Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is praised for its ability to traverse the normal bounds of graphic novels. Some reviews consider the novel the “first formal masterpiece of the medium” and some even describe it as “serious literature.” The novel is also noted for its autobiographical content. In a review which appeared in The Guardian in 2001, Phil Dauost wrote: “What kind of man walks out on his own child? Weak? Unhappy? Heartless? It's a question that nags away at the deserted kid. Was Dad really an out-and-out shit? Perhaps he just wasn't ready for responsibility. Perhaps Mum drove him away. Perhaps he thought everyone would be better off without him. Perhaps...Chris Ware knew the question, but only part of the answer. His father disappeared for 30 years, blipped back into his life with a few phone calls and one uneasy dinner, then stood him up at what would have been their second meeting. Before he could get in touch again - assuming that was even in his mind - he died of a heart attack. As Ware notes here in his postscript, the four or five hours the book takes to read "is almost exactly the total time I ever spent with my father, either in person or on the phone". The novel seems like an intrapersonal journey for Ware as he tries to cope with the abandonment and reunion with his father. The degree of resemblance the novel has to Ware’s life is somewhat obscure, but I none-the-less felt more alienated from the text knowing that it was at least slightly autobiographical. I took this analysis a step further and questioned what Ware’s intended audience was. I wonder how many readers connected with the storyline, how many people felt alienated by the storyline, and what affect this had on each reader’s analysis. On that same line of analysis, the novel seemed to be particularly hostile to women even though the main characters are, for the most part, men, and Jimmy’s mother is only annoyingly present. The hostility to women seems out of line with at least the first part of the plot where we learn of Jimmy’s being abandoned by his father and of the abusiveness of Jimmy’s grandfather. What role do women play in the plot of the novel, and how does this relate to/explain the negative depiction of women?
So far I have enjoyed the experience reading Jimmy Corrigan. It’s refreshing to set my eyes on a type of literature that I have never before experienced. Like Jessica mentioned in her comments, Jimmy Corrigan has deeper messages and meanings behind the images that what first comes to eye. There’s a story line of a neglected and misunderstood man/child. Questions are raised, and points are subtly made throughout the comic. I thought a lot of the points were made in a wonderfully cynical and comical way, besides the points and perception of women. I knew I was in for this within minutes of opening the cover, though. In the “instructions” behind the cover 5. Exam— the very first question of the exam is. 1. You are a. male. b. female. and in fine print below it states, “if b, you may stop. Put down your booklet. All others continue.”I read this to one of my girl friends and she told me, just don’t read it and say you took the exam up to question 2. Maybe I should have, but I continued to read on….In all honesty I was a little offended by the way women are portrayed in this book. Jimmy’s father and grandfather portray men as such animals toward women, and portraying women as nothing more than a spectacle and a item purposed only for sexual favors. I understand that this is a point that the book clearly wants to make but I have some questions regarding such. What is Ware’s personal perspective of women? Did he think the exam in the beginning of the book as a funny joke to introduce the role of women in his comic or just a disclaimer so he couldn’t be held accountable for the crudity of women? I hope something comes of the women figures by the end of the book, or I will probably find myself a little at disgust, and disappointment with the comic.
Around page 80, there is a sequence in which the child (Jimmy's grandfather?) tries to sneak a handful of sugar while his father is distracted. Unfortunately, he finds that there are multiple dead flies in the sugar and spits it out.There are two different significant meanings I can see in this scene. The first is that he does not steal a peach, which he has in his hands, he goes straight for the sugar. Peaches are sweet and juicy, enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, but the child chooses the sugar instead. He goes straight for the largest reward.The other meaning I can find in this scene is that in something sweet, he finds something disgusting. He can't enjoy his extremely sweet snack because it is laced with something that most people would not want to eat. From what we have seen up to this point, the child's life is filled with horrible things. His father is mean and abusive, his grandmother is sick, and he is in absence of a mother. His life is anything but sweet. And when he tries to satisfy himself with a large dosage of sweetness, it only makes him sick.These lessons also seem to relate to Jimmy's life. He wants to find something sweet in meeting his father, but is met with disgust. This scene especially helps me understand the graphic novel as a whole. It makes me wonder if the rest of the scenes with the child are related to Jimmy's life and the main story being told.
