Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On the Coffee Table: The Playboy

Title: The Playboy: A Comic-Strip Memoir
Writer and Artist: Chester Brown
Image via 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.

Image via Wikipedia

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.


  1. The Husband and I were just talking about something similar this morning. We were saying how different TV (HBO) and even Playboy are now, than when we were kids. Back then, the boys we knew would go cra-zy if they caught just a glimpse of boob! Now we see that on the beach, and every day on regular TV. How times have changed! HBO shows full male frontals now- which used to be unheard of, back in the day.

    Kids are still

    1. I'm sorry your comment was cut off. I'd have liked to know more of your thoughts.

      The world - at least parts of it - has certainly become desensitized. One can't help but wonder if there will be a backlash at some point.

  2. This sounds quite interesting. The perspective of the looming parents reminds me of a technique Orsen Wells created for the film Citizen Kane.

    1. I often think of Kafka with such devices - power depicted through oppressive size.