Ed the Happy Clown
|Ed the Happy Clown|
Ed the Happy Clown: the Definitive Ed Book cover (Vortex, 1992)
Drawn and Quarterly
|First appearance||Yummy Fur minicomic #2|
|Created by||Chester Brown|
|Ed the Happy Clown|
|Ed the Happy Clown #4 cover (Drawn and Quarterly, 2005)|
|Series publication information|
|Publication date||(Yummy Fur (minicomic))
1983 – 1985
December 1986 – October 1989
(Ed the Happy Clown)
2004 – 2006
|Ed the Happy Clown: a Yummy Fur Book||ISBN 978-0-921451-04-4|
|Ed the Happy Clown: the Definitive Ed Book||ISBN 978-0-921451-08-2|
|Ed the Happy Clown: A Graphic Novel||ISBN 978-1-77046-075-1|
Ed the Happy Clown is the title character of a comics work by Canadian cartoonist, Chester Brown. The dark, surreal and largely improvised story started with a series of unrelated short comics that Brown soon went on to tie together. Ed is a large-headed, childlike children's clown, who is subjected to one horrifying affliction after another.
The story is a dark, humorous mix of genres which includes vampires, pygmy cannibals, Martians, Frankenstein's monster and others. Prominent is its use of scatological humour, nudity, sex, body horror, extreme graphic violence and potentially blasphemous religious imagery. Central to the plot are a man who cannot stop defecating; the head of a miniature Ronald Reagan attached to the head of the protagonist's penis; and a female vampire who seeks revenge on her adulterous lover who murdered her to escape his sins.
Originally serialized in Brown's comic book Yummy Fur, it was eventually collected in two differing editions by Vortex Comics in 1989 and 1992. The contents of the second edition were re-serialized in 2005–2006 as a nine-issue Ed the Happy Clown series from Drawn and Quarterly with extensive end notes. This series and its end notes were collected by the same publisher in 2012.
The story has had a substantial influence on a number of alternative cartoonists, and has won a number of awards, including a Harvey. In 2005, Time placed it at #7 on its list of the 10 best English-language graphic novels ever. Canadian film director Bruce McDonald has had the rights since 1991 to make an Ed movie, but the project has struggled to get financial backing.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Publishing history
- 3 Style
- 4 Reception and legacy
- 5 Other media
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In the early 1980s, Brown was in a creative rut until he came across a book on surrealism, The Age of Surrealism by Wallace Fowley. "Embracing surrealistic spontaneous creation", Brown started work on a completely improvised comic which he called Yummy Fur, in which Ed was originally serialized. The story spanned a range of Brown's interests, from political skepticism to scatological humour to Brown's childhood interest in vampires and werewolves. The story was dark and surreal, but "both hopeless and funny, a trick moviemakers like Tim Burton and Todd Solondz wish they could pull off more regularly".
Ed suffers one indignity after another as the plot gets grimmer and more surreal. His bizarre misfortunes include being chased by cannibalistic pygmies and having the tip of his penis replaced by the head of a miniature, talking Ronald Reagan from another universe. Ed's adventures featured encounters with flesh-eating rats, Martians, the Frankenstein monster and other characters out of traditional genre fiction, but presented with Brown's own twisted, blackly funny sensibility and topped with some dark Christian symbolism. Despite his ordeals—being imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, falling in love with a vampire—Ed remained a gentle, childlike innocent, with a Candide-like optimism.
The story has had more than one ending, potentially with none being definitive.
Ed begins with the children's hospital he was on his way to visit burning down with all the children in it. A number of short gag strips occur one after the other, having no apparent relation to each other. After 30 pages or so, Brown attempts to tie the mess together into one grand plot.
Ed is imprisoned for a crime he did not commit—he had found the hospital janitor Chet Doodley's hand and turned it in to the police, and the police assume he had taken it. While in prison, an unnamed character finds himself unable to stop defecating. His faeces fill up the jail, engulfing Ed. When he emerges, he finds the head of his penis has been replaced with the head of a miniature Ronald Reagan from Dimension X (whose appearance is nothing like the actual person), a place much like Ed's but in which the people are considerably smaller. The dimension had a waste problem, which they tried to solve by dumping it into a hole to another dimension. The hole turned out to be the anus of the man who could not stop defecating. Reagan's body was left in Dimension X, and the professor, who was the discoverer of the inter-dimensional portal, travels to Ed's dimension to find the head, eventually making contact with the authorities of Ed's world.
After inexplicably losing his hand, Chet Doodley attempts to atone for his unfaithfulness to his wife by killing his girlfriend, Josie. His motivation is the story of Saint Justin his mother had told him as a child—the saint cuts off his right hand to avoid sinning, and Chet assumes his lost hand is a like punishment from God.
After being beaten up, Ed is dragged into the sewers by penis-worshipping, rat-eating pygmy cannibals, along with the body of Josie, who revives as a vampire in time to save Ed from having his penis lopped off. The two attempt to escape from the sewers when they are accidentally shot by a mother-daughter pygmy hunter team. Josie dies again, and her disembodied spirit learns from the ghost of Chet's sister, Annie, that she has become a vampire.