A redundancy I noticed through the first half of JC was the importance of meals. Every meal had a particular significance in the graphic novel, and Jimmy ate each (to my memory) with another individual, or at least attempted to. It cannot be ignored that Ware is using a common literary tool of meals representing some kind of communion. Inspecting some of the more important communions helps to understand Jimmy and the book more completelyOne important attempted meal to note was around pg.15 when he called Peggy with the obvious intent of inviting her for a dinner of canned soup. This reinforces the established knowledge that Jimmy wishes to create a bond with Peggy, but doesn’t have the capability. The soup dinner is as impressive as his ability to talk to women, wholly absent. The next notable communion is Jimmy’s first communion with his father. Interestingly, the only continuous dialogue, which might be a stretch calling it dialogue, between the men is about women. The meal itself should also be noted; it is fast food. It’s a brief, cheap communion noting the very insignificant relationship between the father and son. The last major communion I want to bring up is Jimmy’s second meal with his father at the diner. Still a cheap communion, but it is a little better than a McCommunion. The most interesting part of this meal is when he sneaks off to call his mother. It is implied that Jimmy is blowing off Thanksgiving dinner (the pinnacle of Communions for the non-religious American) with his mother, the person who care the most about him, for a hope to learn anything about his father.
I was really surprised about how “jumpy” the comic was. Most comics read like a story-board, where each new panel leads clearly from the previous one, and any change in scene (time, place, even if it’s imaginary) are usually marked, noted, or have the thought bubbles around it. Jimmy Corrigan mixes dream states, location changes, and even era changes seamlessly, and requires the reader to keep up. There is also a lack of context, I found. After reading from Jimmy’s perspective for a while, the jump into the past, along with the new names and characters and relationships was jarring, and I found myself struggling for a few pages to make sense of the new characters. The author’s description of the text being “stream of consciousness” within the actual comic was very appropriate.One thing I’m really uncertain of is the title, and why it’s repeated constantly. Jimmy Corrigan is too old to qualify as a “kid”, and from the comic, he doesn’t seem overly intelligent, and yet, the author constantly reminds the reader of the same thing, every few pages. I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be sarcastic, as if Ware is insulting the main character, or if it was foreshadowing of Jimmy overcoming the sadness in his life. The repeated metaphorical deaths of Superman dying were poignant, if a bit overdone. It shows up multiple times, each time in the sight of Jimmy, who had just gone through an emotionally trying scene. I can’t decide if each of Superman’s falls are metaphoric examples of Jimmy failing, or a more general thought on being let down by people that are supposed to remain resolute.
Something interesting about the style of Jimmy Corrigan is how it is artistically simple line drawing and flat colors but trying to portray the smallest textures of the world. I think one instance that I noticed that in is when Jimmy is in the doctor's office and he occasionally grabs the paper on the examination table and it makes a crinkling noise. However, most of the book seems to try to capture reality. Brands like Dairy Queen, Coke and McDonald's won't be changed, they'll be left where we expect them to be.Another aspect of the artistic style speaks to Jimmy's view of the world is that almost nobody's face is visible. Most of the faces visible are male Corrigans (and the superman guy in the beginning), while other family members occasionally appear in focus, but faces of the other members of society aren't shown at all.
