A Graphic Novel That Truly Breaks New Ground

We think this is so freaking cool:

Inside Chris Ware’s Graphic-Novel-in-a-Box – by Kat Ward

“It’s got a certain degree of chutzpah and pretension to it,” says cartoonist Chris Ware of his latest work, Building Stories, a complex, multipart graphic novel whose contents fill an entire box and wind their way through fourteen different elements, including pamphlets, mini-comics, magazines, newspapers, and a Little Golden Book. “The whole book is supposed to be a dream object,” explains Ware. “I wanted the box to be a beautiful thing and to have that promise to it that a gift has on Christmas morning.”

Building Stories began as a single comic strip—the “Winter” page, printed here on a foldout piece of cardboard—which Ware drew in 2001 for a Swiss magazine. “I did three more to complete the seasons and from there got interested in the characters,” he says. “It just sort of grew unreasonably from that point.”

The interweaving, chronologically inventive (there is, very intentionally, no official start or end to the story) narrative follows the inhabitants of a three-story apartment building. “It was sort of a petri dish or incubation setting. It’s supposed to kind of hint at the ideas and imaginings that one might have about one’s neighbors.” The building, an anthropomorphized character in its own right, is an amalgamation of ones in which Ware lived in Chicago, where he moved to attend grad school in printmaking at the Art Institute and has stayed ever since. The story focuses primarily on the renter of the third floor, a lonely woman with an amputated leg—though Ware devotes at least one element of the package to each of the building’s occupants.

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