by Jerry Williams
Hello, Drunken Boaters. I would like to introduce Sommer Browning.
See? Sommer Browning.
She was born on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. She was raised in Venice Beach and has lived in Virginia, Arizona, and Brooklyn. She’s the author of three poetry chapbooks: Vale Tudo, The House, and (with Brandon Shimoda) The Bowling. Her comics have appeared in Drunken Boat, The Foghorn Magazine, The Stranger, past simple, H_NGM_N and Octopus. She has an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona and a Master’s in Library Science. She makes books for Flying Guillotine Press with Tony Mancus and works in a fort as a librarian at SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx. She personally knows Jack Shit.
Click each comic for a larger size. If you dare.
I know you have worked in several different media, but when did you first start doing comics and why?
Oh, maybe in 1999. I moved to Richmond, Virginia, and the first comic I drew was one about parents who videotaped their child’s conception rather than her birth. A much more fun video, I’d imagine. By the way, I never once got grossed out about seeing my parents doing the jive. I was getting into underground comics, classics like The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and R. Crumb and also Veitch’s Rare Bit Fiends and Spiegelman’s and Mouly’s RAW—I always flipped over MAD Magazine, too. I love raunchy wit and I thought of one-liners from time to time. I can’t draw worth a fuck, so gag strips made sense. There was also a great humor magazine in Richmond at that time called Punchline and they encouraged my deviancy by publishing my first comics.
Could you describe your comic-making process?
Do you mean, “May you describe your comic-making process?”
I usually wear a hat, the same hat I wear to write poems. I always wear a hat during these processes. If I didn’t have a hat around I may very well tape a book to the top of my head. This is how integral hats are to my life as an artist. A very drunk Keifer Sutherland complimented my hat the other night at Fanelli’s. Then he told me to “Give ‘em hell.” I’m very rebellious and don’t take advice often, but I’m making an exception in this case.
Your series of “Like Story” comics, one of which appeared in DB, all involved relationships—specifically the problem of communication. Why does this theme interest you?
My inability to communicate well has destroyed my life over three thousand times. It’s made my mother cry, landed me in jail in urine soaked jeans, allowed me to fall in love with a street preacher, and given me walking pneumonia, among other diseases. However, recently, I communicated very well and got hitched (that’s married, for you Canadians out there) to an amazing and burly poet. So it’s very confusing. I’m thinking about Waldo Jeffers right now. How he mailed himself in a box, a box sealed shut and virtually open proof, to surprise his girlfriend in the next state over. She, frustrated with wrangling with it, plunges a sheet metal cutter through the dang thing and beheaded Waldo. Lou Reed wrote that for an English class and I hope he got a C-.
How do you make it seem like you can draw really well?
I only let the blind read my comics.
Why did you decide to put a pylon and a penis together in a comic, and in another, a pair of breasts and a telephone? Is this surrealistic or symbolic or both?
I told my mother about this question and she answered it as tangentially as anyone could. Toni Browning on penises and traffic cones: “On occasion they’re both orange, aren’t they? I can’t think because I haven’t seen a penis in a coon’s age.”
I actually have seen a penis recently and she’s right; on occasion, they’re orange. I don’t think my putting these objects together is in any way symbolic, unless by symbolic you mean easy to draw.
What is your least favorite sound?
I hate fighting. I hate angry yelling. My most favorite sound is the band Yes—also the sound of crying men.
I really love your comics but when I look at them I never laugh out loud. Is there something wrong with me?
There is more than one thing wrong with you. Perhaps your mouth doesn’t open?
Douché. Also, a portmanteau combining “douche” and “touché.”
When you did the birth to beer bong comic, did you realize it works well as a palindrome or do you think that idea came about later via someone else’s interpretation? Is this a disjunctively ambiguous reading of the piece?
I did know that I was telling a normal type story backwards, but I didn’t say “palindrome” in my head. I know the way babies are usually made is by getting shit-faced and sleeping with a dude, but in my case, since I haven’t given birth to anything alive yet, it was more autobiographical to draw it this way. I thought it was poignant to bring out the most important parts of a woman’s life: getting born and doing a beer bong.
What is your favorite non-sexual fantasy?
As I have been thinking about sex nonstop for thirty-four years, this is impossible to answer. But I’ll try.
I sometimes fantasize about inventing the very first video game involving muscular unicorns. It would be a kind of Mr. Universe contest for unicorns. The doing steroids part would be like Root Beer Tapper and the greasing up part would be more like Joust, like flying around on a chicken and greasing up unicorns. I think lots of young people would fall in love with me because I invented this game. But you said minus the sex, so remove that last sentence.
“Famous People Series: Scientists” is wonderful, but it gives me a headache. Why do you think that is?
Well, because it’s a puzzle and puzzles are the worst. I hate Scrabble, Boggle, reading, pretty much all puzzles. I’m sorry for your headache.
Sorry, folks, I tried to ask her what it means, but no enchilada.
If we lived in a repressive, humorless police state and you got arrested and imprisoned for your work and an execution was scheduled, what would your last words be?
There you go. Mental fortification from none other than Sommer Browning.
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