Title: The Playboy: A Comic-Strip Memoir
Writer and Artist: Chester Brown
Drawn and Quarterly
The Playboy collects issues #21-23 of Yummy Fur, a comic book series I first discovered as part of this year's A-Z Challenge. The story, originally entitled Disgust, chronicles Chester's 15-year-old adventures with the magazine, Playboy. While the content is certainly adult-themed, there's substance to the narrative - not just pure smut.
Brown's autobiographical work is frequently sexual in nature. Anyone who has ever been or known a 15-year-old boy (or girl, for that matter), is well aware of the preoccupation with sexual identity inherent in that age. Chester certainly finds gratification in images of naked women but his pleasure is accompanied by deep shame, fear and embarrassment. His efforts to hide his magazines from his parents and whatever other probing eyes he contrives are thoroughly documented. In one memorable panel, Chester encounters his neighbors while trying to hide the Playboy issue he'd just bought. He is tiny, while the adults loom above him - more appropriate to the perspective of a small child than that of a teenager.
While current pop culture usually portrays the male psyche as the slobbering, urge-driven hound, the truth is a lot more complicated. Brown's frankness is startling, yet refreshing. I'm glad to have read I Never Liked You (collecting Yummy Fur #26-30) first, though I now also understand elements of the later story better.