Prompt 1: Images in Jimmy Corrigan
Chris Ware’s well received graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth has won numerous awards, including being recognized by Times Magazine “as one of the top 10 English language graphic novels ever written.” A good portion of Jimmy Corrigan lies within character relationships and character development rather than the actual plotline itself. The bulk of the story focuses on the juxtaposition of two running plotlines about Jimmy and his grandfather’s century old story line. Both stories investigate the consequences of missing parental figures. Jimmy Corrigan innately is a difficult piece to read, especially with the constant switching of story lines. Ware keeps his audiences on their toes as he makes abrupt skips while consistently shifting between reality and fantasy. Of course it did not receive such high honors without good reason; Chris Ware takes full advantage of the comic book themed novel by using illustrative nature to enhance the reader’s understanding. The reader is assisted by thousands of colored illustrations and figures that when read quickly in sequence, provide a convincing illusion of life and movement.
Jimmy Corrigan tells the emotional tale of a socially isolated, middle aged man, Jimmy Corrigan, who had grown up with an overbearing mother and an absentee father. He constantly depends on his vivid imagination consisting of his alter ego character the Smartest Kid on Earth, to escape from his grim reality. Chris Ware strategically selects the colors used in each scene to convey certain moods and emotions of the novel. In the opening story lines and the ones pertaining to Jimmy Corrigan’s present day, brighter colors are apparent throughout the background and backdrops. Bright colors are incorporated in the panels where Jimmy’s idol, Superman appears. When he reads the letter written by his father inviting him out to visit during the Thanksgiving break, the panels are full of light greens and blues. Jimmy’s emotions are of course skeptical but mostly this color pattern shows his excitement and interest of finally meeting his father. The light and easy going vibe can be felt within the warm earth tones when Jimmy’s grandfather presents him with breakfast, bacon arranged on the plate to form “HI”. This is an attempt of peace and/or a type of truce from the grumpy old man.
Certain panels and sections are often given a specific hue to set the tone of the scene. Ware uses a bright red color in scenes to express alarm, danger or surprise. Onomatopoeias like “Smack” and “Slap” are outlined in a red box to emphasis their meaning. The use of the flamboyant onomatopoeias act as speech bubbles, they bring life to the words, transitioning the novel into a graphical form of art. Jimmy recounting his grandfather’s story is typically depicted in duller colors such as grays, dark purples, dark blues and browns. These darker colors reflect the bleak moments the grandfather has had with his heartless father. Ware’s writing style, combined with the colors often creates a key map that guides the reader throughout the story. Dull colors correlate to sad, somber moments while light colors show hopes and positivity. The reader can always turn to these simple hints for assistance, seeing how comprehending Jimmy Corrigan requires more effort from the average reader.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth can be interpreted in a handful of different ways. For some, their efforts strive toward the fundamental reward of decoding Ware’s mystery. For others, the read is more about the emotional connection they form with the characters. Jimmy may not be a character we necessarily are, but he’s a character many can relate to. He’s shy, meek and lives through his imagination due to his unsatisfying life, something that many people can speak about. Luckily for us, Ware disguises the bleak and dreary lives of Jimmy and his grandfather with vivid imagery and comical narration. The Chicago Tribune stated, "Jimmy Corrigan pushes the form of comics into an unexpected formal and emotional territory." Each scene is responsible for telling its own story and Chris Ware capitalized on how an image can leave an impact.