David Boring

Daniel Clowes

(Pantheon)

Today, from the sexual and political fantasies of R. Crumb to the opaque baroque stylings of Alan Moore, comics and graphic novels seem wholly independent from outside influence. That's what marginalization does for you: fewer readers, but more freedom.

David Boring is a good example of this contemporary liberation. Daniel Clowes's latest book, which gathers together the serial published in his magazine Eightball, hews to no imposed political mandate, and doesn't even follow what traditionalists would deem logical or classical story structure.

David Boring is a security guard in Chicago. The son of a famous comic book artist, he shares an apartment with his best friend--the lesbian Dot--and spends the rest of his time successfully bedding women whose asses he likes (Boring is a rump fetishist). The book begins in mid-fuck, with Boring revealing to us in word balloons his inner turmoil. Later he meets the callipygian Wanda, gets shot in the head, ends up stranded on an island, has the photos from his secret ass-photo scrapbook published in an academic journal, and finally ends up back on the island, fleeing both the police and a toxic world-destroying cloud.

As an artist, Clowes likes a thin line and spare backgrounds (the cartoonist that Clowes most resembles is, if anybody, Charles Burns). This suits his best work, in which reflective, observant, talkative people wander a denuded suburban landscape, such as his tale of tender teenage girls, the brilliant Ghost World (just turned into a movie by Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, who did Crumb). If Clowes's draftsmanship is sometimes a little stiff (his figures can look like one-dimensional hangman game sketches), he makes up for it in variety. Part diary, part movie, David Boring may not be up to Clowes' best, but his second rate is better than most people's masterpieces.