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Chester Brown

Chester Brown: Conversations

Dominick Grace
Eric Hoffman
Annotated by Chester Brown
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Chester Brown
    Book Description:

    The early 1980s saw a revolution in mainstream comics--in subject matter, artistic integrity, and creators' rights--as new methods of publishing and distribution broadened the possibilities. Among those artists utilizing these new methods, Chester Brown (b. 1960) quickly developed a cult following due to the undeniable quality and originality of his Yummy Fur (1983-1994).

    Chester Brown: Conversations collects interviews covering all facets of the cartoonist's long career and includes several pieces from now-defunct periodicals and fanzines. Brown was among a new generation of artists whose work dealt with decidedly nonmainstream subjects. By the 1980s comics were, to quote a by-now well-worn phrase, "not just for kids anymore," and subsequent censorious attacks by parents concerned about the more salacious material being published by the major publishers--subjects that routinely included adult language, realistic violence, drug use, and sexual content--began to roil the industry. Yummy Fur came of age during this storm and its often-offensive content, including dismembered, talking penises, led to controversy and censorship.

    With Brown's highly unconventional adaptations of the Gospels, and such comics memoirs as The Playboy (1991/1992) and I Never Liked You (1991-1994), Brown gradually moved away from the surrealistic, humor oriented strips toward autobiographical material far more restrained and elegiac in tone than his earlier strips. This work was followed by Louis Riel (1999-2003), Brown's critically acclaimed comic book biography of the controversial nineteenth-century Canadian revolutionary, and Paying for It (2011), his best-selling memoir on the life of a john.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-969-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xxxi)
    DG and EH

    The early 1980s is a fascinating period in comics history. The major publishers, DC and Marvel, had assumed a largely hegemonic control of the market, yet new talent—particularly Alan Moore and Frank Miller in their tenures on DC’s Swamp Thing and Marvel’s Daredevil titles, respectively—were making their first tentative steps towards an eventual revolution in mainstream comics, in subject matter, artistic integrity, and creators’ rights. Also, certain “ground-level” comics artists—so-called because they occupied a middle ground between the DIY aesthetic of sexually explicit and politically adventurous underground comix of the 1960s and the above-ground mainstream—were broadening...

    (pp. xxxii-2)
  5. Chester Brown
    (pp. 3-23)

    This interview takes place in the artist’s sketching room at this year’s UKCAC [UK Comic Art Convention]. All around is noise and chattering that will make portions of the tape untranscribable.

    Chester is a quiet, softly spoken man, beautiful and thin, dressed in tornup jeans, wearing long, light hair and pausing thoughtfully before most of his answers. He is not the deranged maniac you might expect from reading his extremely strange comic Yummy Fur.

    The interview begins among considerable noise and confusion.

    Andrew Moreton: How did you first come by the small press scene, Chester?

    Chester Brown: Okay . ....

  6. The Chester Brown Interview
    (pp. 24-72)
    SCOTT GRAMMEL and Chester Brown

    When he was growing up, he was shocked by the seemingly blasphemous premise behind Kirby’s New Godsseries—there was, after all, only one true God. And for years after discovering it, he was disgusted by the explicit, over-the-top sexuality of [Robert] Crumb’s work. Things change. At twenty-nine, Chester Brown now draws comics about masturbating saints, pus-sucking First Ladies, and never-ending bowel movements.

    His critically acclaimed Yummy Fur comic is a wildly inventive assault on bodily repressions, religious orthodoxy, and narrative predictability, which has earned him four Harvey Award nominations and the enmity of would-be censors everywhere.

    Raised in a town...

  7. Chester Brown
    (pp. 73-85)
    JAY TORRES and Chester Brown

    This is an informal conversation with a reticent and soft-spoken artist, who by no means has reservations about sharing his ideas and philosophies about the “state of the art,” religion, and recognition.

    JAY TORRES: In the author’s preface for the Ed the Happy Clown trade paperback you state: “In late 1979, I was nineteen and had made several unsuccessful attempts to break into the comic-book business.” One of these attempts entailed a trip to the Marvel and DC offices in New York?

    CHESTER BROWN: Yeah, that’s specifically what I referred to . . . those trips were most of what...

