He began his career as an “alternative” cartoonist in 1985 with the short-lived comic book series Lloyd Llewellyn, a feature loosely based around the adventures of a private detective which, in its gleeful embrace of the detritus of post-war pop culture (1950s science fiction, bad detective fiction, Russ Meyer movies, EC comics, etc) predated many of the popular art trends of subsequent decades. He ended the series in 1987, anxious to move forward with different types of storytelling.
In 1989, he created the seminal comic book series, Eightball, which has since housed almost his entire body of work. Eightball’s consistent evolution has been remarkable, continually setting new standards for comic art for 17 years. The first among many stories to gain notice were the darkly comic Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, and his savage take on the comics industry, Pussey!. These were followed in the mid-90s by the breakthrough hit Ghost World, the dark, complex magnum opus, David Boring, and an acclaimed short story collection, Caricature. Eightball has earned the artist a large following and amassed multiple Harvey, Eisner and Ignatz Comics Awards (the Oscars, Golden Globes, and ISP awards of the comics industry), more than any other cartoonist during the past 20 years.
In 2001, the adaptation of his graphic novel Ghost World, based on a script by Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff, was released to great acclaim, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and winning the Independent Sprit award, among many others. Their second collaboration, Art School Confidential, written by Clowes and starring John Malkovich and Jim Broadbent, was released in 2006. His latest film, Wilson (based on his graphic novel of the same name), written by Clowes and starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern, was released in 2017.
Clowes was the first cartoonist to be selected for Esquire’s annual fiction issue in 1998. In 1995, he created the much-praised animated video for the Ramones' “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.” His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek and many other magazines. In 2011, Clowes received the PEN Literary Award for Graphic Literature.
He lives in Oakland, California with his wife Erika and son Charles, and their beagle Ella. His most recent books are Patience and The Complete Eightball, a collection of the long out-of-print issues in a slipcased set of two hardcover volumes to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the influential series.