I Never Liked You

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This article is about the graphic novel. For the song, see I Never Liked You (song).
I Never Liked You
Cartoon book cover showing two long-haired figures embracing
Cover of the 2nd ("New Definitive") edition of I Never Liked You
Creator Chester Brown
Date 1994
Publisher Drawn and Quarterly
Original publication
Published in Yummy Fur
Issues 26–30
Date of publication October 1991 – April 1993

I Never Liked You is a graphic novel by Canadian cartoonist Chester Brown. Originally serialized as Fuck in issues #26–30 of Brown's comic book Yummy Fur in 1991–1993, it appeared in book form by Drawn and Quarterly in 1994.

The book was the last work of Browns early autobiographical period. Brown originally intended it to be part of a longer work together with what became his previous book The Playboy, but found the larger story too complex for him to handle at once. The story deals with the teenage Brown's introversion and difficulty talking to others, especially members of the opposite sex. It is told without a narrator and with minimal dialogue.

The artwork is sparse, loose, and impressionistic, with as few as a single small panel to a page. Originally set against black page backgrounds, Brown replaced the black with white for the annotated "New Definitive Edition" in 2002.

Synopsis[edit]

The autobiographical story takes place during Brown's adolescence, growing up in Canada in Châteauguay, Quebec, a suburb of Montreal. Chet's mother is strict with him regarding swearing. As a result, he has a hard time bringing himself to use such language, a fact that is picked up by his classmates who tease him and try to goad him into swearing.

Chester (or "Chet") is an introverted teenager bullied by classmates, and has trouble talking with girls, even though he is interested in them, and they express their interest in him. He constantly, and inexplicably, turns them away. Except in his imagination, Chet has difficulty expressing affection even for his mother, who, suffering from schizophrenia, dies while in the hospital.

A neighbourhood girl, Carrie, constatly tries to win Chet over, but he is interested in Sky, a large-breasted girl who lives next door and whom he has masturbatory fantasies about. He finally confesses his love to her, but unable to deal with his feelings constantly turns her away when she tries to spend to with him.

Main characters[edit]

Chester "Chet" Brown
Brown depicts himself as a thin, long-haired teenager who is awkward, introverted,[1] and better able to express himself through drawing than speaking.[2] He is emotionally withdrawn and unable to show even his mother affection when he visits her in the hospital. Due to the religious teaching his mother has instilled in him, he cannot bring himself to swear, for which he is teased and goaded at school.[1]
Chet's mother
Chet and Gordon's mother (1923–76)[3] is deeply religious. She talks to her sons about issues that embarrass them, such as about the female body. She dies shortly after checking herself into a hospital to deal with her schizophrenia.[1] Her schizophrenic is not made explicit in the book,[4] but Brown talks about it in his cartoon essay "My Mother was a Schizophrenic", in which he takes an anti-psychiatric stance.
Sky
Sky is a dark-haired, large-breasted girl two years younger than Chet who lives in the house next door. Chet masturbates about her, but at first cannot bring himself to express his love for her. She connects with Chet and tries to develop a relationship, but he is unable to deal with his feelings and makes excuses not to spend time with her.[5]
Connie
Connie is a bossy blonde a year Chet's senior who lives across the street from Chet's house. She and Chet have seem to have little in common, but often talk.[1]
Carrie
Carrie is Connie's younger sister who transparently has a crush on Chet and becomes possessive of him,[4] but whom Chet repeatedly tries to put off. She attacks Chet when she learns Chet has confessed his love for Sky.[1]

Background and publication[edit]

Photograph of a man in a formal suit, hat, and glasses
The artwork of fellow Toronto cartoonist Seth inspired Brown to simplify his own.

Brown grew up in Châteauguay, a Montreal suburb with a large English-speaking minority;[6] Brown speaks no French.[3] Brown described himself as a "nerdy teeneager" attracted to comic books from a young age, and aimed at a career in superhero comics, but was unsuccessful in getting work with Marvel or DC Comics after graduating from high school.[6] He moved to Toronto and discovered underground comix[7] and the small-press community, and from 1983[6] began self-publishing a minicomic called Yummy Fur.[8]

From 1986[9] Toronto-based Vortex Comics began publishing Yummy Fur. After making a name for himself in alternative comics with the surreal serial Ed the Happy Clown, Brown turned to autobiography[10] under the influence of the work of Julie Doucet and Joe Matt. During his autobiographical period, Brown gradually simplified his style, inspired by the example of his friend and fellow Toronto cartoonist Seth.[11] He began tentatively with a pair of short tales, and gradually became freer with his panel layouts and simpler in his artwork.[12]

Brown had switched publishers to the Montreal-based Drawn and Quarterly by the time he completed his first autobiographical graphic novel, The Playboy, in 1992.[10] At first, Brown had intended The Playboy and I Never Liked You to form one story, but found it too complex to handle when he started to plan it out.[13] The Playboy deals with Brown's guilt over his teenage obsession with masturbating over pornography. The book gained praise from fans, critics, and other cartoonists, and won a Harvey Award. It also received criticism who saw it as objectifying women and glorifying pornography; Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner sent Brown a letter voicing concern that Brown would feel such guilt in a post-sexual revolution world. [14]

Style[edit]

