The cartoon guide to San Francisco

San Francisco was just as gorgeous as I’d hoped. (The picture on the right is of Dolores Park in the Mission District, with a beautiful view of downtown.) The skies were blue (mostly), the weather was beautiful, and the view from the top of my friend’s apartment building couldn’t be beat.

I was in town for CraftCon but had a lot of time to explore the city with my bus pass. I spent time at a beach and marina area near the Golden Gate Bridge, got lost downtown, had tea in  Golden Gate Park and exhausted the Haight and the Mission District.

My plans to see a lot of art museums while I was there got waylaid because it turns out most of them are closed on Mondays, but I did get to visit the Cartoon Art Museum.

The Cartoon Art Museum (655 Mission St., 415/227-8666) has about 6,000 original pieces in its permanent collection, plus seven major exhibitions a year. Of the ones on display when I was there, I especially liked the Bay Area Spotlight on Creig Flessel. The 96-year-old’s work encompasses every major turn in cartooning history, from early and Golden Age books to strips from the ’60s to Playboy illustrations and recent commissions. There’s an air of sophistication even in the drawings printed on pulp.

“Sex and Sensibility: Ten Women Examine the Lunacy of Modern Love” was hit-or-miss. The one-panel gags were often tired, seldomly truly funny. Frequent New Yorker contributor Roz Chast was a bright spot in the exhibit.

San Francisco must have a lot of love for cartoons, I decided after seeing the storefront at 826 Valencia, a writing center for kids disguised as a pirate supply store. On my second trip to the pirate supply store, I was happily surprised to see the top of the building covered with a giant mural by Chris Ware, one of my favorite modern cartoonists.

Ware’s style is schematic, but it’s not cold. One panel often contains more emotional detail than you’d find in an entire issue of any superhero comic book. (I highly recommend “Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth,” or, if you want to read something containing fewer than 380 pages, try “The ACME Novelty Library #16.”)

Here’s a closeup of the mural:

It’s corny, but you know I had to say it: I definitely left my heart in San Francisco.

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One thought on “The cartoon guide to San Francisco

  1. Teresa

    I’m so glad you got to go to the Cartoon Museum! Bummer that not all the exhibits were good. The Chris Ware mural is fabulous; I’ll have to check out the works you recommended.