September 11, 2013

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SPX Spotlight 2013: Box Brown and Beach Girls

Welcome to another entry in the 2013 SPX Spotlight series!  For the next month, I'll be highlighting creators and publishers who will be at the best convention, the Small Press Expo.  You can check out all of my spotlights for SPX from both this year and prior years here.

If Box Brown were only the publisher of Retrofit Comics, the debt we as mini-comics readers would be great indeed. (See my spotlight here.) But he's also a very talented creator in his own right who is only getting better with every outing.

I first really became hooked on Brown's work with his two books that were part of the first Whole Story Bundle (review here) and I ended up grabbing several of his other books along the way, which I hope to say a few words about if I get a chance later this year.

Brown's style, while improving in quality as he refines it, remains to use thick, black lines and provide just enough visual information to tell his story. The consistency of the characters and overall quality shows, though, as you progress through his work. Like many of my favorite mini-comic creators, he knows how to do a lot with less, telling a full and complete story without going into every single detail, so that when he does, the results are very striking.

A perfect example of this is Beach Girls. A lot of the story is in his usual minimal backgrounds, but when he goes to a full-on splash page of a surfer lost in a hurricane, with only just the basic shape of the human within a raging storm, the impact is striking. It's moments like that which show the refinement of Box's craft.

At heart, Beach Girls is a story about normal people who aren't really going anywhere in life and how they deal with it. For the girls, the beach is a way to escape their mundane lives. For the surfer who is the co-protagonist, it's his life and what gives him meaning, even if that meaning is ultimately futile. There's a little vibe of philosophy running under the stoner jokes and mild lechery that forms the main narrative.

Beach Girls is Box Brown doing great comics, complete with a neat cameo I won't spoil. But if that's not enough for you, James Kochalka, who was the first artist published by Retrofit, returns with a short story featuring two of his characters not understanding a hungover woman. It's silly fun as the girl mistakes one of them for her boyfriend and two entirely different conversations take place between the characters, leading to amusing confusion. It's nice to see more Kochalka work, even if it's a short.

I'm not sure what books of his own other than Beach Girls Box will have at SPX this year. But if you know the pain of trying to get away from your mundane life, it's a must-purchase comic at the show. Box Brown is definitely one of my favorites, and I hope he becomes the same for you, too.

Going to the beach instead of SPX? That's...well, okay, that's legit. So go to Retrofit and buy Box's work to read on the beach, ok?