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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 January 2016
Clowes is an accomplished cartoonist, and I like the variety of cartooning styles that he brings to this book, which made me think about the effect that drawing style has on a strip. I have to say that I found too much of the book to have a tired and cynical humour which wasn't to my taste. Ultimately most of the scenes in the book could have easily slipped into a Todd Solondz movie - the shock of characters who aren't prepared to mask their negativity for the benefit of others. It provokes a wry smirk now and again, but nothing more. Haven't we been here before, and quite a few times? I was waiting for Clowes to bring something new to the table other than another depressed outsider, but nope, he just brings his usual, highly competent cartooning. Other Clowes books are better: Ice Haven, for example.
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on 14 September 2010
'WILSON' is Daniel Clowes' first new work in almost 3 years. His output has become less frequent over time - issues of the seminal 'Eightball' were trickling out roughly 18 months apart (originally they were issued quarterly). So whilst not prolific, it is very much about quality not quantity - and he does everything (pencil, ink, layout, lettering and story). The joy with Clowes is the attention to detail and his unique view of American living. It was always worth the wait for new 'Eightball', because Clowes delivered something familiar in style, but new in approach every time.

And so it is with 'Wilson'. Having left Fantagraphics (who issued 'Lloyd Llewellyn' and 'Eightball') he has made his first fully complete graphic novel for Drawn & Quarterly, which has a simultaneous British release through Jonathon Cape.

With 'Wilson', Clowes presents a graphic novel that at first glance appears to be individual page cartoons. Each page is titled as an individual cartoon with a pay-off line in the last panel, yet also has a continuous narrative throughout. Though these last panels do provide some humour, it is often at an innocent's expense, which tends to unsettle rather than amuse, but to me that seems the intention. They highlight the titular character's lack of people skills (this is the man who says at the start 'I love people!', but his rampant misanthropy undermines this claim). At the heart of 'Wilson' lies human tragedy, much caused by him. He comes over as intrusive, insensitive and selfish. He is difficult to sympathise with, but rare glimpses of desparation to bond with estranged members of family betray a vulnerable side.

'Wilson' tackles themes of ageing, loneliness/loss, family, rejection and regret. There are no scenes of violence, sex or drugs (though all are implied). The impression of single page cartoons is enhanced by Clowes use of different drawing styles per page - a sort of 'greatest hits' of his versatility familiar to 'Eightball' readers. Fine detailed, normal proportioned figures on one page juxtaposed with simplified exaggerated 'strip cartoon' styles on others (with variations of both on other pages). Yet in every strip, Clowes skillfully portrays background (streets, shops, signs, landscape) to add depth to his characters and story (something Crumb also excelled at). The book itself is beautifully bound, and lovingly crafted and presented by Clowes.

Well worth the wait for Clowes fans, and a great introduction for new readers.
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After the success of Terry Zwigoff's film version of Ghost World, it was almost inevitable that Dan Clowes would move away from the serialised strips of Eightball towards the longer, more ambitious graphic novel format. Clowes has of course produced works of graphic novel length - Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron,David Boring,Ice Haven - but finally, after a much longer wait than was expected, Dan's first full-length original graphic novel has arrived - and it's been worth the wait.

Surprisingly, at first glance it seems like Dan Clowes hasn't really embraced the novel format and that Wilson would be suited to the writer-artist's usual episodic format. Although there is indeed a recurrent character and theme, the story initially seems to be broken up into standalone single page strips of 6-7 frames, with the final frame delivering an admittedly devastatingly witty punch-line. Not unexpectedly, Wilson turns out to be a typical Clowes sociopath who can't hold back his true nature, accosting strangers on the street and in coffee shops, alienating friends, family and neighbours through cringingly embarrassing put-down remarks, sometimes intentionally and sometimes despite himself.

Initial appearances however are deceptive and, if he doesn't exactly change in any positive manner over the arc of the story, Wilson acquires rather more depth and character at the same time as he acquires a family, a lost one and, inevitably, a rather dysfunctional one, adding up to a touching and witty account of a life of crushing disappointments with the world and with himself. If there's a film version of this, it has to be directed by Kelly Reichardt with Will Oldham in the role of Wilson. How about 'Old Misery' for a title?

The whole look and feel of the book is perfect - a large album format hardcover with heavy stock paper (at least on the US Drawn & Quarterly edition) - Clowes' artwork in several styles that switch between cartoony and semi-realistic from strip to strip looking absolutely gorgeous. Every single frame is a complete delight, every page genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, the graphic novel as a whole adding up to a new level of substance and maturity - on the part of the author at least. This is Clowes' best work to date.
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on 10 July 2010
Wilson is a fifty-something who lives alone with his puppy, striking up conversations with strangers and then insulting them. One day he goes looking for his ex-wife, finds out they have a daughter, kidnap the teenage girl, goes to prison, and gets out to pick up his life where he left off - alone, minus the dog.

For a book that's full of sadness and pathos, Wilson is surprisingly funny mostly because Clowes makes Wilson say remarkably insensitive things to people. A woman is telling someone about her sister who's been diagnosed with lyphoma and Wilson butts in, tells her his 82 year old dad is dying, then gets upset when he doesn't get the attention. When he gets a haircut he says "Hey, guess what? I'm a grandfather! Believe me, I'm as surprised as you are" to which the barber says nothing, his face expressionless. It's just the delivery and strange way of saying things that made that strip so funny. In some ways you like Wilson because he's so clueless and nasty but most of the time you're apt to think he's a sociopath.

