Original Art: The Daniel Clowes Studio Edition

Original Art: Daniel Clowes turns the spotlight on one of the medium’s most dynamic creators. A vital entry of the Fantagraphics Studio Edition series, this volume draws from Clowes’s nearly 30 years of comics art, ranging from his seminal one-man anthology, Eightball (in which Ghost World was originally serialized), to his most recent graphic novel, 2016’s best-selling time travel thriller, Patience.

The edition features over 150 pages of art from 1989–present, each reproduced as an exact facsimile of the original to best showcase every detail of the artist’s cartooning process. Plus new covers, endpapers, and other surprises from Clowes, including five unpublished pages of an abandoned graphic novel and an illustrated glossary of obsolete production techniques used for their original publication. The book also includes several tipped-in pages of clear acetate and vellum to perfectly approximate some of these production processes, making this a one-of-a-kind art object.

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As with all AE format material (Artist’s Editions, Artifact Editions, Gallery Editions, Art Editions, Studio Editions, etc), this is a collection of classic comic material and I’ll be reviewing the book and not the story. For a complete list of all current and announced editions, with review links, please visit our Index. Also, see What is an Artist’s Edition and our Artist Index.

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Fantagraphics knows how to put together a career retrospective of original art, and they have yet another winner with this volume.

The material is a wide ranging look at Clowes from a 1989 Eightball cover to page from 2016’s Patience. The pages are not chronological but organized by title with a mostly chronological order, as material appeared in Eightball and the collected as its own title, such as Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron and Pussy.

Clowes recently had an interview where he discussed this work; it’s well worth a listen. Here are some relevant quotes.

I just had all the scans and I had all the originals so I hired a helper to scan all the pages. It wasn’t like I went out of the way to work on it. I was the conduit for Fantagraphics to get all the stuff.

I tried not to pick stuff for historical value. I tried to pick pages that I thought were interesting or were different from the other pages. I didn’t want it to be the same page over and over. I wanted it to be all over the map from all phases of my career. Pages…I happened to like for whatever reason visually.

With the book I tried to pick those pages that worked on their own that you could maybe look at for longer then it would take to read the page that there might be something more to them.

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Scans are wonderful, with no issues. Every page clear and well presented, with the art mostly centred and page numbers along the bottom outer edges. All blacks show gradients. Pencil lines in the word balloons, but very light and not blue pencil. Lots of paste-ups but little correction fluid.

Pages have aged about the same, light tan to light yellow. Zip-A-Tone has taken on different hues; possibly from different manufacturers? A few margin notes indicating page and reduction percentage. I liked the fingerprint left in graphite at the bottom of one page.

Three acetate overlays and one vellum overlay, all well placed and indicative of Clowes’ diversity of included material.

Clowes did the design himself, and his dry wit comes through clearly and is well appreciated. Full use of the endpapers is a striking and welcome addition: studio tour at the front and biography at the back.

It’s all about the work: the book opens at the table of contents and moves through the art until the colophon at the end. Both pages are designed to look like paste-ups: very nice. No title page or chapter dividers. And the last page isn’t wasted on only the colophon: we’re treated to a glossary of obsolete art production techniques.

Production is excellent: a sewn binding of heavy matte paper stock and thick acetate. Because of the size and page count, some pages would not lay flat, and at this size, there are few ways to read this book outside of laying it on a table. The book comes shrink wrapped in a cardboard case that features a colour sticker showing art, price and UPC. The sticker states “facsimile pages presented exactly as they were drawn, from Eightball and beyond”. Under the price, it states “for advanced collectors only!”.

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A nice change to the naming convention Fantagraphics uses. Title plus the artist’s name studio edition has a nice ring.

This quote doesn’t fit the development or production of this volume, but it’s an interesting take on original art. Tongue in cheek?

Selling artwork is the way I’ve settled into as the main source of income. (The comic) is almost like a catalogue for the original art.

If you’ve come this far you owe it to yourself to listen to this RIYL interview with Clowes.