By Leroy Douresseaux
March 10, 2009 - 10:46
|Sulk 1 cover is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Mature readers (16+)
Cartoonist Jeffrey Brown is acclaimed for his autobiographical comix and stories, such as the work collected in Clumsy, Unlikely, and AEIOU or Any Easy Intimacy (a three-book set informally known as the “Girlfriend Trilogy”). Brown also has a funny side, as seen in Incredible Change-Bots (a Transformers parody/tribute) and in his subversive superhero strip, Bighead.
Beginning in late 2008, Brown’s publisher, Top Shelf Productions, launched Brown’s new one-man anthology, Sulk. Each volume of this series of pocket-sized books (4.75” x 6.5”) will feature Jeffrey Brown’s charming and sometimes surreal short stories. The aforementioned Bighead is the focus of Sulk (Vol. 1): Bighead & Friends.
Bighead is a seemingly super-powered superhero. His costume looks like a pair of pajamas, and the headpiece resembles an eraser or Q-Tip. A cape, looking like the kind drawn by Batman co-creator Bob Kane, flaps uselessly on the back of his costume. Bighead is certainly a determined champion of justice, although he comes across as a bit mentally challenged. His menagerie of fellow heroes and villains are actually weirder than he is and twice as crazy, eccentric, and determined. Certainly, this is a collection of oddballs as only the clever Brown can create.
The Bighead comix can be called subversive because of the way Jeffrey Brown constantly tweak superhero conventions (the origin story and the arch-nemesis), and not just in terms of twisting superhero stories and characters. Brown is always taking jabs at the conventions of comic book writers and the expectations of the superhero comic reading audience. The Bighead stories (always running 10 pages or less) are an excuse for bone-crushing fisticuffs and for stunts that allow the characters to crash through things (especially windows). In his own primitive superhero comix, Brown offers the same consequence-free violence, bizarre characters, and senseless narratives as the highly-paid and beloved superhero writers at Marvel and DC Comics, but whereas they are often humorless, he does it with an insubordinate and winning humor.
The difference is also that Brown’s Bighead comics (which often look like ersatz, Golden Age superhero comics) aren’t mindless drivel, and Bighead is a charmer. You can learn to miss the guy when Brown doesn’t bring him around for a while.