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January 8, 2012

CR Holiday Interview #19—Chester Brown



I think Chester Brown is one of the world's great cartoonists, someone whose every panel seems to hold something for a reader's interest. There are a lot of cartoonists whose body of work I'll read as completely and thoroughly as I'm able, but very few whose work has an immediate power over my attention the way that Brown's does. That's always been the case. His seminal alt-comc series Yummy Fur was the last comic of my youth, in that I hurtled myself around my home state with a friend or two tracking them down when I finally discovered them due to the acclaim of other cartoonists, and the first comic of my adult comics readeing, in that I was forced to grapple with the art Brown created more on his terms than my own. I also think Brown's books are just about perfectly designed -- both the comics and the stand-alone trade format works -- something we get into a bit below.

imageIn 2011, Brown released Paying For It, about his experiences paying for sex. While he intended it and hopes it is read as a graphic novel of ideas with which one may argue or find agreement, it's hard for me to separate the book's message from the general, consistent and sometimes astonishing power of Brown's cartooning. We spoke earlier this week by phone. -- Tom Spurgeon


TOM SPURGEON: You're probably out of the cycle of talking about this work.

CHESTER BROWN: Oh, no. It's fine. I suppose it's out of the cycle of talking about the English-language market for it, but it's also being published in Europe. I've been doing European interviews about it lately. I'm still used to talking about it.

SPURGEON: Do you tend to work with one or two publishers over there?

BROWN: I don't have much contact with European publishers. Drawn And Quarterly handles on the foreign stuff. They advise me as to who they think I should go with.

SPURGEON: Do you have a sense of your readership over there at all?

BROWN: Hmm... nope. Not really. [Spurgeon laughs] I don't got to the European comics festivals that much. I've only been to Angouleme once, and that was back in the early '90s. I'm sure it's not that different from my readership over here. I don't have that much contact with my European readership, I guess.


SPURGEON: There was a news item over the holiday that Drawn And Quarterly was going to be doing digital books, and your work is going to be the first featured in their digital program. I was told you were kind of enthusiastic, or at least happy to see your work in this format. Is that true?

BROWN: I'm not that crazy about the whole... I mean, I love print. I'm not really a computer person at all. I've never read an e-book. But I can see that's where things are going, and it doesn't bother me the idea of people looking at my work on screens rather than on paper. Personally, if I'm reading something, certainly a comic, I would much rather look at a print version than an e-book version. People are different. If someone wants to read an e-book version, I don't see why we shouldn't provide it.

SPURGEON: It seems that your work would be suited to that experience, as much as your cartooning values a certain kind of clarity. You're not a widescreen guy or a double-page guy, and it seems like it would be a comfortable reading experience.

BROWN: I hope so. [Spurgeon laughs]

SPURGEON: Do you have to do anything specific for that promotion-wise?

BROWN: Not so far. I didn't even think that that might be something I'd have to do promotion for. Peggy [Burns, D+Q Associate Publisher] hasn't set up any interviews about it.

imageSPURGEON: Talk to me about publicity experiences more generally. Do you enjoy that on any level, engaging with the press and meeting readers at conventions? Would you say you tolerate it? I saw you out there quite a bit, and there was a lot a press generally on Paying For It. You're still in the midst of it. Have you become accustomed to that? Are there things you like about it?

BROWN: This last time around, with this book, I did enjoy going out to the conventions. I haven't always felt that way. Maybe it was because with this book, it was about subject I felt very passionately about, where something like Ed The Happy Clown was just a stupid story. [laughs] Maybe that was the difference this time. And maybe it's just a matter of maturing and being less self-obsessed and enjoying meeting people. Getting out of the house. It does feel a bit different now.

SPURGEON: Speaking of differences, you've been with Drawn And Quarterly. It seems like from a comics-publishing nerd standpoint that they publish somewhat differently now. They seem to have more of a strategy concerned with taking some of their bigger books, like yours, and focusing press and attention on them for an entire publishing season. Not to the detriment of other books, but it just seems like they have books that sort of lead their seasons now. Do you get a sense of how the D+Q publishing enterprise is different?

BROWN: They're certainly doing a better job from a publicity point of view. There was no publicity planned back in the early days. [laughter] My first book with Drawn And Quarterly was The Playboy. I don't think I did a single interview for that. Maybe I did one or two, I can't remember. It wasn't anything like what we did with Paying For It. So yeah, things are way different now, in large part because Peggy Burns has joined the company. She has a very different way of approaching things. That's just added to what [D+Q Publisher] Chris [Oliveros] was able to do.