The professor from Dimension X, assisted by members of the staff of the popular Adventures in Science TV show, find Ed and the president in the sewers and bring him to their TV studio. The discovery is big news, and the professor and the president make a TV appearance, but when it is discovered that the people of Dimension X are homosexual or bisexual,[a] the professor is violently killed, and Ed and the body of the body of Josie are put in confinement. The studio is invaded by the pygmies, however, when they recognize their "Penis God" on the television.
Josie's spirit returns to her body, and she and Ed escape and make their way to the hospital where Chet works. Josie gets her revenge by seducing Chet and killing him before he is able to repent, thus sending him to Hell.
Ed is one of a number of men secretly kidnapped in order for a man, Bick Backman, to have his penis transplanted with a larger one, in order to please his wife. Out of the lineup of unconscious men, Ed's penis with the President's head on it stands out and is chosen for Backman. After the operation, the Mounties raid the hospital and, finding Reagan, take Backman and leave Ed, who has had another, larger penis sewed on in the President's place. The hospital hands Ed over to Mrs Backman, claiming he is her husband. Though she is suspicious, she willingly accepts Ed (and his newly transplanted penis) as her husband.
Mrs Backman takes her "husband" home, but her children are not convinced that he is their father. However, after he has spent some time in the house, they decide "he's way better than the other one". There is a striking resemblance between Ed and Mrs Backman's large, round heads, and eventually it is revealed by her mother that they were twins separated at birth.
While at church, the Backman children are kidnapped by stone aliens, but the children are saved by Frankenstein's monster, who lands them in Washington, D.C., where they find their kidnapped father. Josie and Ed's friend Christian rescue the Backmans, returning them to their home. After Ed has his clown makeup restored, he reverts to his cheerful self. When he goes to visit Josie, he learns that her apartment building has burned down, and she was the only casualty. Her charred skeleton is brought out, clutching an unburnt hand. This ending appeared in the version of the story serialized in Yummy Fur and has never been reprinted.
Chet's severed hand visits Josie's apartment at night and rolls up her window shade. As a vampire, the sunlight kills her in the morning while she sleeps, burning up her body, and she and Chet are reunited in the flames of Hell.
- A big-headed, childlike clown with a Candide-like optimism, despite the hardships his creator puts him through He's not an active protagonist; rather, "things happen to him". He spends much of the story with the head of a miniature Ronald Reagan from another dimension for a penishead. He later discovers, after having the president severed from his penis and having a new one attached, that he has a long-lost twin sister.
Brown considers Ed to be an "adult who's pre-adolescent", whose sexuality is not fully formed.
- Chet Doodley
- A janitor working at a hospital, he is plagued with guilt over cheating on his wife after his hand falls off for no apparent reason. After having a dream in which a statue of the Virgin Mary turns into his girlfriend, Josie, and has sex with him, he murders Josie while having sex with her by stabbing her in the back in the woods. Josie, who becomes a vampire afterwards, hunts him down and eventually breaks his neck, sending him to Hell.
The character appears in some ways to be a stand-in for Brown himself ("Chet" is short for "Chester"). Brown admits that losing his hand like Chet is one of his phobias, as he would not be able to draw any longer, and so named the character "Chet".
- Chet's beautiful former girlfriend, who becomes a vampire "for actively engaging in a grievous sin" for committing adultery with her boyfriend Chet, when he murders her by stabbing her in the back. Her vampire self ends up saving Ed from having his penis decapitated by pygmy cannibals, and eventually tracks down Chet and kills him, sending him to Hell. In an alternate ending, she finds herself in Hell as well, eternally embracing Chet while being consumed by fire.
- Ronald Reagan
- President from an alternate dimension, whose head ends up attached to the end of Ed's penis. In Dimension X, where he comes from, people are much smaller than in Ed's work, and are homosexual or bisexual. In Ed's world, homosexuality is illegal.
Originally Brown had intended to use Ed Broadbent, a left-wing politician and then-leader of the Canadian social democratic New Democratic Party, as the head of the penis, but changed it to the right-winger Reagan due to how obscure Broadbent would have been to his American readers—Broadbent would "just ... be a name to them". He later regretted the decision, saying he could have included an explanation in the back of the book as to who Broadbent was. Neither Broadbent nor Reagan was meant to have been political statements. Brown was not very politically aware at the time, and had only the vaguest notions of what right- and left-wing politics were, although he says he probably would have believed in the NDP's policies at the time had he been more aware of what they were. Years later, Brown became a libertarian, and while "Reagan was no libertarian", he came to believe that Reagan was the best president of the U.S. since Calvin Coolidge.
The idea of a talking penis has appeared in a number of other comics, such as The Talking Head (1990) by Paolo Baciliero and Pete Sickman-Garner's Young Tim.
