on 18 February 2004
It is very rare that an artist lets you glimpse at the doodles, mistakes and random ideas that make up their finished work. In the Acme Novelty Date Book, Chris Ware has published his numerous sketchbooks from 1986 to 1995 in all their naked glory. To be any less authentic they would have coffee stains and a strange musky smell attached.
As a scrapbook of images, the focus changes from page to page as Chris tries out a strip, perfects a Crumb-like character or sketches an old lady he saw on the bus. Among the 200 pages, you can spot the formative beginnings that lead to Quimby, Jimmy Corrigan or Rocket Sam. You also get the emotional state of the author, with frequent annotations instructing himself to "be direct" or "let the reader finish the story".
As with the line drawings of Degas or Goya, don't expect a "finished product" but sometimes the journey is more interesting. With some content of an adult nature, it is not for kids (apart from the smart ones of course).
A perfect companion for fans, beautifully designed but not for everyone.