The way in which an individual engages with Chris Ware’s work Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid in the World allows him or her to understand or not understand the story being told. A simple reading of the words in the comic boxes is not sufficient to fully grasp all the material being expressed to the reader. Without observing the images for their exquisite details, the reader can miss a lot of useful information and insights to the story. Not only do the images take a strong role in portraying the depth of the story line with more detail, they also leave the reader the opportunity to make their own inferences about different parts of Jimmy Corrigan’s life that are not explicitly told by the story itself.
One such set of images I want to analyze in more detail in this paper is the set of frames where Jimmy is thinking of what it will be like to see his father for the first time. He is sitting on the plane after the woman next to him confronted him about staring at her breasts and he goes into a short panel of different looking guys saying different things to him. In a way, after the three initial greeting ones, they are actually a complete first conversation with Jimmy but with all the guys in succession portraying one person. At first glance the reader notices the eyes are blacked out in all of them. This does not make sense until the second to last panel, where the guy in the yellow shirt says “. . . you’ve got your mother’s eyes, you know . . .” (Ware). From this, the reader can infer Jimmy was probably told by his mother or other relatives that he looks like his father, except that he has his mother’s eyes. So here Jimmy is actually attempting to picture himself at an older age to represent his father, but he leaves the eyes out of it because he simply does not know what color they would be.
This specific scene would not be so influential to the reader if the pictures were not there to help represent what is going through Jimmy’s head. At this point in the story we know that he is going to see his father, however it has not been made as obvious that he has never seen his father. To represent the anxiousness and curiosity going through Jimmy’s head, this scene was added to help the reader understand the situation. From the images we can tell Jimmy really knows nothing about what his father will be like. Each father figure appears to have a defining characteristic. All of them definitely look as though they could be Jimmy at an older age but each one has different clothes or different facial structures from one another.
To the reader this expresses not only that Jimmy really has no idea what his father might look like but it might also give some insight into what Jimmy thinks he might eventually look like. In order to do this, the reader needs to focus on the similarities between all the guys. For example, all their clothes look relatively nice. He does not portray his father as a disgusting slob in any of these frames. There’s a lot the reader can speculate from this small detail. One thing they could infer is that Jimmy believes his father is rather successful because he did not have a family to support and a child to raise. Even farther, the reader could take the crude perspective towards women that is present in Jimmy Corrigan and say the perspective fathers look rather well-off because they did not have wives to keep them from their dreams. It’s a bold assumption to make but does seem to follow along with the book’s ideals.
So much can be analyzed and interpreted from the images present in novel. The storyline is rather sporadic with the random jumps between the real world and Jimmy’s conscious or subconscious thought takeovers. Without the images, the reader would be rather confused about the plot of the story. Not only do the pictures help the story, they also manage to tell a story all on their own, stories that are not directly written in the words. The small section of Jimmy trying to guess what his father looks like expresses this idea very well. Without the pictures, the reader could misunderstand that Jimmy has not seen his father before but they would also miss the opportunity to think about why Jimmy would portray his father with these different characters in his mind.
Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.