Strange Tales

Strange Tales Spotlight: Jeffrey Brown

Part action-parody cartoonist, part autobio icon, all Marvel fan, the author of Sulk takes on Marvel's first family.

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By Sean T. Collins

With his winningly lo-fi artwork and astonishingly candid confessionals, Jeffrey Brown has become a poster child for autobiographical comics with books like his "Girlfriend Trilogy" (Clumsy, Unlikely and Any Easy Intimacy) and Funny Misshapen Body. But nothing can contain the fanboy within him, as his dead-on parodies of super heroes (Bighead), giant robots (Incredible Change-Bots), and assorted action/adventure/martial-arts/fantasy staples (the ongoing series Sulk) make perfectly clear.

Turns out Brown's been a Marvel fan since his formative years. (Actually, you may have seen him draw a certain Canucklehead for the enjoyment of friends and fans, if you know where to look.) That long-time love, and his unpredictable combination of styles, makes him a perfect fit for STRANGE TALES, where he'll be putting his spin on the Fantastic Four. Marvel.com spoke with Brown for another autobiography of sorts: The skinny on how his heart belongs to the House of Ideas.

Marvel.com: What made you decide to do the Fantastic Four for STRANGE TALES?

Jeffrey Brown: After the X-Men, the FF were my favorite as a young Marvel zombie growing up. I remember loving the Thing, especially, following him devotedly when he got his own series in the early '80s, and of course all the SECRET WARS tie-ins. I think I related to his alienation, as I was the chunky kid drawing in the corner by himself for much of my childhood.

Marvel.com: I suppose that makes sense given the tone of a lot of your autobio work. Is that outsider/outcast/underdog vibe of many Marvel heroes something you see as part of their appeal in general?

Jeffrey Brown: I think it's definitely part of the appeal of Marvel heroes, especially the X-Men. I think the appeal of the underdog is something I definitely have. I always loved it when Wolverine is all beaten down and torn up but still clawing his way toward the villain.

Marvel.com: What's your story about?

A page from Jeffrey Brown's story in STRANGE TALES #3
Jeffrey Brown: The Fantastic Four spend the day playing pranks, amusing themselves more than anyone. Um, it's only two pages so I can't give you much more than that. [Laughs]

Marvel.com: Obviously, you're no stranger to super hero and adventure comics of your own, from Bighead to Incredible Change-Bots to Sulk. How different is working on them from working on Marvel characters?

Jeffrey Brown: The one great thing about working with the established characters from Marvel is that they have rich histories that I can build on. With my own characters, I still have to build that history, and there aren't as many inherent nuances of character. So there's a lot more I can reference and use in my stories with the Marvel characters. While my style and humor are a little offbeat, my love of the Marvel mythology keeps my stories true to the essence of the characters. So even though the situations are unusual, I try to capture the essence of what makes a character like the Thing unique.

Marvel.com: You're clearly a pretty big Marvel fan. What are some of your favorite Marvel comics?

Jeffrey Brown: UNCANNY X-MEN issue #192 [is my favorite issue], and X-MEN remains my favorite series, all time. I'm enjoying OLD MAN LOGAN, ASTONISHING X-MEN and UNCANNY X-MEN lately, as well as some of the THOR books and most of [Mark] Millar's titles. My favorites at the moment are a couple from the Icon line—INCOGNITO and KICK-ASS.

Marvel.com: I feel like I can guess the answer to this question already, but are there any other Marvel characters you'd like to work with someday?

Jeffrey Brown: Wolverine and the X-Men would be at the top of my list. I'd also like to take on Thor and Galactus. Actually, I wouldn't mind doing my own SECRET WARS so I could get to everyone I'd like to...

Marvel.com: Efficient! Let's say some of the other Marvel fans out there see your strip in STRANGE TALES and want to see more of your work. Where do you suggest they start?

Jeffrey Brown: Incredible Change-Bots would be the first book I'd recommend checking out, followed closely by my series Sulk. If they'd like to try some of my autobiographical work, they should check out Funny Misshapen Body, which is about how I became a cartoonist.

Marvel.com: What else are you up to these days?

 Jeffrey Brown: I'm working on a sequel to my first cat book, Cat Getting Out of a Bag, titled Cat Walks. Great to read if you love cats, not so great if you hate them. [Laughs]

Check out the off-the-wall pranks pulled by the Fantastic Four in Jeffrey Brown's contribution to STRANGE TALES #3, on sale now!

 

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