I never thought I’d be bringing up Aristotle’s Poetics in connection to comic books, but I’ve never read a comic quite like Mister Wonderful. If you haven’t heard of Aristotle’s Poetics, it was essentially a book that set down in writing what Aristotle believed to be the criteria which drama should be judged by. Mister Wonderful actually meets many of the requirements.
Aristotle developed what he called the “Dramatic Unities,” meaning he believed for a piece of drama to be cohesive, it has to be set within one 24 hour cycle, and should not feature too many characters. He also believed drama had to have an aspect of spectacle–that is, something the viewer wouldn’t normally see in their day to day lives. Mister Wonderful begins with the hero meeting a blind date for coffee, and ends the next morning. Is there spectacle? Yes. But I don’t want to give it away.
Mister Wonderful is an engaging and thoughtful book. It’s also very funny, and not as depressing or bleak as Clowes’ book Wilson. It also presents a very realistic love story, where both characters have to deal with personal issues and insecurities, as well as the memories of their past relationships.
Daniel Clowes’ artwork is always fresh. He is also very versatile in his style–for proof of that, compare this book with Ice Haven or Wilson.
This book also stands out for having cross over appeal. People who hate comics might very well enjoy this one. I love comics and I saw this as something special. One thing I should point out is that the entire graphic novel is pretty short–in more ways than one. The dimensions of the book look a little bit like a Sunday comic. You can most likely read it in less than an hour, but it’s a comic you’ll likely wish to re-read and share with friends.
To go back to old Aristotle for a moment, I’ll say that if I had to guess, he wouldn’t much approve of this book but only because he was one of the many stodgy philosophers who put tragedy as the peak of perfection, and belittled the role of comedy in our lives. Aristotle can keep the Oresteia–I’m fine with Mister Wonderful.
—-I’ve got a NEW book out titled A Rapturous Occasion. It’s a comedy about a dysfunctional family set around the holiday season. It’s available on Amazon as a paperback and as an ebook (the ebook is on sale right now for just $1.50).
If you like Mister Wonderful, you might like Congress of the Animals.