Mister Wonderful: A Love Story began as a serialized comic strip in The New York Times Magazine, but has now been compiled and supplemented into one single hardbound volume. Made up of a series of strips with the Cinescope shape of a Sunday funny, Daniel Clowes (Ghost World) delivers the story of Marshall, a shlubby middle-aged divorcee making a half-hearted effort for a last chance at love.
Our story begins as Marshall waits for his blind date, Natalie, who is painfully late. With nothing better to do, Marshall continues to wait, moving from coffee to liquor until Natalie finally shows. It takes a quarter of the way through the book for her to arrive, but the entire time the reader is entertained by Marshall’s entertaining, but self-deprecating internal dialog. In fact, a good portion of the spoken words in the story is covered up by Post-it note like thoughts from Marshall. We know Marshall thinks he is bombing, even if it is hard for the reader to judge on his own. What follows is a combination of funny and uncomfortable quips through the get-to-know-you mating ritual between two swans that are probably off their game and out of practice. Over the course of the evening sides of both main characters are revealed that are surprising, especially for a tale on (seemingly) such a relatively small and narrow scale.
The comparison to Sunday funnies is limited to the unique and easy-to-read shape of the book itself. Even though Marshall may have a little Dilbert in him, this story, spanning about 24 hours in total, can go places even Andy Capp wouldn’t dare, and flashbacks that would make Garfield lose sleep. I understand 40 pages were added to this version, which doubles the length from the original story. This also allows for two-page spreads that wouldn’t have been possible in its original serialized form. If you read the original in TNYTM, (like I am sure all the other Sci-Guys did) then you will surely want to revisit this expanded retelling.
As entertaining as Mister Wonderful is, it is a fast read, and the $19.95 cover price is a little hard to swallow. However, who pays cover price these days? Released only a week or so ago, Amazon.com already has new copies selling at about half that, which truly is wonderderful.