Clowes, Daniel 1961-
Clowes, Daniel 1961-
Born April 14, 1961, in Chicago, IL; son of an auto mechanic mother and a race-car driver father; married; wife's name Erika; children: Charlie. Education: Graduated from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY.
Cartoonist. Worked for Cracked magazine. Contributor to Details, Esquire, New Yorker, World Art, and Village Voice.
Harvey Award, 1990, for best single issue or story (Eightball no. 1) and for best new series, 1991, for best single issue or story (Eightball no. 3), 1992, for best continuing/limited series, 1997, for best writer and for best letterer, and 1998, for best single issue or story (Eightball no. 18); San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Screenplay, Adapted, 2001, and Writers Guild of America Award nomination for best screenplay based on material previously produced or published, Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nomination for best screenplay—adaptation, PEN Center USA West Literary Award for best screenplay, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination for best screenplay, Independent Spirit Award for best first screenplay, Chlotrudis Award nomination for best adapted screenplay, Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination for best screenplay, AFI Film Award nomination for AFI Screenwriter of the Year, and Academy Award nomination for screenplay based on material previously produced or published, all 2002, all for Ghost World.
Eightball (comic book series), Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), c. 1980s—.
Lout Rampage, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1992.
Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1993.
The Manly World of Lloyd Llewellyn: A Golden Treasury of His Complete Works, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1994, published as The Official Lloyd Llewellyn Collection, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1997.
Pussey, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1995.
Orgy Bound, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1996.
Ghost World, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1998, revised edition, Ghost World: The Film Edition, 2001.
Caricature, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 1998.
David Boring, Pantheon (New York, NY), 2000.
(With Terry Swigoff) The Ghost World Screenplay, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 2001.
(With Jessica Abel) 20th-Century Eightball, Fantagraphics (Seattle, WA), 2001.
Ice Haven, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Art School Confidential (screenplay) Sony Pictures Classics, 2006.
Contributor to publications, including Details, New Yorker, Blab!, Cracked, World Art, Newsweek, Village Voice, Time, and Vogue. His "Green Eyeliner" appeared in the July 1998 issue of Esquire.
Ghost World was adapted as a motion picture and released in 2001.
Daniel Clowes is a cartoonist and creator of the alternative comic Eightball, which has been published quarterly since the 1980s. Clowes is the acknowledged successor to the master of the genre, Robert Crumb. With his Zap, Crumb was the first to publish underground comics during the 1960s. Others followed, including Bill Griffith with Zippy the Pinhead, Art Spiegelman with Maus, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez with Love and Rockets, and Chester Brown with Yummy Fur. Many of Clowes's serialized stories from Eightball have been published as collections or single-story books that combine "stunning visual art and carefully crafted narrative, thus creating comic books that are as compelling and estimable as any of the more ‘traditional’ art forms," to quote Winda Benedetti of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Ken Tucker wrote in Entertainment Weekly that Clowes "specializes in stylized moroseness—he makes abject despair funny," and for his part Clowes admitted to Benedetti, "I think the humor was something I developed early on as a sort of defense mechanism. I guess that's the way I've always dealt with the darkness and the melancholy."
When he was young, Clowes was sent by his auto mechanic mother to live with his grandparents in Chicago after his stepfather, a race-car driver, was killed. Clowes told Newsweek reviewer Sarah Van Boven that his grandparents "bought all of their stuff right after the war, down to the canned food and Perry Como records, and basically never bought new stuff. I felt like I was living in the past my whole life." Clowes attended art school, which he considered of little value, and worked for a period at Cracked magazine. In 1986 he created a strip called Lloyd Llewellyn, about a 1950s-style detective, but it was canceled. His The Official Lloyd Llewellyn Collection was published, went out of print, and was reprinted in 1997 by Fantagraphics.
Clowes then began writing Eightball, and the first collection of Eightball stories was published as Lout Rampage in 1992. Booklist reviewer Gordon Flagg com- mented that Clowes offers "visuals that range from the blunt to the sophisticated and a genuine mastery of narrative," and called the comic book artist's work "the cutting edge of popular culture." Clowes's Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron was first serialized in ten installments in Eightball. The protagonist is Clay Loudermilk, who becomes involved in the making of a snuff film. In reviewing the book, Flagg noted a comparison between the work of Clowes and that of filmmaker David Lynch, creator of the now-defunct television series Twin Peaks, which still has a cult following. Flagg commented that while Lynch's work "plays for viewer acceptance … Velvet Glove is unremittingly bleak; any laughs spring from the reader's discomfort or surprise." Flagg felt the story is more powerful and coherent as a book than it was as a serial. In a further comparison of Twin Peaks with Velvet Glove, Entertainment Weekly reviewer Ty Burr cited Velvet Glove as better, "more rigorous in its use of dream logic, and Clowes' scratchy, warts-and-all drawing style gets to you like a sliver under the skin." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the comic a "faux-existentialist, slapstick, sci-fi sitcom" produced by Clowes's "stream-of-warped-consciousness" and noted that of the comic artists of the 1980s, Clowes is "one of the most talented."
