August 16th, 2010

cap, captain miss america


The first time I spoke to [info]boxbrown was in the spring of 2008. I was doing a series of interviews that were intended to be featured articles about many of the creators who were posting their comics on WebComicsNation/ComicSpace at the time.

Box was my second interview. The first interview I did was with Shaenon and Jeffrey of Skin Horse, mostly because I knew [info]shaenon well and felt like I could use her for practice, without being intimidated by the idea of talking to strangers on the phone. (I’m kinda terrified of phones, let me just say!)

I picked Box to go second partly by luck of the draw, but also because I contacted the people whose comics I had already read first. I wasn’t reading Bellen! every day or anything like that, but Bellen! was one of the comics I had picked to experiment with when my previous job had asked me to find some comics that looked good on mobile devices.

So I called this dude, Box, and I admittedly was pretty awkward with the whole interviewing thing. (Although not as awkward as I was when I interviewed [info]quirkybird, who went third). Still, I think I asked him some pretty incisive questions, like whether he’d ever had Ben’s really bad haircut from the beginning of the strip (the answer was yes). And I was pretty pleased overall with the interview. Plus, he didn’t seem to think I was psycho. Mastly we just chatted, and it was cool. Box told me about things like the class he had taken with Tom Hart, and how he’d been exprimenting with color in Bellen!

I got better at doing interviews, and better at making phone calls, and I added Box to my LJ friends. I added a lot of the cartoonists I interviewed to my LJ friends, but Box was one of the few who actually added me back.

And I actually started reading his comics regularly instead of just in chunks now and then.

I’m telling this story because Box recently announced the end of Bellen!, which is the comic that introduced me to his work. Bellen! is freaking adorable, let me tell you, and I think that he could probably keep doing it more or less forever if he wanted to. At its most basic, Bellen! is a relationship comic, about a guy named Ben and a girl named Ellen.

It’s sort of autobiographical, but sort of not– in many ways, it strikes me as sort of internally autobiographical: Ben and Ellen seem more like two sides of the same personality. They developed as characters as Box’s art developed in style (You should go back and look at the earliest Bellen! strips, because they look nothing like Bellen! today. While the original Bellen! was cute, Box has become a much more sophisticated artist since the strip began). Ben is half that self-doubts, the half that sees the glass half empty, but also the half that likes being crotchety for crotchetiness’ sake, sort of like a younger, more idealistic Oscar the Grouch. Ellen is the one who keeps her chin up, who always sees the brighter side and pulls Ben up out of the muck. It’s a relationship comic, but it feels more like it’s about internal relationships, the way different parts of our personalities balance each other out.

Box has started doing some other really neat stuff. He’s been working on a series of books called “Everything Dies” which are about faith and religion and meaphysical questions as they are answered by different religions around the world. He also drew a narwhal. I know this, because I bought it and hung it on my wall. I like narwhals. I am hoping he continues to do neat stuff. In the meantime, if you don’t know Bellen!, you should take the time to read it, and to read the little completely-autobiographical comic Box is currently writing, which chronicles the creation of Bellen! and the way his life has changed since he began it. It is really kind of neat, to see the story of how a comic came to be, in comic form.

Nice stuff, Box! I know you are going to just keep on doing more and more awesome stuff.

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