The Acme Novelty Archive - An Unofficial Chris Ware Database

The King of Persia

The King of Persia


Writing / Essays

By Walt Holcombe.

64 Pages
Accordion Press

Introduction by Ware:

     For some reason, most people seem to think that drawing cartoons is an exciting, fun activity that everyone would love to do if only thet had the "talent." Cartoonists, they believe, are big, jolly fat guys who get up late, stay home all day, smoke cigars, and chortle happily to themselves as picture after picture sparkles effortlessly from their "special pen," brightening everybody's day and making all the kids in the neighborhood proud. See that house over there? That's where the cartoonist lives. C'mon, let's go visit him. Just like that guy on T.V. with the magic marker. Draw, make friends, meet girls.
     Oh, boy! Maybe we could be like him. All we have to do is have a fairly good understanding of the human body, and how it moves, and an ability to place a figure in a convincing setting, and a sense of light and shade, and a knack for recreating conversation and the peculiar rhythyms that are created with its words, gestures, and expressions, and a skill for structuring events so they seem to develop naturally, and an understanding of the deceptions of adult relationships, and an overall empathy for human struggling in general, not to mention the indefinable quality of being able to reduce all these things into a weird little system of symbols and to pattern them on the page in a musical, almost poetic way, as well as a prudence to do all of this tastefully and in a manner that is neither cliched nor insulting. We also have to like sitting alone for hours, staring.
     Sometimes, when I find it impossible to "work", I go through my list of cartoonist friends and try to think of one of them to call who might potentially be more miserable and debilitated by the idea of drawing than I am. Generally, it's somewhat comforting and sometimes even a little inspiring to know that somewhere, someone is worse off. Walt used to come in handy for this.
     We'd talk for awhile, and usually, after the sixth or seventh sentance in our conversation was exchanged, if I was silent long enough, he'd think he'd said something offensive, and then he'd start apologizing, and then if I was really lucky, I could get him to talk about how he hadn't gotten any drawing done, and that he was depressed about it, and then I'd be satisfied.
     Except one day, he actually had gotten work done. It was a story about sixty pages long, and he'd finished about ten pages already. He even said he'd send them to me. Great. I'd love to see them. I hung up, staring.
     In the "early days" of cartooning, every strip had its own, peculiar look; as an essentially new art form, each cartoonist seemed to unconciously re-invent the visual "language" of the comic strip, a phenomenon which is now practically absent. Today, the average cartoonist quietly absorbs the cinematic structures of the 1940's adventure strip as the fundamental "norm" of the form, neither questioning nor altering its melodramatic and insipid strictures. But Walt certainly never had this problem, the majority of his earlier stuff is sometimes so inscrutable it would take a good five minutes of studying to figure out that a picture was actually a glowworm copulating with a five hundred pound woman.
     Walt sent me the pages, along with a letter, explaining that they sucked, and that he was sorry that he'd sent them, and not to say anything about them, because it would be too painful. Of course, they were the farthest thing from sucking, and each successive batch got more and more beautiful. Each page had its own "feel"; the pictures flowed into each other like liquid, and while they were black and white, the whole thing seemed as if it was in vibrant, incandescent color. He had created this completely inviting, sad little world of swirling patterns, weird plant, camels. And complete genuine, too; autobiography, even, for those who like such things. But, most of all, warm and real, an embarrassing romp in the form of a dorky fairy tale. I can't explain it. It feels unique and I really, really like reading it.
     I've never written an introduction before, but I asked Walt if I could for this book. It's a difficult task, especially for someone who's used to hiding behind the cold, stupid voice of irony. But I love this story, and I'm grateful that it's being published, and I'm especially grateful to Walt for having sat alone for hours and hours, staring, doing it.

Chris Ware

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