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Mister Wonderful: A Love Story (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Hardcover – April 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011: Born out of a series that ran in the New York Times Magazine in 2008, Daniel Clowes’s graphic novel Mister Wonderful details one night in the life and in the mind of Marshall, a cynical 40-something divorced shlub presumed familiar to fans of Clowes’s work. Marshall’s pessimism is in direct conflict with the situation in which we first meet our man: sitting in a coffee shop waiting on a blind date. With the mystery woman nearly 30 minutes late, Marshall’s mind runs rampant wondering how he ended up middle-aged and alone, willing to meet a perfect stranger who may not fit the fantasy role he’s imagined for his next partner (someone to eat bagels with on a Sunday morning, eager to read the sections of the paper he doesn’t). Although the downtrodden Marshall may be recognizable to fans of Clowes’s previous forays into contemptuous male reflections, it is also arguably his most sanguine effort yet. Marshall’s date, Natalie, eventually does show, and the events of their evening would test even the strongest of couples. Clowes often shifts to more elementary styling when we get inside Marshall’s head, and when a panel shows an imagined Marshall handing Natalie a "35,000-word treatise on how you’re the greatest human being who ever existed," we know Marshall’s heart has made the leap from snark to saccharine, and that may have been all he needed from this date, anyway. --Alexandra Foster

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Schlubby, broke, lonely divorcé Marshall only wants a partner, "someone to read the parts of the paper I throw away (travel, garden)." He's been set up on a date with Natalie, who's more or less perfect for him—operative phrase "more or less." She's got some damage of her own, but they do seem to have at least a touch of chemistry. Over the course of the evening, nearly everything that could go wrong with a tentative flirtation does, including a mugging and a really bad party. Expanded from a serial that ran in the New York Times Magazine, this is a gorgeously staged graphic novella consistently playful and funny on a formal level—there's a running joke involving Marshall's interior monologue covering up images or dialogue, and constant fantasy sequences signaled by drawing-style shifts. It's also the most tightly focused and sweet-tempered of Clowes's books so far, the closest thing he's done to a Woody Allen movie. Still, it wouldn't be Clowes if he didn't show at least a touch of contempt for all of his characters amid the tenderness; the story is a romantic comedy with almost—but not quite—enough caveats to sink any sense of hope. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Graphic Novels
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307378136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307378132
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 0.6 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #410,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Clowes is the acclaimed cartoonist of the seminal comic book series EIGHTBALL, and the graphic novels GHOST WORLD, DAVID BORING, ICE HAVEN, WILSON, MR. WONDERFUL and THE DEATH-RAY as well as the subject of the monograph THE ART OF DANIEL CLOWES: MODERN CARTOONIST, published in conjunction with a major retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California. He is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, the recipient of numerous awards including the PEN Award for literature, Eisner, Harvey and Ignatz, and a frequent cover artist for the New Yorker. He is married and lives in Oakland, CA.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Carson D. Mell on April 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I read this as it came out piece by piece on the New Yorker's website a few years ago and had a great time reading it then. Reading it all together (with the added material) is even better. It's a tight little romantic drama, and Marshall is a hilarious character. I can't imagine any comics fan, or even new curious readers, being disappointed with this.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Loyd A. Boldman on June 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
With Mr. Wonderful: A Love Story, Daniel Clowes covers much of the same dour territory as his books Ice Haven, Wilson and The Death Ray, with one notable exception: a happy ending. Well, let's say it's as close to a happy ending as Clowes ever ventures.

Marshall and Natalie, a couple approaching middle age, meet on a blind date and stumble through an awkward, embarrassing, stressful evening together. Secrets are revealed, past relationships snap at their heels, strained affections are formed, and despite the shrapnel of forced companionship flying through the story, the couple manages to find common ground, and--dare I say it?--a chance at love.

Clowes' typically exquisite art and book production, his unique sensibility and approach to story are as strong as ever. He has an uncanny, expert use of the comic medium as a vehicle for disarming personal stories. His characters are still self-centered as always. Marshall's internal monologue word balloons often overlay and hide Natalie's words like discount stickers in a clearance sale, cleverly illustrating how Marshall seldom pays full attention to what his date--or anyone else--is saying. The effect reveals his desperation and self-doubt, unlike previous Clowes "heroes" who seem oblivious to their sins.