- Professor Ferron Jones
- Professor from Dimension X who discovers the inter-dimensional hole, and secretly makes his way to Ed's dimension to find the missing head of President Reagan when Nancy, the First Lady refuses to approve an expedition. He makes an appearance on TV, but later is killed when it is discovered that the people of his world are homosexual or bisexual, as homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Ed's world.
- Annie Doodley
- The spirit of Chet's sister, who died in infancy. She guides Josie's disembodied spirit, and tells Josie she has become a vampire, as she died while committing a grievous sin.
- Becky Backman
- Wife of Bick Beckman, whose penis transplant is interrupted by government agents. Ed is switched for Bick, and handed over to his wife. Ed starts a new life as Becky's husband, but it is later revealed to Becky by her mother that Ed is really her long lost twin brother, from whom she was separated at birth.
Becky's role is minimized in the collections, as all scenes in which she appears after Ed is handed over to her at the hospital are dropped. She was not originally conceived of as Ed's sister—Brown worked that into the story after he noticed a resemblance in the way he drew the two characters.
Ed had a large amount of potentially offensive content, including nudity, graphic violence, racist imagery, blasphemy, profanity and more. Brown himself had grown up in a strictly Baptist household in which he was not allowed to swear (as depicted in his graphic novel I Never Liked You, and in the story "The Little Man"). Some of the shocking content came from Brown confronting himself with things such as his disgust at scatological humour he believed was prevalent in Japanese comics, and his disgust at homosexuality. He was also going through a period of discovering what it was he believed about Christianity, a topic he would revisit throughout his life and career.
Brown was exploring some of the Freudian ideas the Surrealists made use of that he had discovered in Wallace Fowlie's Age of Surrealism. Brown said, "surrealist writers believed that in creating spontaneously they could get in touch with The Unconscious", which helped him find a direction for his work at a time when he admits he "had nothing to say". Following this path, he included certain scenes and images that made even himself uncomfortable; for example, the recurring Pygmy characters and their "ooga booga" language, which reinforced "old colonial imaging of 'third world natives'", according to Chris Lanier, writing in The Comics Journal.
Beginning Ed, Brown still considered himself a Christian, although he was not sure what being a Christian meant to himself. Over the course of creating the book, he also went through a period of agnosticism, after which he moved on to considering himself a Gnostic. Religious imagery abounds throughout the book—early on is a scene in which a fictional mediaeval "Saint Justin" puts off the advances of his wife, only to have her catch him masturbating while she is out chopping wood. She gets her revenge on him by chopping off his hand with the axe she was chopping wood with.
This imagery comes back to haunt Chet Doodley, who had an alternate version of this story read to him by his mother from a children's book of saints, in which "Saint Justin" cuts off his own hand to prevent himself from sinning, quoting Jesus: "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off" (Mark 9:43).[b] As an adult, the adulterous Chet loses his hand for no apparent reason. After having it unsatisfactorily sewn back on, he has a dream in which the Virgin Mary has sex with him, who turns into his girlfriend Josie, who pulls his hand off. He comes across a book titled Lives of the Saints, and reads once more about "Saint Justin". He calls Josie out to the woods, where he murders her while they have sex, saying, "[Y]ou have to cut off from yourself the thing that is making you sin." His hand is restored, and he prays to God.
While not part of the Ed story, Brown had been running straight adaptations of the Gospels of Mark and Matthew during most of Ed's run in Yummy Fur, a contrast which caught the attention of many. R. Fiore, writing in The Comics Journal, called this "the best exploration of Christian mythology since Justin Green's Binky Brown", comparing Chet's excessive Christian guilt with the "almost childlike retelling" of Mark.
The story got its start in the second issue of Brown's original Yummy Fur minicomic, the seven issues of which were reprinted in the first three issues of the Vortex Comics-published Yummy Fur. Ed ended up running in the first 18 issues Yummy Fur, with other backup features (most notably, Brown's Gospel adaptations). Originally, Brown had intended Ed to be his main, ongoing character, and had not planned to have an ending to the series, but by the eighteenth issue he felt the need to change directions. After reading a set of semi-autobiographical minicomics by Julie Doucet, he quickly decided to bring the series to an end (although it would not be the only ending), and began doing autobiographical comics and changed his drawing style.
I started off wanting to do superhero stuff, and 'Ed' was very much rooted in that pulp comic book field, close to the adventure comics I was interested in doing in my late teen and early 20s. Then I gradually began losing interest in 'Ed'. Most of that stuff wasn't reprinted in 'The Definitive Ed,' I wasn't interested in it. I was coming at it from a Marvel-DC point of view where you have a character and you just keep going with that character as long as people will buy it, and at a certain point I realized you don't have to do that. You can end a story like a novel ends and go onto something else. At the beginning of 'Ed', I was totally free; I could do anything; but at the end, so many things had been blocked off and the world defined in so many ways that I wasn't as free to create, and I was bored. The night I came up with the ending, the original ending in issue 18, I was overjoyed. Wow! I get to finish this!
