Comics Time: Wilson



Daniel Clowes, writer/artist

Drawn & Quarterly, April 2010

80 pages, hardcover


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All apologies to Ken Parille, but I don’t think the kaleidoscopic array of styles in which Daniel Clowes drew Wilson says much of anything. I think that’s the gag. And I mean this aside from the fact that these are all styles you saw Clowes employ (and no duh–as with Ware, it’s almost boring at this point to mention that the guy is an absolute titan of craft) with full shock-of-the-new force in Eightball #22/Ice Haven, where the Sunday-funnies format made their import a lot clearer. Here, it’s like Thirty Two Short Films About Some Dickhead, or that guy who pointed out that all New Yorker cartoons are funny if you caption them with “Christ, what an asshole.” Draw it how you will: Wilson’s always there, in medium close-up more often than not, a wide-eyed and open-mouthed expression of guileless wonder on his face more often than not, saying something fucking horrible almost constantly. No matter how you shake and dance, the last two drops go in your pants; no matter whether he’s detailed or abstracted or realistic or cartoony or full-color or two-tone or black-and-white or whatever the hell, Wilson is a massive, massive tool.

Wilson is sort of like the refined, sharpened, weaponized version of Mister Wonderful. Marshall is self-absorbed, Wilson is self-absorbed and cruel. Each single-page unit of Mister Wonderful is paced like a gag strip; the same is true of Wilson, only there are four times as many of them, and they’re at someone’s expense. There’s hope for Marshall; Wilson ends on a note akin to The Godfather Part II. Mister Wonderful is funny; Wilson is hilarious–I read this on the train and was embarrassingly vocal in my enjoyment of it. The second I got to a computer I made “PROPERTY OF SIR D.A.D.D.Y. BIG-DICK” my Google Chat status, I emailed my friends the entirety of Wilson’s disquisition on The Dark Knight, and even now I can’t think of “Hey, it talks!” without laughing out loud. Marshall is preoccupied with making a connection with someone outside himself, even if he’s constantly hamstringing his attempts to do so; the only times Wilson appears able to take that step is when death has rendered it too little, too late. This book is utterly mean and hilarious, and I loved every page.

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9 Responses to Comics Time: Wilson

  1. Fake Pat says:

    I think you just nailed it on the stylistic aspect better than anyone else I’ve seen so far.

    I guess I should have posted my comments on your Mr. Wonderful post as to how I thought it related to Wilson (i’m lazy), as I’d look like a prophet now.

  2. Hob says:

    Must must must get book! Want book!

    Especially because it seems to have the power to make the normally astute Scott Kaufman write a really dumbass thing.

  3. Scott Bukatman says:

    Good on you, Sean. This book’s gettin’ some backlash, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. For the reasons you state better than I could’ve…

  4. Fake Pat says:

    re: Hob

    Wow, that Kaufman piece is embarassing.

    If you read the book looking at Wilson as nothing more than a straight-up Clowes stand-in, and come to the conclusion that the real Clowes is a jerk because he (correctly) identified the Dark Knight as mindless and not that he is obviously a borderline sociopath… you’re trying too hard.

    Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too hard.

  5. Thank you, fellas. Wilson: A book worth fighting for!

  6. Hob says:

    Fake Pat: Well, that would be dumb, but I could kind of understand it. I don’t actually think The Dark Knight is mindless, either. I just think that page from Wilson is the stupidest example anyone could possibly pick if they wanted to say that Dan Clowes is a snob. And SEK’s argument is extra weird because he acknowledges that everything else Wilson says is obviously meant to be insane, except for that one page which is clearly Clowes’s literal opinion… because that’s just the kind of opinion he probably has. I just don’t understand how people can read satire that way. I’ve been arguing with SEK about it on his other blog and I think I’m trying waaaay too hard too.

  7. Martin Wisse says:

    To be fair, it’s not the first time Clowes has given his opinions of superhero comics; the rant about the Dark Knight fits in well with his established routine as a superhero hater. Therefore, while everybody agrees Wilson isn’t an author standin, the fact that Clowes once again felt it necessary to put in a dig at superheroes is meaningful too.

    It’s the context of Clowes ongoing career in which that page takes place that annoyed SEK, rahter than just that specific page on its own, if I read him right.

  8. Hob says:

    Martin: I’ve read nearly all of Clowes & I’m really not convinced that he hates superheroes with any special passion, compared to all the other things that bother him. I don’t think Pussey! counts, but that’s a whole other not very interesting argument. On the other hand I think it’s just as easy to argue that he has a well-established habit of laughing at Very Serious People who haughtily over-analyze things– Naybors, Karkes, the highbrow characters in Pussey!, etc. So perhaps Clowes is like a shiny dark black mirror in which we see, like, ourSELVES, man…

  9. Simon says:

    This page isn’t about superhero comics. I haven’t read the book yet, but here Wilson is clearly railing against mainstream movie culture when he haughtily clumps it in with religion and patriotism.

    I think what sparked SEK’s ire wasn’t what Wilson says, but how Clowes represents fans of “The Dark Knight.” When the movie came out, its more vocal advocates were able to read any number of current events (“terrorism and Guantanamo, and, like all this political-“) into the movie. While Wilson’s blunt scorn mocks what he sees as escapism in general, Clowes manages to get out a jab at overeager “Dark Knight” fans. Not superhero comics.

    Clowes has always presented a highly cynical view of the world, that’s his style. But to say that he hates superhero comics is the kind of poorly-thought-out dismissal that Wilson is proffering on the page here.

    I would speculate that Clowes has more against mainstream movie audiences than comics readers, considering the modest reception of “Ghost World” and the outright failure of “Art School Confidential.”

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