While Jimmy Corrigan at a glance appears to be like any other graphic novel, the format and flow of the panels is unique and inconsistent. For the first few pages, the panels are oriented “portrait” style which transition to “landscape” and remain that way for the most part for the rest of the first half. Additionally, the framing of these panels is sometimes switched. Around page 20, there are a few pages that incorporate a blue-ish/purple background with a black border, then a light yellow after that. The panels then go back to the standard black framed quadrangles on a white background. Maybe this is to emphasize the dream-like state. This happens again around page 50 when the superhero picks up and drops the house with Jimmy in it. The panels have a background and decorative borders, the last of this sequence being a theater-style stage. Again, this is presumed to be a dream of his. The dreams are not only the scenes where the picture exceeds the traditional panel structure, but in all the cases that it does, the scenes are of his dreams.Another page I want to address is page 85(ish), the peach-toned summary page. This was a very interesting pause in the story, as it simplified the sporadic nature of the previous events into a streamlined, linear, and logical timeline. In this timeline however, Jimmy is only depicted as a small child. Why is he shown in this almost “cutsie” way in the summary when leading up to this point, he has been shown as an adult dealing with very adult (even crude and depressing) topics? Does this have to do with the repeated image/logo of “Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on earth” as Tom talked about in his comment?
I also noticed how jumpy the story is, making it hard to distinguish reality from fantasy. It isn't linear. Also, I'm curious about the use of repetition. Certain objects and ideas recur throughout the story, but their meaning isn't exactly clear (e.g. food, peaches, and the "dream-robot"). Obviously, something from Jimmy's past is haunting his present, likely something to do with his parents. The "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth" signs/headlines that appear throughout the comic are interesting too. I wonder what their purpose is - do they serve to remind the reader of Jimmy's troubled past or note a moment in which it is uncertain whether the sequence is reality or fantasy? Overall, the comic seems to be a mix of Jimmy's awkward sad reality and his daydreams in which his life is more meaningful and exciting, if somewhat odd.
I didn't know what to expect from Jimmy Corrigan when I started reading it. The only graphic novel I had ever read before it was The Walking Dead and they are not very similar at all. Jimmy Corrigan's story line is very sporadic and I found it difficult to follow at times, even with the pictures to help guide me. One such part for me was the random scene with the robot that seemingly came out of nowhere and disappeared as abruptly as it started. After reading for a while I started to get the hang of the random shifts and what they meant and the rest of the reading became quite entertaining. His use of crude humor caught me by surprise but after learning that there is some autobiographical content in the story, I assumed he was simply portraying his father as he was. As for the story itself, I think Ware does a pretty good job at expressing things the way they really are. Random memories or thoughts popping into a person's consciousness and taking them over for a little bit while life goes on around them is something that happens to everyone. One scene I can't seem to get out of my head after the reading is the one where the superman guy jumps off the roof while Jimmy is talking to his mom on the phone. This is a depressing scene right in the beginning of the novel and Jimmy seems to move past it relatively easily. I'm left wondering why this is even part of the story. Did Ware experience a situation similar to this or is he trying to portray something else by it?
I found Jimmy Corrigan interesting at times, but I can’t help but feel pretty sorry for the guy, too. His lack of confidence, missing father figure, and various other “awkward” moments really make me feel bad for this character. When I wasn’t pitying Jimmy I found the actual story itself somewhat too choppy and often felt like he must be suffering from schizophrenia by the way the story jumped from some very dark imaginations to how he frequently was mumbling or kind of incoherent at times. I realize the use of flashbacks was prevalent, but it jumped around too much for my liking. I also have to note the fact that my first impressions were ones which make me question whether or not Chris Ware was just constructing a satire or has an issue with the female sex. He constantly casted women in a negative light, like when Jimmy seems to constantly want to avoid his mother’s phone calls or when Jimmy’s dad says some derogatory things about the woman at the fast food place.
Honestly, I didn't like Jimmy Corrigan as much as I thought I would. Initially, I was looking forward to a change of pace in our literature, though I did enjoy a lot of chapter 9 from Marcuse, but I felt really let down by Jimmy Corrigan. I think a lot of it had to do with how the story line is presented. I was expecting a straight through story like a normal comic, just with more depth. The recurring use of huge transitions in time over a matter of a page or a few panes left me wondering why the story was set up this way. I enjoyed a lot of the daydreams and full dreams of Jimmy throughout, since most of them were funny, but I didn't get a strong sense of why it was set up like it was. I could usually distinguish between these different time moments and the overall story, but I found them to be more of a nuisance than helpful when I was reading.Do the repetitions and transitions of time have anything to do with the joke of the title? Though Jimmy Corrigan is presented as an adult, but he acts like a kid or an extremely passive adult, who is essentially treated like a kid by other adults. His naive and scatter brained nature and recurring actions of always being on the phone with his mom, eating captain crunch cereal, doing things with diminished logic or common sense, make it seem like he is more of a kid trapped in an adult's body because he was never given the full opportunity to grow up on his own.
