You did NOT just spend nine dollars on six pages of Chris Ware?!

*Jesus Christ. Of course not. I spend five dollars on four pages and read the rest on the stand.

Yes, it’s time once again for all the cool newsstand publications to put out some new Ware work and the crazy fans will get the crazy fever, like they always do. This time around we’ve got a four-page “Situation Comedy” short in “The New Yorker” (the new Winter Fiction issue) and a two-page layered display in the latest “Esquire” (with George Clooney on the cover). Both are drawn in the bubble-bodied style as first seen by many on the cover of Ware’s issue of “McSweeney’s”. There may be other things in these magazines, but don’t hold me to it.

The “New Yorker” piece is a full-color adventure for Dick Public, an average upper middle-class suburban guy who’s naturally seething with jealousy and resentment toward every success of his neighbors. On a quest to gather enough cash to purchase a salmon-colored Mercury-Lincoln Priapus X-1 just like his next-door chum/rival, he runs into a hated nerd from his high school days who’s become a successful fine artist by filling in the upper right corners of huge white canvasses with sketches of cars and penises. Will Dick choose to confront the sins of his youth? No.

It’s one of Ware weaker recent pieces; while it manages some momentarily amusing and subtle comparisons between the title character’s absent-minded sketches and his former torture pal’s culturally-anointed ‘respectable’ Art, there’s still not much to the story that the veteran Ware fan hasn’t seen done. It’s like a less immediately pathetic passive-aggressive collector mentality as seen in “Rusty Brown” crossed with the unfulfilling mass commercialism of “Tales of Tomorrow”, only with less visual lyricism, and topped off with a huge dialogue dump that pontificates on the necessary connections between the abused and the abuser in translating the former’s experiences to art. Actually, there’s far more text in this story than average for Ware; perhaps he began to chafe under space constraints? Still, the visual appeal remains high (I liked the use of shifting background colors in the concluding confrontations, not to mention the shifting space between the characters) and there’s some good low-down gags, like the vehicle in the background of the car dealership that’s literally a penis on wheels (ooh, relating back to the artist character’s work… nice one Chris).

The untitled “Esquire” piece, also in color, is much funnier if highly similar in tone to that “McSweeney’s” cover. It’s a series of diagonal strips, many of them laying atop each other and obscuring portions of whatever’s beneath. The Quixotic life of the comics artist is portrayed on the lower levels as Ware himself leads us through his day on top, showing us all of the wonderful things that cartoonists can do with themselves, like masturbating to Internet pornography (there’s also a wanking gag in the “New Yorker” strip… perhaps Ware is responding to his critics). I sort of wish I bought this one, but I figured that I might find something else I’d like in “The New Yorker”. I’m not familiar at all with “Esquire”.

Oh what am I saying. I’m going to buy it. Then I’ll have them both. I’m sick. I need help