Brown believes the story came to a "natural" conclusion at the end of Yummy Fur #12. This story is what made up the first Ed collection, which was intended to be the first in a series of Ed books, much like Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin series. However, he had "come to hate most of the Ed instalments from issues 13 to 18", and thought the ending in issue #12 was a fitting one. On the other hand, Brown felt that Josie's story had not properly wrapped up. While Josie's revenge on Chet could be seen as resolution, Brown could not "let Josie get away with it", as he saw the revenge impulse negatively, and devised an ending to reflect his belief, in which Josie ends up in Hell with Chet.
While Ed was the main feature of Yummy Fur until Brown switched gears to autobiographical comics, it was notably juxtaposed against his straight adaptations of the gospels of Mark and Matthew, which filled up the rest of the Yummy Fur issues starting with #4.
|Issues of Ed the Happy Clown
(Drawn and Quarterly reprint series)
Drawn and Quarterly (Brown's publisher since 1991) reissued the contents of the Definitive Ed collection in a nine issue series on smaller-sized pages from 2005 to 2006 titled Ed the Happy Clown, with new covers, previously unpublished art and extensive commentary by Brown.
Brown had devised a new ending to Ed the Happy Clown around 2001–02 while working on Louis Riel. After finishing that book, he dug out the ending again and started revising Ed to incorporate this new ending, which included added material earlier in the book to foreshadow the new ending. Soon he found himself rewriting and redrawing the whole story, this time working from a script. Drawn and Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros began to suspect what Brown had been doing in secret, so in order to distract him, Brown suggested re-serializing the "definitive" Ed collection, along with endnotes, which Oliveros went with. This version of Ed was issued in a book collection called, Ed the Happy Clown: a Graphic Novel, by Drawn and Quarterly in mid-2012.
Brown penciled about 100 pages of the revised version, but stopped because he believed the new version was not any better than the original.
Vortex Comics publisher Bill Marks had a panel of the Ed story in Yummy Fur #4 censored. The panel occurred during a scene in which a fictional "Saint Justin" was masturbating after putting off his wife's advances. In the panel, "Saint Justin" had just finished ejaculating all over his hand—his penis is unobstructed and in full view, with his semen-covered hand clearly visible behind it. Marks had the panel covered up with another illustration after discussing it with Brown. Brown was "annoyed" by this censorship, but agreed to go along with it. Marks later admitted it was a mistake that he would not make again, and indeed when Brown included a scene in the following issue of Ronald Reagan's head vomiting when he realizes he has been attached to Ed's penis, Marks made no objection, and all future collections of Ed restored the censored panel. When the panel was originally censored, Brown made clear to readers what was being censored with the note:
Sorry folks but this picture of a penis ejaculating onto a hand has been censored. If any of you want to see this page as I originally drew it send me a self addressed envelope (and an age statement) care of Vortex Comics and I'll send you a photocopy.
In stores, Yummy Fur was often wrapped in plastic with "adults only" labels on it. It is not known if Ed or Yummy Fur were ever banned from any stores, but it was dropped for a number of issues for by the comics distributor, Diamond, purportedly for low sales, despite the fact that it continued to distribute other Vortex titles which had lower sales figures.
Yummy Fur was also dropped by a printer in the province of Ontario. The printer had used discarded pages of the fourth issue of Yummy Fur to pack boxes of a feminist publication. The issue included a nude scene from the Ed serial in which Chet the janitor stabs the Josie the vampire while having sex with her. The feminist publisher lodged a complaint, and the printer informed Brown's publisher that they would not be handling the book anymore.
In September, 1989, Packaging Service and Supplies of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the U.S., the bindary who had been contracted to bind the first edition of Ed, refused to bind the already-printed pages, as they found the content too offensive.
The stories have been collected in three different editions, with significantly differing contents. They were dedicated to Kris Nakamura, a girlfriend of Brown's and the one who convinced him to self-publish the Yummy Fur minicomic.
The first collection, titled Ed the Happy Clown: A Yummy Fur Book, was released in 1989 by Vortex Comics before Brown had decided he would bring the story to a finish. It collects the Ed stories from the first 12 issues of Yummy Fur. This edition also contained a cartoon foreword penned by American Splendor writer Harvey Pekar, which was drawn by Brown. It was this edition that won Brown one of his two Harvey Awards in 1990, for Best Graphic Album, and a U.K. Comic Art Award the same year for Best Graphic Novel/Collection.
The second edition, also put out by Vortex, came out in 1992, after Brown had taken Yummy Fur to Drawn and Quarterly. This was labeled by Bill Marks The Definitive Ed Book. It reprinted what was in the first edition, with some more material from Yummy Fur #17, dropping most of the material from after Chet's death. Its ending also differed from the one in Yummy Fur #18—Chet's severed hand exacts revenge on Josie, and the couple find themselves wordlessly embracing in the fires of Hell. The "definitive" title was not Brown's idea, but was chosen by Marks for marketing reasons. Brown would rather not have had "definitive" on the cover, as he was not completely happy with the ending, but allowed Marks to go ahead with it.