Another book by Clowes, Orgy Bound, is a collection that begins with the story of a boy who has a romantic interest in insects. In July 1998 a work by Clowes titled "Green Eyeliner" was featured in Esquire magazine's annual fiction issue. The Clowes concoction Caricature, a limited-edition hardcover, includes "Green Eyeliner" as well as "MCMLXVI," "Gold Mommy," "Glue Destiny," and "Gynecology." The book features new covers, end papers, title pages, and graphics.
The graphic novel David Boring revolves around the efforts of nineteen-year-old security guard David Boring to understand his absentee father, about whom he has little information. In pursuit of his past and a mysterious ideal woman named Wanda, Boring leads anything put a mundane life, getting shot and being marooned on an island. David Boring marked a milestone in the evolution of the comic book, for it was published in hardcover and represented a new height of quality. As Flagg remarked, the work is "intense, poetic, and intriguing … an expressive slice of graphic surrealism." While a Publishers Weekly reviewer found the work to be "sometimes enticing, sometimes baffling," it is "never boring." "Subtle as it is, the work of these two young talents [Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware] can be more powerful than a locomotive," punned Book commentator James Sullivan. "Few examples of modern literature can leap so many tall buildings in a single bound."
Robert Crumb had read Clowes's graphic novel Ghost World and recommended it to Terry Zwigoff, director of the documentary Crumb. The novel is the story of teenage girls Becky Doppelmeyer and Enid Coleslaw (an anagram of Clowes's own name), who hang out together but apart from the outside world. They frequent diners, make fun of their friends, and criticize television programs and magazines like Sassy. Flagg said the book accurately portrays teens but found most impressive the book's sympathy, "evident not only in deep understanding of the young protagonists but also an affinity for the supporting characters."
Clowes completed the live-action screenplay version of his graphic novel Ghost World and looked forward to the production of the film with Zwigoff. Clowes predicted that Ghost World would appeal to a broad audience. "We don't want it to have a John Waters or David Lynch feel where every single actor is out of central casting from Barnum & Bailey," Clowes explained in an interview with Joey Anuff in Addicted to Noise online. "We want it to look like the harsh reality you see on Mission and Twenty-fourth Street in San Leandro. People in ill-fitting jumpsuits that say ‘Chicago Bulls’ on the front, the grim hyper-reality that actually exists. Terry has a good sense for that. He's a very over-sensitive guy who's not happy with the way things are, and he has a real sense of why that is and how to show it." In 2001 Clowes published The Ghost World Screenplay, which includes the unedited screenplay, several new comic strips, and photographs of the movie-making, and he brought out a new edition of the original Ghost World graphic novel.
The year 2001 also saw the publication of selected humor strips from the Eightball series originally published between 1988 and 1996. 20th-Century Eightball includes such favorites as "I Hate You Deeply," "Sexual Frustration," "Ugly Girls," "Why I Hate Christians," "Message to the People of the Future," "Paranoid," "My Suicide," "Art School Confidential," "On Sports," and "Chicago."
In Ice Haven (originally published as part of the comic book Eightball) Clowes examines the lives of the citizens of the town of Ice Haven in a format reminiscent of classic newspaper comic pages. "I was sort of poring through these things, and there were all these sort of disparate strips sharing the page with each other," Clowes told Flak magazine interviewer James Norton. "There'd be Nancy on one page, and then there'd be Prince Valiant, and then Mandrake the Magician and then Blondie … all these very different intents with each kind of story. You'd have dry historical fiction and then you'd have a light little strip with little kids on the next page." "Somehow," he explained to Norton, "there was this cohesion just because they used the same kind of artistic tropes, and they were printed on the same press, and using the same colors—they all seemed linked together." Clowes likewise links the individual threads of Ice Haven's plot through the graphic styles he uses. "Twenty-nine individual stories involving divorce, child murder, teenage sorrow, kidnapping, poetry reading, procrastination and incest blend seamlessly together across thirty seven pages," stated a writer for NNDB. "Each plot thread is colored and illustrated in its own timeless and classical style, weaving in and out of neighboring pages with remarkable ease and restraint."
