Daniel Clowes

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Daniel Clowes
Daniel Clowes at APExpo 2010 7709.jpg
Clowes at the 2010 Alternative Press Expo
Born Daniel Gillespie Clowes
(1961-04-14) April 14, 1961 (age 53)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Known for
Spouse(s) Erika Clowes
Children Charlie

Daniel Gillespie Clowes (born April 14, 1961) is an American cartoonist and screenwriter. Much of Clowes's work first appeared in his comic book Eightball, which anthologized self-contained serialized narratives. These stories have been collected and published as graphic novels, such as Ghost World (1997) and David Boring (2000). His comics in the 21st century have appeared as graphic novels without being serialized. With filmmaker Terry Zwigoff, Clowes adapted Ghost World into a 2001 film, and adapted another Eightball story into film in 2006, Art School Confidential.

Life and career[edit]

Clowes was born in Chicago, Illinois, to an auto mechanic mother and a furniture craftsman father.[1] His mother was Jewish and his father was from a "reserved WASPish Pennsylvania" family.[2][3] In 1979, Clowes finished high school at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York where he earned a BFA. From 1985 to 1989 he contributed both art and stories to Cracked magazine, working extensively on a feature called "The Uggly Family."

Daniel Clowes's Wilson (2010)

In 1985, Clowes wrote his first Lloyd Llewellyn story, which he sent to Fantagraphics' Gary Groth, and his work soon appeared in issue 13 of the Hernandez brothers' Love and Rockets. Lloyd Llewellyn became a comic book series; the six regular issues, published in 1986 and 1987, were followed by a special, The All-New Lloyd Llewellyn in Black and White, in 1988.

In 1989, Fantagraphics published the first issue of his periodic comic collection Eightball. Many of Clowes's serials in Eightball have been collected and released as graphic novels, garnering significant critical acclaim and mainstream sales. The first dozen or so issues of Eightball typically contained a number of short comedic stories featuring absurd characters such as Shamrock Squid and Grip Glutz, along with topical satires such as Art School Confidential. The first extended piece serialized in Eightball is Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. Appearing in issues 1–10, this story features a complex, surrealistic storyline. Later issues have tended to focus on longer narratives, however. Ghost World was released as a collection in 1997 after being serialized in Eightball (issues 11–18). It was adapted by Clowes and Zwigoff into a full-length feature film in 2001; both were nominated for an Academy Award for the screenplay. Issues 19–21 serialized David Boring, which was released as a graphic novel by Pantheon Books.

The last two issues of Eightball, (nos. 22 and 23, "Ice Haven" [2001] and "The Death-Ray" [2004]), were each conceived as an artistically ambitious and self-contained work in an oversized, all-color format. Ice Haven was released in June 2005 by Pantheon in a revised and reformatted hardcover edition.

On September 16, 2007, The New York Times Magazine published the first installment of Mister Wonderful, a serialized graphic novel by Clowes. Clowes described the novel as a "romance";[4] it ran for 20 installments, until mid-January 2008.[5][6] Clowes's most recent graphic novel, Wilson, which did not appear in Eightball, was published by Drawn & Quarterly in May 2010.[7]

Clowes lives in Oakland, California, with his wife Erika and son Charlie. In 2006, after a prolonged health crisis,[8] Clowes underwent open-heart surgery. His latest graphic novel is a collection of his Mister Wonderful strip featuring added content specific to the standalone release of the story.[9][10]

Cultural context[edit]

Clowes's most famous work is associated with the late 1980s and 1990s, a transformational time for alternative comics. Clowes's work was an important part of the explosion in the popularity of this genre and the newfound respect it garnered from critics and academics. Ghost World was among the earliest "literary" comics to be marketed and sold through conventional book stores as a graphic novel (this despite the fact that Clowes has been critical of the term "graphic novel"). His most famous work also coincides temporally with the so-called Generation X, and the post-adolescent aimlessness identified with that movement has remained one of his signature themes. He has led the way for younger comic artists like Adrian Tomine and Craig Thompson who tend to focus on post-adolescent characters and their conflicts. Like his contemporary David Lynch, Clowes is famous for mixing elements of kitsch and the grotesque in his comics, drawn in particular from 1960s pop culture, Mad, and the San Francisco underground comics scene of that era. This juxtaposition of superficial kitsch and horrific subject matter has since become something of a zeitgeist in much visual art, independent film and underground comics themselves.


