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Follow-Up Question with Cartoonist Daniel Clowes

Oakland Museum highlights the brilliant East Bay artist and writer's work in new exhibition

Fans of the brilliant comic book author/artist Daniel Clowes will be over the moon with the new exhibiton, Modern Cartoonist: the Art of Daniel Clowes at the Oakland Museum of California. The show opened this weekend and runs through August 12.

The exhibit allows for a new way to examine Clowes' work, by displaying his original drawings on the wall. Viewers will notice fascinating details (corrections, brush strokes, etc.) that don't appear in printed form. I've walked thorugh the exhibit twice already and am looking forward to another visit.

I wrote a lengthy profile on Clowes, a longtime Oakland resident, in the April issue of Diablo, but forgot to ask him a question about a Tri-Valley reference in his book, The Death-Ray. The book, which has been optioned for film development by actor/producer Jack Black, is a deconstruction of superhero comics, told through the eyes of a lonely and shy Chicago teenager named Andy. Andy writes letters to his "girlfriend," a mysterious, distant girl named Dusty, who lives in Livermore, CA. At the press preview for Modern Cartoonist, I asked the artist why he picked this Tri-Valley town for Andy's unrequited crush to reside.

"When I was nine-years-old, my grandfather became sick with cancer, and I was sent to Livermore for the summer. My uncle worked at the Lawrence Livermore Lab at the time," says Clowes, who grew up in Chicago's south side. "It was the summer of 1969—the summer of the moon landing. I watched the moon landing on a little black and white TV in Livermore."

Clowes said that his first East Bay Area experience was an awkward one. "I was this kid from the city, and had never been in the suburbs. I remmeber kids making fun of me because I did not have a bike," he says, laughing. "I also remember that we never left Livermore that entire summer, except once, to go to an Oakland A's game. We never went into San Francisco."

And who was "Dusty"?

"She was a girl in Livermore who I had a crush on, but I never told her," says Clowes in his Oakland studio, photo by Terry LorantClowes.

So, memo to Dusty: If you're still living in the area, make sure to check out Daniel Clowes' new exhibit at the Oakland Museum. That shy kid from Chicago turned out to be a pretty fantastic artist.