The ACME Novelty Library

Writer(s): Chris Ware
Artist(s): Chris Ware
Publisher: Pantheon
ISBN: 978-0375422959
Price: $27.50
Page count: 108
Year Released: 2005
Status: in print
Original Source: The ACME Novelty Library 7, 15
Other Collected Edition(s): n/a
Genres: fantasy; historical fiction; humor; literature; satire; science fiction; short stories; superheroes
Recommended for Fans Of: The satirical work of Voltaire, the stories of Raymond Carver, or any other work that is mature, well-crafted, and thoroughly depressing
Possible Objectionable Material: violence; nudity; coarse language
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Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
The ACME Novelty Library begins with a satirical study of "Our History of Art," which starts with Pre-Cambrian art and proceeds all the way to the Contemporary Age (though in fact the story covers Ware's speculation on the future of art as well).

The book also contains several short pieces featuring some of Ware's recurring characters, including Big Tex (a dopey farmboy desperate for the love of his father, who hates him utterly), Rocket Sam (a Robinson Crusoe on Mars-type character who builds affectionate robot companions for himself, only to destroy them when they do not live up to his expectations), Rusty Brown (an obnoxious collector of old toys and vintage cereal boxes, etc., who still lives with his mother well into late middle age) and his only friend Chalky White (a slightly more well-adjusted collector--and perhaps the only truly unqualified sympathetic character in Ware's oeuvre--who eventually gets married and has a daughter who, naturally, comes to hate him as much as any rebellious teenager could hate her father), Quimby (an anthropomorphic mouse who tries, and fails, to relive the joys of childhood), and the unnamed character in the "Tales of Tomorrow" strips (which foretell the impersonal and solitary nature of mankind's consumer-based future). There are also several text-based features, including a fictional illustrated history of the ACME Novelty Co., a strip titled "Ruin Your Life: Draw Cartoons and Doom Yourself to Decades of Isolation, Solipsism, and Utter Social Disregard," and another called "Collectors: A Guide."

Finally, The ACME Novelty Library is bookended by an untitled Moebius strip of a story that follows Ware's "Super-Man" character, a slightly feral, overweight pastiche of DC Comics's Superman character (and who has much in common with Rick Veitch's Maximortal). This wordless sequence follows Super-Man's eternal life through the birth and death (and rebirth, ad infinitum) of the universe as he ponders his time on earth and the one true love that he once had and rejected.

My Own 2 Cents
This book is funny, in a "life is a lonely series of bitter disappointments strung together with moments of existential humiliation and terror--isn't that hilarious?" kind of way. In other words, the comedy is about as black as black comedy can get. However, this book is also one of the most beautiful examples of contemporary comic book art available, particularly in its design. Ware takes design very seriously, and every single page in The ACME Novelty Library rewards those who take the time to study them carefully. In this way, the page count is misleading; despite being a slim 108 pages, each page contains at least three times as much content as the average comic book page. Plus, the book is oversized (9" x 15"), making it well worth the price.

Note: The full title of this particular book (perhaps in an effort to distinguish it from Ware's regular ACME Novelty Library series) is The ACME Novelty Library Final Report to Shareholders and Rainy Day Saturday Afternoon Fun Book.