I came away from Mr. Wonderfull feeling positive and sympathetic, unlike Clowes' last novella, Wilson, which left a scummy ring around the tub. Even if I'm fooling myself, I'm sticking to it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Scott VINE VOICE on May 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Mister Wonderful is a good but very slight offering from Daniel Clowes. It is the story of Marshall, a lonely middle-aged divorced man who goes on a blind date with Natalie, just out of a disastrous long-term relationship of her own. Both parties are damaged and a bit desperate, and are clearly struggling with their changing identities. These are poignant characters with whom you can identify.

At 77 pages it barely takes an hour to read Mr. Wonderful in its entirety, and I found the hardcover price just not worth it. Daniel Clowes is an excellent graphic novelist, and this book is beautifully drawn, but it almost feels like an artistic exercise or a quickie afterthought despite the fact that the last page indicates Clowes worked on it from the years 2007-2011. Surely this was a part time endeavor. If the volume came out in paperback at a much reduced price I might think it a better value, but I still don't think it is one of Daniel Clowes' better offerings.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Diamonddulius on April 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Once again, Clowes has demonstrated his mastery of cartooning in "Mister Wonderful", a book previously published in installments in The New York Times magazine. In this story, we follow Marshall (the story's protagonist) on an eventful blind date that includes a late start, a purse-snatching, a trip to the hospital, a posh party and several punches being thrown. Through it all, Marshall might actually find a happy ending after such a peril-fraught evening.

The book moves along at a good clip, neither breezing through personal details nor miring in what might be called Marshall's maudlin life. His preoccupation with making a good impression on Natalie (his blind date) is both scathing and sad... we are often privy to Marshall's thoughts at the expense of Natalie's dialogue. Yet this works beautifully, as Marshall's observations and eccentricities are often hilarious. Although Marshall might be considered a "typical Clowes character", he usually has an air of guarded optimism and hopefulness, which differentiates him from previous Clowes creations such as Wilson.

Although not as stylistically inventive as Clowes' previous book "Wilson", "Mister Wonderful" shows he is still in top form, letting the narrative do the talking, so to speak. Gone is the busy cross-hatching of early "Eightball" issues, in favor of a more simplistic, pared-down style that is in service to the story at hand. This is how a true cartoonist thinks, letting words and pictures work together to tell the story instead of one overpowering the other. This is one of those books that repeated reading rewards the reader, as subtle pieces of the story become clearer after revisiting.

The surprise for some will be the optimistic ending of "Mister Wonderful"... at least, optimistic for a Clowes story.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Andrew C Wheeler VINE VOICE on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
MISTER WONDERFUL is part of the endless repackaging of Daniel Clowes, though this piece (unlike most of his recent books) didn't first see life as a single issue of his old comics series, "Eightball." No, this first appeared in the short-lived New York Times Magazine "Funny Papers" section, one of the few moments when the Grey Lady tried to emulate regular newspapers.

The story has been reworked slightly -- each large NYT page has been broken into two shorter, wider pages, to pad the length up to something that can be called a book -- and there are some other changes as well, but it's still the same, just told in a slightly different form. (And it's also a story very similar to Clowes's last standalone graphic novel, Wilson.)

Marshall is a middle-aged sad sack, divorced, lonely, nearly broke and with no real hopes of getting any better. He narrates this story -- intensively narrates it, in a caption-filled style very out of fashion in most of mainstream comics, which shoves us directly into his head and holds us there, hostage perhaps, until the end of the book. Marshall isn't great company, unfortunately -- he's obsessive about his own shortcomings, and self-flagellation is only interesting for so long.

MISTER WONDERFUL is the story of one day in Marshall's life -- one night, really -- starting with a blind date, and continuing on from there. Marshall's been set up with Natalie by mutual friends, and Natalie is probably just as damaged as Marshall is, in her own ways -- but we only see her through Marshall's eyes, and only see her when Marshall gets out of the way, which is hardly ever.
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