The Acme Novelty Library

 ACNL   (Fantagraphics, 1993-2008)

™ and ©1993 Chris Ware

(From The Slings & Arrows Comic Guide)

Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library is an astounding publication, presenting comics that engage the intellect, and managing from the first issue to do so in an accessible manner, thus succeeding where Raw failed. It’s also arguably the first comic to move the medium forward since the undergrounds of the 1960s, yet keeps a clear eye on the past. Ware employs a regular cast including an archaic representation of a robot, an aged super-hero archetype (sometimes presented as God), a hapless rural character dominated by his father, and Jimmy Corrigan, the smartest kid on Earth. Seen as child, adult and old man, the appellation is a cruelly capricious label, as Corrigan’s strip, described in #5 as “an attempt to accurately counterfeit the mechanism of mundanity’, portrays him as the loneliest and most pitiful person seen in comics. Occupying a spartanly furnished apartment, dreaming of dating his co-workers, his only social interaction is frequent phone calls from his mother. Ware’s very dark humor puts his character through the grinder and an optimistic childhood becomes a lonely adult life punctuated by brief bursts of aspiration, always unfulfilled. The very epitome of the person who’s always worse off than you are, Corrigan’s incessantly depressed existence and hangdog face can’t help but induce laughter. Quimby The Mouse is also remarkable, a 1930s-style cartoon mouse going about his business in an enormous series of intricate, minute panels, encompassed within a far larger design. Echoing the tomfoolery of Krazy Kat, Quimby’s existence is also solitary and troublesome, and is the focus of issues #2 and #4. This all makes Acme Novelty Library sound depressing, when in fact it’s riotously funny if you’re of a cruel-humored disposition.

Ware’s art is astounding. With what is on the surface a clear and simple line, his ability to portray a full range of emotions within this style is remarkable, and his frequent bleak land-and cityscapes, intended to convey isolation, are surprisingly edifying. His skill as a designer is even more impressive, with each issue meticulously pieced together and living up to the novelty aspect of the title. Only the first resembles the traditional comic format. Issues #2 and #4 are each over a foot high, with #7 standing a full 18 inches, while Jimmy Corrigan’s reconciliation with his father in #5 and #6 is presented in two small pocket-sized landscape editions. Issue #3 is a slightly larger portrait variation.

The comics are rounded out with ludicrously formally phrased (and very funny) nonsensical articles and fake ads, and intricately designed cut-out models of the type that might have been presented had there been comics in the Victorian era. This would be mere whimsical window-dressing elsewhere, but the archaic and convoluted language and formality of address bestow a cohesive substance to the entire package. Collections would prove troublesome, and are superfluous when each innovatively designed issue stands alone as a worthy artifact. ~FP

Jump to issue:
  NotesWriterArtist

#1

  12/1/1993
  $3.50
  $7.00
1 copy available for $59.99
 Chris WareChris Ware

#1 (2nd printing)

  12/1/1995
  $3.95
  $3.95
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#1 (3rd printing)

  4/1/1998
  $5.50
  $32.00
1 copy available for $39.99
1st Appearance of Jimmy Corrigan; Winter 1993Chris WareChris Ware

#2

  6/1/1994
  $4.95
  $28.00
No copies available
Quimby the MouseChris WareChris Ware

#2 (2nd printing)

  6/1/1995
  $4.95
  $34.00
No copies available
Quimby the MouseChris WareChris Ware

#2 (3rd printing)

  12/1/1996
  $4.95
  $5.00
No copies available
Quimby the MouseChris WareChris Ware

#3

  9/1/1994
  $3.95
  $29.00
No copies available
Blind ManChris WareChris Ware

#3 (3rd printing)

  12/1/1996
  $3.95
  $3.95
No copies available
Blind ManChris WareChris Ware

#3 (5th printing)

 
  $3.95
  $24.00
1 copy available for $24.99
5th printing; Blind Man; ca. Spring 2001Chris WareChris Ware

#4

  12/1/1994
  $4.95
  $17.00
No copies available
Sparky’s Best Comics and StoriesChris WareChris Ware

#4 (2nd printing)

 
  $4.95
  $5.00
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#5

  3/1/1995
  $3.95
  $18.00
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#6

  9/1/1995
  $3.95
  $21.00
1 copy available for $9.95
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#7

  7/1/1996
  $6.95
  $7.00
No copies available
Book of JokesChris WareChris Ware

#8

  12/1/1996
  $4.75
  $12.00
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#9

  12/1/1997
  $4.50
  $6.50
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#10

  3/1/1998
  $4.95
  $19.00
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#11

  9/1/1998
  $4.50
  $9.50
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#12

  3/1/1999
  $4.50
  $16.00
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#13

  9/1/1999
  $10.95
  $15.00
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#14

  9/1/1999
  $10.95
  $15.00
No copies available
Jimmy CorriganChris WareChris Ware

#15

 
  $10.95
  $12.00
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#16

  1/1/2006
  $15.95
  $16.00
No copies available
Hardcover; Rusty BrownChris WareChris Ware

#16 Hardcover

  1/1/2006
  $15.95
  $16.00
1 copy available for $79.99
Rusty BrownChris WareChris Ware

#17 Hardcover

  12/1/2006
  $16.95
  $16.95
No copies available
Rusty BrownChris WareChris Ware

#18

 
  $15.95
  $16.00
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#18 Hardcover

  1/1/2007
  $17.95
  $17.95
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#18.5

  11/1/2008
  $23.95
  $23.95
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#19

  1/1/2007
  $32.00
  $32.00
No copies available
Cardstock portfolio. Thanksgiving: “Lower East Side" version.Chris WareChris Ware

#20

 
  $15.95
  $16.00
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

#20 Hardcover

  10/1/2008
  $23.95
  $16.00
No copies available
 Chris WareChris Ware

Book #4

 
  $27.50
  $8.00
1 copy available for $8.00
Oversized, hardcoverChris WareChris Ware