Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > CR Reviews

Be A Man
posted December 31, 2004

Title: Be A Man
Creator: Jeffrey Brown
Publishing Info: Top Shelf, $3, Mini-Comic Format
Ordering Numbers:

The most compelling thing about Jeffrey Brown's satirical take on his own lauded debut graphic novel Clumsy is that it works equally well as a self-lampoon and as a slam on the excesses of the first book's critics. Learning to speak in that particular voice puts Brown in the company of cartoonists like Dan Clowes and Joe Sacco, artists who leavened their assaults on various stupidities by making clear that they would be subject to a few criticisms of their own. "More outfits and characters" claims a Chris Ware-style sarcastic coda at the end that practically sweats contempt for the commentary that followed Clumsy. Yet few readers could argue Brown failed to skewer several elements present in his original work. More than the particulars of the satirical content, the entire comic and its presentation reveals an appealing, almost prickly, self-aware grouchiness.

None of this would work if Be A Man weren't as funny as it proves to be from page to page. Essentially a re-working of Clumsy where the lead, ostensibly a stand-in for the author, is viciously macho, overbearing, and cruel to his girlfriend, many of the jokes would work as humor of excess even for those who lack knowledge of the original work. My favorite is "Farscape," where the lead insults his girlfriend's choice of television shows, goofs off, and then calls her back to say, "Fuck you." Like the other four or five one-pagers that make up the cream of Be A Man, that one feels goofy and random enough to have grounding in real-life relationship cruelties. Be A Man succeeds to the point you almost feel like the first work could have gone this down this general path and retained much of the original's observant charm.