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Every day this month I’ll be reviewing a different independent comic book, based on submissions from the creators of the comic books themselves.
The month continues with Nate Beaty’s collection of eight years’ worth of his auto-biographical mini-comic, Brain Fag (fag meaning fatigue). BFF stands for Brain Fag Forever..
Nate Beaty began doing his mini-comic, Brain Fag (the term “brain fag” to mean being mentally exhausted, was first used in the United States over 150 years ago), years ago and the collected work in this volume containes nearly a decade’s worth of the journal comics. Beaty refers to his work as “cheap therapy,” which certainly does come across in his work at times. However, that is not a bad thing, from a reader’s perspective. This collection is basically a “best of” Brain Fag. You can read the original issues (including the ones that didn’t make it into Brain Fag Forever here).
Perhaps the number one thing that strikes a reader about Brain Fag Forever is the dramatically different styles Beaty uses. Here’s a series of pages from when he was seeing a younger woman that he worked with at a vegan restaurant in Portland.
Drawing himself as a pig, or just generally being perhaps too self-deprecating, is something that comes up in his work more than a few times.
So view that style of art, and then check out these visually stunning detailed pages…
Quite a change, right?
Later, he takes the approach of stressing immediacy over detail, and goes to a simpler style. Watch the dramatic different (and also note how he even addresses his self-portrait issues)…
Striking change, right?
There are more art changes in the comic. The great Lewis Trondheim has a funny line at the back of the comic where he praises the cartoonists who drew the book then says, “wait, it was all one guy?”
Journal comics, almost as a rule, have a problem with a focused narrative, but usually just the ins and outs of one’s life can serve as a narrative. In that regard, I think Brain Fag drops the ball a few times. There are changes in Beaty’s life that just don’t get addressed in the comic. He notes in the comic that he stops drawing for large chunks of time, and that’s fine, but we often don’t get to see what HAPPENED in those missing chunks of time, or if we do, it’s fairly oblique. It’s not a major concern, but it’s definitely something I would have liked to have seen addressed (perhaps with some bridge material? He adds new material to the book, so perhaps some bridging material would have helped).
But really, as Beaty uses the comics for therapy, we are treated to the same insights into his life that he gets, and they are quite illuminating. It’s a refreshingly honest look at his journey though life, depicted in a variety of intriguing styles.
For just as little as $8 to buy a copy (click here to get a copy), it’s hard to go wrong with 224 PAGES of good comics!
If you would like me to review you independent comic book this month, there is still time to send me a copy for review! Click here to read where to send the review copies.
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.