John Brodowski grew up in an “utterly unremarkable” New England town. Unfortunately this is also where he currently lives. During his brain’s most crucial developmental period he enjoyed watching many, many horror movies such as Rawhead Rex, Death Race 2000, and The Toxic Avenger. He also enjoyed staying up very late and eating 10 packs of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. JB is currently battling a Pepsi addiction but can’t seem to make comics without it. Bottom Line: If you like the movie Cyborg starring Jean-Claude Van Damme then you should buy these comics.
IN THE EMPORIUM
John’s comics can be found in the Secret Acres Emporium here.
What were the best comic books of the last year? Dan Nadel, founder of the PictureBox publishing house, lists his favourites …
Way out in North America, in the countryside past the suburbs, near a forest near a lake, John Brodowski has planted his Curio Cabinet (Secret Acres). Each story in this collection maintains a perfectly reasonable veneer until, for example, an enormous dog paw descends from the heavens and slaps a man out of a car, or a menacing Loch Ness Monster is hailed by a hard-rocking Judas Priest. This is a book in which a doppelganger of the old Friday the 13th villain Jason Vorhees, he of the hockey mask, appears again and again, like a totem, achieving a weirdly peaceful mythos by the end. And yet it all seems so ordinary in Brodowski’s methodical, carefully shaded panels, each unravelling just so, patiently waiting for us to give in to his logic. All of this is to say: I can’t think of a better metaphysical horror comic in recent memory.
– The Economist: More Intelligent Life
Idiosyncratic, funny, and haunting, Curio Cabinet is a laugh out loud exploration of the mysterious and mundane, where the awe inspiring is unearthed and revealed, often without warning, from the detritus of modern life. There is nothing else like it. In Brodowski’s hands, content and style come together to create a surprisingly layered, rich, singular work, revealing an artist in deft control of his form. One of the best young cartoonists to emerge in years.
- Sammy Harkham
Like the other books Secret Acres publishes, Curio Cabinet is the result of a cartoonist with a vision that doesn’t neatly conform to underground, genre or typical alt-comics sensibilities. Curio Cabinet is informed by pop culture detritus in terms of its form and inspiration, but Brodowski takes that juvenilia and creates something strange, beautiful and memorable. It’s a comic that must be approached on its own terms, because while the images and stories can be teased for meaning with a little effort, Brodowski not only doesn’t spell it out, he understands that spelling it out would destroy the effect he’s going for: that sense of full immersion in fantasy, following it to its furthest ends.
– Rob Clough, The Comics Journal
Every day throughout the month of December, Attentiondeficitdisorderly will spotlight one of the best comics of 2010. Today’s comic is Curio Cabinet by John Brodowski, published by Secret Acres — quietly ecstatic horror.
I’ve been writing about the similarity between the horrific and the sublime for (God help me) over a decade now, but its rare for me to come across a comic that makes that connection as frequently and as subtly as John Brodowski’s Curio Cabinet. While reading it I located squarely in the increasingly rich contemporary alt-horror tradition–the deformed figures and soft pencils of Renee French, the heavy-metal/D&D imagery of Lane Milburn, the mostly wordless narratives of (to my delight!) almost too many talented horror cartoonists to list. And yes, there’s even the de rigeur cat-torturing scene. But only in flipping through the book in preparation to write this review did I realize just how many of Brodowski’s short, creepy stories end with their alternately hapless or horrifying protagonists gazing into a vista of vast natural or even cosmic splendor. Two separate characters who have very different nature-based obsessions both end up immersed in the great outdoors, staring off into the distance–as does a lake monster after unleashing its full destructive power on a battlefield. Two other characters–one the victim of a monster-induced car wreck, the other none other than Jason Voorhees–become a part of titanic outer-space tableaux: Jason is cradled by his mother Pieta-style in the sky, the accident victim welcomed into the embrace of a colossal dog-god. Several stand-alone images, most memorably a series of illustrations from the old anti-Semitic myth cycle of the Wandering Jew, take on a similarly ecstatic, transcendental feel. The message is both troubling and comforting: It implies a connection between the individual horrors we experience and the very fabric of existence, yet it also suggests that perhaps an enlightenment is possible whereby this waking nightmare can be appreciated, if never fully understood. More like this, please.
– Sean T. Collins, Attentiondeficitdisorderly
Curio Cabinet by John Brodowski is really terrifying, nightmarish and good. It’s smart and weird and everything I hope for when I got to pick up my mail at the PO Box.
– Kevin Huizenga
John Brodowski’s first two comics are drawn in lush pencils, the perfect medium in which to depict the dullness of suburbia and its inhabitants: grotesque families, D&D-inspired monsters, and passionate squirrel-men.
