Those unfamiliar with the work of Charles Burns and Chris Ware may still think of graphic novels as a comic book with an inflated ego, the realm of bold faced "WHAM"-s and "POW"-s that accentuate stories rife with characters as two-dimensional as the pages they are drawn on.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as each Ware and Burns have brought unprecedented sensitivity and care to the oft-chastised medium.
Burns is famous for Black Hole, which was released as a serial between 1995 and 2004, and as a complete volume in 2005. Black Hole reads something like the TV series Dawson's Creek, if it had been written and directed by David Cronenburg (director of Scanners and The Fly).
The story centers on a group of high schoolers in suburban Seattle whose typical struggles with romance and identity are made all the more difficult by an infection that leads to bizarre physical mutations.
Burns will visit Bookshop on Wednesday to promote his latest work, The Hive, which is the sequel to his 2010 X-ed Out, which reads like Tin-Tin on a bad acid trip.
Also reading Wednesday night is Chris Ware, one of the most influential cartoonists working in the modern era. Ware's work is most recognizable from his covers and inserts in The New Yorker, but it was his 2000 Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth, which brought Ware into the limelight of the comics world.
Jimmy Corrigan has been called the Ulysses of the comic book. With unprecedented care and precision, Ware's jimmy Corrigan is an elaborate dollhouse universe, complete to the smallest detail, and animated into epic drama by the over-active imagination of a lonely child, alone in his room with the toys.
An emotional world of profound depth emerges like a holograph from Ware's clockwork realism. The story exists on both a micro and a macro scale. The bulk of narrative action moves at the pace of a mundane, everyday life. Eating, working, and the loneliness of modern existence are portrayed in merciless detail. But the vast, intergenerational scope of the story, the surreal dream sequences, and the strange, self-referential activity pamphlets sprinkled throughout the narrative bring a whimsical life to the book unseen an any other medium.
Ware's latest work, Building Stories, is a kind of meta-comic, a box filled with 14 unique works which span a lifetime of struggles, from teenage existential angst to the corrosive regret of old-age.
Wednesday nights presentation is not to be missed, not just for comic-nerds, but also for any self respecting literature-nerds as well. It will be the only joint reading by the two authors during their promotional tours.
The reading will begin at 7 p.m. at Bookshop Santa Cruz.