Sulk volume 2Jeffery Brown is a very busy guy. He’s written and drawn on a ton of comics both serious and funny. This month, he’s got a new project coming out: Sulk Volume 2: Deadly Awesome and it’s a little bit of both. Published by Top Shelf Productions, Deadly Awesome is the story of a mixed-martial arts match-up between Haruki Rabasuku and Eldark Garprub. Their three round bout, which takes place over the duration of this comic pays homage to no-holds barred fighting.
Newsarama contacted Brown to discuss Sulk Volume 2: Deadly Awesome as well as his perspective as a writer and as an artist of his publications.
Newsarama: Jeffrey, first off, for readers who aren't familiar with your work—tell us a little about yourself and your work-to-date within the comic book industry.
Jeffery Brown: I started out writing autobiographical comics about relationships, with the books Clumsy and Unlikely. While I continued to write about relationships, I started writing more humorous works with the parody Bighead and more recently the Incredible Change-Bots. My focus in the autobiographical comics has shifted and expanded past relationships with Little Things, and I'm continuing to balance the autobiographical books with humorous work—now with the Sulk series from Top Shelf.
NRAMA: What's the inspiration behind Sulk Volume 2: Deadly Awesome?
Sulk volume 2, page 1JB: It started with the idea of wanting to write an 80 page fight scene, I wanted to take one fight and draw it out over a whole book essentially, and at the same time I started thinking about mixed martial arts and violence in comics and what it is about a fight that can be so interesting.
NRAMA: Are you a big fan of MMA? What sort of research went into your creation of this project?
JB: I've been watching MMA since the beginning of the UFC back in the 90's, so in essence I've been doing research for a long time. I did re-watch some DVD's and look in magazines as I was writing, to get some of the positioning and submissions moves right.
NRAMA: Haruki Rabasuku and Eldark Garprub present interesting asides in during and between the rounds of the fight--displays of personal reflection; was this intentionally humorous or is this indicative of mixed martial artists having souls like anyone else?
JB: One part of it was wanting to show that these are real people and show more beneath the surface of the fighters, and another part was playing with the idea of what someone thinks about in different situations. Not that a fighter would have time in a fight to be reflecting about their life, but maybe those thoughts come for just milliseconds. But at the same time, it was also about humor and adding levels beyond just seeing the fight.
Sulk volume 2, page 2NRAMA: Let's talk about your work process—how do you start from concept and end up with your final project?
JB: Once I've got a general idea I start working on a series of progressively more detailed outlines, planning how long the book will be and what elements will be included or left out. Once I'm satisfied with the pacing and everything, I start writing a more detailed script, sometimes just writing out what will happen on each page, and sometimes writing it down to panel by panel. Generally, I don't pencil, especially with the autobiographical comics, although I've usually planed out composition in my head during the scripting stage. I like to work directly in ink, to keep the spontaneity and expression conveyed by a less worked over line.
NRAMA: Working as both the writer and the artist--what do you feel is the biggest challenge during your process?
JB: Getting started is always the toughest part for me. Even when I have an idea I'm really excited about and can't wait to start, it takes me a while to get comfortable enough to let myself start putting lines down on the paper.
NRAMA: How did you become involved with Top Shelf?
Sulk volume 2, page 3JB: I had submitted my first book Clumsy to Top Shelf, and they passed on it, so I decided to self-publish it. Top Shelf offered to help out by distributing it, and the book started doing well, and rather than reprint myself, I went to Top Shelf again and they took on publishing it, as well as signing my next book, and I've been with them since.
NRAMA: What are some comics or graphic novels that you're reading currently? Do you have any favorites?
JB: I'm re-reading the latest issue of Acme Novelty, Chris Ware's work is always at the top of my list. I'm still waiting to get my copy of Kramer’s Ergot 7, but I'm looking forward to that as well. On my to-read shelf right now are the Bat-Manga book, Kim Deitch's Alias the Cat and the new Omega The Unknown collection. For monthly comics, lately I've been reading a lot of Warren Ellis comics. I was enjoying Morrison's All-Star Superman, so I'm hoping he starts something else up soon. I also just finished up Pascal Girard's Nicolas, a touching memoir that's as heartfelt as anything I've read.
NRAMA: What else are you working on for 2009?
Sulk volume 2, page 4JB: I've just finished Funny Misshapen Body, a memoir covering high school, college and art school with stories about how I ended up being a cartoonist. There should also be the next 3 or 4 issues of Sulk, which I'm drawing now, and I'm about to start working on my next autobiographical project, Pregnant Pause, the subject of which you can probably guess.
Sulk volume 2, page 5NRAMA: Finally Jeffrey, do you have any advice for would-be creators on how to get started on personal projects that they'd like to create but don't know where (or how) to get started?
JB: I have a few bits of advice I always give. First is to read as many comics as you can—see what else is out there, and try to get a handle on all the variety and possibilities of different work being made. Second is to talk to other cartoonists, writers, publishers and anyone else in the industry—either by writing to them, or by going to comic conventions where you can talk to them in person. The final piece of advice I have is to just make the work—don't worry about publishing or who'll read it, just focus on making work and making the best work you can. If you focus on that, you can worry about what to do with it when it's done. But for someone starting out, there's no point in getting ahead of yourself by worrying about publishing before you have something to print.