Chris Ware’s Unmasked

Chris Ware's Unmasked, for The New Yorker
Unmasked is a Halloween themed cover and four page comic story (two double page spreads) for the November 2nd issue of The New Yorker, by Chris Ware.

In a fashion Chris Ware fans have come to expect, the hilarious but subtle cover leads seamlessly into the story, a poignant look at generational and family relations, told in his sublime graphic style.

Ware constructs comics in the way a fine woodworker might construct an inlaid box, crafting each element with refined precision, interlocking elements that might seem unrelated to form a unified whole. Notice the parallels between panels in the second two-page spread, the interweaving of the panel designs with the exterior and interior of the masks and the repeated theme of the phone, carried forward form the cover. Also take note of Ware’s superb control of color and his interesting abandonment of perspective for isometric projection in many panels.

Also note that Ware manages to tell a complete short story in four pages, something many contemporary comics writers can’t seem to do in 6 or more 24-page issues.

Beautiful work.

[Via Daring Fireball]


6 Replies to “Chris Ware’s Unmasked

  1. For this reader, his graphic style falls noticeably short of sublime. Whether Ware is typesetting his text or hand-lettering it, I can’t quite tell. What I do know is that his text is frustratingly difficult on my middle-aged eyes (even with recently adjusted perscription lenses.)

    As near as I can tell, his text is the equivalent of about 7 point type. Most magazines like the New Yorker use 9 point type for body copy. Where the New Yorker text might get 7 lines of type in the depth of an inch, Ware squeezes 12 lines. It’s not completely illegible but it’s slow going and frustrating enough that I’ve never made it more than a quarter of the way through anything of his that I’ve encountered. And the type is not just small, it’s too thin in weight.

    Maybe he’s content with a younger audience whose vision is closer to perfect. But he’s unlikely to hang on to those readers as they age.

    Perhaps my frustration with his text also explains why I’m not so impressed that he manages to get a complete story into four pages. He could adopt a microfilm format and get it all into a single page… thereby losing even more readers.

  2. Thanks, Daniel.

    Your point is taken about the size of type and panels, but I would be equally impressed if he told a short story in 8 pages. The small elements seem to be part of his overall fascination with detail. The qualities I find most appealing in his work are those that evidence restraint, in color, drawing style and storytelling, in a medium which seems largely based on the absence of restraint.

  3. I’m going to agree with Charley on this. If the point were to make a completely legible line by line story Mr. Ware would choose a different medium. One of the great things about his work is that people always talk about it, positive or negative. I enjoy things, particularly in the illustration and comics world, that push us to question and ask questions about why while still telling a story and engaging us.

  4. Hmmm… I won’t be as hard on his work as the others. I’m still impressed by the speed I can finish his work and not have it look to bad. But he may want to make it bigger. To many times online comic make their font to small to read.

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