While Jeff’s earlier work focuses mainly on fragile emotions and how badly screwed up his life can get, it should not be overlooked that he is also one of the greatest comedic voices in the medium. I am going to be Small is really a sequel, of sorts, to Minisulk, as well as being a “special edition” re-release of his original minicomic. This book is utterly crammed with minutae that you would otherwise have one hell of a time finding, from complete reprints of minicomics, to single-frame jokes he drew for Too Much Coffee Man, to advertising posters he has drawn. At the time, I called Minisulk a completist’s dream, but I was wrong- this is.
This book shows that he’s got range, and he’s not afraid to use it. It’s sometimes offbeat, sometimes emotional, sometimes crude, sometimes twisted, sometimes hilarious, and sometimes just enough to make you smirk. The only consistent thing it’s got is that it’s all great. Except for those last 50 pages or so of some tragically crap animal cartoons – A minicomic called “Cuticle” featuring some talking animals and their relationship dramas, but god help me, I think it’s probably the least entertaining thing Brown has ever written.
It’s fair to say that Brown’s more emotionally involved work is his best. However, it’s also plenty accurate to say that it’s worth buying anything he does on the strength of his name alone. I’ve bought entire anthologies just to get a one-page strip by him, and this book allowed me to do a decade of catchup in one sitting. While the last few pages in Small weren’t my favourite, there are an additional 350 to pad out the rest of it. On those pages are well over 500 pieces culled from Brown’s previously unpublished or uncollected work, spanning a 9 year period – with single-panel jokes, text pieces, fake adverts, more conventional comic strips, and god knows what else, you could entertain yourself with this book for an incredibly long time. If you’re the type of person who enjoys reading on the toilet, it’s perfect for it, though you could end up permanently affixed to the crapper while caught up reading just one more joke.
All that said, I’m not sure I’d recommend it as the best way to get into Brown’s work. It’s fairly unrepresentative of his other stuff, most of which is actually much more satisfying in the long run. The previous compilation of his work, Minisulk, is far more about the laughs. If that’s his “Greatest Hits,” this seems more like a B-Sides collection for the hardcore fans. I love it, I encourage everyone to buy it, but it probably shouldn’t be your starting point.