While we all know that Amazon rankings are easily gamed and represent dozens not hundreds of copies sold, it’s worth noting that Chris Ware’s epic Building Stories is selling quite briskly on Amazon,firmly ensconced in the top 100 of all books.

It’s not the only “sorta comic” in the top 100— the new Wimpy Kid, which arrives in November, is at #6, and How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill is #25, proveing that cartoon books about cats may complete the troika of unavoidability with death and taxes.

We don’t mean to in any way trivialize the magnitude of BUILDING STORIES’ artistic achievement—as close as you can come via art to immersion in another person’s existence— by hyping sales success, however it is heartening to see a book this profound and beautiful finding a healthy audience. We suspect it will be under many a Christmas Tree.

And speaking of Chris Ware, he’s doing the interview rounds. Here’s a chat with Calvin Reid, and the Scotland Herald:

"I think early on I decided rightly or wrongly that comics sort of froze up as an artistic medium approximately with the advent of sound motion pictures in 1930s and 1940s. The genre in America solidified into this kind of adventure storytelling, and it wasn't until the 1960s, with cartoonists like Robert Crumb and Kim Deitch and Art Spiegelman, that they reinvented comics as a medium for actual human self-expression. There are other ways of getting at a sense of reality that had more to do with comics than the idea of a camera. Because comics are an inwardly turned thing. It's really a way of getting your memories out on the page. It's almost a way of making dreams real."

The Herald has a companion piece on the Graphic Novel Era which suggests comics have undergone “Hampsteadisation”—and we have no idea what that means. PAGING STEVE MORRIS. The piece is good for rounding up opinions from the UKs burgeoning indie scene of Blank Slate, No Brow and Self Made Hero:

“The audience is receptive to certain material heading more towards the biographical end of the comics spectrum,” he says, “which I find slightly disappointing because my conception of a grown-up comics audience is one that can read any form of comic.” (Then again, the memoristic strand – including titles such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis – is attracting female readers who were never really catered for in the 1980s.)

Penman was one of the founders of Forbidden Planet and still runs the company. He started Blank Slate in 2008 and since then he’s published books by the likes of Oli East, Darryl Cunningham and last year’s excellent portmanteau graphic novel Nelson. Blank Slate doesn’t make money, he says, but that was never the point.

Chris Ware is forging new ground there, too.

Both links via Forbidden Planet International


  1. Hampstead – (v. expensive) North London suburb associated in the UK cultural imaginary since the 1960s with the liberal upper middle classes. Wouldn’t normally imply a positive characterization and as quoted in a Glasgow newspaper might well take on additional overtones of mild contempt (deserved or not) for metropolitan culture.

  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hampstead

    “Hampstead (/ˈhæmpstɪd/ or /-stɛd/), commonly known as Hampstead Village, is an affluent area of London, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) north-west of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden in Inner London, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland. It has some of the most expensive housing in the London area. The village of Hampstead has more millionaires within its boundaries than any other area of the United Kingdom.[1]”

    New York equivalent: The Upper East Side.
    Better equivalent: Georgetown, Washington, DC
    Geek tribe: The New Yorker Crowd

  3. Building is currently #911 on books.com
    #22 among GNs?
    Ah… the second volume of the 48-issue Walking Dead compendium is charting at #20 with pre-orders, so many of the other volumes are selling.

  4. I wonder how many of those pre-ordered copies are from first time readers Ware, versus established ACME fans.

  5. The Herald article on GNs had:

    For that reason Kenny Penman of Blank Slate believes we’ve seen “the Hampsteadisation of comics”, with a concentration on issue-based cartoons.

    “The audience is receptive to certain material heading more towards the biographical end of the comics spectrum,” he says, “which I find slightly disappointing because my conception of a grown-up comics audience is one that can read any form of comic.”

    That wouldn’t necessarily be a negative development, since MAUS was a success, and “issue-based cartoons” stimulate discussion about political and social issues. Since the comics format is excellent for autobiographical material, why not use it for that purpose as opposed to, say, a Regency romance?


  6. Do people really read EW for book reviews?

    Always figured that a blurb from EW on your comic was like a blurb from Maxim on your movie poster.
    It’s what you use when you don’t have anything else.

  7. http://www.zip-codes.com/zip-code-statistics.asp

    2008 Average Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
    10035 (116th-131st) $12.4K
    10029 (96th – 116th) $17.9K
    10128 $141K
    10028 $173K
    10075 $139K
    10021 (THE UES zip code) $277K
    10065 $137K
    10022 (just below Central Park) $252K
    10017 (40th-49th) $213K

    Boho Williamsburg (11211) $17.6K
    Georgetown, DC (20007) $85K

  8. EW is a popular culture magazine, one of the few which covers media consistently, and well.
    Media geekery overlaps with comics. People who watch good television are likely to read good books. If the reviews are trusted, then readers will sample the book.


    It was also serialized in the New York Times magazine, the first regular comic strip to do so. People might remember it from there.

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