Beaty, Nate- BFF (Brainfag Forever)
The good folks at Microcosm Publishing were nice enough to send me a half dozen graphic novels, and I lucked out in the fact that all 6 of them were things that I either was looking for anyway or would have been looking for if I knew they existed.Â Take this one, for example.Â I had only read two issues of Brainfag, loved them both (although #5 more than #6, according to my ancient reviews) and then never heard another peep.Â It’s not that the guy stopped working, as he kept up an impressive pace and even kept most of his older issues up for free online, so it’s not like I had any good excuse for missing his later work.Â Still, miss it I did, and it’s a real treat to get everything in one place.Â The format of the book is essentially Nate walking us through his life, what his comics were about at the time and what they show him now.Â Things start off with bits from Brainfag #1 (mostly just ad parodies, some funny, some not so much), then it skips forward to Brainfag #5.Â Why?Â According to Nate, it’s simple: #2-4 sucked.Â They’ve all up for free at his website and I plan on going there and testing that theory, as artists are notoriously hard on themselves from time to time.Â Anyway, he reprints #5 and #6, which I reviewed down below, so I won’t go into too much more detail.Â I should note though that I have the same problem: I think my earlier reviews are mostly garbage, but here they sit, for all to see for all time (or at least until I eventually die and/or give up the website), and it’s not like I’m going to rewrite everything, and it’s not like they’d be guaranteed to be much better if I did, so let’s just move on already.Â Anyway, he moves on to Brainfag #7… wait, that’s #8.Â What happened to #7?Â Hm.Â OK, he moves on to #8, in which he starts doing a diary comic that is miles above most of that genre.Â Why?Â He doesn’t confine himself to a strict panel structure, so when he has more to say he spreads it out a bit and when he doesn’t have much to say there’s no sense of obligation to fill in space.Â And he’s right, this was a tremendous artistic leap forward, as he asks important philosophical questions while being utterly ruthless in his self-criticism.Â The art may have suffered a bit, but it’s a constantly evolving thing throughout the issue anyway and I don’t think he’s fully settled on a style even now.Â #9 is the best example of this, as he tries several different ways to draw himself and the things around him.Â It was a fascinating discussion for me, possibly because I read so many of these damned things and always wonder about the thought processes behind evolving styles.Â It might have been a bit annoying and self-indulgent to somebody who just picked up that one issue, but that would have been their loss.Â #10 is more of this sort of thing, but he does settle (mostly) on a style and instead works on finding his place in the world.Â Finally there’s a good chunk of short pieces, unrelated at times but that work themselves seamlessly into the larger book.Â If you’ve followed Nate’s work throughout the years there’s probably still something in here you haven’t seen, and if you never bought an issue of Brainfag before this is a compelling display of the personal and professional evolution of someone with something genuinely original to say, which is a rarity in this day and age.Â All that and it’s a measly $9, and it’s even on sale (as of this writing) for an even measlier $8!
Beaty, Nate – Brainfag #6
Part of the problem of reading so many comics (right, like that’s anything to complain about) is that I have a really hard time remembering who did what sometimes. I knew Nathan Beaty’s name was familiar, but I didn’t realize that it was the same guy who did that incredible comic about relationships (look up there for the other review). That being said, it’s a good thing I didn’t remember that when I read this two-part issue, as I would have been expecting something totally different. I’m not sure what to make of this, which is a cop-out from a reviewer, I know, but there it is. Both parts of this story are wordless, and they’re basically moods (as Nathan says on the back) more than stories. The first part is just pictures of a town, with a man on a bike going about his day. The second is about underwater love, with kissing and mermaids and such. It was over and gone before I knew it, but the fact that the underwater bit was in my dream last night must mean something, right? An interesting concept, but I liked #5 better. Contact info is up there, it’s probably a buck or two…
Beaty, Nate – Brainfag #5
You know, what I really needed because of my forced absence from SPX was one really great comic. Lo and behold, here it is. This is the story of a relationship with warts and all. Beginning, middle, end, false restarts, and final end (?), this feels more real than most of these types of tales that I’ve read. Maybe it’s because my girlfriend just moved five hours away and I’m hyper-sensitive to the question of “What do we do now?”, who knows? All I know is that there’s a lot of truth in this fantastic little book and, if that’s not enough to convince you, his website has pretty much every issue of his comic and some other stuff he’s done online, so you can read it all for yourself and make your own opinion. It was therapy for me, plain and simple, and a wonderfully honest tale of how relationships don’t ever seem to end neatly. I liked the constant zipatone once I got used to it too. He also draws a mean cat, if anybody but me is fascinated by the cats of different artists. This one was $5 and actually distributed by Top Shelf, so it’s good to see that the rest of the comics world is getting wind of him too. Don’t worry, his other issues are cheaper and you can read them all for free if you want to anyway…