October 1st, 2012
They’re holding their annual festival of hate over at the Hooded Utilitarian and Bert Stabler took aim at Chris Ware:
In twee there is neither humor nor horror, neither conviction nor swagger, just feelings. Feelings and nostalgia for feelings. Chris Ware was sucked into this vortex, streamlining himself into a reliable product for easy digestibility by self-styled “nerds” everywhere, and so we ended up with emo comics garbage overflowing the microcosm of craft-fair entrepreneurship and spilling into Michel Gondry, Death Cab for Cutie, and overdetermined bangs (all much to Chris Ware’s chagrin, if he has any left). True, this infantile regression might have happened anyway. Maybe it was September 11th that whetted the American appetite for saccharine melancholia, but I blame Chris Ware. What twee had to offer that was positive– androgyny, sloppiness, magic– was latent but present in his flamboyant early work. He could have made different choices, But it is lost now, lost irrevocably in the sterile, commercially lubricated navel into which his vision has apparently gone to die.
I’m not sure at all that I agree with this criticism, even if there is a kernel of truth in it, but there is an argument to be made that Ware has a limited palette as a cartoonist and keeps returning to the same themes. All of which are present in the cartoon above: the selfish and socially inept protagonist, alone in an uncaring (rather than a hostile) world, reliving childhood trauma in an atmosphere of melancholy, nostalgia and sadness. Everything else in his work is just commentary, an embellishment of the same themes.