The Acme Novelty Archive - An Unofficial Chris Ware Database

"A RAW History: The Magazine," Indy Magazine

By Bill Kartalopoulos.

Winter 2005

A great article packed with a number of quotes from ware.

Quote 1:
Chris Ware: [One] day around 1983, I saw an oversize magazine sticking out of the back of the bin with the word "RAW" barely visible at the top. Hoping it was pornography, I pulled it out. Much to my disappointment, it wasn't, but I'd also never seen anything like it. I could tell immediately that it was something wholly different (maybe something "punk" or "new wave"?) and sophisticated in a way my Nebraska brain at the time simply couldn't understand ... but what was it?

Reluctantly (for lack of the aforementioned prurience) I nonetheless bought it, took it home — and it rearranged my mind about comics forever. Everything about it, from the size, the lack of "humor" in it, the strange, serious subject matter, the drawings that looked like you'd cut yourself on them, was a revelation to me. I think Joost Swarte's cover of that issue had something of the effect that the Humbug radiation cover had on Robert Crumb; I studied it for hours, days, and weeks... I should mention here that the aforementioned cover of Raw #2 taught me practically everything I know about coloring using printing tints, and it was only years later that I found out Françoise had colored the whole thing herself; to this day I still make use not only of that basic pallete, but also the sensibility of the scheme, with the bright colors being picked out against a more subdued background; she's truly a genius of design.

Quote 2:
Ware: Inside... it was Art's first chapter of Maus that really grabbed me; Maus felt completely honest and real to me in a way that comics simply hadn't before, and I knew that I'd found what it was I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I went back to the store in search of other issues, where I managed to find most of them, and so was introduced to Gary Panter and Charles Burns, which rearranged my mind even further. Those issues of Raw and Robert Crumb's stuff were amongst the few things I deemed important enough to take from my adolescence to my University of Texas dorm room with me in 1985, and throughout my school years remained as a sort of "toehold" reference point whenever I felt my confidence eroding by the theory-based non-figural art many of the instructors were encouraging us students to do.

Quote 3:
Ware: One of the painting professors [at the University of Texas], Peter Saul, had been included in the "RAW Gagz" section of Raw #8, and when I discovered he taught there, I immediately wanted to talk to him, simply because he'd actually been in contact with Art and Françoise — at that point I didn't know Peter Saul had also essentially presaged and "prefigured" Pop art, a fact which is finally being realized by those who write such histories.

Quote 4:
Ware: Generally when I was drawing my college strip I'd have one or more copies of Raw out on my table, and I went through a pretty obvious Gary Panter phase, a Charles Burns phase, a Kaz phase, etc. — basically, trying to understand what all these artists were doing, and to internalize it all (i.e., ripping them off.) Thus, needless to say, when Art called me in 1987, I was so floored I could hardly talk to him. (This was shortly after my first horrible comic book collection was published, and I'd been unjustifiably mentioned in an article he'd seen about Maus in the Austin paper only because articles about comics in those days generally mentioned "the locals" who were also cartoonists, as if that provided some "hometown" angle.)

Quote 5:
Ware: I really don't remember much about our first conversation other than it signified he'd actually read my stuff and didn't seem to hate it, which of course meant the world to me. He also encouraged me to send him my stuff as I finished it, which I did, and over the following months and years he'd call up every once in a while to chat and, basically, simply to be friendly and encouraging. I considered myself probably the luckiest aspiring cartoonist in the world that he'd even want to talk to me, let alone bolster me; I thought of him as a mentor and the best education I could ever hope to get in comics; it never occurred to me that eventually I'd also end up considering him one of my closest friends.

Quote 6:
Mouly: Chris [Ware] didn't get to do something until the second issue. And one had to insist with him: "No, you must!"

