Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The One-Panel Critics: Dan Clowes's Wilson

Speaking of Dan Clowes and his new book...

I enjoyed Wilson, which I read on the day of its release. It's got an unusual pace. It's constructed of single-page comic strips, some of which are separated by years of intervening time, and some of which happen indefinite hours or moments apart. Assembling these disjunct moments in the narrative is a big part of reading and understanding Wilson.

But one page, and really one panel in particular, stood out to me on a personal level.

Maybe it's because I've been reading with great interest James Sturm's column for Slate about quitting the internet cold turkey, or maybe it's because I'm becoming increasingly self-conscious about the time I spend consuming rather than producing in front of this little screen.

But when Wilson—misanthropic enough to puncture any social piety, but also repugnant enough that we can't follow him in all of his criticisms—surfs the internet ...

Well, this one put a dagger of ice through my withered heart.

And then I decided to blog about it.

Even taking the panel out of context, you can see the stasis in Wilson's posture, the gravity bending his pipecleaner arms and his hunched-over back. From this angle, you can see how hopelessly small the Powerbook is, and how clownish his features (and his feet) have become.

Taking the panel in its context, we see Wilson almost totally static, with small changes of hand position from panel to panel. Wilson's not a very active character, but this sequence embodies the combination of inertia and disdain that characterizes so much of our online universe. (By hating things, and merely rejecting them, we never have to reflect on ourselves or to change.)

Here are the third and fourth panels from this sequence, so you can see what I mean.

Mike and I have been talking about doing a series of "one-panel critics" posts. Maybe there will be another such post shortly.

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