Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

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Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth
Creator Chris Ware
Page count 380 pages
Publisher Pantheon Books
ISBN 0-375-71454-5

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth is a 2000 graphic novel by American cartoonist Chris Ware. The story was serialized in the alternative Chicago weekly newspaper New City, and in Ware's comic book Acme Novelty Library (issues 5-6, 8-9, and 11-14) from 1995 to 2000.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Jimmy Corrigan is a meek, lonely middle aged man who meets his father for the first time in the fictional town of Waukosha, Michigan, over Thanksgiving weekend. Jimmy is an awkward and cheerless character with an overbearing mother and a very limited social life. Jimmy attempts to escape his unhappiness via an active imagination that gets him into awkward situations. A parallel story set in the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 shows Jimmy's grandfather as a lonely little boy and his difficult relationship with an abusive father, Jimmy's great grandfather. Another storyline shows Jimmy as a lonesome child of divorce, suggesting that this was Jimmy's "real" childhood, while his "Smartest Kid on Earth" adventures are probably his fantasies.

Autobiographical content[edit]

Elements of the novel appear to be autobiographical, particularly Jimmy's relationship with his father. Ware met his father only once in adulthood—while he was working on this book—and has remarked that his father's attempts at humor and casualness were not unlike those he'd already created for Jimmy's father in the book. However, the author states it is not an account of his personal life.

Storytelling techniques[edit]

The novel uses numerous flashback scenes and parallel storylines. Many pages are devoid of text, and some contain complex iconic diagrams. Notable motifs in Jimmy Corrigan include a robot, a bird, a peach, a miniature horse, and a flawed superhero figure.

Appearances in other Ware works[edit]

In addition to the graphic novel, the character of Jimmy Corrigan has appeared in other Ware comic strips, sometimes as his imaginary child genius character, sometimes as an adult. Corrigan began as a child genius character in Ware's early work, but as Ware continued, the child genius strips appeared less frequently, and increasingly followed Corrigan's sad, adult existence.

Recognition[edit]

Jimmy Corrigan has been lauded by critics.[2][3] The New Yorker cited it as "the first formal masterpiece of (the) medium."[4] It has received numerous awards, including:

Family Guy similarities[edit]

Several commentators, including Ware himself, have noted similarities between Seth MacFarlane's Stewie Griffin character from the animated series Family Guy and Jimmy Corrigan. Ware has remarked, "[The similarities are] a little too coincidental to be simply, well, coincidental."[6] He further stated, "I don't want a book of seven years' worth of my stuff to become available and then be accused of being a rip-off of Family Guy."[6] 20th Century Fox insists that Stewie is an entirely original character.[6] In a 2003 interview, Seth MacFarlane said that he had never seen the comic strip before, described the similarities as "pretty shocking" and said that he could see how Ware would reach that conclusion."[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Varnum, Robin. The Language of Comics: Word and Image. p. 186. Retrieved August 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ book review, The Guardian UK, 21 July 2001
  3. ^ book review, Entertainment Weekly, Sept. 22, 2000
  4. ^ The New Yorker Magazine, Oct. 17, 2005
  5. ^ "Graphic novel wins First Book Award". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). 2001-12-06. Retrieved 4 October 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Ken Tucker (9 July 1999). ""Family Guy" baby may look familiar". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved Jul 10, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Interview with Seth MacFarlane". IGN. Retrieved December 17, 2009.