Saturday, April 14, 2012

Happy 51st Birthday, Daniel Clowes!

Dan Clowes is perhaps the most visible and successful of the alternative comics artists that burst on to the scene in the 1980s. His work has been seen on major soda brands, the covers of major magazines, and record/CD covers. He even appeared as himself in an episode of The Simpsons.

Clowes's initial efforts appeared in Cracked, Mad magazine's major competitor. At first his work drew heavily from 1950s/1960s retro-hip features. He drew Uggly Family comics that followed the exploits of a ghoulish, Addams Family type clan. His next main character, Lloyd Llewellyn, appeared in various publications from Fantagraphics. Llewellyn was a hard boiled detective type who worked in a world full of beatniks, aliens, monsters, beautiful women, time travelers, and cocktails.

Afterward, Clowes started a solo anthology comic in the 1990s called Eightball. This series allowed him to draw a number of stories, including autobiographical and opinionated pieces like "I Hate You Deeply" and its sequel "I Love you Tenderly," serials such as Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron and Ghost World, and experimental work like Ice Haven. As years went on, the series began to be published less frequently and become less an anthology than a series of issues that focused on specific self-contained stories like David Boring and The Death Ray.

More recently, Clowes has forgone serial publication for the most part (an exception: his Mister Wonderful series appeared first in The New York Times Magazine) to publish graphic novels like Wilson. Additionally, all of his series and anthology stories have been collected into individual graphic novel versions.

He adapted his Ghost World series into an Oscar nominated (for Best Adapted Screenplay) motion picture in 2001 directed by Terry Zwigoff and starring Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi. Following the success of this film Clowes adapted another of his Eightball stories, "Art School Confidential," into a movie, but it was less than well received.

Clowes has won many  prestigious awards for his graphic novel work, including the 2011 PEN Literary Prize for Graphic Literature as well as the Harvey, Eisner and Ignatz Comics Awards. He continues to be a prolific, vital artist and creator in a variety of media. He talks about his recent projects in this interview with Publishers Weekly.

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