His work in comics has won him a good deal of recognition, including a nomination for the Comics Buyer's Guide Award for Favorite Writer in 1999. He has won numerous Harvey Awards, including Best Writer in 1997 and 2005, Best Cartoonist in 2002, and Best Single Issue or Story in 1990, 1991, 1998 and 2005. He won the 2011 PEN Award for Graphic Literature.[11]


After group shows, he had a 2003 solo show at the Richard Heller Gallery (Los Angeles). In 2012, Susan Miller curated his first museum retrospective, Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes at the Oakland Museum of California. It features 100 works, including original ink drawings and gouaches for his cartoons, books and The New Yorker covers. The show will later be mounted at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery (Washington DC) and the Wexner Center (Columbus, Ohio), possibly continuing on to Europe and Asia.[12]


Clowes has written two movies based on his comic works, Ghost World and Art School Confidential, both of which were directed by Terry Zwigoff. He has begun work on three proposed film projects.

Ghost World (2001)[edit]

Set in a nondescript American town, Ghost World follows the misadventures of two best friends, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) who detest their high school classmates and delight in mocking others. After graduation they plan on moving in together and avoiding college but instead begin to grow apart as adult alienation takes its toll. The two play a prank on a geeky, old record collector (Steve Buscemi), who quickly becomes Enid's unlikely friend and confidante as her relationship with Rebecca deteriorates.

The movie was nominated for a host of awards,[13] most notably Best Adapted Screenplay for the 2002 Academy Awards.

Art School Confidential (2006)[edit]

The movie is based very loosely on a short story of the same name that appeared in Eightball #7. Art School Confidential follows Jerome (Max Minghella), an art student who dreams of becoming the greatest artist in the world. The movie was not as well received as Ghost World and garnered many poor reviews.

The Death Ray[edit]

In the summer of 2004, Clowes released issue 23 of Eightball, a single-story issue entitled "The Death Ray." In July 2006, Clowes announced that he would be writing a script for The Death Ray, to be produced by Jack Black's Black and White Productions.[14]

On December 1, a press release was sent by Drawn & Quarterly, which stated: "Motion-picture rights to The Death-Ray are in development with Jack Black’s Electric Dynamite Productions, with noted director Chris Milk attached to direct."

Drawn & Quarterly published The Death Ray as a hardcover graphic novel in October 2011.[15]

According to a 2004 review in The Observer, The Death Ray, "with its allusions to US foreign policy and acute observations of teen ennui....displays a genuine affection for the comic form and an urge to deconstruct it" and "reads as a cautionary parable and an acidic rumination on the travails of adolescence."[16]

Master of Space and Time (TBD)[edit]

Clowes and Michel Gondry have discussed collaborating on a film version of Master of Space and Time, a Rudy Rucker novel. Clowes would write the screenplay and Gondry would direct. This project has not advanced beyond the discussion stage.[17]

Untitled Raiders adaptation project (TBD)[edit]

Clowes has been attached to write a screenplay based on the true story of three boys who made a shot-for-shot remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark over the course of 7 years. The project is currently untitled.[18]

Plagiarism by Shia LaBeouf[edit]

In December 2013, Shia LaBeouf's critically acclaimed short film Howard Cantour.com became available online. Soon thereafter, those familiar with indie comics noticed its remarkable resemblance to Justin M. Damiano, a comic Clowes contributed to the 2008 charity anthology The Book of Other People.[19] The short film was then removed by LaBeouf, who claimed that he was not "copying" Clowes, but rather was "inspired" by him and "got lost in the creative process." LaBeouf later issued several apologies on Twitter, writing, "In my excitement and naiveté as an amateur filmmaker, I got lost in the creative process and neglected to follow proper accreditation", and "I deeply regret the manner in which these events have unfolded and want @danielclowes to know that I have a great respect for his work." Clowes responded by saying "The first I ever heard of the film was this morning when someone sent me a link. I've never spoken to or met Mr. LaBeouf ... I actually can't imagine what was going through his mind."[20]

