Comics Time: Mister Wonderful

Mister Wonderful
Daniel Clowes, writer/artist
Pantheon, April 2011
80 pages, hardcover
$19.95
Buy it from Amazon.com

Oddly enough for a book that numbers among his most accessible — brief, funny, light, with an ending that doesn’t make you want to throw yourself out a window — Mister Wonderful really works best if you’ve read enough Daniel Clowes to realize just how different it is. When you’ve met Andy the Death-Ray and Wilson, our main character Marshall seems like a pussycat even at his most judgmental or self-lacerating. When you’ve experienced the bleak, paranoid claustrophobia of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron or David Boring, or for that matter the misanthropic rant-based humor of “Sports” or “Art School Confidential,” a rom-com/comedy of discomfort mash-up feels all the more sunny and breezy even at its blackest. When you’ve read comics assembled from individual strips drawn in a multiplicity of styles like Ice Haven or The Death-Ray or Wilson, both Mister Wonderful‘s original “Tune in next week, same Clowes-time, same Clowes-channel!” incarnation as a serialized strip in The New York Times Magazine and its re-cut, re-edited, expanded, much less punchline and cliffhanger dependent reincarnation here come across like a study in stylistic and storytelling economy. When you’ve seen how much mileage Clowes gets out of the cramped feel of his pages and the studied ugliness of their contents — even at their prettiest his comics have the uncomfortable, slightly awkward feeling of wearing a suit that’s a size or two too small — watching him blow out images to sprawl across both pages of a loooooong horizontal spread is a glorious thing indeed, infusing the images so selected with emotional power, whatever emotion it happens to be at the time. And when you’ve seen Ghost World‘s seemingly optimistic yet decidedly ambiguous ending, Mister Wonderful‘s denouement becomes all the more notable, both for its similarities (a bench figures prominently in both) and its differences (Ghost World‘s bench is empty, Mister Wonderful occupied and shared). It’s the differences that make all the difference.

Click here for an interview I conducted with Clowes about the book.

2 Responses to Comics Time: Mister Wonderful

  1. mckracken says:

    Ghost World was sad.
    Death Ray eerie.

    Bitter, middle-aged loser comes to terms with his life is boring.