You’ve probably seen the artwork of Daniel Clowes — perhaps in The New York Times Magazine, or in one of his graphic novels (“Ghost World” being his most famous). A few years ago, a strange thing happened to Clowes — a man entered his mind and wouldn’t leave. So, being a cartoonist, he drew him. Clowes describes how a figment of his imagination became his book, “Wilson.”
It’s fair to say that when you started, there wasn’t much of a graphic novel scene.
Yes, that’s quite the understatement. There were no graphic novels. When I first began, comic book stores only catered to superhero or genre comics. I wanted to do something different than that, yet there was no context to the stuff I wanted to do. But, we [early graphic novelists] kind of began at the same time, and invented this world around us and then actual publishers and actual book stores realized we existed. It happened magically and it’s a miracle.
How did “Wilson” come about?
This was a specific case. I created him because I was challenging myself to write humor comics and this character just popped into my head. So I wrote many strips trying to get to know this character and he became more and more of a real person. And then I started this plot where he was utterly alone in the world and desperate to create a family in the later stages of his life. But then the plot went where Wilson wanted it to go. I didn’t need to impose anything.
What’s your most and least favorite thing about Wilson?
I admire that he speaks the truth, without any attempt to sugarcoat it. I like that he really wants to accept the world. But he’s extremely self-obsessed and speaks not understanding how other people might react. It’s like he has no deference to other people’s feelings.