Legal representatives of Clowes also sent a cease-and-desist letter to LaBeouf [21][22] concerning another tweet stating he intended to make a second film plagiarizing Clowes with photos of Patton Oswalt and Seth Rogen underneath, who criticized LaBeouf's behavior publicly.[23]


Selected works[edit]

Clowes at the 2006 San Diego Comic-Con Convention

Comic books[edit]

  • Lloyd Llewellyn #1-#6 (1986–1987) and a special (1988)
  • Eightball #1-#23. #23 was released in June 2004
  • Wilson (2010). Wilson was Clowes's first graphic novel that had not been serialized before being presented in book form.

Collections and graphic novels[edit]

Other appearances[edit]



Commercial work[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.diablomag.com/Diablo-Magazine/April-2012/Meet-Daniel-Clowes/
  2. ^ http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sfmetro/12.07.98/clowes-9847.html
  3. ^ http://forward.com/articles/183148/the-dark-comic-arts-of-daniel-clowes/
  4. ^ "New Daniel Clowes Comic Strip Launches Sunday in NY Times", The Comic Book Bin, 2007-09-13. Retrieved on 2007-09-15.
  5. ^ Clowes, Daniel (February 16, 2008). "Mister Wonderful". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  6. ^ Garner, Dwight. "Stray Questions for: Daniel Clowes". The New York Times Paper Cuts: A Blog About Books, 2007-08-24. Retrieved on 2007-09-15.
  7. ^ Drawn & Quarterly
  8. ^ "The best comics of the ’00s", The Onion A.V. Club, November 24, 2009.
  9. ^ The Comics Journal (ISBN 978-1-56097-984-5), issue 294, Dec. 2008, page 102: In a one-page strip, sent to the magazine as a holiday card, Clowes has his son, Charlie, "looking back at 2006 AD". "Charlie Clowes" says "2006 was quite a year... Daddy had open-heart surgery and mommy had to take care of him while he just sat in a chair for two months, and he still can't even pick me up."
  10. ^ "Interview: Daniel Clowes", The A.V. Club, 2008-01-03.
  11. ^ 2011 PEN Literary Awards Festival Winners
  12. ^ Kino, Carol. "Humanity’s Discomfort, Punctured With a Pen". The New York Times, March 30, 2012.
  13. ^ Ghost World (2001) – Awards and Nominations – Yahoo! Movies
  14. ^ "Clowes pockets 'Eightball'". Variety. July 20, 2006. 
  15. ^ "Clowes’ The Death-Ray hardcover coming from Drawn & Quarterly next fall". Comic Book Resources. December 1, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  16. ^ Thompson, David (September 5, 2004). "With just one puff, he was a superhero Daniel Clowes upends the superhero genre in the latest instalment of the Eightball series, The Death Ray". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2013. 
  17. ^ It's no longer Confidential who is writing Michel Gondry's Master of Time and Space, if you guess you might be Clowes! – Ain't It Cool News: The best in movie, TV, DVD, and co...
  18. ^ IMDB entry, Internet Movie Database, 12-20-2007.
  19. ^ Barrineau, Trey (December 16, 2013). "Shia LaBeouf apologizes for 'copying' film idea". USA Today. 
  20. ^ http://www.buzzfeed.com/jordanzakarin/shia-labeouf-rip-off-daniel-clowes-howard-cantour?bftw
  21. ^ LaBeouf, Shia. "Twitter / thecampaignbook: cease". Twitter. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  22. ^ LaBeouf, Shia. "Twitter / thecampaignbook: &". Twitter. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  23. ^ LaBeouf, Shia. "Twitter / thecampaignbook: Storyboard for my next short...". Twitter. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Everything Looks Better in the Dark – Frank French & Kevn Kinney
  25. ^ Santa Cruz Skateboards
  26. ^ http://www.hypergeek.ca/2011/04/the-cover-to-daniel-clowes-encounter-briefs-as-featured-in-paul.html
  27. ^ The New Yorker, May 24, 2010
  28. ^ Mother Jones: Clowes Encounter: An Interview With Daniel Clowes

External links[edit]