By Richard Lam
It’s no secret how Jeffrey Brown lost his virginity. Described in minute detail with sensitive hand-scribbled drawings, Brown’s second book, Unlikely, tracks his relationship with first girlfriend Allisyn from awkward beginning to eventual end. It is his fascination with the little things in life and relationships that make up the core of his autobiographical comics.
“I think the question I get most [from fans] is about the reaction of the girls I’ve written about, and what happened after,” says Brown. “It makes me feel that the books were successful in that way, that they’ve drawn people in and made them interested in what’s underlying the books, the real life and its meaning.”
Along with his more serious and introspective work, Brown balances his output with comedic works and one-off parodies such as Bighead, an over-the-top superhero spoof, and Incredible Change-Bots, a charmingly blatant rip-off of Transformers.
“I usually have a more detailed script for the autobiographical comics, plotted out to page by page and for some of those pages, to panel by panel,” says Brown. “With the humorous work I’m much looser, and have a general plot for the book but leave lots of room to change things as I go along.”
Change-Bots in particular harkens back to Brown’s childhood nostalgia, looking more like the pencil-crayoned fan fiction of a 10-year-old. The innocence and love that went into this apparent farce has led to it becoming one of Brown’s most popular works, even inspiring the upcoming sequel, Incredible Change-Bots Two.
“I’m usually thinking of myself — what kind of book I’d like to see, and what makes sense for each project,” says Brown. “The times it seems like I’ve written a book for a specific audience, it’s probably only because I’m part of that audience, and I was really just writing what I wanted to see. I like cats, and I like Transformers, and I like autobiographical comics.”
Brown’s latest, Undeleted Scenes, collects his shorter comics and anthology contributions from the past 10 years. Much of the anthology work came from simple networking. For his contribution to Kramers Ergot, for example, he was referred by friend and fellow graphic novelist Paul Hornschemeier.
“The other thing that happened was as my work gained exposure, more people I didn’t know were approaching me about it, and I just haven’t said no as much as I maybe could have,” says Brown.
Along with anthology work, Brown has been commissioned to contribute to licensed series and franchises, such as The Simpsons and Fraggle Rock comics. In this, Brown faces an entirely different work ethic with deadlines and page counts.
“Deadlines always seem to give me fits . . . I’m much more comfortable working without deadlines, or if people just give me fake deadlines,” says Brown. “[Page counts are] usually helpful, since it limits how big I’ll let something get and makes these side projects more manageable.”
“I think I’ve tended to tighten up and feel more pressure when it’s not ‘my own’ work, but at the same time I like being challenged occasionally and it can be good to be forced to try different working methods.”