I'm certainly not saying anything against Chris. Chris is an amazing publisher. I'm so happy that two of them are working together now.

SPURGEON: Do you have any input into what you want to do, and what you don't want to do? How much is a campaign like that shaped around you? Or do you mostly trust them to present you in a way that shows you off in a good light?

BROWN: Peggy certainly makes sure I'm comfortable with what's going on. She asks are you okay with doing this or that. It's not like I'm ordered to do anything. [Spurgeon laughs] In fact, I guess there's been some level of miscommunication. She had the impression that I didn't want to do US conventions, and was surprised when I said I'd be fine with doing them. So I think she was trying to be sensitive to what I wanted to do, and she was maybe being over-sensitive based on not fully understanding what I was willing to do.

SPURGEON: Is there a reason to believe you wouldn't be willing to do US conventions? How different are they for you from doing like a TCAF beyond the specific strengths of each show?

BROWN: TCAF is very different from San Diego. [laughs] And most conventions in general. I'm not sure how she got that impression. I must have said something, or maybe I made a joke or something. I don't know. She does try to be sensitive to what I want to do.

SPURGEON: You said just now you feel very passionately about the issues involved in this book. You're at mostly the tail end of this cycle, even with some European material to do. Are you happy with the way people engaged with issues you wanted to discuss? Or were you disappointed at all in what people chose to pick up on?

BROWN: The disappointment was more in my ability to express myself in interviews. Really I said what I wanted to say in the book. And then you get a question in an interview and you're like, "Wow... how did I express myself in the book again? What is the best way to answer this question?" This happens a lot with interviews. You finish the interview and you think, "Now I know how I should have answered that question." A half-hour later, you're going over the question in your mind, re-answering it. When it's an issue you really care about, well, I tend to really beat myself up about it. I wasn't disappointed with the interviews approached it. It seemed like I was getting the questions one would want on a subject like that. They weren't trying to pussyfoot around the subject or anything.


SPURGEON: Is there anything you had a particular problem articulating? And was there a modification in your views due to the back and forth, now that book is on its feet and a done thing? Do you feel differently now about anything presented in the book?

BROWN: [slight pause] Only on minor points. There's that scene -- and this is a very minor thing, as I said -- there's that scene where Seth says something about me going through a mid-life crisis. And I dispute that. Now I would tend to more agree with him, that it probably was something like a mid-life crisis. That doesn't go to the heart of the real issues of the book?

SPURGEON: I'm surprised you would see that as a minor issue; at least I can see an interpretation of the book where that wouldn't be a minor issue. Do you think the core of the book exists apart from the experiences you portray? Or do you feel that the experience you were having might have been not directly engaged with the issues? Wasn't your personal experience crucial to the book?

BROWN: Well...

SPURGEON: Do you see your book that strongly as a book of ideas over this thing you went through?

BROWN: Yeah. I'm more concerned with the rights issue and less concerned with -- even though I call it a comic-strip memoir, I was less interested in the memoir-ish aspects of the book.

SPURGEON: I feel you're a natural-born cartoonist and that there's no range of effect outside of what you can do with your cartooning. Given what you just said, why was it a personal memoir? Why did you go that route rather than a straight-up essay, or a direct presentation of the ideas? Were you interested at all in working through what happened to yourself? Was it that you felt that bringing yourself into the work was more engaging to a readership?

BROWN: I tend to think that comics work well when there's some sort of a storyline, some sort of a narrative. I did consider fictionalizing my experiences, having a stand-in character. But because this was something important to me, I felt I should be straight-up, admitting that these events really happened, and that this is an important issue to me. If you fictionalize things, they might go, "That's just the character saying that. That's not Chester's real opinion." Or whatever, you know? It's easier to make it clear that you really believe something if it's you as a character in the work actually saying the words.

imageSPURGEON: Something that people have asked me: was there any discussion about not having the essay section that makes up the latter part of the book? It sounds like that it's vital to how you see the book, and for it being a book of ideas, but I wonder if it was ever debated, maybe even through an editorial suggestion, that you might just stick with the comics portion of Paying For It?

BROWN: [laughs] Yes, it definitely was. Neither Peggy nor Chris liked that part of the book. They both put pressure on me to take it out. Again, that speaks to their willingness to let the artist do what he or she wants to do. When I firmly said it was staying in, they backed off. But yeah, they thought the book would work better without that material.

SPURGEON: Was this because of the nature of the material, or was it that it was an illustrated essay rather than comics? Do you remember the nature of the objections?

