July 26, 2013 6:49 pm

The Inventory: Chris Ware

‘Actually, I wanted to be a superhero, but things weren’t working out, so I aimed for a low second’
Ware's coat of arms: the mind/body problem, his wife and daughter, a sharp pen and ink©Chris Ware

Ware's coat of arms: the mind/body problem, his wife and daughter, a sharp pen and ink

Chris Ware, 45, is one of the world’s more obtuse (his word) experimental cartoonists. His best-known works include ‘Jimmy Corrigan’ and ‘Building Stories’, published in 2012. A semi-regular contributor to The New Yorker, he occasionally provides the magazine’s cover.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

To be a cartoonist. Actually, to be a superhero, but things weren’t working out, so I aimed for a low second.

Private school or state school? University or straight into work?

Both; I started at a private school (tie, blazer, jocks spitting in my coat pocket) and ended up at a public one, reinvented as a stoner iconoclast. I attended the University of Texas and delivered blood to pay my rent.

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Who was or still is your mentor?

Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly.

How physically fit are you?

As a cartoonist, just getting out of one’s chair counts as exercise, but I supplement with swimming and bicycling.

Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?

I consider ambition unrelated to the body: toiling, probably celibately, on a 15,000-page novel and dying before anyone reads it is 100 per cent success to me, as long as the novel is a masterpiece. I don’t know what talent is.

Have you ever taken an IQ test?

No.

How politically committed are you?

I’m a Democrat who has sent a fair amount of money to Barack Obama but I’m not deliberately occupying anything, other than land thieved from Native Americans.

Do you consider your carbon footprint?

It’d be about a men’s size 16½ [UK 15]. Though I’m a vegetarian I have a profound, almost romantic, relationship with air conditioning.

Do you have more than one home?

No, and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage allows us to stay at the one only on a provisional basis.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

A more reliable memory. Whole years of my life are little more than a few seconds of random neural material. I started keeping an unpublishable comic-strip diary years ago to fix this but I don’t think it’s working.

Chris Ware at home in his 'library'©Seth Kushner

Chris Ware at home in his 'library'

What’s your biggest extravagance?

Knowing that I’ve fallen into a life in which I get to do more or less whatever I’d like, while most of the rest of the world does not. It’s humbling.

What ambitions do you still have?

To finish the other book on which I’ve been working for a decade and to be a nicer person.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

My daughter Clara, for whom I can claim only (very) partial credit.

If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?

Definitely the mind/body problem (an old favourite), my wife and daughter, and a sharp pen so I can defend myself. And ink, but both black and white, because I make a lot of mistakes. My motto would be Tantopere me paenitet (I am so sorry).

What has been your greatest disappointment?

That I’m still just me, despite my efforts.

In what place are you happiest?

At home with my wife and daughter.

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would they think?

Actually, my 20-year-old self is alive and well, and he thinks I’m lazy and capitulating, appalled at the lack of lasting work I’ve done.

If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?

If you include family, country, etc, I don’t know. I suppose I’d somehow try to keep going, or just force-quit the program, since no one would be around to mind.

What drives you on?

Trying to get at the texture of human consciousness and what it feels like to be alive. And then to get beyond that, with the aim of heightening some sense of empathy in a reader who hasn’t been born yet.

Do you believe in assisted suicide?

One of my friends suffered from multiple sclerosis and, though she wished for easier means to end her misery, starved herself. So, yes, I think so.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Of course; after I’m dead, the other few billion people on this planet will almost certainly keep making lots more of themselves. Life is a finite substance; we may trade it back and forth but no one gets to keep any of it.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

I never score.

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‘Jimmy Corrigan’ and ‘Building Stories’ are published by Jonathan Cape

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