After playing Portal I was relieved. I expected that for the rest of the semester I'd be able to 'fully grasp and understand' everything else we encountered in this course (as per novels). To my surprise, I was too excited too soon. Quickly after purchasing Jimmy Corrigan and reading a few pages, I realized it was almost more confusing and mind bending than Portal, for me. In all honesty, I've never read a comic book before and I never anticipated them to be structured in such...chaos and confusion; regardless, I trekked on. What struck me most was not just the fast pace but the intensity of the graphic novel. Even after being a decent way through, the part with the 'superhero' suicide really stuck with me. Only being captured in two pictures, the death really alarmed me. Nevertheless, Jimmy Corrigan seems to be unraveling into some weird mind cluster that teeters on the bridge of reality and fantasy.
What really struck me as interesting in Jimmy Corrigan is how the complete faces of almost all of the characters are never seen. The only exceptions to this are Jimmy Corrigan himself and his father. Why do you think Chris Ware chose to do this? I think it partially has to do with the theme of identity. It seems to me, at least, that Jimmy struggles a little bit with who he is. He is not very confident, has trouble talking to women, and very often gets caught up in his fantasies. Sometimes the fantasy would come on so suddenly that I began to question if it was another of his fantasies or if it was his reality. Jimmy himself doesn't know what is going on, so how could he truly know himself? I also thought it was interesting how when Jimmy is looking for his father, there is a page with many different men claiming they are Jimmy's father. All of their faces are shown, but their eyes are blacked out. Why do you think Ware chose to do this? Do you think it is representational of Jimmy's obliviousness to the appearance of his father? Do you think its Jimmy's obliviousness to who his father is as a person at all? And why is it that when Jimmy's father comes into the picture that we can see his face? Do you think Jimmy's father helps Jimmy to find his identity, since knowing who his father is seems to complete his life a little more? Do you think it was a wise decision to not include faces? Would you have made this move had this been your comic book?
It's clear from the get go that Jimmy Corrigan wants your time. Ware describes several types of downtime such as "a snack break at a particularly demeaning or undignified job, or during public conveyance from employment to home when the cramped discourse of one's companions is decidedly not desired, or while tarrying in one of the countless 'waiting rooms' in which we waste the accrued hours of our otherwise relatively short and mean lives. We may read a bit while a form is being processed, or while a name is waiting to be called, or while a loved one is wasting away". These moments in time appear to seem useless to Ware, as his book is the perfect way to remedy them.Marcuese on the other hand, might say that this 'down time' Ware is describing is our end goal. If efficiency can be lifted to such a level that we have essentially 'all the time in the world' to spend on leisure, society would hail the victory. To truly appreciate Jimmy Corrigan, one must dedicate stupendous amounts of time to it, the kind of time that the majority of Americans simply do not have to spare. In Marcuse's world, productive leisure time could afford us the opportunities to decipher Jimmy Corrigan with impeccable precision. It is in this way that, though their views may at first seem conflicting, Ware and Marcuse both have similar ideas of downtime's advantages and exactly what we should be doing with it.
After reading through a good bit of the novel Jimmy Corrigan, I kind of felt uninterested and bored. Since my younger days I never really got into comic books so that may play apart in why I’m not as amused as other people would be. Not only is it cause it’s a comic, but the character himself is boring as well. It’s almost as if Jimmy Corrigan is lonely, emotional, and just sad all in one big nut-shell. Reasons to believe that he is like that is by him sitting in hospital waiting rooms, diners, and even offices when flipping from panel to panel in the comic strips. I don’t think the author did a spectacular job in catching my attention through the beginning of this novel but I know more than likely it’s going to get much better.
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