BROWN: They thought that I'd made my points well enough in the comic strips portion of the book, and that all the essay stuff, all the appendices, kind of repeated what I'd already said. At least on the key points. So they thought it was unnecessary to have that stuff and that it would detract from the power of the comic strip portion.

SPURGEON: And your disagreement was that it didn't detract, or you felt it was necessary even if it did, or that you needed to re-emphasize some things... ?

BROWN: I did think there were some key additional points that should be made, and I expected that this would be my one and only book about prostitution. [Spurgeon laughs] I should be as clear as possible about all this stuff. Having those appendices tended to emphasize everything. I don't regret putting them in. I've heard both sides: people who didn't think they were necessary, and people who really enjoyed them. A lot of people have said they liked that part of the book than the front material.

SPURGEON: Do you think you're a good essayist?

BROWN: No, no, I'm not. I'm more comfortable drawing than writing stuff out as prose. [laughs] I don't know. It seems... hmm. For whatever reason, I like doing these appendices now, these note sections. I did the big one for Riel. Ed's being reprinted this year with a big notes section at the back. I guess it's my version of the director's commentary.

SPURGEON: With Paying For It, how does that section develop? Do you keep notes as you go along? Do you look at the completed comics work and go, "Okay, I'm going to write appendices now." How does that section develop in the context of the entire creative process?

BROWN: Huh. [pause] I'm trying to remember. I think I wrote some of the appendices at the same time I was writing the script, if I remember correctly. At the same time I was drawing the book -- if I remember -- I think was writing material for the appendices. The real serious writing then started once I finished drawing the book, the writing and rewriting. Yeah. I had written a lot of stuff prior to finishing the drawing portion of the book, but a lot of that got thrown out once I really started writing the appendices, so to speak.

SPURGEON: When you say you write a script, how tight is that script. Is it a full, exacting script for that portion of the book?

BROWN: It was pretty close to what's actually in the book. The only thing I left open is the ending, because when I wrote the script it was 2006, I guess. I didn't know how things were going to go with me and Denise. At that point I figured she was going to move on, or I might move on. I didn't know we were going to continue and that she would stop seeing her other clients and all that stuff. I left the ending open, because I didn't know how it was going to end. But all the scenes prior to that I knew, so all of that was tightly scripted.

SPURGEON: Was it a relief when an ending presented itself to you? It's not like your relationship to the issues involved would end in a significant way. When you realized what the ending might be... were you relieved? And are you happy with the ending?

BROWN: [laughs] I'm happy with ending. Ending anything is difficult, especially when it's autobiographical, because life does go on. But no, for this type of work, I think that ending works as well as any sort of ending you could come up with. It certainly worked better than if things hadn't continued with Denise and I. If I had gone onto some other woman, and then a woman after that, if that cycle just kept repeating... this ending I think works better. It was nice that real life provided me with that material. [laughs]


SPURGEON: The eight panel grid, the basic structure of the page. Did your arrive at that very early? It's a very dense book because of that, I think.

BROWN: I drew maybe 20 or 30 pages of square panels, like the panels in Louis Riel. And then... why did I switch... ? Switching to the more horizontal panels is definitely because that's what Joe had used in Spent. And I loved the look of Spent. I don't know. I don't think there was a real reason beyonod that, just liking the look of Spent, and let's go for a different look this time.

SPURGEON: How open are you to bringing in new influences? A lot was made with the last book about your processing through Harold Gray, but are you consciously open to tweaking things or changing things according to what you're seeing? Do you look at others' work in the same way you might have as a younger cartoonist? Or is this the mature style, is this totally you at this point?

BROWN: [pause] It feels like I'm always changing. I can't stay still in one set way of working. The main reason is I'm looking for an easier way to work. But also the way I want to present the material keeps changing, I guess. Paying For It is a smaller book in size. Its pages are smaller. I wanted to work in a way that I thought would make sense for a smaller page. That was part of it. I don't know. There are always various things, considerations to keep in mind, that are going to change how you approach things. I don't feel like I've settled into a style that's going to work for me the rest of my life.

SPURGEON: I think a real underrated part of your career is generally how forward and influential the look of your material has been. I remember standing in a bookstore with Jim Woodring in the late '90s and him picking up one of your books and saying that's what all of the books are going to look like from now on. A pronouncement from Jim Woodring. [Brown laughs] Certainly the last two comic book series you did were fairly immaculate looking. I wonder how important those kind of presentation issues are to you.

