Top 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!
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: Can you introduce us to Undeleted Scenes?
JB: 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.
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: 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?
JB: 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.
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: 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?
JB: 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.
TFAW.com: 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.
TFAW.com: 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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