The most recent Mad Magazine (the one with the insurance caveman on the cover) includes a Chris Ware parody among the gags in the “Fundalini Pages” at the beginning of the issue. Mad‘s comics/graphic novel parodies are usually presented in the form of a review, with text above and a (supposed) excerpted page from the work in question below. Here’s the drawing that accompanied the review:
Whoever drummed this up did a pretty good job I think capturing and riffing on some of Ware’s hallmark stylistic and formal devices. One thing, though, struck me as being not as “Chris Ware-esque” as it could be: the architectural scene in the upper left corner (highlighted in the scan above).
The drawing itself looked familiar, and a quick flip through the Jimmy Corrigan book revealed the source image the Mad artist had based his panel on, albeit horizontally flipped and with figures on the street eliminated:
This image has been beautifully executed in technically correct linear perspective, as you can see worked out below:
Filippo Brunelleschi or Albrecht Dürer couldn’t have done it any better. What’s interesting to me, though, is that this sort of mathematically accurate perspective drawing is really not typical of Ware. Unlike most draftsmen as accomplished as Ware, he most often employs “wrong” (perhaps “non-linear” would be a better word?) perspective in his work, drawing objects entirely flat on the picture plane, using overlapping or other visual cues to create visual depth; in isometric perspective, a type of drawing usually reserved for diagrams and technical drawings; or–even odder–with one surface of a structure drawing with one perspective scheme and another surface drawn via an entirely different scheme.
Here are some examples:
Note how here the two surfaces of the house, which–were this an actual house, seen through the human eye–would be receding to vanishing points on the left and right, remain entirely parallel to the horizon and not at an angle to one another. Absent also is any perceived change it the spacing of regularly spaced features (think of how fence posts appear to get closer together the farther away they are) like the windows on the house. The only major device used to create depth of field here is overlapping of elements like the ice truck in front of the house and the bicyclist behind the tree. The whole thing’s flattened out, almost as if were a paper toy that hasn’t been cut out and assembled yet (hmmm….)
Ware very often also employs isometric projection-like drawing when depicting both interior and exteriors. In a true isometric projection the angle between the coordinate axes is 120°–in this example it’s more like 145° or so (72° x 2 is the arc between the blue orthogonal in the drawing and the corresponding red orthogonal to the right). Unlike in the first example, the two surfaces of the structures here are at angles to one another, but–and this is the salient feature of an isometric projection–the orthogonals remain parallel to one another, and would never meet at vanishing points on a horizon line. As with the example above as well, there is no perceived diminishment of scale along the axes. This sort of axonometric spacial representation is seen in early video games as well–and aped by webcomics like Diesel Sweeties.
In this example, Ware has treated each of the two visible surfaces of the structure with a different perspective method. The front surface of the building is drawn almost as if it were in one-point point perspective–as if we were standing directly in front of the building dead-center looking straight at it (or perhaps, in “non-perspective” as above). If this were the case, though, we’d not see any of the side surfaces of the structure. The left side of the building is visible here and gets treated entirely differently; it’s drawn as if it were in standard two point perspective and the viewer were eye level with the curb. It’s interesting to me that Ware has filled that side of the structure entirely with black, since it’d be interesting to see how he would have dealt with rendering windows and the like on that side of the structure. If they were drawn to “obey” the two point setup, they’d fall along those dotted orthogonals shown above. The left-facing surface of the front stairs, which might logically be treated the same as the left surface of the building itself, is done in “non-perspective” as in the first example above.
At some point it might prove interesting to go through Jimmy Corrigan and make note of at what points in the story Ware decides to employ traditional linear perspective, as in the panel aped by the Mad parody. A cursory look indicates to me that these instances are pretty rare (no doubt why I found that panel in the parody image un-Warelike). I’d be willing to bet that an in depth analysis of Ware’s use–and non use–of perspective would reveal that these instances of true linear perspective are utilized by the artist deliberately at certain points in the narrative and for very specific reasons.
Gimme a grant, and I’ll figure it out…