BROWN: Yeah, I didn't used to think about these issues at all.

SPURGEON: And that is part of your reputation, too. You don't come across in your early autobiographical work as a cartoonist with an interest in these things.

BROWN: At least for me, and for Seth, too, because he's talked about this in interviews and we've talked about this with each other, it was Chris Ware that made us think differently about design and how a book should look and what a cartoonist could do as a designer. I'm not trying to make my stuff look like Chris Ware's work, but that showed us what was possible and that we should re-evaluate our work based on what Chris was doing. He was a huge influence for so many people. That's what really got me thinking about design with book and with comic books, too.


SPURGEON: I'm going to ask you a couple more nerdy cartooning questions, because I can. [Brown laughs] I wondered about some of the effects you use in Paying For It. One is the blackout panels. You drop the imagery and just use the text. You use that as a specific panel. I wondered how considered an effect that was for you, and what you wanted to emphasize. How does that work in the rhythm of a page?

BROWN: Are you talking about the opening scene, or the scenes where I just have narrative captions?

SPURGEON: I actually meant the latter, although you do use blacked out panels to striking effecting that opening scene.

BROWN: Yeah. I see those as two different things. As for narrative captions, again I think that's something I got from Chris Ware. No, wait. I'm wrong. I think I saw it before I saw it in Chris Ware, although Chris Ware does use narrative caption panels where it's just the words. I seem to remember a Peanuts parody mini-comic many years ago where one of the cartoonists used narrative captions and thinking it worked well and thinking I should use it.

SPURGEON: What works about that for you? Is it in terms of a break or in terms of the emphasis on the words?

BROWN: I guess it's the way it emphasizes the words. Yeah. That must be it. For whatever reason I thought it would work better if the narrative captions weren't in the same panel as the images. It probably is a matter of just emphasis.

SPURGEON: For me it was also a constant reminder that there was a narrative force behind the story, that the story itself wasn't just unfolding. It was a reminder of your authorial presence. Now that first chapter, that was a remarkable sequence. What led you to do that with that sequence?

BROWN: I just couldn't draw that scene, for whatever reason. A lot has been made that I've dropped emotion out of my drawings, that I'm putting as little emotion as possible into the facial expressions.

SPURGEON: I must know a lot of grim people, because that didn't occur to me until I read others making that observations. Maybe everyone I know looks like you guys.

BROWN: [laughs] Drawing that scene, I couldn't get the emotional tone right. Whatever expression I put on our faces, it didn't seem right. I tried drawing us so that only the backs of our heads were showing... I must have drawn that scene at least five times. It wasn't working no matter how I tried to draw it. I moved on. The second scene with Seth, Joe and I walking was fine. I was like, "Well, there's no problem here." So at a certain point I decided I'm just going to black out that scene. I can't draw it. I had the same problem with the Riel book. I didn't like how the first scene worked in the comic book version and I redrew that scene for the graphic novel. I don't like how it works there. I have trouble with opening scenes. Blacking it out seemed... even there I'm worried that it might convey my mood is black, or that this is a big, devastating blow. It might put a peculiar emphasis on it I didn't intend. But it's the only way I could come close to making it work.

imageSPURGEON: Re-reading the book, one thing that stood out for me that didn't the first time was how engaging and actually fun the scenes were where you led the reader through how you started having these relationships. I'd love to know why you wanted to emphasize the step-by-step process of that? I wonder if it plays into your desire to de-mystify that whole world?

BROWN: Well, it's a book of advocacy. I wouldn't mind if there were readers out there that maybe considered the idea of paying for sex and decided not to the same way I was at the beginning of the book, and seeing me going through those steps thinking it isn't so daunting. It's a simple thing to do. I don't know, because I was approaching the book as a memoir, that's what happened to me. You go for the emotional... the points that seemed emotionally significant. All the worries I had, the process, those were the emotionally significant things when I began paying for sex.

SPURGEON: I went to the Doug Wright Awards this year, and there was a bit of humor about Paying For It. Did you worry about that reaction? Did you worry that the contrast between this work and your last one was so strong, or that there might even be tittering, jokes at your expense?

BROWN: I don't mind the jokes at my expense. I'm used to it. Seth and Joe have teased me about paying for sex for years. I'm used to it.

SPURGEON: Were you worried at all that it might have an effect on the way the work was received?

BROWN: [slight pause] No, I was confident enough in what I'd done in the work itself. I didn't worry about that at all. As far as the contrast to the previous book, I wanted [laughs] to deflate the image the public had of me as Mr. Canada or something because I'd done this book about a significant Canadian figure. A lot of people I meet saw me as Mr. Canadian History. So getting away from that was something I wanted to do that.

