Interview: Box Brown Pt. 1 [of 3]

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Box Brown broke into the world of Webcomics with a certain sense of wreckless abandon. Launched in 2006 as a Livejournal blog, his strip Bellen was his first foray into sequential art. Inspired by Kochalka’s America Elf, the comic was a rough entrance the world of autobiographical comics—a trial by fire for the artist who had opted to hone his craft in front of an unforgiving audience.

Brown has come a long way over these past few years, both in terms of storytelling and drawing ability. The forthcoming Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing is a culmination of those lessons learned. The book was born when Top Shelf asked the artist to contribute a story to for its newly launched Website. The result was the new book’s titular strip, which, at pages, was the longest work the artist had ever created.

In honor of the upcoming book—and the fact that the both of us were stuck on the East Coast during Stumptown, we sat down with Brown for a couple of quick questions.

You’re not in Portland, this weekend?

No, I didn’t make it Stumptown. I’ve never been to any of the West Coast conventions, but hopefully I’ll make it out there, sooner or later.

You’re not heavily promoting the new book yet?

Well, I’m not selling the book now, because I want to wait until it’s out in stores. I’ll have a big thing when it comes out.

So it’s just a press push, at this point?

Yeah, yeah.

Have you been getting a decent amount of feedback, thus far?

Yeah. People are talking about it and putting it on their blogs. I feel like I’m getting the word out there, as best I can.

When’s the release date?

The release date, I think, is the first week of June. That’s when it’s shipping. I’m going to debut it at MoCCA.

Are you planning any other pushes? Will you be touring on it at all?

Well, right now it’s just MoCCA and SPX. I don’t know what’s beyond that, but we’ll see.

You’ve been having some issues with those new Diamond minimums.

Yeah, oh my god, it’s ridiculous. I understand why they did it and everything, but… Basically you have to make a $2,500 order. They take a 60-percent discount off the cover price. I was recently reading the list of the top 300 books from last month, and there were probably 150 of them that wouldn’t meet the sales minimums. It sounds like it’s not a huge number, but it is.

Why did you opt to go through Diamond this time?

Well, Diamond is how you get it out into as many stores as possible. I had 1,000 copies printed of the book. I don’t think I can move that many—or it would just take me a really long time. Using Diamond is the best way to hit that as quickly as possible.

So what’s the deal, exactly? If you don’t hit that number, they don’t ship any of your books?

Yeah, yeah, basically. I don’t know what they’re gonna do, though—I don’t know how hard and fast it is, but they’re saying that if you don’t get a certain number of orders, they’re not going to ship any of it.

So why go through Diamond on this one, as opposed to the other collections you’ve released?

Those were a lot smaller run, and I was funding them myself. I never really had a ton of money to put together for a huge run. But with the Xeric Grant, I knew that I would be able to print a lot more of them. Knowing that, I wanted to do a book of all new material, rather than a collection of the stuff that you can already read on the Web for free.

Is it a big shift from the other stuff, thematically?

No. I’d say thematically it’s very similar. It’s the same characters, Ben and Ellen. But there’s more of a story to it—ten page stories. And it’s told in a much more straightforward way than how I tell the Web stuff.

What is it that isn’t exactly straightforward in how you do the Web stuff? The fact that it’s in strip form?

I don’t know—I feel like, when I do the Webcomic, lately I’ve definitely done more of an abstract story, or a really small event. I’m much more linear in the book—the stories have a beginning, middle, and end.

So you give yourself more freedom to experiment online?

Yeah, definitely. With the Webcomic, I do whatever I feel like.  In print I try to be more traditional.

Is it due to the length of the strips? Or because you don’t have the same sort of investment in the print book?

No. It’s weird, lately, with the Webcominc, I’ve been doing a lot more things, visually. I’m willing to focus on a single, small thing. I couldn’t really do that for ten pages. It just wouldn’t work very well for me.

Are the stories in the book the longest that you’ve done, thus far?

Yeah. The first time I’ve ever done a comic that’s more than two pages, was “Love is a Peculiar Kind of Thing” for Top Shelf 2.0. all of the stories I did for the book, I did after that.

Was the length of that story born out of Top Shelf’s guidelines for the site?

Yeah, yeah. They didn’t want to run short stories. They said it won’t necessarily lead to anything in print, but maybe, down the road, it might. So I tried to hit their requirements, format-wise and everything.

[Continued in Part Two.]

–Brian Heater

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16 Comments to “Interview: Box Brown Pt. 1 [of 3]”

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