Chris Ware was born in 1967 in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was first inspired by reading Peanuts paperbacks in his grandmother’s basement, unlimited access to 1970s television, and a local neighborhood cartoonist who had also worked under his grandfather’s managing editorship at the newspaper the Omaha World-Herald. Ware got his start in published comics, however, while attending the University of Texas in Austin. He drew comics every week, and sometimes on a daily basis, for The Daily Texan, still the country’s largest university newspaper. It was here that Ware began developing such characters as Quimby the Mouse and an early version of Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. In 1987, Ware’s work came to the attention of RAW editor Art Spiegelman (Maus), who invited him to contribute to the distinguished annual comics anthology; Ware’s strips appeared in the last two issues of RAW, released in 1990 and 1991, providing his first extra-Texas exposure to a general intelligent readership.
In 1991 Ware moved to Chicago to pursue a Master’s degree in printmaking at the Art Institute of Chicago, which he did not complete, but the experience did instill in him a deep suspicion of all forms of theory and criticism about art and writing. While in his first year of school he was invited to draw a weekly strip for the alternative weekly New City in May 1992, in which he began the newer incarnation of his semi-autobiographical character, Jimmy Corrigan, and serialization of a story which would take seven years to complete.
In 1994, Fantagraphics Books co-publisher Kim Thompson offered Ware a regular comics series, which Ware accepted, titling it The ACME Novelty Library. Fifteen issues were published by Fantagraphics, with the 96-page, full-color 14th issue finishing “Jimmy Corrigan” in 1999. ACME set the standard next to which regular-sized comics were to be shelved, irritatingly published in a variety of different sizes and formats ranging from digest-sized black-and-white pamphlets to two 11” x 18” full-color horse-chokers. As a result of these experiments, between approximately 1995 to 2001 Ware shamelessly commandeered the comic medium’s general trophies for lettering, coloring, and stapling, winning dozens of so-named Harvey, Eisner and Ignatz Awards, as well as garnering the Angouleme “L’Alph Art” and the elusive Reuben Award for Excellence. In fact, in his otherwise scanty career, Ware has inexplicably seized more awards than anyone in comics history, and might be the only cartoonist in the world to have more awards than he has published comics.
Having been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, the Yale Review, Esquire, and nest, amongst many other periodicals, Ware has received also praise from The New York Times Book Review to ArtForum, and from people as far-ranging as Dave Eggers, David Sedaris, Matt Groening, Rick Moody, Zadie Smith, and his own mother. His original comic pages have been on display in the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City, and were also unaccountably included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial of American Art. His original drawings are represented by three art galleries: the Jack Hanley Gallery in San Francisco, The Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago, and the Adam Baumgold Gallery in New York.
In 2000, Pantheon Books published Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth as a hardcover book, arguably becoming the biggest literary/comics success since Art Spiegelman’s Maus. With over 100,000 copies in print and “Best of the Year” mentions from TIME, The Village Voice Literary Supplement, and Entertainment Weekly, Jimmy Corrigan was also the winner of the 2001 Guardian First Book Award and an American Book Award, distinctions previously awarded only to authors who could not draw.
In 2003 Ware reprinted his early disappointing Quimby the Mouse strips with Fantagraphics Books, as well as released the first volume of his sketchbook facsimile series, The ACME Novelty Datebook, through Drawn and Quarterly. In that same year, he collaborated with his friend and Publc Radio personality Ira Glass to produce “Lost Buildings,” a live slide presentation about Chicago architectural historian Tim Samuelson and Chicago architect Louis Sullivan. In 2004, Ware edited the 13th issue of the literary magazine McSweeney’s as a comics anthology representing his own personal taste, and he continues on as designer for the Fantagraphics Krazy & Ignatz collections and as co-editor, designer, and researcher of the Drawn & Quarterly Gasoline Alley series, Walt and Skeezix. 2005 suffered the hardcover release of The Acme Novelty Library, a collection of Ware’s oversized not-so-funny gag strips, many of which originally appeared in his series’ seventh and fifteenth issues, also published again by Pantheon.
Ware returned after a four-year break to his periodical The ACME Novelty Library with the 16th issue in late 2005, assuming all publishing responsiblities himself in a new, variable, and limited-edition format which will begin serialization of his two currently ongoing graphic novels, Rusty Brown and Building Stories. Late 2007 saw the release of a second volume of The ACME Novelty Datebook as well as a limited-edition portfolio of prints published as The ACME Novelty Library #18.5.