In June 2012, Drawn and Quarterly published a third edition, entitled Ed the Happy Clown: A Graphic Novel. Essentially, the book reprinted the contents of the Ed series of a few years earlier, including, somewhat modified, the end notes and annotations which included background and autobiographical details. It also included a new introduction by Brown, replacing the introductions penned by Pekar and Solomos in the previous editions. Compared to previous editions, it was printed on higher-quality paper with higher contrast in the printing, and the artwork was reduced in size. It was a bestseller and reproductions of the covers were included in the endpapers.
The 2012 edition also included a ten-pager called "The Door", which Brown redrew from an anonymous public domain horror comic book story. In the story, a couple go through a door in a funhouse which leads through a passage in which they get lost for years. Their clothes disintegrate over that time, exposing their genitals, until they finally come across another door—one that leads them to Hell. Brown talks about the effect it had on himself when he discovered it in pre-adolescence—he found the story truly horrifying, as the couple had done nothing apparent to deserve their fate. He had originally intended to incorporate it into the Ed story, but capriciously veered off in another direction instead.
|Ed the Happy Clown Collections|
|1989||Ed the Happy Clown: a Yummy Fur Book||Vortex||198||978-0-921451-04-4|
|1992||Ed the Happy Clown: the Definitive Ed Book||215||978-0-921451-08-2|
|2012||Ed the Happy Clown: A Graphic Novel||Drawn and Quarterly||240||978-1-77046-075-1|
|Spanish||Ed, el payaso feliz||Ediciones La Cúpula||2006||Hernán Migoya||978-84-7833-731-6|
|German||Ed the Happy Clown||Reprodukt||2008||Dirk Baranek||978-3-941099-14-2|
"Brown arrived in print almost fully formed as an aritist", according to comics historian John Bell. His style, while showing the influence of artists such as Robert Crumb, Harold Gray and Jack Kirby, was distinct from his predecessors. He continued to mature as an artist and draughtsman throughout the run of Ed, showing enormous growth from the beginning to end of the graphic novel.
Brown drew the story one panel at a time one 5"x5" squares of cheap typewriter paper, which he placed on a block of wood on his lap instead of a drawing board. He used a number of different drawing tools, including Rapidograph technical pens, markers, crowquill pens and ink brushes, the latter of which he called his favourite tool toward the end of the story's run, although he did not use it much as he felt he could not work fast enough with a brush. He also had artwork printed from photocopies from his pencils, which was both faster to produce and had a more spontaneous feel.
The pre-Vortex stories had been done using a brush, but when Brown committed himself to a regular schedule, he felt that would be too slow, and switched to cheap markers to increase his productivity. Shortly after, he switched to pencil, which years later he acknowledged as a mistake—the pencil pages he deems "too raw", lacking the "fluid grace" of a brushline. While he was not using a brush for drawing, he was still using one to fill in blacks and to letter his dialogue balloons.
Usually, he would first roughly sketch in with a light blue pencil, go over it in more detail in HB pencil, at which stage "most of the work [was] done", and then fill in blacks and dark areas with a brush. By photocopying before sending the artwork to the printer, Brown could ensure that the copy printed from was sufficiently black. While he occasionally scripted certain pages or scenes, he often did not, and would often write in dialogue only after having drawn the artwork. The artwork was done rather freely, with Brown not feeling the need to rule his lines or lettering.
The stories were not planned out, but Brown would sometimes have an idea for a scene or more. Some ideas he found would carry him for up to two to three issues of Yummy Fur. Brown made use of flashback scenes done from a different perspective to change scenes that otherwise would have been set in stone—for example, when Brown revisited the scene of Josie's murder, he placed Ed behind a bush, linking their fates. When he had originally done the murder scene, he did not "know that Ed was over in the bushes a couple feet away". Brown made use of this technique to alter the story to his needs.
While the make-it-up-as-you-go-along method worked to a degree, Brown also found himself dissatisfied with much of the work, later abandoning about a hundred pages of it which he no longer intends to have reprinted. He also found that the method did not work as well with his abandoned Underwater, after which he turned to more carefully scripting out his stories.
When Brown started to do Ed, he was largely influenced by the comics he had grown up with, especially monster comics from Marvel Comics, such as Werewolf by Night and Frankenstein's Monster, drawn by artists like Mike Ploog; and DC comics like Swamp Thing by artists like Bernie Wrightson and Jim Aparo.
Since graduating from high school, Brown had been inching towards underground comix, starting with the work of Richard Corben and especially Moebius in Heavy Metal, and eventually getting over his disgust over Robert Crumb's sex-laden comics to become a huge fan of the Zap and Weirdo artist. He says the book that finally pulled him over into the underground was The Apex Treasury of Underground Comics, which included Crumb as well as Art Spiegelman's original short "Maus" story. He was also affected by Will Eisner's graphic novel, A Contract with God. Brown had already been an Eisner fan, but this book was different, "something that wasn't about a character with a mask on his face". He started drawing in a more underground style, and submitting work to Raw, Last Gasp and Fantagraphics. The work was rejected from these publishers for one reason or another, and Brown was eventually convinced by his friend Kris Nakamura, who was active in the Toronto small press scene, to take it and self-publish it. His minicomic, Yummy Fur, was the result, and included the earliest installments of the Ed the Happy Clown story.
