(GUEST REVIEW by ROBERT DAYTON) (Drawn and Quarterly) This is a comic event! It isn’t every day that we get new comic work from Daniel Clowes. The last issue of Eightball was six years ago. Having a book of all new Daniel Clowes work is just cause for excitement.
Right from the front cover there stands a solitary figure: Wilson. Name above him in cartoony font. Wilson. That is who this book is all about, pure Wilson. A comic book character study. We’ve never met him before but his all-too-real traits seem familiar. He’s a total misanthrope. I recently saw that movie Greenburg with Ben Sandler as a misanthrope who finds love or something, different from Wilson, I mean Greenburg’s too good looking, isn’t he? On the cover of this book stands Wilson, pure misanthrope. Schlubby. In a stained white shirt, grey undershirt peeking out, pencil peeping out of his black pants pocket, brown shoes, thinning brown hair, scraggle beard, glasses: it’s all conveyed.
Wilson is completely self-absorbed, he has total self-blockage. In one page he sits looking at the ocean, ”I feel like I’m on the edge of a profound personal break through!” (pause) “Fuck it, this is a snooze-fest.” (walks away) He does not edit himself in his dealings with others- “For the love of Christ, don’t you ever shut up?”- he actually says what so many of us want to say!
This realism is contrasted with cheery soft colours and comic styles that vary from page to page between cartoony and realistic, never missing a beat to capture a particular feel and always funny as Hell. Wilson is set-up, like much of Clowes’ recent work, as a series of one-pagers that connect and progress through character dynamics. These one page dosages (that take place over the span of several years) seem to show that life with its’ infinite mysteries is all small stuff. Free of pity.
Contained herein are the fumbled grasps for meaning in life, the missed connections, the lack of personal connections: does anyone truly understand each other here? Wilson visits his dying Father for what appear to be selfish emotional reasons. Wilson acts with complete obliviousness until he realizes that he’s all alone, this causes him to take action, yet still remain somewhat oblivious for our enjoyment.
Wilson, like many newspaper strip characters, has a habit of talking aloud, seemingly to no one in particular. And it really works for Wilson, I developed a certain empathy for this self-motivated individual (who does make certain flawed efforts at reaching out and building a life) and couldn’t wait for what he would say or do next.