Three years ago Brie Moreno was a student at OCAD in Toronto, studying for her degree and occasionally releasing comics online under the name Boogerbrie. Now she’s a published artist (see new comic Mumu and the Silky Road), a cult figure in the world of alternative comics, and an integral part of a publishing outfit responsible for making London exciting again—if pages of boxed-up narratives are your thing. If that’s not your thing, she’s got, like, 22,000 Instagram followers. Respect.
Perhaps part of Moreno’s ascension has been due to advocates in high places—last year Rookie’s Minna Gilligan thoroughly picked her brains about the creative process—but it’s mostly just because her work is brilliant and bizarre; a dash of Henry Darger, a touch of Patrick Kyle, some Sesame Street, a little Looney Tunes, some Lisa Frank drawn in crayon; a fever dream of all of the above in which everyone’s wearing elbow-length gloves.
And how is Moreno enjoying her new notoriety? We caught up for a quick chat to find out more.
I started posting my work on Tumblr when I was about 19, just as a way to archive everything. I started to become more and more a part of an internet community of women my age doing the same thing, and got invited to do some group shows and art events. Artists like Grace Miceli and Molly Soda really helped in displaying my work outside of internet realms, and that was mainly due to Tumblr. I’m sure word of mouth is a large part of why most people are seeing what I do.
How intimidating was it initially to put your comics out online? Have you had to grow a thicker skin as a result?
I never really thought about people looking at my work. I think there were a few instances where I was uncertain about my comics since I was new to making them, but I just never allowed myself to overthink it. I’m sure people are roasting my work as I type this, but I’ve lost all shame at this point.
Are the characters in your comics representations of yourself? Do you fill them with your own quirks and anxieties?
Yes, they’re definitely representations of myself… even though I don’t wear bodysuits, stilettos, evening gloves or have long flowing locks. They all wear what I wish I had the guts to wear. I don’t think my characters look anxious, but I’ve been told otherwise by my peers.
In a couple of interviews you’ve mentioned that drawing has helped you to address your mental health. What kind of support or release does it allow, and how did you deal with those things before you channeled them into your work?
There’s a sense of familiarity and certainty when I draw. I usually know what the outcome will be and even if there are moments of hesitation and frustration, I always find a way to make a piece turn out the way I want it to turn out. I think it’s that firm conviction that is so comforting and really helps with my anxiety.
Before drawing I didn’t deal with my mental health, I just didn’t take care of myself.
Do you think the isolation of making comics and working alone can sometimes be bad for your head?
Probably, but I love being alone. I’m so rarely alone that I just bask in isolation when it comes my way.
I’ve heard you talk about TCAF (Toronto Comic Arts Festival) 2016 being the moment when you really starting feeling like a proper comics artist. Why then in particular?
Getting to exhibit among artists I had admired for a long time made the experience feel significant. It’s also where I met Simon and Grant for the first time and it was so exciting to see how reassuring they were of my work, even though it wasn’t properly developed at that time. The high point was getting to party with all of my friends after long months of backbreaking inking, printing, and binding!
Did you go into TCAF this year feeling mighty powerful?
Oh yes. My ego was out of control! Fortunately, I don’t think anyone noticed.
You’ve recently moved across the Atlantic. What’s the difference between London and Toronto?
I actually moved here so I could live with my partner, Joe Kessler, who also makes comics. It’s definitely a smaller community but the quality of comics coming out is incredible. Also, being part of the Breakdown Press entourage has really helped me feel like I’m actually part of a comic community. They really support the artists they publish and make great efforts to let the public know about any new work their artists are making, even if it’s outside of the Breakdown Press realm.
They’re rowdy and disruptive and I’m happy I’m here so I can keep them all in line.
Because I always have a runny nose!