SPURGEON: Well, you've certainly gotten away from that. [Brown laughs] That's a clean break. I know that you are interested in history, or at least I assume so: Canadian history and in the previous practitioners of your craft. Did you really find being seen that way a major impediment? Or was it more of a minor annoyance?

BROWN: Oh, yeah. More of a minor annoyance. Minor.

SPURGEON: And no one's gone back and indicted your work generally because of this specific book?

BROWN: Not that I've seen yet. Even the on-line reviewers that reviewed Paying For It very harshly, they seemed to hold my earlier work in high regard. There didn't seem to be a reevaluation going on. Although maybe there will be in the future. We'll see.

SPURGEON: How do you see this book in the overall context of your work? You probably don't think like that, because no one does [Brown laughs], but do you feel very strongly about being seen as an issues-oriented cartoonist, for example? Is that something you'd like to be known for? Or do you even have that considered a self-conception?

BROWN: I'm not totally sure what my next project will be, but if it's what I think it will be... it's not going to be an issues-oriented work. It won't be a work of advocacy in the same way this one was?

SPURGEON: Have you felt comfortable with that kind of focus to your work? Is that something you'd like to return to?

BROWN: [pause]

SPURGEON: I'm just trying to scope out the next issue, Chester, so I can start reading.

BROWN: [laughs] Well, actually, even though I thought this would be my one and only book about prostitution, the next one might be a prostitution-related book. A film director approached me about doing an adaptation of Paying For It. The way he saw the film working was that we would have to beef up the relationship between Denise and I, make that more of a central focus of the story. He said "I understand she has certain sensitivities and she wouldn't her real life depicted. We can fictionalize stuff."

After we talked, I thought that would be interesting. How would that work? It got me thinking not from a film script point of view, but a graphic novel point of view, what I might do. I started thinking about it seriously as a graphic novel. Then I thought if I did this I'd have to talk to Denise about it and see if it's okay, and then I thought why don't I collaborate it on with Denise. Maybe if she were working on it, maybe she would want to do something more on it from her point of view, about how she got into the business and everything. This is all unraveling in my mind. So I talked to her about it. She's thinking about it. If she wants to do a book about her experiences as a prostitute, then that will probably be my next book. If she doesn't want to do that, then my next book probably won't be about this. It'll be about something completely different.


SPURGEON: Two of the criticisms of Paying For It were particularly intriguing to me, and I'm not sure I saw your full response. Do you have any sympathy at all for the criticism -- or any response to the criticism -- that obscuring the faces of the workers created a kind of dehumanizing aspect within the book? I thought that criticism spoke to the heart of some of your creative choices.

BROWN: Yeah. I can see why people would feel that way. Obviously I hoped it wouldn't be taken that way. That wasn't my intention.

SPURGEON: Was it something you thought of while doing that, that it might be seen that way?

BROWN: I don't remember worrying about that. I probably didn't think that would be an issue. From my point of view, I thought I was being sensitive to not depicting things, giving any indication of who they might be in real life. But I can see where people are coming from. But why is the face particularly associated with humanness whereas the rest of the body isn't? I'm not sure I completely understand that. But you know. [laughs] Whatever. If people want to ignore the rest of the work and see this as the significant way of reading the work and this is proof I see them as less than human, who know? Obviously, I disagree.

imageSPURGEON: When you talk about maybe doing from Denise's point of view, I wonder how you react to the criticism that the way you've focused the narrative in Paying For It means that in a fundamental sense the reader is only getting the one side of the story, that those interactions so specifically from your point of view don't get to the whole truth. Did you ever think of telling the story from different viewpoints?

BROWN: When I started the book, I did intend -- as I said in the introduction, the women told me such interesting stories about their lives, I was initially thinking that that material was all going to go in the book. It was only when I started writing the script that I realized this stuff could be revealing and I can't include it. So I wished I had been able to. But even if I had permission to include some of that stuff -- if I'd known I was going to be doing a graphic novel and I'd gotten permission when I saw the women to include it, or whatever, it still would have been all from my point of view. Anyone that's really interested in this subject should read other books or talk to women in the business. Obviously you shouldn't rely on one source of information. And there are a lot of books out there that are written from the perspective of sex workers.

SPURGEON: Do you see your work as part of a bunch of works that advocate from the same position?

