Just like Alfred Hitchcock and Edward Hopper are familiar to neurotic connoisseurs and average slobs alike, so too Daniel Clowes is one of those select alternative cartoonists known to the general public. “Ghost World” is a bona fide cult classic that evokes better than most that special blend of Gen X rage. The Clowesian world is mired in self-loathing coupled with self-delusion forever seeking some sort of redemption through perpetual self-deprecation. Clowes perfected an ironic noir in the ’90s all his own. Since then, many readers have been catching up. His latest graphic novel, “Patience,” finds him in top form. It is published by Fantagraphics Books.
When I first moved to Seattle in 1993, Fantagraphics began publishing “Ghost World” in the one-man comics anthology, Eightball (1989-2004) by Daniel Clowes. I remember it, at the time, as being so perfectly rendered and mirroring the sarcastic bite of the hipster scene I was experiencing. It seemed too good to be true. And yet it did exist. There are other great alt cartoonists to enjoy, to be sure, but Clowes has the pulse on a certain strain of disconnected disquiet. His work will always be inextricably linked with the DIY/zine/grunge era. That’s the sweet spot his characters revolve around whether it’s 2006 or 2029. Clowes, as he ages, just keeps getting better. Like a cartoonist version of David Letterman, he cannot, nor should not, try to extricate himself from his roots. In Clowes, the Gen X muffled rage lives on. In this new book, we see just how timeless a Clowesian world can be.
This is as classic as you can get when it comes to Clowes. The title character is a young woman named, Patience. It is through the actions and thoughts of a young woman, it seems, that Clowes believes the secrets to life can be unlocked or, at least, we have our best chance at experiencing true grace on Earth. To act as our guide, and fully explain the rare quality of said lady, is a stand-in for Clowes. We begin with an attractive young couple. Patience and Jack have just learned that Patience is pregnant. While the timing is not great in respect to their finances, the two of them are happy. And then our story takes a turn that makes it, as billed, “a science fiction love story.”
Clowes has created an excellent vehicle for his vision. He has Patience, his ideal young woman, and he has Jack who, due to just the right touch of strange, becomes an ideal Clowes alter ego. This is quite a remarkable, beautiful, and ambitious work. Clowes gets to play with all the Clowesian toys in this one. It is a far better world, perhaps a tad too melancholy, but a far better world, to have the work of Daniel Clowes in it. Patience makes for a wonderful Clowes girl, full of grit with just the right amount of stubborn optimism. Jack makes for a great befuddled Everyman, just one step away from either utter self-destruction or blissful epiphany.
“Patience” is a 180-page full color hardcover and will be released on March 21st. For more details, and how to purchase, visit our friends at Fantagraphics Bookstore right here.