Welcome to my 'zine tree!

Here in my studio, I've got this wire-y thing hanging above my computer desk chock-full of paper goods that have kept me curious.

Instead of filing one thing away when I wish to add something, I've decided to do these features about some of the creators' works on the tree.

There's a little bit of everything up there - some photography, some stickers, some floppy comics, but most of it is cartoon and comics art and all of it is independently produced.


BIO: Box Brown is an Ignatz Award-winning cartoonist, illustrator, and comic publisher from Philadelphia. His book, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend was released in 2014 and spent three weeks on the NYT bestsellers list. He launched the independent comics publishing house Retrofit Comics in 2011.

AG: Confirm, deny, or dodge in regards to Powerman: This is at all an allegorical story?

BB: hahaha, IDK really.  I made it about a year ago. I had no clue we'd be in this situation now. 

AG: I read this comic before the election. At the time, I saw it as an unflinching portrait about how individuals sink into obscurity. But now? I find myself, after the election, feeling that the comic might have been more adversarial than I first thought. What was your intention?

BB: I thought for sure he'd be yesterday's news by the time the book even came out 4 months later.  Wrong.  For a few days after the election I couldn't even really look at it.  I re-read it yesterday while sitting at a convention and I realize it's not really the story of the president-elect, it's the story of George W. Bush, kinda.  I just can't help wanting stories to have at least a tiny element of optimism at the end, if not a full on happy ending. 

It's really based on a 1988 documentary about "T." About his early fumbles.  I think Powerman picks up right when that ended in a way.  

AG: The page above, trapped between Gary Beesh’s vision in the desert and a conversation with his sister (who is suing him), seems to be a humanizing pivot in the narrative. Can you describe this moment a bit more?

BB: Yeah, I think this is something that repeats itself thematically in my work.  A lot of my comics are character studies and I often start with a character that is a total and complete irredeemable asshole.  I like the idea of then building sympathy with the protagonist/anti-hero.  I'm not even fully conscious that it's a recurring theme, at least not when I'm creating comics.  I've just noticed it looking back over my work.  

I just think I was trying to put myself in this guy's family's shoes.  It's like an even more malevolent Tony Soprano-as-father.  His kids barely want to be around him at all. They avoid him if they can.  I would imagine that's how Gary Beesh's family would treat him. 

AG: Your newest book, Tetris: The Games People Play, was for me the story of a technological miracle, and how we race to capitalize on the miracle. That’s the great tension you’ve created here, how you contrast the story of the game alongside the description of gaming’s role in all of human experience.  Empathetically, how was it for you, as an artist, confronting this melee of deals, making sense of it?
BB: Oh my god it was difficult.  Something totally foreign to me.  I think it's rare for an artist to ALSO be an incredible business person.  I created this big family tree-looking thing to keep all the characters in order.  It was super challenging and rewarding just trying to figure out ways to make all of these slight legal details look pleasing on the page. 
AG: Did you get to meet any of the individuals portrayed in this book?

BB: I spoke to a few people on the phone and over e-mail.  But didn't like go out for coffee or anything.  I usually talk on the phone and record the conversation.  Then I kind of keep their stories in mind and think of where I can fit them into the story I'm kind of crafting.  I didn't get to speak with Alexey (Pajitnov, creator of Tetris).  I would still love to meet him one day.  After doing the book, he and Henk Rogers both kind of became heroes to me.  Gunpei Yokoi too.  I really do always become inspired personally when profiling creative people for sure. 

AG: Three works of yours, Andre the GiantPowerman, and Tetris, all seem to grapple with the theme of unconventionality, aspiration and conformity? If you agree with that to any such degree, how would you say you choose the stories that you tell?

BB: I think that's been my life experience. 

I identified with Andre as the person that had to operate on the outskirts of life.  I think he felt like he was an outsider.  I think for the early part of my life I felt that way a lot.  Of course in high school but then I kind of still suffered from identity issues into my 20's.  It wasn't until I discovered making comics that I discovered who I was.  Until then I never felt like I fit in, but outwardly strangely I had figured out how to fit in.  It just always felt like an odd fit. 

Everyone's lives are incredibly unique and interesting to me. I have a theory that if you look at the most boring person on the planet, and really examine their lives, they're filled with the most AMAZING stories that could ever be told in fiction.  Everyone's lives are filled with pain, horror, happiness, hilarity.  Ups and downs and every thing else.  When I look at these people who lived these extraordinary lives, I am always trying to make sure I depict them as people, humans just like anybody.  The real story is actually in their human reactions and internal lives as they weave through extraordinary circumstances.  

Get Powerman>>

Get Tetris: The Games People Play>>

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