Box Brown is a comic book writer, illustrator and publisher from Philadelphia. His breakthrough graphic novel, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, spent three weeks on the New York Times Graphic Novel Best Sellers List. Brown’s small press achievements were recognised by Ignatz Award, winning an Outstanding Series Award for his self-published book Everything Dies. Brown launched the comics publishing house Retrofit Comics, completely funded by Kickstarter donations.
As a child, Brown was a prolific reader of comics but it was only after graduating college, in his 20s, that he decided to draw them. In an interview with Illustration Concentration, Brown said: “I didn’t r-e-a-a-a-l-ly study art formally, at all. I just started drawing comics one day in my 20s and slowly got more and more interested until finally one day I decided to pursue it in earnest.” Feeling as though he were far behind everybody else and compelled to tell the many stories he had dreamt up, he started to draw at least one comic page a day. A discipline which he has continued.
Brown first started releasing his stories through the webcomic Bellen! the story of Ben and Ellen. Later, he began the web and print comic series, Everything Dies. A collection of non-fiction and autobiographical stories. You can still buy individual volumes and collected printed versions of Everything Dies, but Brown has also released a pay-what-you-want 400+ pages digital version on Gumroad.
In 2011, in parallel to Everything Dies gaining popularity and acclaim, Brown started a Kickstarter campaign to create a new comic book publisher called Retrofit Comics. His goal was to publish 16 alternative comic books over 16 months. Since completing this goal, Retrofit Comics has dedicated itself to publishing and distributing a new floppy alt-comics every month or two.
First Second released Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, a biographical graphic novel about one of the twentieth century’s most recognisable figures, Andre Roussimoff in 2014. Brown drew from historical records about Andre’s life as well as a wealth of anecdotes from his colleagues in the wrestling world and his film co-stars. The graphic novel debuted ninth on the New York Times Bestseller List for Paperback Graphic Books in addition to garnering praise from wrestling aficionados, comic fans, and critics alike.
Brown’s follow-up graphic novel, Tetris: The Games People Play, tells the true story of the world’s most popular video game. It follows the game’s creator Alexey Pajitnov, the games instant popularity, and the bidding war it sparked. Tetris: The Games People Play was Eisner Award-nominated for Shelf Awareness Best Books of the Year.
Most recently, First Second published Is This Guy For Real?: The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman. Brown tells a complete and hilarious portrait of comedian and performer Andy Kaufman. Released February this year, the book has already been commended for it’s well-researched, nuance and elegant approach.
You can learn more about Box Brown in this podcast with Study Group Comics, and interview with Kevin Cortez. You can find more of his work on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and support Brown’s comic-creating efforts of Patreon.