Jeffrey Brown Talks About Undeleted Scenes, Cats and More!

Jeffrey Brown Undeleted ScenesTop Shelf Month is in full swing with an in-depth interview with writer/artist Jeffrey Brown! This Ignatz Award-winning creator of Clumsy, I Am Going to Be Small, and SULK recently released his newest collection, Undeleted Scenes, and has Cats Are Weird & More Observations coming out in September! It’s been seven years since Clumsy, your debut. How has your life changed since then?

Jeffrey Brown: It’s changed a lot . . . I’ve gone from a fumbling, sensitive cartooning hopeful working a day job to a married with children full time artist. I’m still sensitive, though. Just in a healthier, more well adjusted way. How has your writing/art style changed?

JB: I think my drawing style especially has evolved quite a bit, especially in the range I’ll use for different projects, and something I see continuing to evolve and improve. I try to keep the sketchy immediacy of my earlier work without letting it become too polished, but there’s definitely a more deliberate, confident feel to my drawings now. The biggest change in writing is that I don’t write about girls so much these days. Can you introduce us to Undeleted Scenes?

Jeffrey Brown Undeleted Scenes PreviewJB: I tried previously (with Feeble Attempts) to make a big collection of out of print, hard to find and anthology work, and Undeleted Scenes is a fairly complete collection of the autobiographical short stories I’ve done various places over the years, as well as a few non-autobiographical favorites of mine. I still don’t know if I’m completely satisfied with it, but it’s nice to have it all collected in one place, particularly no-longer-available-stories, like “Be A Man,” which people still like. What was it like combing through all of your past works?

JB: It’s strange, of course. It’s hard to believe how much there is, and it’s also difficult because there’s a lot I’d do differently. In the end, I think seeing it all helps me put my new and future work in a better context, seeing where I came from both artistically and personally. Were there stories you liked more in retrospect, or some that made you cringe?

JB: There’s a few I’ll always love–like “Construction”–and some newer ones I’m still happy with, like “Pregnant Pause.” There’s definitely things that made me cringe, too, but then I think that’s part of what I try to do–be willing to show my own faults and shortcomings so that other people might understand that it’s really nothing to be ashamed of. I would hope that my earlier work does look cringeworthy in comparison to my newer work, because it means I’m making better work. I think. You share so much of yourself with your autobiographical comics–is it weird having fans who know so much about you, when you know little to nothing about them?

Jeffrey Brown Undeleted Scenes PreviewJB: Sometimes, but at the same time, I’ve tried to be accessible to readers, and in that way there’s a kind of dialogue where I do learn about the people reacting to my stories, and I get to hear their stories. Which makes the whole process all the more meaningful, and rewarding. I started writing my comics in the way I would tell those stories to friends, and that’s how a lot of people read them and consequently respond. It’s like my trust in the reader is rewarded by them trusting me. It’s good. Are there any areas of your life that are off-limits for your comics?

JB: Yes, but those areas are off limits to interviews too. Actually, I don’t have any set rules, I still write about what I’m interested in, and though I’m more careful about what I write and how I present things, a big part of being an artist for me is following those instincts to not compromise what I’m trying to express, and to express what I feel I need to say. How does SULK differ from your other books?

JB: I have far fewer unwritten, internal rules about how I work and what the books will turn out like, and I worry more about having fun and having the books be fun than what they mean or anything. I think they may tend to be funnier, but maybe not. So far you’ve created parodies (or tributes?) to superheroes, mixed-martial artists, and science fiction. Are there going to be more volumes of SULK, and if so, what will you tackle next?

Jeffrey Brown Undeleted Scenes PreviewJB: Next up will be a parody of Sylvester Stallone’s classic arm wrestling film Over the Top which I should begin drawing any day now, and after that I’ll be taking on G.I. Joe. I think. I loved the little cat comic you made for the CBLDF auction this year, and I see you’ve got Cats Are Weird & More Observations coming up from Chronicle Books. What brought your attention to this?

JB: Despite the intimate details of my life I’ve revealed in my books, some people may think the most embarrassing detail may actually be that I’m a cat person. I’ve lived with cats on and off for more than half my life, and Garfield was my first favorite comic. I wanted to write comics about cats that didn’t anthropomorphize them the way a lot of comics do, and really investigate their behavior and how funny it is. What else are you working on right now?

JB: I just finished the second Incredible Change-Bots book, which was delayed by various real life things (family, moving, jobs, etc.). Along with the new SULK, I’ve been working on the early scripting stages of a few different projects, trying to figure out which one I want to work on most, including the next autobiographical book about fatherhood and religion.

We want to thank Jeffrey for the interview, which was a true pleasure! If you missed it, check out our interview with him back in July 2009!

Check out our exclusive eight-page preview of Undeleted Scenes, as well as a nine-page preview of The Incredible Change-Bots and five-page previews of SULK Volumes 1 and 2! Make sure to browse our selection of Jeffrey Brown Top Shelf graphic novels–you can order them, and all of our Top Shelf Productions titles, at 20% off in August!

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