Notes to a Note on the Notes of Chester Brown

5. In preparing these notes, I was struck by something in the revised (2006) notes to The Little Man. “When I read a book by someone,” Brown writes, “I appreciate it if they include a photo of themselves somewhere in or on it […]” But how to select a picture for The Little Man, which included stories produced over a span of 15 years? “I decided that the ‘voice’ of the book was defined by the notes that I was then writing,” he says, in explaining why he included a photo taken in 1996. At first glance, this is just housekeeping; but in a curious way he is championing the notes—his handwritten, scrupulously neat reams of script—over the comics that they explicate. That is to say, the “voice” resides in him, the man who not only created the work but who can reflect upon it, provide the details that contextualize it within his life. By constantly revisiting, occasionally revising, and copiously annotating his comics, Brown challenges the idea of a fixed work. A consummate comic-book memoirist who is conscientious about all that gets left out, he turns himself into the hero of his own life, the one lived outside the panels.


6 Responses to Notes to a Note on the Notes of Chester Brown

  1. RobClough says:

    #5 is a very interesting point, especially regarding the idea of challenging a fixed work. There's a line of aesthetic theory that states that once an artist releases a work into the wild, so to speak, that the work is no longer strictly their dominion. It belongs to those who experience it as well, in the sense that they will have a particular aesthetic response to that piece. The annotations seem to suggest that Brown perhaps wants a chance to explain or even influence a reader's experience, even years after the fact when he starts to have a different point of view about a work he created. It's clear that the annotations, to some extent, are based on the feedback of readers (even if it's just his friends), and it's a way not to change the actual art (which he rarely revises) but to engage with and even participate in criticism about the work. Brown is interesting because he has a strong aesthetic reaction to his own work that he's fully willing to share and argue about.

    • acidtoyman says:

      If you think he "rarely revises" his artwork, you should see the difference between the original Louis Riel series and the collected book. Some of the changes are pretty drastic—added panels in between others to change the pacing, moving speaking characters off-screen, adding backgrounds where they had been black, blackening in backgrounds, adding crosshatching…When he talks about it, he makes it seem like he only revised the earlier panels to make the earlier character designs match the later ones (making the bodies bigger and the heads smaller) but the changes are actually pretty drastic and extensive.

      He also replaced quite a few of the panels in "Showing Helder" when it was collected in "The Little Man". Not to mention completely changing the ending to "Ed the Happy Clown".

  2. JasonOverby says:

    Hmmm… Are there supposed to be images of the original 'notes?' Can't see em on Safari or Firefox…

  3. raphaeladidas says:

    Yeah, I can't see anything in Safari or Firefox either.

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