Staff Review: Wilson by Daniel Clowes

Reviewed by Oscar

Wilson is pretty much a big old loser. He’s single, lonely, bitter, sarcastic, inappropriate. People generally feel awkward around him, when he gets the chance to go near them, that is. He’s also the tragi-comic anti-hero of this new graphic novel, named after him, of course.

Daniel Clowes, whom you might know from earlier works such as the classic Ghost World (also adapted into a successful film starring Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson), is perfectly at home in describing some of the funnier and more touching moments in Wilson’s life. The novel is divided into traditional one-page comic strips, utilising both more stylised comic styles and slightly more realistic ones.

The power of Clowes’s comics lies in the familiarity and verisimilitude of his characters and situations, and the sarcastic, sometimes bleak outlook on life that seeps through it all. Ghost World focused on two teenage girls who criticised and rejected (or at least tried to) the hypocrite and revolting side of life. Wilson however, is what happens when you see all of the negative sides of life, but are somehow unable or unwilling to do anything about it, or deal with it in a constructive way. And, in a sad way, that’s funny.

Wilson is the kind of guy who asks a stranger what kind of job he has, only to tell him or her that it sucks. The kind who rarely truly listens to what others are saying, because he thinks it’s probably drivel anyway. The kind who sends a box of dog poo to his in-laws.

Despite the obvious flaws, there is something recognisable and touching in Wilson’s life. That nagging feeling that he could be a so much better person, if only he tried a little harder. This is what makes Wilson a short but successful graphic novel; its star character is believable as a person, but he is also an image of a side that many of us possess. Clowes shows us in the best possible way – with humour – that we should watch out for him, and try to rise above the disappointments of life.