Ware: I first met Art and Françoise in person after they'd (much to my amazement) invited me to contribute a four page story to Raw in 1989. That summer, I drove from Austin to Maine to attend a nine week art program and I stayed in New York for a couple of days on the way there; they'd asked me to meet them at the opening of an underground comic art show at a gallery called "Psychedelic Solutions," which was quite an event: Art, Françoise, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky, Charles Burns and others were there — all my childhood and artistic idols, basically, under one roof. I felt extremely out of place, a complete nerd; I remember thinking I had no business supposing I could even talk to or meet any of these artists, let alone contribute to the magazine which had basically formed my thinking about comics, but Art and Françoise were extremely friendly, treating me as if I was an old acquaintance, and they even asked me to visit their loft the following day, an invitation which I, quite nervously, accepted, but I spent a sleepless night worrying about how I'd surely say something stupid to them if I went, so much so I even considered not going, but I finally decided I would — and I'm glad I did, because it was probably one of the more singularly inspiring events of my life.

They were more encouraging and comradely than I'd ever imagined any other artists could be, all of my interactions with "real" artists up until that point having been the teacher/student sort; they showed me the first floor where they did all the production work, the Mariscal painting on their door, Gary and Charles' originals — it was amazing to me. I sat with Art for a long time in his studio where he was working on one of the last chapters of Maus; we of course talked about comics, and he showed me the Milt Gross book He Done Her Wrong (I was still doing "wordless" comics at the time) which was something of a revelation, not to mention just being able to see how Art worked. (Any young, aspiring cartoonist simply doesn't understand the degree of daily despair that goes into the "act itself," so it was a tremendous relief when Art told me what a struggle he still had with it every day; it made me feel as if maybe I wasn't so hopeless after all.)

They also left me, at my request, to sift through all of the Raw rejection files — which, in hindsight, was a mistake, since it sent me into a whole new spiral of self-doubt; nearly every single one of the books they had carefully filed away as "unprintable" seemed so much better than anything I was doing or was capable of doing! In short, I quickly became deeply confused, and spent the rest of the summer in Maine panicking about the strip I was going to do for them, finally so working myself up over the whole thing that I ended up redrawing one I'd already done before — which they were still nothing but nice and grateful for. Anyway, I was sure I'd failed them when the issue was printed, but much to my surprise, Art called up to ask me to contribute again.

Quote 7: Ware: Of course, I panicked about that strip ("I Guess") for a year... especially since I'd promised myself I'd draw something new for them; I knew I couldn't do something anywhere near the caliber of Jerry Moriarty or Mark Beyer or Charles Burns or Gary Panter or Kim Deitch, however — I was still very young, unformed, and was painfully aware of it, but I also knew I had to follow my own ideas and somehow do my best to find my own "voice." It was one of the hardest things I'd ever done, trying to figure out to the best of my abilities at that time what was most "me," and then commit it, in all of its embarrassing detail and stilted self-conscious presentation, to paper. I never talked to Art or Françoise about the strip when I was working on it, mostly because I was so uncertain of my idea and my shaky working methods, which, given the subject, ended up being extremely "traditional," and, I feared, very "un-RAW-like." I knew that I didn't have good enough drawing skills to make something that had the level of originality and finish that I knew everything else in the rest of the magazine would have. On top of that, I'd hardly worked with words for years — which, come to think of it, was really my only advantage, because it all of a sudden I'd become temporarily sensitive to them in a way I never was before.

Anyway, I really, really didn't want to let Art and Françoise down, and the day I finally sent my "pencil roughs" of "I Guess" to Art, I had to stop my car on the way back from Kinko's and put my head on the steering wheel because I was sure what I'd sent them was terrible and they'd hate it and never talk to me again. Of course, I got home and the answering machine already had a message on it; shakily, I pushed the "play" button, and it was Art; his only words were "Chris, this is great! We're going to lead the issue with it." What a relief that was.

The only suggestions Art made about the strip after I sent it were technical, all concerned with readability, and every suggestion came with the tagline: "But don't do it if you don't want to." I wasn't ever asked to change anything in the content of the story or in the presentation at all, and all of the anxiety I felt about working on it was due my own desire to make something that I thought was up to the level of quality that the magazine had set.

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