The book also drew inspiration from pulp science fiction, religious literature and television clichés, and Harold Gray's Little Orphan Annie, which would become a primary influence on Brown's later work—especially Louis Riel—had an effect on Brown after he discovered some Annie reprint books in the early 1980s.
Reception and legacy
Ed was not a book for the squeamish, and was vilified by women's rights groups, as well as being off-putting to fellow cartoonists (some of whom, including Craig Thompson, later came to admire it). D. Aviva Rothschild, author of Graphic Novels: a Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics, found the story akin to "staring at six-day-old roadkill". Even Brown's father was too offended to keep reading after the fifth minicomic issue, "Ed and the Beanstalk".
However, the book was praised by numerous publications, from The Comics Journal to mainstream publications such as Rolling Stone, which placed Ed on an early-1990s "Hot" list, and The Village Voice. Time placed Ed at #7 on their list of "All Time top ten graphic novels", Fantagraphics editor/critic/co-publisher Kim Thompson placed Ed at #27 on his top 100 comics of the 20th Century, and former Comics Journal editor and Comics Reporter blogger Tom Spurgeon called Ed "one of the three best alt-comix serials of all time". It also appeared in Gene Kannenberg's 500 Essential Graphic Novels (2008).
Chris Lanier, writing in The Comics Journal, placed Ed in a tradition that included Daniel Clowes' Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, Max Andersson's Pixy and Eric Drooker's Flood!, works in which symbols appear with such frequency and importance to suggest significance, while remaining symbolically empty. He finds predecessors for these works in German Dada and the Theatre of the Absurd.
Comics critic R. Fiore initially found the 1992 ending disappointing, but changed his mind 2012, saying the sad ending gave Ed "an emotional punch that it wouldn't otherwise have". Douglas Wolk wrote that it is not surprising that Brown will not settle on one conclusion to the story, as that "would mean some kind of narrative closure", while Ed's premise is that "everything makes sense as a big picture eventually, but nothing can be relied on from moment to moment".
Ed had a large impact on a number of Brown's contemporaries, including fellow Canadians Dave Sim and Seth, who was taken in by the ambitiousness of Brown's storytelling—"[t]hose brilliant sequences where he would show a situation and then return to it later from a different perspective, like the death of Josie, really blew me away"—and Dave Cooper, who called Ed "the most perfect book ever".
Others who cite Brown's Ed as an influence on their work include Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Craig Thompson, Matt Madden, Eric Reynolds and the Canadian cartoonists Alex Fellows, whose Doug Wright Award-winning Canvas shows the influence of Ed, and Bryan Lee O'Malley, the latter of whom calls Brown "a Golden God", and whose Lost at Sea was heavily influenced by Ed. Anders Nilsen calls Ed "completely amazing and one of the best comics ever", placing it in his top five comic books, and citing it as a major influence on his spontaneous Big Questions.
|1990||Harvey Awards||Best Graphic Album
for the first edition
|1990||U.K. Comic Art Award||Best Graphic Novel/Collection
for the first edition
|1999||Urhunden Prizes||Foreign Album||Won|
Bruce McDonald has had the rights since 1991 to make an Ed movie, for which he plans to use Yummy Fur as the title. The film will possibly use stop-motion animation, but the project has yet to get off the ground.[c] At one point, McDonald had hoped to have Macaulay Culkin star as Ed, Rip Torn as president Reagan and Drew Barrymore as the First Lady. In 2000, it was reported that the movie would have a budget of $6,000,000, but it was unable to get the necessary financial backing. A script had been written by Don McKellar, and later with John Frizzell.
The movie is alluded to in one installment of a series of strips the City of Toronto commissioned Brown to do as part of their Live with Culture campaign that was run in Now magazine for six weeks in 2007. In the strip, a zombie and his human girlfriend attend a screening of McDonald's still-unmade adaptation. McDonald managed to sneak Brown's graphic novel into scenes in his film The Tracey Fragments the same year.
- Scott Grammel: At the conclusion of the mini-dimensional storyline it ends with the revelation that the mini-dimension planet is one in which everyone is homosexual or bisexual.
Chester Brown: I'm glad you caught that distinction.
- Mark 9:43
Brown quoted: "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off -- it is better for thee to enter into life maimed than having two hands to go into hell."
- From Bruce McDonald at IMDb: "Trivia: Has been trying for years to get the financial backing for his feature-length version of Chester Brown's cult comic book story, Ed The Happy Clown."
- Brown 1998, p. 161.
- Juno 1997, p. 135.
- McKay 2005.
- Wolk 2007, p. 148.
- Bell 2006, p. 154.
- Wolk 2007, p. 149.
- Levin 2012.
- Fiore 2012.
- Grammel 1990, p. 85.
- Wolk 2007, p. 150.
- Levin 1993, p. 48.
