SPX Talks: Box Brown / by Spandexless

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Box Brown, writer of the Everything Dies series, was a big winner this year at the Ignatz awards. He won Best Mini-Comic for Ben Died of a Train, and he won Best Series for Everything Dies. I am a little embarassed by our first meeting; I had come to know his work through his website, and while I knew that he made print runs of his work, it had never occurred to me that he might be at SPX. Making things worse, I did not immediately know that the man behind the counter was Box Brown, who I had always assumed had short hair. When I realized it was, in fact, him, my tongue found itself tied, and I threw raw, unfiltered admiration at him. Shockingly, he still agreed to speak to us the next day.

Alex: One of the things I really like about your style is that the style itself is really simple, but there seems to be a lot of emotional depth in the work. How did you go about developing your style?

Box Brown: Copying a lot of cartoonists for a really long time. I think I was really influenced when I first got started by the works of Jeffrey Brown and Craig Thompson and James Kochalka a lot. I think visually probably more James Kochalka's really simple stuff, but I always really liked the emotional content of Jeffrey Brown's work. So I just tried to make comics that had that as much as I could. And I always tried to be like, "If I could really make a compelling story, it could make up for the fact that I can't draw!" Or something. I'm a little more confident in my drawing now.

A: Well yes, now that you've won two very prestigious bricks.

BB: Yeah. Well, I still have to copy colors from Dan Klaus sometimes, you know.

A: Beyond the emotional depth of the art, your stories also kind of oscillates between religious and philosophical thought, and then deep emotional stories such as Ben Died of a train, which won you one of your Ignatz Awards. So I suppose this is a two part question. One, how do you know what to tap into when you're doing your kind of more personal stuff. And then, what is your connection to the more philosophical and religious comics?

BB: It's really about just trying to make comics. So when I finish doing one, for like a day, I don't know what to do. I start freaking out. But I think of it like there's a fountain of ideas coming out of my head and I just kind of grab one and hopefully it's the right one. There's always something different coming out and you just kind of have a little twinge of an idea and kind of chase it. But it's mostly just stuff that I'm interested in. Like, I'm interested in religious and so I just wanted to study it and make stuff about it.

A: I knew you through EverythingDiesComic.com, but I didn't know, and was happy to find out, that the Everything Dies series continues more. I, for some reason, thought that everything was free online, and then put in this. What are your thoughts on creating comics, I guess not for the web, but putting them up like that? What are your thoughts on web comics in general?

BB: I think that it's worse for some people to put out all their comics for free and then sell a collection at the end of some point. But I was doing that with my old strip Bellen and it wasn't really working out financially. I never really sold any strips. It was like people read it on the web and that was it. So I started doing Everything Dies and I really wanted to have a web component of it, but I also wanted to have new different stuff in print so that people would like, "I can't get this for free, I have to buy it." So I just started doing all these comics and sometimes I would put them in print and sometimes I would put them on the web. So if you're reading it on the web, there's a ton of content and it will keep people coming to the site, almost as advertising to sell these books. So that's my philosophy behind it. At least that's how it works for me, but it's different for everybody.

A: Do you have any plans on reprinting some of the print-only stuff that's gone out, or will those eventually all make their way to the website?

BB: Right now, when they go out of print I'll put them up on the website and then, I hope, maybe one day, I'll find a publisher to make a big collection of them or something. But I have no plans to self-publish a big collection because it's just too much of an investment.

A: And what are you planning on doing with your bricks?

BB: I'm hoping that my wife will let me keep them in the living room and not in my studio.