The central thread of Ice Haven is the disappearance of young David Goldberg, a seemingly friendless boy whose apparent abduction conjures up memories of the JonBenet Ramsey murder and the case of Leopold and Loeb, the pair of young men who kidnapped and murdered a young boy in the 1920s in an attempt to perpetrate the perfect crime. "But around this plot nearly a dozen others circulate, some of which have little or no connection to the crime," said Boston Review contributor Ken Parille. "The method of narration, too, constantly changes. Some stories are told in the third person, others by one of five main characters who function as first-person narrators. Some speak directly to the reader, one narrates through diary pages, and another rambles aloud—is he talking to the reader or to himself?" "The cast is quite rich and diverse," wrote Pop Matters contributor Mike Lukich, "but Clowes focuses more on a select few, including the frustrated and unappreciated middle-aged poet Random Wilder, who acts as the narrator of sorts; the lonely, lovesick Violet; Mr. and Mrs. Ames, a husband and wife detective team, who are called in to investigate David's disappearance but end up investigating nothing more than their own disintegrating marriage; and the philosophical young Charles, [whose] precocious observations are offset by the secret love he beholds for his teenage stepsister." "Clowes draws with an extraordinary economy of style," declared a critic writing for the Telegraph. "Ice Haven's boredom and hopelessness is present in every panel: the near-expressionless characters; the flattened and simplified surfaces; the static, two-dimensional backgrounds. But there's breathtaking artfulness in the narrative, the pacing, the ways the stories touch on each other." "Masterfully blending fact and fiction," concluded a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "this is a funny, sad, chilling and absurd work."
Anuff asked the comic book artist about the future of comics. Clowes noted that, although Crumb experienced huge sales in the 1960s—"Every hippy in the world had a copy"—he himself has trouble finding Ghost World, even in Berkeley and San Francisco. "It's incredibly frustrating…. People have a bias against comics for, I think, a good reason. Most of what they've seen is really awful." "I just hate the idea of the Internet being comics' final resting place," Clowes added. "I think paper and pulp and that flat surface is the perfect medium," he said, adding that "I think the notion of comics on a screen is backwards." What is Clowes trying to achieve with his work? He told Benedetti, "I'm trying to do something that will hold my interest for the incredibly tedious amount of time it takes to draw a comic book." And in pleasing himself, he is pleasing his audience as well.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, January, 2001, James Sullivan, review of David Boring, p. 66.
Booklist, March 1, 1992, Gordon Flagg, review of Lout Rampage, p. 1190; September 1, 1997, Gordon Flagg, review of Ghost World, p. 47; November 15, 2000, Gordon Flagg, review of David Boring, p. 598; July 1, 2005, Gordon Flagg, review of Ice Haven, p. 1912; March 15, 2006, Gordon Flagg, review of Art School Confidential, p. 39.
Boston Globe, July 10, 2005, Carlo Wolff, "Kinkiness, Conversation, Crimes of War."
Boston Review, January/February, 2006, Ken Parille, review of Ice Haven.
Entertainment Weekly, June 26, 1992, Ken Tucker, "Cool Cartoonist: Daniel Clowes," p. 76; May 21, 1993, Ty Burr, "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron," p. 44; June 10, 2005, Whitney Pastorek, review of Ice Haven, p. 114.
Guardian, June 2, 1997, Nick Hasted, "Mr. Clowes and His Comic Cult," pp. T10-11.
Library Journal, March 15, 1999, Stephan Weiner, review of Caricature, p. 74.
Newsweek, April 27, 1998, Sarah Van Boven, "Daniel Clowes Wows 'Em with ‘Ghost World,’" p. 70.
New York Times Book Review, November 26, 2000, Dave Eggers, "After Wham! Pow! Shazam! Comic Books Move beyond Superheroes to the World of Literature," p. 10.
Observer, July 17, 2005, David Thompson, "It's Peanuts, but Not as We Know It."
Print, July-August, 1998, Rhonda Rubinstein, "Creepy, Cool, and Collected," pp. 90-95.
Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1993, review of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, p. 59; October 11, 1993, "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron," p. 54; October 20, 1997, Calvin Reid, "Hardcover to Film," p. 14; September 4, 2000, review of David Boring, p. 86; June 20, 2005, review of Ice Haven, p. 60.
School Library Journal, February, 1999, Francisca Goldsmith, review of Ghost World, p. 146; November 1, 2005, Matthew L. Moffett, review of Ice Haven, p. 178.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 11, 2001, Winda Benedetti, "Comic Book Art Earns Respect at Hands of Clowes and Ware," p. 28.
Telegraph (London, England), August 14, 2005, "It's Not as Cold Here as It Sounds."
UPI NewsTrack, July 21, 2006, "Writer Clowes Aiming ‘Death Ray’ at Film."
Voice Literary Supplement, May 31, 2005, R.C. Baker, "Getting Hot and Bothered on the ‘Pork Chop’ of Manhattan and Beyond."
Washington Post Book World, July 3, 2005, Joey Anuff, "Masked Marvels, Child Stealers and Tantalizing Tea Talk."
Addicted to Noise,http://www.addictedtonoise.com/ (July 29, 2008), Joey Anuff, "Behind the Eightball: Comic Book Creator Daniel Clowes."
Flak,http://www.flakmag.com/ (July 29, 2008), James Norton, "Daniel Clowes: Interview," and review of Ice Haven.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (July 29, 2008), "Daniel Clowes."
Lambiek.net,http://lambiek.net/ (July 29, 2008), "Daniel Clowes."
NNDB,http://www.nndb.com/ (July 29, 2008), "Daniel Clowes."
Pop Matters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (July 29, 2008), Mike Lukich, review of Ice Haven.