Monday, 26 April 2010

Interview: Jeffrey Brown ("Undeleted Scenes", 2010)


As one of the very first cartoonists we reviewed on the blog, we are excited to publish the following interview with Chicago-based comic creator Jeffrey Brown. With his new collection of previously published and unpublished material alike, Undeleted Scenes, on the horizon from Top Shelf, we invited him to talk about such eclectic subjects as the book itself, his thoughts on autobiographical comics, his recent work with Marvel, his future projects and big burly men fighting. Read onwards for all this and excerpts from the book, including a detailed guide on how to get totally wasted watching David Lynch's Dune.

Page 5: Intoduction to Autobiography

Undeleted Scenes collects a lot of your previously published shorter material like Be a Man, Feeble Attempts and Minisulk. Please tell us about the decisions behind releasing this collection.

In a way this was the idea I had in mind for the collection that became Feeble Attempts, but because of issues with formatting some of the stories, and being unable to figure out what to include or not include, I ended up making that book much smaller. I guess the nicest thing about this book is that it's a tighter package, especially at comic conventions where all the different books of mine with different sizes started making it difficult to display things. Mostly it's just nice to have all that material in one place.

You've expressed that you've said most of what you have to say with the autobiographical form. Is Undeleted Scenes part of a cathartic purge to get the format out of your system?

Only a tiny bit - the "Pregnant Pause" story was something I wanted to write, but I think this book was more about taking a lot of the older autobiographical material and putting it into a new context where the stories can inform each other and not seem so unrelated just because of the different publications they originally appeared in.

Page 272: Pregnant Pause (originally published in Galago)

In a couple of interviews, you've referenced your hope that all of your different autobiographical books merge together to create a more complete picture of you. Literally the merging of several stories, do you think that Undeleted Scenes gives the most objective view of yourself in a single book?

I think Funny Misshapen Body and Little Things may be more accurate, if only because they were written more recently. Much of the material in Undeleted Scenes is older, and so written when I didn't have quite as much perspective on both myself and my work.

What are your favourite pieces of work in the collection?

I think the one page story "Construction" is one of my favorites. I'm also happy with how the "Pregnant Pause" story turned out. Other stories, like "Don't Look Them In The Eye" I have mixed feelings about, because I would write it so differently now, but once a story is done I tend to 'put it in the drawer' and focus on something new.

Page 314: "Construction" (originally published in Feeble Attempts)

Autobiography is often labelled as a genre, but, especially in comics, it's obvious that there's a lot of scope for different approaches. How would you describe your own method in comparison to others?

I think there's two main schools of autobiography - those who will alter or change things for the sake of making the story say something specific, and those who try to present things as truly as they possibly can. I fall into the latter category, but at the same time, I work only from memory and so there's a certain fallibility to the way I work. I'm aware that what I've written may not be objectively accurate, but it's always as true and honest as I can make it.

I gave my mother a copy of Cat Getting Out of a Bag and Other Observations as a sneaky way to get her more interested in comics. Having several books published by major publishers, what are your thoughts on your work crossing over into a wider audience in this way?

As an artist, I think the goal is usually to have some sort of effect on the world - to make it a better place, or to have people understand life better. The more people I can have this dialogue with, the better, and I always strive for a larger audience, even though I try to focus on quality of interaction rather than quantity. Of course, I'm also trying to make a living as an artist, and avoid having a day job again, so anytime my books sell better is good for me.

Page 26: "Feeble Attempts 1987" (originally published in Feeble Attempts)

In the past, you made your childhood dream of drawing for Marvel very public. Previously passing on your Wolverine story, "Dying Time", the 'house of ideas' finally included your work in Strange Tales last year. How did your contribution, "Fantastic Fools Day", come about?

I had friends who had been bugging people at Marvel to include me, and even Heidi MacDonald, who writes about comics for Publisher's Weekly, had mentioned me to Strange Tales editor Jody LeHeup. It turned out that someone wasn't going to have their two page contribution finished for the third issue in time, so Jody asked me if I'd be able to do something in time, and naturally I jumped at the chance. 

Let's not forget that you've also appeared in a DC comic, via a "cameo" in Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth. Are you planning on repaying the favour?

I will be returning the favor at some point. I'm still planning my revenge...

Page 59: "Why I Can't Eat Ramen Noodles" (originally published in Tilt 2) 

With drawing for Marvel officially in the bag, what's next on your "to-do" list? What can you tell us about the highly-anticipated (especially by us) upcoming "Over the Top" story in Sulk?

Right now I'm working to finish the second Incredible Change-Bots book, hopefully to come out by the end of 2010. The "Above The Top" story is all plotted out, and I just need to draw it, but drawing it got pushed back for various reasons. Which is fine, because it's given me more time to think about the story and plan it in my head. The movie Over The Top is so funny by itself already, so I've needed to figure out how to make the story work on other levels. I'd still like to draw more stories for Marvel someday, too.

Page 310: Action TV Show (originally published in Minisulk)

You've mentioned that you want to do more of a traditional superhero comic. Is your superhero/ sci-fi collaboration with Tim Seely still going ahead? Can you tell us more about that project?

Yeah, Tim and I are still going to work together, I just need to sit down and start writing. I keep putting it off. We may shelve the sci-fi story and do a horror piece I've had in mind for a while instead. My plan is to finally get to work on one of those projects this summer.

Hyper-important final question: Who are your favourite mixed martial artists, and who would feature in your dream-match?

Kazushi Sakuraba is my all time favorite. Amongst the fighters now I like Clay Guida, Fedor, GSP, Andrei Arlovski, Forrest Griffin. My dream matches now would I guess be Brock Lesnar versus Fedor, and GSP versus Anderson Silva.

 Page 305: Test Your Might (originally published in Minisulk)

A big undeleted thank you goes to Jeffrey for taking the time to take part in this interview with us. For  those of you that  might be new to his work, Undeleted Scenes is a great place to start getting to know his subtle  brand of autobiographical romance and heartbreak and not so subtle affectionate pop-culture parody. For all you prexisting Brown fans out there, the book is an essential collection of many of his shorter works, including several previously unpublished gems. 352 pages long, it's the perfect way to keep your filthy Jeffrey Brown addiction at bay until the much-awaited  Incredible Change-Bots 2 and Sulk #4. One of the friendliest men in comics today, shame on you if you don't go preorder it immediately.


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