Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 5, 2007

CR Review: The ACME Novelty Datebook 1995-2002


Creator: Chris Ware
Publishing Information: Drawn and Quarterly, hard cover, 208 pages, December 2007, $39.95
Ordering Numbers: 9781897299180 (ISBN13)

imageI reserve the right to write a longer piece later on, where I might try to string together what it all means or even (although I can't fathom it) to confess the shudder and heave of a major disappointment. For now I wanted to pen a brief review of the second volume of The ACME Novelty Datebook, covering the years 1995-2002, in the course of my reading of it, because I feel like I've been punched in the face I'm enjoying it that much. Ware's sketchbook materials offers up studies, notes, sketches, little paintings, and even rough cartoons. Many of them are hilarious -- I expect a lot of reviewers will republish the Mary Marvel gag -- and nearly all of them offer up some insight about or nugget from the cartoonist's life. I think I would pay half of the $40 for the China travelogue on pages 166-167 all by itself. Back when I participated in The Comics Journal's Top 100 comics of the 20th Century, I was initially perplexed by Gary Groth's insistence that we include Crumb's sketchbooks. I see that wisdom now. While Ware's work may not quite hit those heights, this modest book that some may see as a luxury item to be bought or ignored as some sort of supplement to the cartoonist's more lauded, straight-forward comics publications may end up being one of the best comics reads and one of the most enjoyable books about comics for a quality calendar year, all under the same -- and lovely -- cover. This is the book that is going with me on holiday, and I can't think of another comics-related work with which I could do that.

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