The Feedback Loop

With intentions of writing on the creative process of Chris Ware, I scoured the internet for interviews with the acclaimed graphic novelist. After listening to a few of his interviews, I decided that, while his process is interesting and unique, I would much rather write on a single statement he made in one of his interviews that I found on YouTube. He juxtaposes the process of writing with the process of cartooning and points to the difficulties of using pictures rather than words. Ware says that he finds cartooning difficult because “the feedback loop becomes that much more intense” when using pictures as opposed to words. This idea stood out to me.

When a person spends a week on a single page and uses pictures as the primary medium to convey meaning, he or she is constantly and inescapably surrounded by their work. The “feedback loop” forces them to be in constant judgement of what they have created and, to Chris Ware, this makes cartooning especially difficult. He uses the analogy of a river with writing saying, “You create the river as you’re rowing it” and contrasts that with his statement on cartooning in which he says, “Cartooning is trying to live in the house as you’re building it.” Writing allows you to move from idea to idea and to get into a flow, while cartooning forces you to conceptualize an entire idea and to remain in judgement of that idea.

Ware’s opinion, while obviously subjective, does point out some interesting challenges of cartooning. I don’t think that he would make a blanket statement that cartooning is more difficult than writing, but anyone who has written knows the natural flow of writing that he references. There is a certain rhythm to the written word which is difficult to attain with full page images. Panels and word balloons were created to deal with this issue, but Ware prefers to use unconventional methods. He says that, “When you have all the tools of visual art at your disposal, why put words into balloons?” (Kannenberg 307).


 Chris Ware attains a rhythm with his unorthodox fusion of images and text. His comics move the reader through the text with the aid of both syntax and page design. The difficulties of building a concept with no flow are not apparent in the finished product. This is especially evident in the Quimby the Mouse comic posted above. With his use of empty, black space and directed text, Ware creates a natural flow with a full page design. Masking the difficulties of one’s work creates a sense of awe and mystery upon first discovering the piece, and Chris Ware achieves this beautifully.


Kannenberg Jr., Gene. “The Comics of Chris Ware.” A Comic Studies Reader. Ed. Jeet Heer, Kent Worchester. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. 306-324. Print.

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One Response to The Feedback Loop

  1. smitra says:

    Loved Chris Ware’s analogies. They are quite insightful and does help to elaborate on the mindset of a cartoonist. It’s funny how I have thought in the past that Chris Ware’s comics have a lot more picture than text. It is now apparent to me that he may have purposefully done so by trying to ‘cartoon’. He sounds like a writer to me who happens to be handy at a drawing board. Great post!

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