Jeffrey Brown is back with his latest collection of autobiographical comics. If it is possible, Funny Misshapen Body is perhaps Brown’s most intimate book to date. In it, he eschews much of the humor which he has used to mask the frustration of his early cartooning career, and has instead chosen to focus on presenting the reader with a behind the scenes look at the creation of some of his earliest work.
There were a few things missing from Funny Misshapen Body which make the book even more powerful. First of all, the book is almost completely devoid of sex. While that may seem like a minor detail, much of Brown’s earliest works (the ones being created at the time much of Funny Misshapen Body takes place) focused on Brown’s relationships with women. This book focuses on brown’s relationship with his art. While he has had a desire to have sex for much of his life, he has had a relationship with his art much longer. And, one could argue that his relationship with his art is much more intimate than his earliest sexual escapades.
Te other thing missing is Brown’s signature self-deprecating humor. It is not that Brown has set himself up as the hero. Instead he has chosen to step out from behind the shield of humor he has created and present his creative journey with the seriousness with which he approached it. While the book is not bereft of humor, it is definitely not the focus. The journey of the artist is squarely in the limelight.
Some of the stories in Funny Misshapen Body are familiar to readers of Brown’s other work. However, his perspective in the narration has changed from first person, to that of a third person narrator. This shift allows Brown to fill in some of the gaps of what was happening in the background, as well as shed new light on a particular scene’s location in the overall story of Brown’s life. These scenes are at once familiar, as well as accessible to people who may not have read his entire catalog.
Instead of being a chronological narrative, Brown chooses to arrange the scenes by topic or theme. While a bit jostling at first, in the end it gives the reader a greater sense of how different times in his life are connected. Struggles and challenges that Brown faced as a child come back to haunt him as a young adult. From social awkwardness to chronic illness, Brown’s life is presented as a series of connected events.
This book is great for established fans of Brown’s work, as well as for new fans. People familiar with Clumsy and Unlikely will enjoy reading more of the back story. New readers will not only get a glimpse at the man behind the character, but may also find themselves rushing out to pick up copies of his other books.