Interview: Box Brown Pt. 2 [of 3]

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In this second part of our interview, we ask the Xeric Award-winning Love is a Peculiar Type of Thing artist about diving headfirst into the world of Webcomics and how he set about penning his longest piece ever for the Top Shelf 2.0 site.

[Part One]

What are the principle difficulties, as far as working on your longest piece, ever?

It was hard for me at the time, because I was like, “how am I going to start something that epic?”

So the problem was that the story was too long for the ten pages you were allotted?

No, no.

So “epic” meaning the 10 pages themselves?

Yeah. It was so huge. I was like, “how am I going to tell any story that long?” You think more about how you’re going to tell it. Is it going to be straight forward? Will it be visually storytelling? Are you going to have a narrator tell the story? You have to make various decisions, whereas, when I do a Webcomic, it’s a lot more easy to just go ahead and do it.

How do decide which story you’re going to turn into your longest piece? The first story in book seems to be more of an abstraction than a straight forward narrative.

Yeah. When I was working on the stories—they’re based in reality. They’re not fully autobiographical, but they’re based on my life. I was just trying to choose events that felt interesting. There’s one story about money. I was unemployed at the time that I was making the book. I was very low on money the whole time. And when I was making the book, my ten year high school reunion was coming up. I didn’t go, but I was looking at my high school year book at that time, and I had a story about how high school seems so important at the time, when you’re living it. and it seems so silly now. When I was in high school, I didn’t get that at all. I didn’t understand that it was bullshit.

Does doing autobiographical strips tend to have a similar effect as that, insofar as writing up events that seem earth-shattering at the time, and then look far less important when you revisit them?

Yes and no. When you’re looking back on stuff, you can pick the stuff that really was important. But yeah, definitely, you can look back on things and realize that they’re not as important as you originally thought, when you’re looking back on them from a different perspective.

When you were first beginning your career as a cartoonist, at what point did you decide that autobiography was the way you wanted to go?

Very early on. I started doing autobiographical strips because it was much more straightforward and I was a fan of American Elf. It wasn’t until I first read American Elf that I realized that you can make a comic about actual shit that happens. It blew my mind. At one point I kind of got board with writing the daily stuff that I was doing, and I wanted to do more fantastical stuff—more fictionalized things. I started doing crazy, weird strips for a while and then I settled on the current thing, which is kind of based on reality, but not necessarily based on reality.  I make things more interesting.

So that detour that you took into the fantastic still plays something of a role in the current strips.

Yeah—well, I think so. I try to make things as magical as I can without actually riding unicorns or something like that. I try to do that. I don’t know how well I actually do it.

For better and worse, there wasn’t really a time when you were honing your work and not showing it to anybody. You just started doing a strip and stuck it up on the Internet for everyone to see.

Yeah. When I look back now, it wasn’t necessarily stuff that should have gone on the Web, but when you’re working on stuff with a daily deadline, it really keeps you working. When you’re first starting out, you don’t really have an audience. Nobody really sees it except you and your friends. And you get feedback—I think it’s a way to learn. You’re just kind of documenting your progress, and it keeps things fun. In many ways, you do something and it works or it doesn’t work and you take out what you can and move on.

I think it was a lot more fun to do it on the Web, especially at the time. I didn’t really have anyone to show the work to at all or talk about the work. I was able to find a little community on the Web that was helpful. If I was at art school or something, or was surrounded by a lot of likeminded people, I wouldn’t have done it that way. But none of my friends were really into it, at the time. I was going to work every day, and this afforded me the opportunity to be a part of a community.

[Concluded in Part Three.]

–Brian Heater

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4 Comments to “Interview: Box Brown Pt. 2 [of 3]”

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