by Jeffrey Brown
Top Shelf Productions
Cartoonists today bemoan the shrinking of the newspaper cartoon panel, but Jeff Brown has embraced the minuscule frame and draws each image as if he's coloring a postage stamp. His dense line work and semi-autobiographical storylines emphasize his emotional confusion as he looks for happiness and romance. Once he finds someone to impregnate, he accepts fatherhood and diapers with more élan than most. In these wandering stories he portrays himself as Charles Schulz's Linus with a Yasser Arafat stubble, and his characters approach each situation with a similar fatalistic realism -- if someone gets naked, the details aren't hidden. You might get these strips in a weekly free newspaper, but King Syndicate won't be picking this guy up anytime soon.
Brown is reasonably successful at cartooning; I get the sense he's nowhere near wealthy but at least makes his rent. Besides the businesslike sex and its aftermath, Brown draws Ramen Noodles, a Dune-based drinking game, and Comix Conventions like he's experienced them all. There's a slight self-referential aspect that all autobiographies have: he reports on his attempt to report on himself, and often as not he's in a fuzzy "what do I do next?" state of mind. There are disclaimers of course; you can't be too true to life over ex-romances when you're publishing for the world. Honestly, Brown's life as drawn is much more interesting than celebrity TV breakdowns and much more revealing. Some cartoons emphasize monsters and superheroes, but Brown sticks to his internal boogeymen. He lacks any useful superpower, except an ability to draw really, really small panels. I love him for that.