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‘The Complete Eightball’ (review)

Written and Illustrated by Daniel Clowes
Published by Fantagraphics Books


Daniel Clowes has always been one of those comics creators where I definitely can see his talent. I can see some of his influences from the likes of Wallace Wood and Harvey Kurtzman—two of my personal favorites.

Conversely, I can see his own influence on various young creators who have come along in the 33 years since Eightball originally appeared back in 1989 (which is further back than it seems as though it should be!).

My problem is that I’ve just never cared for his work. ‘Wait! That isn’t quite true. I loved Ghost World, the movie that came out in 2001 based on the strip of the same name that ran in Eightball! Clowes co-wrote the script.

After the movie won me over back in the proverbial day, I gave the comic a try and I loved the Ghost World comics, too! But I still didn’t care for the rest of Clowes’s work.

I know it’s just me, though. Fantagraphics has this fancy new 500+ page collection, The Complete Eightball (issues 1-18). Now was my chance to finally give the man his due and see what all the fuss has always been about, just like with the recent Complete Hate and Complete Weirdo books, both of which I liked and recommended.

Unfortunately, in this case, I liked Ghost World.

A lot. Probably better than before. But that’s it.

Sorry. The artist’s base style is just a turn-off to me. His unique lettering style in the early issues makes the stories hard to read, and when I do read them, they’re filled with spite, vengeance, hopelessness, despair, and sexual perversion.

Now, granted, that’s exactly what the subtitle right there on the contents page of the very first issue promises, but still!

Overall, the book is just a downer.

Even Ghost World isn’t exactly a romp in the park on that score. Having grown up on Crumb, Wilson, and Bode, the sexual perversion doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the general feeling of despair and hopelessness. There’s an almost David-Lynch-style feel to the avant-garde, off-the-wall events in some of the stories, and a Justin Green-style introspection in others.”l I get it. We live in a sick world and in our minds, we’re all sick, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. But 500+ pages of that?,

Again, though, let me emphasize that I concede Eightball’s importance to the comics field and Daniel Clowes’s talent and influence. You might like it.

I just can’t bring myself to recommend The Complete Eightball.


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