Daniel Clowes brings 25 years of faces, fetishes to Meltdown

April 04, 2012 | 6:43 p.m.
clowes cover Daniel Clowes brings 25 years of faces, fetishes to Meltdown

The cover for "The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist," edited by Alvin Buenaventura and published by Abrams ComicArts.

132 Daniel Clowes brings 25 years of faces, fetishes to Meltdown

Page 132: Original art for "David Boring," pages 2 and 3, 2000. (Daniel Clowes)

158a Daniel Clowes brings 25 years of faces, fetishes to Meltdown

158: Single panel from "Mister Wonderful" chapter 1, the New York Times Magazine, September 16, 2007. (Daniel Clowes)

Forlorn faces and fetish grins,  the mundane, the daft and the deranged — that’s what you find in  “The Art of Daniel Clowes” (Abrams ComicArts, $40). And, beginning April 14, it’s what you’ll see at  “Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes,” the Oakland Museum of California’s tie-in exhibition and the first major survey of the artist’s 25-year career of quirk, kink and ink. The “Ghost World” artist will be in Los Angeles on Thursday for “An Evening with Daniel Clowes” at Meltdown Comics, but we caught up with him this week for an email interview about digging up the past.

clowes Daniel Clowes brings 25 years of faces, fetishes to Meltdown

Daniel Clowes, 1966, strikes a pose. (Daniel Clowes)

HC: Opening up old sketchbooks and photo albums can be strange, sweet or unsettling — or all three. Has any part of this been a sentimental journey?

DC: My initial plan with this project was to allow my friend Alvin Buenaventura full access to my hoarders-like storage closet of junk and let him dig up all the stuff to go in the book without any involvement or emotional commitment from me. He’s a very quiet guy and often I’d forget he was in my closet until I’d hear him laughing at some stupid drawing I did in a sketchbook in 1987. He was in there for like three years, and just barely got through all the stuff.

HC: Is there something he came across that  you now see in a whole new way?

DC: There were many, many things I had completely forgotten about — like entire years of my life. One thing that really shocked me was to go through some of the fan mail I used to get in the pre-Internet days. Lots of people — like a truly surprising number of complete strangers — would write me 10- or 15-page letters, telling me all about the most mundane details of their twitterless existence. Pretty much inconceivable nowadays.

HC: Tell me about this photograph [on the right] that you sent.

DC: It’s a picture of me (allegedly, I suppose, since you can’t see my face) dressed as Batman in 1966, the height of ’60s Batmania. Not only are the proportions of the costume disturbingly wrong — I look more like an impotent, malevolent gnome than a superhero — but the framing by my grandmother is extremely odd and unintentionally (?) artistic and beautiful. If one single image could capture my childhood, that would be it.

HC: Is there something you can’t find — or something that you sold, trashed or gave away — that you wish was in this exhibit and this book?

DC: Actually, the opposite was true. There were lots of things I wished I had burned 20 years ago so I’d never have to see them again, but unfortunately I saved everything.

— Geoff Boucher


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2 Responses to Daniel Clowes brings 25 years of faces, fetishes to Meltdown

  1. tranquilspace says:

    That has GOT to be the BEST PHOTO EVER! No exceptions!
    I wish it was a poster.
    You know, I'm probably not your typical reader, but I love this blog because it actually flags up with me how much of this stuff has ben really influential on me and takes me off down little side streets of artistic exploration where there are such adventures to be had.
    Love it.

  2. Herr Kohl says:

    Clowes is my favorite “Comic” Artist! (i hate this word nearly as much as i try to avoid the term “Graphic Novel”)

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