- Davis 1989.
- Grammel 1990, p. 84.
- Brown 2006 (March), notes p. 2.
- Rothschild 1995, pp. 82, 91–92.
- Wolk 1999.
- Grammel 1990, p. 83.
- Hwang 1998; Juno 1997, p. 143.
- Brown 2005 (February), notes p. 1.
- Lanier 1995, p. 100.
- Brown 2005 (November), notes p. 3.
- Brown 2005 (November), notes p. 1; Levin 2012.
- Fiore 1987.
- Brown 2006 (September), notes p. 1.
- Levin 1993, p. 47.
- Brown 2006 (September), notes pp. 1–2.
- Pustz 1999, p. 92.
- Brown 2006 (September), notes p. 2.
- Wolk 2007, p. 148; Walker 2011.
- Grammel 1990, p. 88.
- Brown 2006 (January), notes p. 2.
- Brown 1987, p.3, panel 3; Brown 2005 (November), notes pp. 1–2.
- McKay 2005; Grammel 1990, p. 88.
- Brown 2006 (July), notes p. 2.
- McKay 2005; Brown 2006 (January), notes p. 1.
- Brown 1989, pp. 15–16.
- CBLDF 2011, p. 23.
- Juno 1997, p. 131; Brown 2005 (February), notes p. 2.
- Harvey Awards staff 1990.
- Bell 2006, p. 150.
- Arnold 2004.
- Levin 2012; Carlick 2012.
- Blake 2012.
- New York Times 2012.
- Spurgeon 2012.
- Product page at Reprodukt's website
- Rehm 2008.
- Matt 1992.
- Brown 2006 (January), notes p. 1.
- Grammel 1990, p. 86.
- Sim 2005; Epp 2002.
- Grammel 1990, p. 85; Grammel 1990, p. 72.
- Grammel 1990, p. 77.
- Grammel 1990, p. 78.
- Juno 1997, p. 132.
- Grammel 1990, p. 79.
- McKay 2005; TCAF staff 2005.
- McKay 2005; Bell 2006, p. 150.
- Arnold 2005; Rhoades 2008, pp. 221–222.
- Thompson 2002.
- Spurgeon 2005.
- Kannenberg 2008.
- Lanier 1995, p. 99.
- Lanier 1995, p. 102.
- Fiore 1992, p. 42.
- McKeown 2002.
- Nester 2005; Carlick 2012.
- Contino & Atchison 2002.
- Algeo 2011.
- Romberger 2011.
- Hammarlund 2007; Hahn 2006.
- Halfyard 2007.
- Guillen 2007.
- IMDB Bio of Bruce McDonald.
- Playback staff 2000.
- Wershler 2008; Rogers 2008.
- Verniere 2008.
- Algeo, Courtney (2011-11-02). "Anders Nilsen, creator of cartoons both terrifying and meaningful". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
- Arnold, Andrew D. (2004-04-12). "Keeping it 'Riel'". Time. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Arnold, Andrew D. (2005-10-16). "Ed the Happy Clown (1989), by Chester Brown". Time. Retrieved 2011-11-17.
- Bell, John (2006). Invaders from the North: How Canada Conquered the Comic Book Universe. Dundurn Press. ISBN 978-1-55002-659-7.
- Blake, Cory (2012-06-06). "3 New Comics for New Readers – June 6, 2012". Comics Observer. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
- Brown, Chester (April 1987). Yummy Fur (Vortex Comics) (4).
- Brown, Chester (1989). "Why I Did This Comic". Sudden Panic (self-published minicomic) (1): 12–16.
- Brown, Chester (February 2005). Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly) (1).
- Brown, Chester (November 2005). Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly) (4).
- Brown, Chester (January 2006). Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly) (5).
- Brown, Chester (March 2006). Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly) (6).
- Brown, Chester (July 2006). Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly) (8).
- Brown, Chester (September 2006). Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly) (9).
- Brown, Chester (1998). The Little Man: Short Stories 1980–1995. Drawn and Quarterly. ISBN 1-896597-13-0.
- Carlick, Stephen (2012-06-26). "Welcome back, Ed the Happy Clown". Maclean's. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Comic Book Legal Defense Fund staff (2011). Comics Seized by Canadian Border Officials from 2003–2010. Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
- Contino, Jennifer M.; Atchison, Lee (December 2002). "Fantagraphics Man of Many Hats: Eric Reynolds". Sequential Tart. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- Brown, Chester. Ed the Happy Clown. Drawn and Quarterly. Nine issues (February 2005–September 2006)
(notes pages unnumbered; pages counted from first page of notes)
- Davis, Erik (January 1989). "Ed's Big Boy". Spin 4 (10): 13. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
- Epp, Darell (2002-01-29). "Two-Handed Man interviews cartoonist Chester Brown". twohandedman.com. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- Fiore, Richard (December 1987). "Review of Yummy Fur #4–5". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books) (118): 45–46. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Fiore, Richard (May 1992). "Funnybook Roulette". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books) (150): 41–43. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Fiore, R. (2012-06-27). "Gold Out of Straw". The Comics Journal. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Guillen, Michael (2007-12-01). "MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI—Interview With Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
- Grammel, Scott (April 1990). "Chester Brown (interview)". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books) (135): 66–90. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Hahn, Joel (2006). "Urhunden Prize". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Retrieved 2011-05-02.
