Friday, 4 June 2010

Let Us Now Praise Famous Misanthropes

Wilson by Dan Clowes, is a terrific, yet much maligned book. It tells a fairly conventional story of a man attempting to reconnect with his past, yet the style and substance belie a sophistication and a misanthropy that only "low-brow culture" will allow.

Wilson is presented in one-page missives. Judgement and opinion are given the front-and-center as this man interacts with others. You either identify with him as an abject observer or as the attacked in nearly every page.

Like Lucio Fulci, this work is the embrace of pop culture in the guise of misanthropy. It seeks to dis-throne the feelin of centered-ness we feel as human beings. It is selfishness unleashed on the world only as much as the world is unleashed on selfishness. The reader will resist identifying with Wilson because he is so much like the reader: self-absorbed and judgmental.

The awkwardness of communication is foregrounded in this work. Judgment in the form of a Sunday funny becomes the trope of an entire story. Not nearly as misanthropic as Johnny Ryan, Wilson hits on the subtleties of being human, his character is inaccessible to most readers yet the story is borderline mundane, allowing a near universal affinity for the character while repulsing most readers.

Wilson is not the greatest thing Dan Clowes has accomplished, but it is one of the greatest accomplishments of comics, and will, like Lucio Fulci, find a middle ground of love/hate as all misanthropic works of genius do.

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