The stories in these books are very cinematic. The opening piece in Curio Cabinet #1, “Grandfather’s Clock,” reminded me of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Like that film, its subject is a mysterious reproduction: A fiddler performing on stage creates a cloud of musical notes, two of which engage in some kind of intercourse, resulting in the birth of the protagonist. The mutated family, music incarnate, is observed eating a meal and communicating in musical-note filled speech balloons. The cute musical-note-headed hero visits the fiddler (his grandfather?) in the hospital … the end. This story has its own logic and doesn’t stoop to explain itself, leaving the reader with a generous amount of dark graphite images to ponder.
A series of drawings follow that deepen and darken the mood, depicting incursions of sci-fi weirdness into playgrounds and backyards. These remind me of Steven Spielberg or the photos of Gregory Crewdson, in which the burbs are invaded by inexplicable, supernatural forces. It’s a familiar device, but these drawings are very funny.
The book ends with another memorable and wordless tale. A picnicker is plucked up by a massive wolf-headed bird, much to his girlfriend’s chagrin. The bird files the man to a mountain in the clouds to do battle with two of the most gnarly characters ever seen outside of Napoleon Dynamite’s sketchbook.
The second issue of Curio Cabinet contains a long tale about a man’s obsession with squirrels, and a series of short strips starring Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. It is only slightly less perfect than issue #1, and is also highly recommended.
– Matthew Thurber, Comics Comics
Top 50 Books of 2010
8. Curio Cabinet, by John Brodowski (Secret Acres). Here’s my original review. To quote that review: “[Curio Cabinet is] series of stories where quiet moments quickly become outrageous and horrific in a way that is frequently ecstatic, and outrageous moments unexpectedly become calm and contemplative.” Like much of alt-comics horror, this book works on a number of levels, not the least of which is as comedy.
- Rob Clough, High-Low
Brodowski’s tastes for trinket collecting, gas station kitsch, 80′s horror and action movies, heavy metal, and rural Vermont get tossed in the blender and Curio Cabinet is the result. Brodowski has developed a signature drawing style that relies on pencil shading and leaves out the ink all together. The Curio Cabinet book by Secret Acres collects the self-published Curio Cabinet 1-4 plus some extra goodies. Each issue is a collection of short segments, with very little text or dialog, and other random drawings. Some of the pieces have the essence of a narrative, which is usually a very small segment of time or some psychedelic transformation. Browdowski has a real knack for expanding a moment and lingering on the details within. There is a really interesting tension between the hints of narrative and the refusal to lay it all out in some easily understood fashion. Basically, I think a lot of readers could mistake these short segments as not making any sense and not saying anything, but most of these segments do have some sort of logic to them, even if it is an inside joke and difficult to decode. Curio Cabinet really relies on reading the images, noticing small differences and having a twisted sense of humor. There is a continuing segment called “Cus Mommy Says So” which chronicles the loneliness John imagines for Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. Most of the other tales are short one-offs. Look for tales of a suicidal axe, a man who want to become a squirrel, teen dweeb metal heads, the joys of building a fort in the woods, and other weirdness that is too hard to put into words and best just experienced.
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We're back on our Scuttlebutt blog with our Comic Arts Brooklyn report, and our Brooklyn Ale House party report and our Grumpy Bert show report and our year-end report and a tiny, little look ahead to next year. CAB is, for us and lots of other comics people, the start of the holiday season, so we're a little Auld Lang Syne-ish about the show. There were hiccups this time around, and no Cartoon House (see the post for an explanation of that) but CAB still has the best exhibitors at any show, making Brooklyn proud. Speaking of heart-warming, many thanks to the folks at Grumpy Bert. Someone came all the way from Philadelphia just to see Theo and the brand new second book of his Understanding Monster trilogy. That's the kind of amazing that made 2014 our best year ever. We owe everyone a big thank you for reading our books and, really, for reading. You guys are the best. Normally, in our last post of the year, we babble about all the new stuff coming your way. We can't do that anymore. We're joining the likes of Koyama Press and Uncivilized Books and Nobrow at the good distributorship, Consortium. Sure, that's business stuff, but it's a big deal for Secret Acres. Still, we did manage to sneak at least one 2015 comic into this final blathering. Read on...
Comic Arts Brooklyn is today! I'll be signing at the Secret Secret Acres table!
Join us and Theo Ellsworth and everybody else tonight for a gallery show and some Comic Arts Brookyln pre-gaming at Brooklyn’s own Grumpy Bert! You can beat the CAB crowd to the punch and get your very own signed and sketched copy of Theo’s latest, the Understanding Monster Book Two. Book Two picks up where Book One left off, following Pharoah Tellitome, Inspector Gimble, Turtletree, Master Sponko and Minnow on their collective quest to awaken Izadore and re-establish his identity and memory. Get to Grump Bert early enough and you can really lord it over folks: the first ten to arrive get a limited edition Theo print made just for tonight’s show. Of course, there will be free beer and bubbly, too. What more is there to life?