- Halfyard, Kurt (2007-09-15). "Ed the Happy Clown Adaptation in the Works. Stop Motion by the Madame Tutli-Putli folks?". Twitch Film. Retrieved 2011-11-15.
- Hammarlund, Ova (2007-08-08). "Urhunden: Satir och iransk kvinnoskildring får seriepris". Urhunden. Retrieved 2012-09-05. (Swedish)
- Harvey Awards staff (1990). "1990 Harvey Award Winners". Harvey Awards. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
- Hwang, Francis (1998-21-23). "Graven Images". City Pages. Retrieved 2011-11-29.
- IMDb staff. "Biography for Bruce McDonald". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
- Juno, Andrea (1997). "Interview with Chester Brown". Dangerous Drawings. Juno Books, LLC. pp. 130–147. ISBN 0-9651042-8-1.
- Kannenberg, Gene (2008). 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide. ILEX. Retrieved 2012-07-06.
- Lanier, Chris (February 1995). "Pixy and the Post-Nuke Protagonist". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books) (174): 96–102. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Levin, Bob (October 1993). "Chester Brown". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books) (162): 45–49. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Levin, Bob (2012-07-09). "To Hell and Back". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books). Retrieved 2012-07-11.
- Matt, Joe (1992). "Nov. 27th, 1990". Peepshow. Kitchen Sink Press. p. 68. ISBN 1-896597-27-0.
- Mackay, Brad (2005-07-18). "Special Ed". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Archived from the original on 2009-02-26. Retrieved 2011-11-14.
- McKeown, Patrick (August 2002). "The Dave Cooper Interview". The Comics Journal (Fantagraphics Books) (245): 76–106. ISSN 0194-7869.
- Nester, Daniel (October 2005). "An Interview with Matt Madden". Bookslut. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- New York Times staff (2012-06-19). "Bestsellers: Hardcover Graphic Books: June 24, 2012". Retrieved 2012-06-20.
- Playback staff (2000-06-12). "McDonald goes hard core with sex, violence". Playback Online. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- Pustz, Matthew J. (1999). Comic Book Culture: Fanboys and True Believers. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-57806-201-0.
- Rehm, Dirk (2008-11-14). "Ed, der fröhliche Clown". Retrieved 2011-11-22.
- Rhoades, Shirrel (2008). Comic Books: How the Industry Works. Peter Lang. ISBN 978-0-8204-8892-9.
- Rogers, Sean (2008-09-22). Chester Brown's Zombie Romance. Walrus magazine. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
- Romberger, James (2011-08-09). "Massive, Eccentric, Ambitious: Anders Nilsen's 'Big Questions'". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- Rothschild, D. Aviva (1995). Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-length Comics. Libraries Unlimited. ISBN 978-1-56308-086-9.
- Sim, Dave (2005-05-30). "The Creator's Bill of Rights: A Letter from Dave Sim 4". Retrieved 2011-11-27.
- Spurgeon, Tom (2005-08-24). "Eight Stories for '05 #4 -- The Return of Alt-Comix?". The Comics Rporter. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- Spurgeon, Tom (2012-06-19). "CR Review: Ed the Happy Clown". The Comics Rporter. Retrieved 2012-06-20.
- Thompson, Kim (2002). "Kim Thompson's Top 100". Fantagraphics Books. Retrieved 2011-11-24.
- Toronto Comic Arts Festival staff (2005). "The Toronto Comic Arts Festival 2005". Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- James, Verniere (2008-06-27). "'Fragments' takes Page out of 'Juno'". Boston Herald.
- Chester Brown, Benjamin (2011-05-17) (Audio). The Difference Between Giving and Taking (a conversation with Chester Brown). (Interview). http://soundcloud.com/bwalker/the-difference-between-giving. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Wolk, Douglas (October 1999). "Lightreading: Greasy Kids Stuff". CMJ 74: 68. ISSN 1074-6978.
- Wolk, Douglas (2007). "Chester Brown: The Outsider". Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. Da Capo Press. pp. 147–155. ISBN 978-0-306-81509-6.
- Wershler, Darren (2008-04-01). "Zombie Parables". alienated.net. Retrieved 2011-11-16.
- Bruce McDonald talks about the Yummy Fur/Ed the Happy Clown adaptation (1996) on YouTube
- Podcast about Ed at Deconstructing Comics
- Ed the Happy Clown character at the Comic Book DB
- Ed the Happy Clown TPB (first edition, 1989) at the Comic Book DB
- Ed the Happy Clown: the Definitive Edition (1992) at the Comic Book DB
- Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly series) at the Comic Book DB
- Ed the Happy Clown (Drawn and Quarterly series) at the Grand Comics Database