  8. Shades of Brown
    (pp. 86-117)
    STEVE SOLOMOS and Brown Chester

    Crash: Okay Chester, let me begin with a couple questions about your background. Now, you were born and raised in the Canadian province of Quebec, correct?

    Brown: That’s right.

    Crash: And you were apparently raised in a largely Anglo portion of Quebec?

    Brown: I suppose you could say that . . .¹

    Crash: Well, what was your exposure to French/Quebecois culture?

    Brown: There wasn’t much exposure. I had exactly one French friend. And whenever we’d get together with her, she’d just speak English. Occasionally, we’d go over to her house and all of her family would be speaking French and...

  9. Two-Handed Man Interviews Cartoonist Chester Brown
    (pp. 118-147)
    DARRELL EPP and Chester Brown

    Chester Brown started creating comic strips over twenty years ago, and since then has built up a body of work featuring a wide variety of subject matter—horror, comedy, nonfiction, even adaptations of the Gospels—as well as beautiful artwork. His first major project, collected as the book Ed the Happy Clown in 1992, told the story of a luckless clown who awakens to find that the head of a miniature version of Ronald Reagan from a parallel dimension has affixed itself to the head of Ed’s penis. Ed goes on to encounter deadly pygmies, pygmy-hunters, vampires, vampire-hunters, zombies, werewolves,...

  10. Chester Brown Restrains Himself
    (pp. 148-155)
    HEIDI MacDONALD and Chester Brown

    One of the most respected indie cartoonists of the last twenty years, Chester Brown has made perhaps his most impressive mark yet with Louis Riel (ree-AHL), a comics biography of a still-controversial Canadian rebel. But it’s only the latest in a remarkable string of hits, starting with Ed the Happy Clown, a lurid, surreal excursion into sexual dysfunction and political satire; The Playboy, a frank examination of the author’s adolescent interest in pin-ups; and I Never Liked You, a devastatingly understated autobiographical tale which juxtaposes Brown’s emerging sexuality with his mother’s mental disintegration.

    Brown chats about all this in the...

  11. On the Real: An Interview with Chester Brown
    (pp. 156-167)
    MATTHIAS WIVEL and Chester Brown

    This interview with Chester Brown, who is currently garnering much attention for his extraordinary new book Paying for It, was conducted at the 2004 MoCCA Arts Fest in a small storage room where they kept the boxed-up Harvey Awards, a couple of hours before the ceremony was to start. Brown had recently released the collected edition of Louis Riel, which naturally became the main subject of our conversation.

    I consider this a remarkable book in a remarkable oeuvre. I never thought the interview rendered either Brown or the book justice, consisting mostly of dead ends and leads left unpursued, but...

  12. Chester Brown
    (pp. 168-175)
    NICOLAS VERSTAPPEN and Chester Brown

    Having unsuccessfully approached Marvel, DC Comics and the RAW anthology, Chester Brown decided to join the then-blooming self-publishing crowd in the early eighties. When the first issue of Yummy Fur is released in 1983, he has no idea he is about to start a body of work that will influence all his generation and the next. Along the course of the periodical, he will alternate between eclectic and ambitious projects (Ed the Happy Clown, Underwater, an adaptation of the Scriptures) and masterful autobiography pieces (The Playboy , I Never Liked You). Third head of the Triumvirate formed with Seth and...

  13. Chester Brown: Louis Riel’s Comic-Strip Biographer
    (pp. 176-181)
    NANCY TOUSLEY and Chester Brown

    Chester Brown is already a superstar in the world of independent comics. Now, with the publication of his most recent graphic novel, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, released last fall by the Montreal art and literary comics publisher Drawn & Quarterly, his work is reaching new audiences with an instant classic.

    Louis Riel entered best-seller lists across the country almost as soon as it appeared. According to Quill & Quire, it is probably the only graphic novel to do so in Canada; Publishers Weekly says it is “a strong contender for the best graphic novel ever.” The compelling, sparsely elegant,...

  14. Chester Brown
    (pp. 182-193)
    DAVE SIM and Chester Brown

    This interview is part of a series of interviews Dave Sim conducted entitled “Advise & Consent” dealing with comic creators’ use and non-use of editors. Dave Sim interviewed Chester Brown on February 25. Dave did the transcription; Dave, Chester, and Craig Miller edited the text.