BROWN: Definitely. [laughs] Yeah. Although there aren't a lot of books written by clients. It's a bit unique from that point of view. Quite a few prostitutes have written books that are basically arguing the same sort of things I'm arguing.

SPURGEON: Are you involved with the issues in Paying For It outside of having written the book? Has having written the book made you a source for opinions on these issues? Are there specific things you want to see happen, do you track specific permutations of these issues as they develop, or is the book your summary statement on the matter?

BROWN: [laughs] I probably should be tracking it more closely than I am. I've done one event so far. There was a fundraising event for a prostitute outreach organization here in Toronto called Maggie's. I was asked to do a reading for this. Many people were doing presentations and performances for this thing; it wasn't just me. I wasn't sure that my doing a reading would work in this forum, but it worked actually really well. I was happy I was asked.

As far as doing presentations of the material in front of an audience, it was the most positive experience I've had so far. It was an audience made up in large part of sex workers, and they were very enthusiastic. [laughs] They were applauding wildly when I hit the stage. They were laughing in all the right places. It was a very positive experience doing the presentation for that audience.

SPURGEON: What do you think they were reacting to? Was it the familiar milieu, the ideas... ?

BROWN: I only read two scenes: my first experience paying for it, and then the follow-up scene where I'm talking about it afterwards with Seth and Joe. [laughs] I think my paranoia and stuff, a lot of it would be familiar to them. I think it was so true to life for them. They knew where I was coming from. They found it hilarious. And they found the reactions of Seth and Joe, particularly Joe's reaction, to be funny, too.

imageSPURGEON: I have a couple of last questions about your cartooning, more about comic book things. Paying For It is the first book you've done that wasn't serialized, am I right?

BROWN: That's right, yes.

SPURGEON: Was that a different experience at all? I consider you one of the great comic book makers, and I wondered if this was a different experience, if you liked working this way.

BROWN: When I started, it was because I loved comic books, and comic books are what I wanted to do. So obviously I didn't see it as an annoyance, even if I was telling a longer story, to serialize it in comic book form. At a certain point, my focuse changed and I became more interested in the book. When I proposed doing Louis Riel to Chris, I didn't want to serialize it. He was the once that convinced me to serialize it. By that point I found serialization to be just an annoyance. I would finish a chunk of the book, and then I'd have to stop working on it and do a cover and some sort of letters page or whatever -- do whatever packaging stuff was necessary to put it out as a comic book. That kind of stop and start, plus having to chop the work up into 24-page installments... I had written the script to be a graphic novel. I knew the book would consist of those four parts, and I didn't want it to be subdivided into ten installments. Whatever. Chris thought it made sense at the time. When we decided not to serialize Paying For It, I was happy.

SPURGEON: Finally, it struck me while re-reading Paying For It that you evince a certain confidence in portraying reality, or portraying a specific circumstance. That's not always easy in comics. Do you have confidence in your ability to portray something accurately?

BROWN: It's almost impossible to really capture what happened if you're doing autobiographical material. Even if all the dialogue is remembered exactly and you do a good job of capturing likenesses, you're still going to be missing things. My main concern is does it work well as a scenes -- does it work dramatically, or is it funny? Is it saying what I want it to say? I'm not going to go out of my way to misrepresent things, but you can't worry too much about being totally accurate. It's impossible. If you're drawing a restaurant scene, who was sitting in the booth beside you or whatever, you just can't worry about that sort of stuff.

SPURGEON: If it works dramatically, it tends to work for your purposes; it's not the documentation but the truth of the matter. That's glib, I know.

BROWN: If I'm including a specific scene, it's because what I said to a certain person, or what they said to me, makes a particular point. I hope I'm remembering the dialogue more or less accurately, but I'm focusing on how it works in the book overall, how that scene works in making the point I'm trying to work.

SPURGEON: Is there a danger in loading your arguments?

BROWN: There probably is that danger. You have to be sensitive to that possibility, keep it in mind. Maybe I did stack the deck. I don't know.


* Paying For It


* photo of Chester Brown from TCAF 2009 by Amy Beadle Roth
* cover to the new book
* photo of Chester Brown from TCAF 2009 again by Roth
* two-panel sequence from Paying For It
* panel from the essay portion of Paying For It
* page utilizing the eight-panel grid in Paying For It
* an explicit use of the narrative caption panel we're discussing
* from the section on Brown's experiences entering in the world of paying for sex
* obscuring the face
* a self-portrayal from Paying For It
* cover to one of the Louis Riel comic books
* one last image from Paying For It (below)



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