There are several “silly” asides and images throughout Ware’s graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. None of them should be taken lightly as the novel is very complex and the author would not have taken the time to illustrate, in great detail, insignificant information. A good example is the large, blue, movie-poster-like frame very early on in the book which gives us good foreshadowing as well as a quick guide as to how to read the novel, similar to the instructions on the inside cover.
Although this image can be easily overlooked, despite its size, it immediately conveys information about the upcoming novel. We are presented with a young Corrigan who appears to have stabbed a full grown man in the neck with a pair of scissors while a woman looks on in horror. At this point in the novel, it makes little sense, but it should tell us what to expect. First of all, the author is not afraid of depicting things we might not expect in a graphic novel. This foreshadows numerous references to suicide, revenge, murder, and even odd death asides like the event with the giant superman. These events will be important in understanding what has happened in the past as well as the mental makeup of the main character. The reader should also quickly note that a boy of that age would likely be with his mother so this likely foreshadows how protective Jimmy is of his mother which helps us read some of the scenes with his father and further complicates his overall avoidance of his mother in the nursing home. Finally, although the image is blue, the man appears to be the superman actor who took advantage of Jimmy’s mom in the first scene of the novel. Again, this says something about his relationship with his mother, but it also solidifies the place of the superman character throughout the novel, specifically that his appearance throughout will be associated with emotional trauma.
After finishing with the actual image, the reader may be tempted to ignore that information under it as it appears to be legal and copyright garbage. However, a closer reading reveals something quite different. “Essentially indefensible, no great revelation is likely to yield from its consumption, though we did try.” This statement almost begs the reader to go on and to make a conscious effort to find the meaning and lessons the author intended or even to find their own. In other words, this is not easy reading, as you may have expected, and it is not “likely” that the reader will understand what the author intended or even find the novel valuable beyond a brief reading. In that regard, it may also have been a weed-out process for those who would not take the novel seriously.
The text goes on to say that the novel was “Aboriginally allowed to soil the pages of Chicago’s New City and The Acme Novelty Library…” amongst other respectable publications. What’s interesting is that not only is it a dead giveaway of the language and tone that will be used in the novel, Ware lives in Chicago and is the author of The Acme Novelty Library! This helps us to understand why Jimmy is written in a self-deprecating fashion and what is ahead for us. It also gives us a different way to read the text if it wasn’t already painfully clear that we should read it as someone with a “flawed” life as the instructions tell us to. It is almost impossible to read this novel to its intended purpose by people who are “sexually confident, attractive go-getters for whom grief is merely an abstraction, or, at worst, an annoyance treatable by expensive medication” (Ware, Jimmy Corrigan General Instructions). However, an interesting note, it seems this would be the author’s final attempt to warn people that won’t get it, but those people likely wouldn’t give the poster a second thought if they read this far at all.
Nothing in a graphic novel is insignificant. This is just a small example of the amount of information the author can cram into a single frame of the novel. Even these easily missed images can give us insight into how to process the novel.