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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 00:06 GMT
Chris Ware: Comic pessimism
Chicago
Chicago is Ware's home and the backdrop for Jimmy Corrigan
Reclusive Chris Ware is, on the face of it, an unlikely candidate for a literary prize - and even more so for pulling off a historical first.

The first graphic novel - a book-length comic, in other words - to win a major UK literary award came out with little hullabaloo in 2000.


As a cartoonist, one isn't used to being taken seriously

Chris Ware
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth is the downbeat tale of a troubled relationship between father and son, and is to some extent autobiographical.

The real Chris Ware was born in 1967, in Omaha, Nebraska.

A TV-obsessed child, he has said for a long time he only valued comics and cartoons that related to TV.

Boom

But after leaving for the University Of Texas in Austin in 1985, he began to develop an interest in the form for its own sake and created his own strip.

The strip, Floyd Farland, was nationally distributed in comic-book form during a minor boom for US comics in the mid- and late 1980s.

In the early 1990s Ware moved to Chicago to attend graduate school at the Chicago Art Institute and became a contributor to Art Spiegelman's influential comics anthology Raw.

He has since remained in Chicago, where he launched the ACME Novelty Library in 1993.

Everyman

The new publication was a vehicle for a new set of Ware characters including Quimby The Mouse and, for the first time, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth.

Jimmy Corrigan is in fact a hapless everyman, and the themes that Ware favours - childhood alienation, domineering mothers and absent fathers - reflect his own pessimistic attitude to life.

Ware's father left at the time of his birth, and did not meet his son until he was in his 20s.

The nature of being a comic artist may also have contributed to Ware's dark outlook.

'Respect'

He has said that his weekly strip for the ACME Novelty Library - just two pages of story - takes some 20 hours to write and draw, ten hours to ink, about four to colour - and about 12 seconds to read.

"As a cartoonist, one isn't used to actually being taken seriously and treated with such respect," said Ware, on receiving the Guardian award.

"It's been deeply flattering all along to even have been grouped with such distinguished company as the other authors," he said.

See also:

07 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Smith takes first book prize
12 Jul 00 | Europe
Hitler, the comic strip
17 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Dennis the Menace turns 50
13 Feb 00 | Entertainment
Peanuts consigned to history
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