Best 2003 Adventures (10)
February 9, 2021
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 2003 adventure novels.
Chris Ware’s ACME Novelty Library comic Quimby the Mouse.
Before he gave us Jimmy Corrigan and Rusty Brown, Chris Ware gave us Quimby the Mouse — a nostalgic, hopeless Mickey Mouse homage/parody with which he first experimented while contributing to the University of Texas at Austin’s student newspaper in 1990–1991, then introduced to the world via the pages of the high-lowbrow comics journal Raw, as well as via Ware’s own Fantagraphics comic book series The ACME Novelty Library. The recurring character is trapped in two relationships: with Sparky, a disembodied cat’s head; and with an older mouse’s head that in some strips is shown attached to his own body. At the level of form, the strips are wildly inventive and genre-defying; they rarely proceed in any kind of left-to-right, top-to-bottom linear fashion, and even when they do they jump around in time and/or phase in and out of different levels of perception. (Ware has cited Joseph Cornell’s surrealist assemblages — found objects arranged into quasi-narrative dioramas or tableaux — as an inspiration.) Despite being nihilistic vehicles of the author’s angst and self-recrimination, though, Quimby’s adventures are also — like Mickey Mouse’s — amusing and even optimistic! The Quimby stories, as well as the other vivid strips, advertisements, letter columns, etc., contained in the gorgeous 2003 collection offer a master class in cartooning and graphic design history; Ware is a cartoonist’s cartoonist, who permanently elevated the genre.
Fun facts: “I see the black outlines of cartoons as visual approximations of the way we remember general ideas, and I try to use naturalistic color underneath them to simultaneously suggest a perceptual experience, which I think is more or less the way we actually experience the world as adults,” Ware has explained in an interview. “We don’t really ‘see’ anymore after a certain age, we spend our time naming and categorizing and identifying and figuring how everything all fits together.”
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.