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Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth Hardcover – September 12, 2000
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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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
“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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Top Customer Reviews
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. All the Jimmy Corrigan characters, but especially the main one, are drawn super-simply. If they resemble anything, they seem infantile (and an ugly infant at that).
One type 2 person (the book-putting-down type) told me that they had to take a break because they were "starting to feel like Jimmy Corrigan". Hmmmm.............
If you are familiar with the graphic novel, this is the one. It could be studied. However, even if you don't like "comics", I would suggest trying this as an introduction, although I would hardly call it comic. Jimmy Corrigan represents the insecure child in all of us that reaches out for help in any form it can find and recoils when the help is hard and cold. If you ever wanted to put your head in you hands and cry because you thought no one liked you, Jimmy Corrigan is floating around in your psyche. Make sure he knows he's not alone.
First off, even though the subtitle references `The Smartest Kid on Earth,' the novel is a story about adulthood. We see three generations of Jimmy Corrigans fight through the loneliness of adulthood. There are not cartoon adventures, no redemption. Most everything that happens is bad for the characters. I for one did not relate to the characters as feel empathy for them.
The art, I think, helps enforce this sense of loneliness and alienation. The panels are mostly small and illogically ordered. The reader is confronted with relearning the patterns of the storytelling. It is almost a Brechtian disconnect, where you are always aware that you are encountering an artificial construct. This may not be the cup of tea for everyone, but for what it is, it is well done.
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