I really enjoyed this book. It's short and a quick read being less than 80 pages but it's definitely one of Clowes' best up there with "Ghost World" and "Ice Haven", and easily his funniest. It's a very well told story and drawn in Clowes' distinctive style. Not just for Clowes fans but for anyone who likes comics.
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on 12 June 2016
As a fan of Clowes' work before and since, I desperately wanted to like this and expected to but was pretty bummed out by it. It's depressing and misanthropic, which can be positive traits in the right hands (Clowes has excelled at both elsewhere) but this felt exhausting and grim. The illustrations, as always, are great. It's inventive and it's laugh out loud funny in several places but, as a whole, it makes for a dispiriting read, which is partly the point but not perhaps quite so convincingly.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 August 2010
Wilson is Dan Clowes's first graphic novel not to appear elsewhere in serialised form. Ironically, its form appears perfect for serialisation: a series of one-page, six-to-seven panel episodes.

As one begins to read, the book seems clearly episodic in structure. Each page can be read as a stand-alone gag, typically finishing on a pay-off panel with a joke or a sudden reversal of expectation. Similarly the titular character, Wilson - we never do learn whether this is his first or last name - seems familiar from other Clowes work: a narcissistic, self-defeating loner with no social skills and a near-autistic indifference to the feelings of others.

So far, so good; Clowes extracts much comedy from Wilson's encounters with people and situations. But as one reads on, it becomes apparent that this isn't just a collection of gags held together by a common character, but a complete sequential narrative that takes the eponymous character through more than a decade of his life. Clowes varies his graphic style from episode to episode in a way that unbalances the reader's preconceptions: is this a pulp noir story, gritty realism, existentialist parable, or inconsequential funny pages staple?

As the book opens, Wilson is in his early forties, unemployed, physically unprepossessing and divorced. His surviving parent dies in the course of the book. As we follow his attempts to establish meaningful connections with a world from which he feels profoundly alienated, it becomes apparent that he is something more complex than an Asperger's victim - or a mere misanthrope.

The term 'graphic novel' is so often misused that one hesitates to use it here, but certainly this is a graphic novella in which for once the text and the beautifully designed images are of equal weight and reinforce and amplify each other. Clowes has created the existential biography of a self-deluding man that invites comparison with serious works of literature, and a very funny book.
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on 15 October 2013
A new graphic novel from Daniel Clowes, author of the excellent Ghost World and David Boring among others, is always a big deal. As one of the most obviously "literary" writers working in the comics medium, Clowes always delivers sympathetic characters and bizarrely believable storylines with his trademark mix of superficial kitsch and everyday grotesque. Clowes' latest offering, Wilson, promised to be a particular treat for fans, being as it is his first all-new graphic novel (all of Clowes' previous graphic novels have been collected editions of serialised narratives that most often originated from his anthology comic Eightball). Written in a single page gag format and drawn in a variety of styles, Wilson is perhaps the funniest and most deeply affecting tale that Clowes has written so far.

Wilson is an opinionated, middle-aged loser who, despite being a self-declared "people person", cares about his dog and seemingly no one else in the world. Compelled to undertake a never-ending and stupendously unsuccessful quest to find human connection, Wilson badgers acquaintance and stranger alike into a series of one-sided conversations, punctuating his own lofty discursions with cutting comments as well as a brutally honest, self-depreciating sense of humour. After his father dies, a father he had admittedly frequently thought to have already passed, Wilson realises that he is now irrevocably alone and so returns to his hometown in the hope of rekindling his relationship with his ex-wife. Despite his utterly charmless ramblings, Pippi, the beaten down ex, does agree, at least temporarily, to cease hostilities and try to cultivate some romantic feelings towards Wilson. Pippi ultimately informs Wilson that she was pregnant at the time their marriage ended and that the baby, a daughter, was given up for adoption. Insistent on their tracking the girl down, Wilson eventually forces all three to try and reconnect as a family - a doomed mission that will surely, inevitably backfire.

While Wilson the book is immensely enjoyable with the power of the short vignettes giving it an almost addictive quality, Wilson the person is actually quite repellent. He is a fairly odious codger who swears at, chides and cajoles all of those with the misfortune to come into contact with him. Having said that, he certainly draws the reader's attention and his rudeness makes for compulsive reading. There's something disturbingly delightful about the misanthropic Wilson and the almost oblivious way he bulldozes through life. He would be insufferable to actually deal with but reading about Wilson's often hilarious misadventures (I'm going to be extra suspicious of anyone who asks me to hold a parcel for them in the post office now) is highly entertaining and really quite cathartic. It does often help if you have a weak cringe reflex though. The single page gag format that Clowes has used for Wilson is an excellent device for reflecting the inner workings of Wilson's mind and for emphasising the emotions that go with his frequently outrageous actions. For example, when Pippi first informs Wilson that he has a daughter, the panels are muted in colour, almost washed out, in a nice reflection of the emptiness that Wilson feels. Likewise, as the book draws to an end, the tightness of the panels allows them to close in on Wilson's face as his loneliness and depression crushes down upon him. While never giving in to sentimentality, Wilson takes the reader along the path towards the ultimate destruction of a man who was foolish enough to care about nothing except for his own smug sense of self-satisfaction.

You're unlikely to love Wilson himself but with Wilson Daniel Clowes leads us on a delightful, epic journey towards the epic failure of a compellingly flawed man. Giving vent to almost every anti-social instinct possible, Wilson is the kind of anti hero that you encounter on a Sunday morning in M&S - misguided and foolish though he may be, there's something about his impotent rage that makes Wilson stick in your memory far longer than he really deserves. Wilson is quintessential Clowes and is sure to be a hit.
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on 1 December 2012
interesting and amusing. short but imaginative reactions of this strange Wilson character. Didn't blow my mind, though. recommend for those who like realistic kind of comics.
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on 5 October 2013
Really enjoyed the mix of graphical styles to tell the story of an everyman trying to work out his place in life. Dark, funny, and in places just plain weird.
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on 21 January 2015
Witty, touching, perfect.
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