The story unfolds in vignettes,[15] and little setup or context is given to each scene. To Charles Hatfield, they "[pop] out of nowhere as a dreamlike series of pulses ... The effect is sometimes eerie  ... despite the grounding of the story in mundane everyday stuff."[4] Despite the 1970s adolescent backdrop, absent in the story are sex and drugs, due to Brown's life being shaped by his strictly religious parents.[16]

Unlike in his previous graphic novel, The Playboy, Brown makes limited use of a narrator in I Never Liked You. The story is told almost entirely through its pictures and sparse dialogue.[4] The page layouts are also sparse, sometimes limited to a single, small panel on a page,[17] sometimes up to seven or eight.[2] In the original serialization and in the first collected edition the panels were placed on black backgrounds. Brown made the black backgrounds white in the 2002 edition.[4]

Brown abandoned the grid layout that he had used for more varied, organic layouts.[18] He made the drawings first and laid down panel borders afterwards, conforming to the shape of the pictures they enclosed, and were done in a wobbly free-hand much like the artwork of the Hernandez brothers or Robert Crumb.[19] He drew each panel indivually, assembling them into pages afterwards.[2]

The fragile, impressionistic artwork[2] is drawn with a brush, and is amongst the simplest and sparsest in Brown's body of work. There is nonetheless quite a bit of hatching,[20] and the backgrounds are naturalistic, in contrast to the thin, distorted figures of the characters.[21] Brown had been paring down his style starting with the Playboy stories as he was not happy with his style and was trying "to rebuild [his] style in a way that [he] would like". He continued this with I Never Liked You, where he has said he was "trying to get even more pared down than The Playboy".[20]

Publication[edit]

I Never Liked You was originally serialized as Fuck in issues #26–30 of Yummy Fur between October 1991 and April 1993.[22] In contrast with his earlier works, especially the highly improvised Ed the Happy Clown, Brown says that there "was very little improvisation in I Never Liked You. It was quite planned out, even if I didn't write a full script."[23] The story was the last work from his autobiographical period" period that started with the story Helder in Yummy Fur #19 in 1990. Yummy Fur continued for two more issues before Drawn and Quarterly publisher Chris Oliveros convinced Brown to publish his next serial, Underwater, under its own title being in 1994. Brown returned to autobiography in 2011 with the graphic novel Paying for It, a polemic arguing for the decriminalization of prostitution.[24]

A "New Definitive Edition" of I Never Liked You appeared in 2002, in which Brown added two pages of contextual endnotes,[10] something Brown had incresingly been doing since the cartoon essay "My Mom was a Schizophrenic" (1995).[25] When the story was originally collected in 1994 the pages were black behind all the panels; he changed them to white in the "New Definitive Edition" rearranged the panels somewhat, stating in an interview: "I like austerity. The white background looks more austere to me."[23]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Brown's autobiographical work developed of a scene that had been developing since the 1970s and which had reached a peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Brown's open and un-self-flattering example left an impact on the work of cartoonists such as Jeffrey Brown and Ariel Schrag, and his sparse layouts on the work of those such as Anders Nilsen.[11] On its conclusion, reviewer Darcy Sullivan called it "a major step forward for the artist, a leading light in adult comics".[26] Gilbert Hernandez called The Playboy and I Never Liked You "probably the best graphic novels next to Maus".[27] Norwegian cartoonist Jason calls I Never Liked You a favourite autobiographical work.[28] Academic Charles Hatfield called the "hide with me"[29] page of I Never Liked You one of his favourites.[4]

As one of "The autobiographical comics from Yummy Fur", in 1999 I Never Liked You placed #38 on The Comics Journal '​'s list of the top 100 English-language comics of the 20th century. I Never Liked You also appeared in Stephen Weiner's book The 101 Best Graphic Novels in 2001.[30]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Køhlert 2012, p. 379.
  2. ^ a b c d Køhlert 2012, p. 380.
  3. ^ a b Sim 2003.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Hatfield 2008.
  5. ^ Køhlert 2012, pp. 378–379.
  6. ^ a b c Bell 2006, p. 144.
  7. ^ Juno 1997, p. 132.
  8. ^ Juno 1997, p. 131.
  9. ^ Bell 2006, p. 146.
  10. ^ a b c Køhlert 2012, p. 378.
  11. ^ a b Køhlert 2012, p. 381.
  12. ^ Grace & Hoffman 2013, p. xviii.
  13. ^ Juno 1997, p. 140.
  14. ^ Grace & Hoffman 2013, p. xx.
  15. ^ Grace & Hoffman 2013, p. xxi.
  16. ^ Bell 2006, p. 158.
  17. ^ Lefèvre 2009, p. 161.
  18. ^ Santoro 2010.
  19. ^ Wolk 2007, p. 153.
  20. ^ a b Juno 1997, p. 135.
  21. ^ Køhlert 2012, pp. 379–380.
  22. ^ Lefèvre 2010, p. 313.
  23. ^ a b Verstappen 2007.
  24. ^ Grace & Hoffman 2013, pp. xxi, xxv.
  25. ^ Park 2011.
  26. ^ Sullivan 1994, p. 53.
  27. ^ Bell 2006; Gravett; Thompson 2004, p. 84.
  28. ^ Heater 2009.
  29. ^ Brown 2002, p. 33.
  30. ^ Weiner 2001.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]