Chris Ware's graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth
should be required reading for all those who persist in thinking that all comics are little more than picture books for kids. Jimmy Corrigan is a lonely man in his mid-30s with an inferiority complex, a debilitating lack of self-confidence and an overbearing mother. The plot--dealing with Jimmy's reunion with his father, who abandoned him as a child--is almost secondary, as Ware tells the tale of previous generations of Corrigan males via flashbacks, demonstrating how their own lives and circumstances culminated in Jimmy's feeling of alienation, abandonment and social awkwardness. However, rather than flinching from the subject matter, or allowing the tale to descend into syrupy sentimentality, Chris Ware isn't afraid to make Jimmy wholly pathetic, at times frustratingly so. The reader is given all the reasons why Jimmy is the way he is, but at no point does Ware attempt to make him likeable (when, for example, he meets his half-sister for the first time). He offers explanations, not excuses.
Jimmy Corrigan is further set apart by Ware's visually stunning, two-dimensional artwork, where simple characters are drawn against painstakingly detailed backdrops, and an overall creative layout that utilises more traditional uniform panels, full-page vistas, draughtsman diagrams and cut-outs, among other things. With the flashbacks and disjointed narrative, Chris Ware shows a remarkable command of the comics medium, elevating Jimmy Corrigan far above its peers. More than just a great graphic novel, this is a classic in any medium and won the Guardian First Book Award 2001. --Robert Burrow
The most ambitious, beautiful, moving 'comic book' ever produced: an astonishing tour de force that won the Guardian
First Book Award 2001 and The American Book Award 2001.