Jeffrey Brown works in many comics genres, but he’s best known for his
hilarious, touching tales of autobiographical awkwardness, such as Clumsy and Unlikely. His latest graphic novel, Funny Misshapen Body, is his most closely autobiographical book yet. Recently released by Simon and Schuster, FMB
chronicles various stories from Brown’s life, ranging from strange jobs
to his diagnosis with Crohn’s Disease to his big break into comics. We
took the opportunity to ask Brown a few questions about bringing his
life to life on the comics page.
Newsarama: Jeff, FMB is basically "The Life and Times of
Jeffrey Brown," taking a broader look at your life than your previous
works. What was different about working on this book from your previous
Jeffrey Brown: For one thing, it was heading further back in the
past than any of my other books have, so I think there's maybe a
greater sense of perspective on the events. Also, I think a lot of what
I've written in the past has been examining certain situations and
events, while this book is more about the process or journey that
happens because of those events and moments. And rather than examine a
very short period, the book ends up spanning something like 15 years.
NRAMA: What memory was particularly difficult to recall or relive?
JB: I'm too lazy to write about the difficult things! No,
actually, I think I really try not to use art as therapy - or at least
not my autobiographical comics as therapy - so everything I'm writing
about I've come to terms with already.
I don't think I have any really deep, dark times to relive or confront.
Mostly, it's just odd to see how I was and how differently I'd handle
things now. That said, I guess there were lots of things in high school
that were difficult, but only in the sense that once I started writing
about them, they didn't make sense... all these things that were so
powerful and had such an impact me didn't mean the same thing to me
anymore, and some of it seemed downright silly.
NRAMA: This sort of represents the wrap-around material for Clumsy and Unlikely, occurring before and after the events of those books. Why did you want to structure about your previous works?
JB: I think I wanted to write something about becoming and being an artist, and when I drew Clumsy
is the moment where everything clicked for me, and I felt like I was
finally making art that expressed something meaningful and was working
in a way that made aesthetic sense for me.
Also, because I'm running out of steam with autobiography and turning
my interest toward fiction more, it kind of brings things full circle a
NRAMA: You also employ narration more extensively in this book. Why did you make that creative choice?
JB: When I wrote Clumsy, I intentionally took out all of
the narration, wanting the story to stand on its own, and let the
readers make their own judgments, rather than lead them with narration
and risk becoming too involved in giving some interpretation or
commentary on what's going on as it happens.
For this book, I just felt the narration helped change things up a bit
for my process, and helped frame it a little better, since the book is
more expansive in subject matter, but still has an essential focus that
I tried to have show throughout.
NRAMA: There’s a page that’s literally nothing but you making
faces. I’m curious as to what it was like putting that together.
JB: That's something I've been aware of a long time – people
will look at me while I'm drawing, and think something's wrong or angry
and I'll finish a page and suddenly realize my face is all scrunched
up. I feel like Sylar after he shapeshifts on the TV show Heroes.
NRAMA: Having read David Carr’s The Night of the Gun,
I'm curious as to whether you had to talk to any old friends about what
you did in the drinking/drug scenes...that's some of the funniest stuff
in the book.
JB: I didn't, but maybe I should have. There's probably a lot I
didn't remember. And considering the state of inebriation, my memories
of those events are likely more than a little suspect...
NRAMA: Did reliving these incidents through this book show you anything new about them, or about yourself?
JB: I think I always learn something new about myself, although
I think the books are more about showing what I learned about myself
rather than teaching me after I've written them. I know I've acted
extremely silly at times, and that's part of why it's not embarrassing
For me, art is always about understanding life better, and part of that
for me as an author comes in readers' responses to the work, and that's
where I end up learning the most.
NRAMA: You've worked on several books outside of long-form
autobiography -- do you see yourself moving away from that material
with future works?
JB: There's just a couple autobiographical books that I'd still
like to do - one about pregnancy and one about religion - but I like to
take some time in between working on the autobiographical projects. And
there's still short stories, one or two pagers that I'll probably keep
doing from time to time.
NRAMA: Tell us about some of your upcoming projects.
JB: Right now I've been working on lots of small projects, including some album art and book covers, as well as the Sulk
series with Top Shelf. I'm also starting work on a more mainstream
limited comic book series, collaborating with Tim Seeley, and it should
be much different from anything I've done before. A couple days ago I
actually just finished a four-page short story for Tim's Hack/Slash series.
Other than that, I've got a long list of projects I'd like to do, but am just kind of figuring out what to work on next.
NRAMA: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
JB: I've started a blog where I'm trying to post pretty
regularly, so I guess that's where I'll talk more about things if I
think of them: www.jeffreybrowncomics.blogspot.comFunny Misshapen Body is in stores now.