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Jeffrey Brown: Q&A

Posted: Saturday, March 6, 2004
Posted By: Tim O'Shea

Jeffrey Brown’s Be A Man got a major marketing boost the first of March, thanks to Top Shelf. As Top Shelf explained at its website: “Top Shelf Celebrates its 100th Publication with the release of Jeffrey Brown's comic book, Be A Man. To celebrate this milestone event, all web orders through March 15th will get a 15% discount and also get a free copy of Be A Man…” Brown’s latest work is a “self-parody of his ‘ultra-sensitive’ graphic novel, Clumsy. A heaping of in-your-face male chauvinism, over-the-top machismo, and self-involved gratification. For all those jerks who complained that Jeffrey Brown was a sissy, finally you can see him ‘Be a man!”…” According to his bio at Top Shelf, “After growing up in Michigan, a 25 year old Jeffrey Brown moved to Chicago in 2000 to pursue an MFA at the School of the Art Institute. Halfway through the program, he pretty much abandoned painting and started drawing comics seriously. His first self-published book, Clumsy, appeared seemingly out of nowhere to grab attention from both cartoonists and comics fans. Currently known for his autobiographical bittersweet examinations of relationships, Jeffrey's future projects include superhero parody, fiction, gags and whatever else 'he feels like that day.'”

Tim O’Shea: How did Be A Man, an apparent satire of your work, Clumsy, come about?

Jeffrey Brown: Well, a lot of the criticism around Clumsy seemed to deal with not the book, but with me and my behavior. Because I'm too sensitive. And so I was thinking, well, what would I do differently to be more manly exactly? How did these people want me to act? So I just re-wrote some of the stories to kind of work out this frustration, question these people's assumed social constructs of expected behavior and gender roles. Plus, it was funny.

TO: Why is AEIOU described as your "last girlfriend book"? Did you get married, or did the current girlfriend get you to sign a document promising not to do a book about her?

JB: Well I'd need to have another girlfriend before one could make me sign anything...

Actually I just want to get away from that kind of super-focused examination of a relationship. I'm still going to write about girls and relationships I mean, hopefully I'll have more to write about. Just no more whole 200-page books just about girls.

TO: Autobiographical work, by its nature, is understandably often quite personal, sometimes to the point of even making the reader feel uncomfortable...and it's not their life. Are there ever scenes that upon reflection, you revise, because you feel it exposed you too much? Or do you in fact aim to make yourself uncomfortable by revealing as much as possible about yourself in the work?

JB: I try to write outside of myself. I'm not concerned about what I'm saying about me when I'm writing, I'm just concerned about telling these stories, expressing these emotions, conveying these ideas. Afterward I just try not to think about it.

TO: In doing autobiographical work, do you have complete strangers walking up to you, talking to you as if they know you (even though they don't) because they've read your work?

JB: Yeah. Mostly I start to tell someone something and they're like, “Yeah, I know, I read the book”, and I'm like, “oh. Oh yeah.”

TO: How did the website The Holy Consumption (the website you share with fellow storytellers--John Hankiewicz, Paul Hornschemier and Anders Nilsen) come into existence? Do you think the differing art/storytelling styles of each creator allow each of you to gain access to readers you might not otherwise attract (had they not been initially attracted to the site by one of the other creators [and vice versa])?

JB: The Holy Consumption was created by Paul. He wanted a place to showcase the work of these few people who were also friends of his, and be able to sell limited edition books and t-shirts and things you'd normally only find at conventions. The hope is that people come to the site and are introduced to all kinds of work that they might not've found otherwise. And with the Sunday Services it gives us a chance to show a little more, and let readers get peeks into our sketchbooks...

TO: What else is on the creative horizon for 2004?

JB: Well, my superhero book Bighead comes out in August from Top Shelf, and in April I have a story in the second Drawn & Quarterly showcase. I'm working on stories for a few different anthologies. I'm editing this Elfworld anthology. I've got some minis and whatnot I'll put out, and then I want to get to work on some longer books again.


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