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Letters: Dan Clowes Makes the Contributor Transition

Filed under: Letters & Challenges   Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Fantagraphics honcho Eric Reynolds writes from Seattle:

Hey, I read on your blog about the transition from subject to contributor. Dan Clowes might be another: he was profiled by Tad Friend a few years ago, and has done some commissioned comic strips for the mag. Although he may have actually been a contributor before he was profiled, I’m not certain…

Who’s got the answer? I bet someone does! Here’s a linky sidebar on newyorker.com about Clowes and his work.


Very, very close.

The Friend article on Clowes appeared in the July 30, 2001 issue (technically a “Dept. of Popular Culture,” but close enough).

But the previous autumn, in the November 30, 2000, issue, Clowes illustrated Rodney Rothman’s controversial article “My Fake Job,” which was recently much discussed at radosh.net.

That Rothman piece seems so recent. Clearly, the entire decade thus far is blending together in my mind like a Frappusomething. I’m ready for 2011; doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Although, having finally just watched the Inconvenient Truth that came glued into a copy of the magazine sometime last year, I’m afraid we may all be gulped down by giant jellyfish by then.

‘Contributor’ is a kind of vague definition. The job Martin mentions was an illustration gig, strictly work-for-hire. The role of “illustrator” carries little of the prestige of someone who writes for the mag (although it’s a great assignment nonetheless). Clowes has subsequently written and drawn a few more substantive ‘contributions’ that better reflect the talent that Tad Friend profiles.

Yes, the distinctions are all very subtle. You’re quite right—George Meyer was very much the feature player of his recent “Shouts & Murmurs” piece, whereas in 2000 Clowes by definition was playing a subordinate role to Rothman, the contribution of Clowes signaled only in teeny print at the bottom of the previous page.

What I was going for, though, was a situation where someone gets profiled, “little knowing” that he or she would later assist in the construction of those selfsame pages—Clowes already had a working relationship with The New Yorker when Tad Friend came a-callin’.

Two further points of interest. In the issue featuring “My Fake Job,” the cover was drawn by an obscure Chicagoan named Chris Ware. (Which reminds me—Clowes has yet to do a New Yorker cover. What gives?) And who’s mentioned on the first page of the Friend piece on Clowes? George Meyer.

Nice to meet you at BEA, Eric! I had no idea you were so young and vigorous. How can you run a shoestring comics-publishing empire and not be aged beyond your years? Is this some kind of Dorian Gray situation? Perhaps there’s an Ivan Brunetti drawing of you somewhere that’s in ghastly shape.

Ha! Right back at you, Emily! I can’t imagine how you do everything you do!

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree