Writer / Artist
Clumsy graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Top Shelf - 0-97135-976-5
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2002
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9780971359765
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Jeffrey Brown is a cartoonist of rare insight and unflinching revelation who still makes you laugh out loud when not prompting you to offer a big consoling hug.

Clumsy is both delicious and agonising in its forthright simplicity. It presents a sequence of non-chronological pictorial snippets and vignettes detailing in no particular order how a meek, frumpy, horny, inoffensively charming art-school boy meets a girl and tries to carry out a long-distance relationship. Every kid who’s gone to college, got a job or joined the services has been through this, and for every romance that makes it, there are a million that don’t.

Drawn in a deceptively Primitivist style with masterful staging, Brown has a sublime economy of phrase. He also possesses a breathtaking gift for generating in equal amounts belly-laughs and those poignant lump-in-throat moments we’ve all experienced and forever after regretted. It makes Clumsy is a skilful succession of stolen moments establishing one awful truth.

We’ve all been there, done that and then hoarded those damned photos we can’t even look at any more.

With titles like ‘My Last Night With Kristyn’, ‘Don’t Touch Me’, ‘I Draw her Naked’, ‘I Farted’, ‘But I Want to Make Love’ and ‘You Can Ask Me’, a mosaic of universal joy and despair forms as we watch Jeff and Theresa meet, blossom, exult, dream, plan and part.

Packed with hearty joyous wonder and brimming with hilarious examples of that continual and seemingly tireless teen-lust oldsters can barely remember now, let alone understand, Clumsy is a magical delight for anybody safely out of their Romeo and Juliet years. It’s also a lovely examination of what makes us human, hopeful and perhaps wistfully incorrigible, and the first of a trilogy of Brown reflecting on his romantic life, continued in Unlikely.