Shiny Shelf

Undeleted Scenes

By Matthew Badham on 18 January 2011

‘Undeleted Scenes’, published by Top Shelf and containing comic strips by Jeffrey Brown, is, I think, a Marmite book. You’re either going to love it or hate it. I should probably say now that I’m in the former camp, but as a reviewer I feel I’ve got to strive for a certain level of objectivity; to try to work out why someone might not like this book and represent that point of view, even if I do so in a fairly qualified way.

So, let me say now that you should definitely buy this collection of strips.

However, here a few things you might want to consider before you place an order for ‘Undeleted Scenes’…

This collection falls into that well ploughed furrow of English language comics on both sides of the pond that can be classified as auto-bio. The strips centre on the minutiae of Brown’s everyday life. We see him shopping, drawing, working and hanging out with his friends. We also see the cartoonist dealing with hassles such as getting lost while driving in an unfamiliar locale or being approached by an angry customer in the shop he works in.

In my experience, there are generally two kinds of reaction to this choice of subject. You’ve either going to get those kind of comic fans like me who (mostly) find auto-bio comics a refreshing change from the norm, which is super heroes (well, that’s not quite accurate, but that’s a discussion for another day…). Or you’ll get those fans that raise their arms in the air, fling ‘Undeleted Scenes’ to the ground and run away, shrieking, “Dude, this comic sucks!!! Where are the capes and hot chicks?”

If you are interested in auto-bio comics, then the only thing you’re going to want to know about ‘Undeleted Scenes’ is whether Jeffrey Brown is a talented cartoonist. The answer to that, as far as I’m concerned, is an unequivocal yes! Not everyone would agree, however. I have a friend who contends that Brown cannot draw. I don’t think that this is the case at all. It’s true that he’s got a scratchy, sketchy style that might not be to everyone’s taste, but his graphic storytelling abilities are second to none (and in a comic that is, ultimately, what counts). There was no point in ‘Undeleted Scenes’ where I was confused about what was going on, lost track of the action or had problems identifying characters. And when it comes to producing a graphic narrative, I’ll take clarity over slickness any day of the week.

One problem that some readers have with auto-bio strips that I think is worth mentioning is that they find them self-indulgent. After all, who wants to read about the boring details of someone’s everyday life? Isn’t that what blogs are for? (I’m kidding, serious social media-types. I’m kidding…) Brown actually addresses this issue in a couple of the strips contained in ‘Undeleted Scenes’, which talk about the cartoonist’s choice of subject matter. In these he stresses that he isn’t writing about himself as such. Instead, Brown says that he is using his own life experiences to write about “…the things we all go through”. And in this aim, for me at least, he succeeds admirably.

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By Matthew Badham

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