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M.K. Brown; like the forties, but all trippy and melty


This is Mary K. Brown, my favorite cartoonist. Actually, I think most people refer to her as a surrealist rather than a cartoonist. I believe a more accurate diagnosis might be “elevator does not go to top floor.”

She did a number of cartoons for National Lampoon (during the funny years), including features like Inroads into Science and Mercury, Messenger of God. Eventually, she got a regular small strip in the cartoon section, Aunt Mary’s Kitchen. I managed to pick up more of her stuff in comic anthologies. I found Self Portrait in one of these.

She did some kids’ books (which really do not properly mine her rich vein of lunacy) and, I believe, some fine art (which I can’t seem to find online any more) but, really, has had a surprisingly small lifetime output. Also, she was born in Connecticut (eventually) and she answered my fan letter (briefly and politely). That’s all I know about her.

I don’t think I can explain what it is about her drawings (and writings) that hits me just right. Somehow she manages to capture a whole scary but somehow oddly familiar world of melted snapshots and corner-of-the-eye hallucinations. Poke around her site and see if you can see it. She had a definite influence on my work as a young artist, which was tragically unfortunate, since I was a technical illustrator.

Why now? I was squinting at giant chalk Homer, trying to work out if the feeling was amusement or embarrassment, and it made me think of Dr. N!Godatu. This was a short cartoon M.K. Brown produced that ran between segments of the Tracy Ullman show in the ’80s. It alternated with a cartoon called the Simpsons.

The Simpsons swiftly elbowed Dr. N!Godatu out of the nest. Can you imagine how hard that must suck? It’s like being the girl standing next to the girl discovered by the bigtime Hollywood movie producer. It’s like picking the winning lottery number the week before it’s the winning lottery number. Honest to god, I think I’d go step in front of a bus.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: July 18, 2007, 12:58 pm


Comment from whitishrabbit
Time: July 18, 2007, 1:05 pm


Comment from Pupster
Time: July 18, 2007, 2:11 pm

She certainly has her own style.

I get the impression that there are back stories to illustrations, something that she doesn’t want to share or something that I’m not smart enough to figure out.

I get that ‘not smart enough’ feeling all the time though. Surreally.

Comment from Pupster
Time: July 18, 2007, 2:13 pm


‘her’ illustrations

Comment from Bill D Bunny
Time: January 11, 2020, 4:10 pm

She’s awesome, one of the artist’s that made the old Lampoon what it was. Inroads Into Science is the one I always remember. That’s all I got.

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