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Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth Hardcover – September 12, 2000

4.2 out of 5 stars 188 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ware's hero is a doughy, middle-aged loser who retreats into fantasies that he is "The Smartest Kid on Earth." The minimal plot involves Jimmy's tragicomic reunion with the father who abandoned him in childhood. In abruptly juxtaposed flashbacks, Ware depicts previous generations of Corrigan males, revealing how their similar histories of rejection and abandonment culminated in Jimmy's hapless state. What makes the slight story remarkable is Ware's command of the comics medium. His crisp, painstaking draftsmanship, which sets cartoonish figures in meticulously detailed architectural settings, is matched by his formal brilliance. Ware effectively uses tiny, repetitive panels to convey Jimmy's limited existence, then suddenly bursts a page open with expansive, breathtaking vistas. His complex, postmodern approach incorporates such antiquated influences as Windsor McCay's pioneering Little Nemo strips and turn-of-the-century advertising, transforming them into something new, evocative, and affecting. His daunting skill transforms a simple tale into a pocket epic and makes Jimmy's melancholy story the stuff of cartoon tragedy. Gordon Flagg
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“This haunting and unshakable book will change the way you look at your world. Ware captures landscapes made to flatten emotion—a clinic shrouded in snow, a sterile apartment complex—and yet shows the reader the meaning and even beauty in every glimpse from a highway, every snippet of small talk.” —Time magazine

Jimmy Corrigan pushes the form of comics into unexpected formal and emotional territory.” —Chicago Tribune

“Graphically inventive, wonderfully realized . . . [Jimmy Corrigan] is wonderfully illustrated in full color, and Ware’s spare, iconic drawing style can render vivid architectural complexity or movingly capture the stark despondency of an unloved child.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Ware’s use of words is sparing, and at times maudlin. But the real joy is his art. It's stunning. In terms of attention to detail, graceful use of color, and overall design—Ware has no peer. And while each panel is relentlessly polished—never an errant line or lazily rendered image—his drawings, somehow, remain delicate and achingly lyrical.” —Dave Eggers, The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Pantheon Graphic Novels
  • Hardcover: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; y First printing edition (September 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375404538
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375404535
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (188 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #144,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Hiller VINE VOICE on May 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I've never done this before. Buy a book. Can't stand it. Return it a few days later. Buy it back a few hours later. Fall in love with it. Such is my journey with Chris Ware's graphic book, "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth". Let me tell you first why I returned it, and what redeemed it.
I came across this book after a brief EW mention of it, rating it very high. Intrigued, I purchased a copy, and attempted to delve into its layers. Instead of intrigue, I found frustration, mainly because I simply didn't know how to look at the book. I didn't know where my eyes were supposed to go, so many of the early pages were difficult to read. Plus, the characters constant and sudden lapses into their daydreams made for early confusion.
So, I returned it, happy of my decision. And then, I attended a live version of "This American Life" that prominently featured the work of Ware. His artwork captivated me, enough to rebuy the book and try again. What I found was an entralling, captivating tale, multi-layered, and worth all the work to learn the language of his drawings.
It's the story of Jimmy Corrigan, an everyman without much of a life at all, who is contacted by his long lost father for a Thanksgiving reunion. Jimmy agrees to attend, which leads him on a retrospective journey of his life and his family. The story is both moving and rich, full of layers upon layers. Once you learn Ware's language, and what he tries to communicate, the story begins to shine like a lighthouse beacon through the pages. I was surprised to find myself crying at certain parts of the book; my brain was telling me this is simply a comic story, but my heart was breaking along with the characters. That alone is impressive.
Ware's drawings are incredible.
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Format: Hardcover
Having been entranced by Ware's "The Acme Novelty Catalog" (a meticulously produced comic book containing the Jimmy Corrigan novel and extras, plus other pieces and marginalia that rivals even that of Dave Eggers) for a long time, and having followed a great deal of this book's story in Chicago's NewCity paper, I was no less impressed and moved by encountering the entire story here in one collection. While the abject loneliness of Jimmy Corrigan is more deeply rendered through the extra vignettes in Acme Novelty Co., this book brilliantly captures the evolution of a strain of melancholy across generations (from the dispossesed Irish immigrant/veteran to the abused orphan to the ignored/smothered Jimmy), beautifully counterpointed by the promise of real family assembled from the fragments of others (Jimmy's father and sister). The epilogue (which, frankly, would resonate even more if some of the aforementioned vignettes had been included in this book) lends Jimmy's story a saving grace the likes of which I've not read in a novel -- text or graphical -- in ages. Chris Ware is an artist in more ways than one, and this book lends great hope to the maturation of the comic as serious literature.
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Format: Hardcover
When people see you reading Jimmy Corrigan, you will get quite the gamut of reactions. Some people snicker to themselves and mumble something about a long comic book and wonder where "Flash-man" is. Others will take an interest, read the first ten pages, and put it down in emotional and intellectual frustration. Then you have a few people who will widen their eyes and say solemnly "are you serious...?"
This work realizes the dream of Scott McCloud's literary graphic novel in a way that has no precedent that I have found. It is both accessible and intellectual. Its the story of an emotionally destitute and pitiful character named Jimmy Corrigan (actually a couple of them, if you want to get technical) and his search for a meaningful relationship with his/thier father(s). To tell any more than that (even that is too much) will destroy the story for you. Its a story that unwinds over the course of its reading, yet is present from the very first page.
Things to think about as your read: The lack of female faces actually shown in any given frame, the significance of misshapen and flawed objects, changes in text, the irony of the title, and the pervasive exploration of the father-son relationship as is stands in the late 20th-early 21st century. Notice, also, how these presentations could not have been made as effective in traditional all-text presentation.
Even more interesting is the presentation of the character(s) of Jimmy Corrigan. In Scott McCloud's first book, he talks about the popularity of cartooning, and how we relate to cartoon characters because their features are so simple. To put it another way, the more details a character has, the less it is us and the more it is someone else.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If ever there was a title in the comics medium that could attract the attention of the literary world, "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth" would be it. Indeed, this meticulously crafted tale of estranged fathers and sons spanning three generations has already won much acclaim from reviewers and readers alike who, until now, would typically have never even considered picking up a work of graphic literature. Originally running in serial form in the Chicago's weekly publication New City, "Jimmy Corrigan" took Ware seven years to create, though just by reading it you would never be able to tell. The artwork maintains a consistency throughout that suggests a vigorous discipline on Ware's part to create a cohesive and uniform story. Although it's true that Ware started the work as a free-form narrative experiment-never fully aware of where the story was headed from one "episode" to the next-eventually, as the tale began to take shape, he was able to rein in all the loose themes and motifs and successfully weave them together into a unified whole.
The story opens depicting the title character, Jimmy Corrigan, as a young child living with his mother and already showing signs of an unhealthily introverted personality. His father is noticeably absent from the picture. A one-night-stand his mother brings home becomes a pivotal figure in the development of Corrigan's inner psyche. Moving forward to the present, Corrigan-now a middle-aged man living out a miserable existence still indelibly attached to his mother-is abruptly contacted one day by a man claiming to be his long-lost father.
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