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Chester Brown

Biography

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Chester Brown was born in Montreal, Canada on May 16, 1960 and grew up in the nearby suburb of Chateauquay. His career path was set at the age of twelve when the local newspaper, The St. Lawrence Sun, published one of his comic strips.

At age nineteen, Brown moved to Toronto and got a day job, while he worked on his cartooning skills at night and on weekends. In 1983, he began to self-publish his work in photocopied mini-comics under the title Yummy Fur. These pamphlets attracted attention in comic book industry publications, and in 1986 the Toronto-based comic book publisher Vortex Comics approached him. The first Vortex issue of Yummy Fur sold well, and Brown quit his day job and began working full-time as a cartoonist. In the pages of Yummy Fur, Brown serialized a bleakly humorous story called Ed the Happy Clown, which was published as a cult-classic graphic novel in 1989 and went on to win several awards.

In 1991, he signed on with Chris Oliveros’ new comic book company, Drawn & Quarterly, which has since come to be recognized as an internationally renowned publishing house of literary graphic novels and art books from around the globe. The Playboy was released the following year and was the first graphic novel the company ever published. In 1994, Drawn & Quarterly published his complex adolescent memoir, I Never Liked You. Four years later, his shorter pieces were collected in The Little Man: Short Strips, 1980 – 1995—perhaps the best example of Brown’s superior range of storytelling ability as it covers everything from his early experimental comedic surrealism to his later autobiographical and essay strips, including his controversial essay, “My Mom was a Schizophrenic.” His classic graphic novel I Never Liked You also details his mother’s struggle with the disease.

Also in 1998, Brown began work on the serialization of Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography, which was completed in mid-2003 and collected as a critically acclaimed graphic novel later that year. This historical biography won Harvey Awards for Best Writer and Best Graphic Album for his compelling, meticulous, and dispassionate retelling of the charismatic, and perhaps mad, nineteenth-century Métis leader. Louis Riel was also nominated for Eisner, Ignatz, and Libris Awards; featured on the Globe and Mail’s list of the 100 best books of the year, and Quill and Quire’s list of the five best Canadian non-fiction books of the year; and excerpted in the comics issue of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern.

During the course of his research for Louis Riel, Brown became interested in property rights and libertarianism, and in 2008 ran for Parliament in the downtown Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina as a member of the Libertarian Party of Canada, losing to incumbent Olivia Chow.

Brown is also an illustrator; he created the cover comic strip for the landmark Charles McGrath article on graphic novels for The New York Times Magazine.

Brown’s next graphic novel is the memoir, Paying For It, slated for publication by Drawn & Quarterly in Spring 2011.


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