    Sim: Okay, let’s not compete against your Ed the Happy Clown annotations on the new reprinting. So the next graphic novel after Ed was—

    Brown: In terms of so-called graphic novels, I guess The Playboy.

    Sim: Do you remember?

    Brown: But, then, if we were talking “just comics,” it would’ve been the earlier autobiographical stuff...

  15. Chester Brown
    (pp. 194-209)
    ROBIN McCONNELL and Chester Brown

    Robin McConnell: I’m very honored this week. We’re joined by Mr. Chester Brown who is the creator of Yummy Fur, which includes the storylines of Ed the Happy Clown, The Playboy, I Never Liked You, and The Little Man. His latest book, which is available in fine book and comic stores and libraries, is Louis Riel, a historical biography of the great Métis rebellion leader. If you don’t know about him, you weren’t paying attention in your Canadian history classes in high school. So thank you for coming and joining us, Chester Brown.

    Chester Brown: Hey Robin. Hey Colin.


  16. Chester Brown on Prostitution, Romantic Love, and Being a John
    (pp. 210-214)
    NICHOLAS KÖHLER and Chester Brown

    Chester Brown, the Toronto-based graphic novelist best known for his 2003 book, Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography, will be touring North America in May in support of his latest, Paying for It : A Comic-Strip Memoir about Being a John. Painfully candid, the book begins with the collapse of his relationship with long-time girlfriend Sook-Yin Lee, current host of the CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera, then recounts how that split led him to forgo romantic love in favor of paying prostitutes for sex. It ends with his discovery of a new kind of monogamy with his “special friend”—a woman...

  17. Laying It Bare: An Interview with Chester Brown
    (pp. 215-218)
    IAN McGILLIS and Chester Brown

    Paying for It: A Comic-Strip Memoir about Being a John is likely to be one of the great debate-starting books of recent years, and you suspect that’s exactly how its creator, Chester Brown, would like it. Parts of an email interview I did with Mr. Brown last week were used in a Gazette feature a few days ago; here, in advance of Brown’s appearance at Paying for It’s Montreal launch at the Drawn & Quarterly shop tonight, is the full version of that interview.

    Ian McGillis: What was your initial spur to create Paying for It? Was it in the...

  18. Interview: Chester Brown
    (pp. 219-227)
    NOEL MURRAY and Chester Brown

    Canadian cartoonist Chester Brown emerged from the minicomics movement of the mid-eighties and quickly established himself as one of the most original artists of his generation. With his series Yummy Fur, Brown spun long, surreal tales where pop culture, politics, and perversion intersected, and then alternated those stories with earnest autobiographical reminiscences and adaptations of the Christian Gospels. After ending Yummy Fur, Brown embarked on an abstract, science-fiction-tinged serial titled Underwater, which he abandoned after three years and eleven issues. He followed that with Louis Riel, a gripping yarn ripped from Canadian history, and his most successful work to date....

  19. The Pickup Artist: An Interview with Chester Brown
    (pp. 228-234)
    DAVE GILSON and Chester Brown

    The cartoonist talks about his pro-prostitution memoir and the loneliness of the Canadian libertarian.

    More than a decade ago, Chester Brown decided he was through with romance. Certainly all the crummy stuff—the insecurity, the jealousy, the fights. The only thing he wasn’t ready to give up was the physical part. As Brown, an award-winning Canadian cartoonist, explains to an ex at the beginning of his new memoir, “I’ve got two competing desires—the desire to have sex, versus the desire to not have a girlfriend.”

    That dilemma lead him to make a radical resolution: To never again have a...

  20. Chester Brown on Sex, Love, and Paying for It
    (pp. 235-238)
    PAUL McLAUGHLIN and Chester Brown

    Chester Brown, fifty-one, is an accomplished graphic novelist whose new book, Paying for It, depicts his decision in 1999 to abandon romantic relationships in favor of paying prostitutes for sex. Along the way, however, he still seemed to find a version, unconventional though it may be, of true love.

    This: How long did it take to do the book?

    Brown: One year to write the script and four years to draw it.

    This: The primary trigger for going to sex workers was when your romantic relationship with Sook-Yin Lee ended in 1999. When she had a new boyfriend move in...

    (pp. 239-240)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 241-249)