“Jimmy Corrigan” by Chris Ware (2000) – Top 10 Essential Graphic Novels 02 – #9

[Book cover of graphic novel “Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth” by Chris Ware (2000) – Number 9 in Top 10 comics countdown list]Now, let’s talk aboutJimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earthby Chris Ware. I think that the title of this one gave me a false idea of what to expect from this book. I was expecting it to be some sort of a superhero action book about a kid who actually was the smartest kid on Earth. But in reality, the comic isn’t about an exceptionally smart or lively man at all. In fact, Jimmy Corrigan himself is a shy and lonely 36 year-old man, with a very limited social life. Chris Ware draws us into Jimmy’s world of loneliness. We see the mundane way he eats cereal and milk. We see Jimmy’s dull job in an office cubicle. The frequent phone calls that Jimmy gets from his overbearing mother. The storyline is about Jimmy, at age 36, getting an invitation to go and meet his father for the first time. In fact, the story is about three generations of men named James Corrigan who all meet up for the first time during this story. The book travels backwards and forwards between events that happened at various points in history, including a section that is set during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, when the protagonist’s grandfather was a young boy. We start to see how attitudes and behaviours can reverberate their way through generations. None of the four Corrigan men who are portrayed are balanced, and the ripples of heavy-handed discipline, absent parenting, and racism ripple through the four generations in different ways. Now, this is a hefty 380-page book that will take you four or five hours to read through. It’s drawn with Chris Ware’s distinctive clear line style, and features incredibly imaginative page layouts and panel arrangements. So, check outJimmy Corrigan, and also check out anything else by Chris Ware that you can find, including his similar bookBuilding Stories, which is a story told through a box of various books and pamphlets that are designed to be read in any order. But that’s a whole other story that I’ll leave for another time.[title music: “Dart” by Screamfeeder]

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