Cape) is his ability to make those familiar characters that surround us into art and literature simultaneously – an immersion into the story that is personal to every reader. I think we all relate to a Wilson, we’ve seen a Dan Pussey at a comic store or we know that girl from school who was Enid Coleslaw. It’s not superheroes, it’s not sci-fi – it’s real and it’s relatable.
I’m more than hoping that the exhibition makes its way around the world and you all get to experience it. Hey Mr. Clowes - I’m more than happy to host it in my crusty flat’s living room if you drop me a line!
Written by Hannah Barlow – you can find me on twitter at @hannahebarlow
[P.S. If any of you are wondering how to do work experience at Random House, you can apply via our Facebook page. I know… so modern.]
Aaaand, as a fun Friday treat, I’m going to give away a copy of The Death Ray. To enter, answer this question: in which year was Ghost World published in book form? Email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll pick a random winner on Monday.