Okay, so my girlfriend keeps telling me to write more movie reviews because it's been, what, four or five months? And I know all of my readers (that means you, guy who keeps leaving me porn links in my comments section) must be feverishly awaiting more sullen dismissals of cinematic magic; but too bad for you, because something even better happened yesterday. None other than legendary underground comic artist/writer Daniel Clowes was here in Toronto to launch his new book, Wilson.
If you don't already know, Daniel Clowes is the author of numerous comics including Ghost World (also co-writer of the Terry Zwigoff-directed film adaptation), Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, Ice Haven, and David Boring (my favourite), all drawn from his Eightball comic series. The man is justly acclaimed as one of the pioneers of the underground comic movement and one of the greatest writers and artists in the industry. Along with Alan Moore's Watchmen, Ghost World really was the main thing that got me back into reading comics, something I'd neglected since my very early days of mild X-Men fanaticism. More than anything, Clowes' work introduced me to a new world of wry, witty, surreal stories that were a far cry from the superhero genre I had been familiar with. His stories are populated with outsiders, misfits and sociopaths; yeah, characters that I could identify with for a change. All this with a frankness and lack of pretentiousness that are difficult to find in most literature.
Apparently Mr. Clowes is rather publicity-shy, this having been one of his first public appearances in years (reportedly). Obviously I had to go, so I got tickets (free but limited) and Dom and I went down on Friday to catch his appearance. He spent more than 90 minutes talking candidly about his career in retrospect and answering questions from some National Post guy (yeah, I know... the Post, ugh. But the guy was ok.) Really interesting - I learned a few things I did not know about Clowes. For instance, he animated a Ramones video, worked for Cracked magazine (hahaha), had his art on a weird Coca-Cola spinoff called OK Soda along with fellow comic artist Charles Burns, and may or may not have been responsible for discovering Scarlett Johanssen, which I may add is a somewhat dubious feat, considering her post-Lost in Translation work. But anyway... OK Soda. Weird. Apparently they marketed it like, "oh, here's this soda, it's not great but it's okay, you can drink it if you want... or not. We don't really care." It's funny, even these big corporations were trying to capitalize on the whole underground movement in the nineties, and I didn't even realize that there was one. If only I hadn't been wasting my time with T.S. Eliott, the cryptic, overwrought fascist tit!
Anyway, I thought it was great. Not only that, but he also had a book signing afterward! I wanted to get my copy of David Boring signed, but unfortunately I lent it out to one of my buddies ages ago and I haven't seen it since. Luckily they had a table where they were selling some of his stuff and I was able to pickup Eightball #19 where the story debuted. He signed that and also my old copy of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. His wife was there too, and they were both really nice, although I really was rather nervous and didn't know what to say. What a dork! Anyway, it's not like I would have come up with something so great to say to him that he would remember it later and go, "wow, what a cool and smart guy that Sean was..." I was just happy to meet one of the artists whose body of work has occupied a part of my insular life for years. It's the first time I've ever had the chance.
I read Wilson while I was at work. Clowes said he was thinking of Charles Schultz while he wrote it, and I definitely feel that translated well to Wilson, which is both hilarious and sad - the sign of the best kind of comedy. Somehow, the book is oddly redemptive too. But Clowes noted during his talk that he doesn't feel that people really redeem themselves in the end - it's life that beats you down over time, and it forces a kind of resignation and redemption upon you regardless of your intentions. (I agree.)
So yeah, I know you don't read any shit about yourself on the internet or probably anywhere else, but thanks, Daniel!