The Strange Drawings of Brian Brooks 

The artist behind Emily the Strange attempts to exorcise his creation from his art.

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"I'm proud of it," Brooks said of the pilot. "But I don't want to make new ideas that Disney can own."

The pilot retained some of Brooks' quirky sense of humor, but lacked the intelligence and biting social commentary that are the trademarks of his best work. More representative of that is the line of holiday greeting cards he's been working on. A card he made for Easter depicted the crucifixion with a twist. Rather than an adult Jesus, he drew a baby Jesus with a beard and pile of poop at the bottom of the cross. Behind the Christ stand two Roman guards. One leans toward the other and asks, "Did they say if we were supposed to change his diaper, while he's still alive?"

So far, none of these good ideas has become a steady stream of income, but as ever, Brooks believes they will. So does Matt Reed, the man who was Reger's business partner when Cosmic hired Brooks nearly eight years ago.

"I think Brian will continue to evolve," said Reed. "As long as Brian continues to entertain himself, his results will be amazing."

If Brooks hadn't gone to the art show, he would have been in his dingy studio, standing up at one of his desks, drawing.

"I don't want to take a day off to go drink beers at a gallery," he said. "I could be working. I'm totally disconnected from the art scene and I like that. I don't have to answer to what I'm doing or change what I'm doing for a lot of people."

Until Reger invited him to participate in the show, Brooks hadn't drawn a single Emily from the date that he left the company. "I needed to distance myself," he said. "I needed to be Emily-cismed. That's Emily plus exorcism." But Reger's invitation spurred Brooks to draw, color, print, and frame twenty to thirty copies of ten prints in the three weeks leading up to the show and make an appearance on opening night. His reasoning is contradictory: "I needed to get out of the house."

Most of the collection in the show was black, white, and red, the colors of the Emily brand. Brooks' drawings stand out because they also use blues, purples, and yellows, and put Emily in bizarre situations that make you cringe.

In one of Brooks' drawings, Emily wears a Chewbacca headdress over a short purple dress and kneels next to R2D2, costumed as one of her signature kitties. Her knees are exposed, resembling beavage and a long phallic tail curves toward them. In the foreground, a miniature Princess Leia kneels with a headphone in her right hand. Brooks calls the 8-1/2 x 11-inch drawing The Message.

In Brooks' most psychedelic drawing, a severed leg jams into Mick Jagger's head and a wide foot protrudes from his mouth. On each toenail of the foot is Emily's image. Brooks calls the 8-1/2 x 11-inch drawing Beast of Burden.

A 36-year-old software engineer who says she came to the gallery for the bar, not the show, says the Mick Jagger drawing is her favorite.

Her friend, a 38-year-old marketing manager, hates it. "It's too disturbing for me," says the frowning woman, who wears comfy sneakers and a hooded Yankees jacket. "I'm not into pop culture. Monet even bothers me. I want photographs of nature. I want peace."

"But it's funny!" the engineer argues, long dark hair draping her shoulders. "Look at it. Look at Chewbacca."

For an hour, Brooks hugs the perimeter of the room, successfully avoiding hoopla. But when he moves to the main room to browse the work of some of the other artists, two female fans approach him and Reger.

The twentysomething goths have driven four and a half hours from San Luis Obispo to see the show. They toss their shiny, shoulder-length black hair seductively and press their lips together while Reger autographs a calendar for one of them. Then Reger passes the calendar to Brooks, flipping through the pages, saying, "There must be something in here you've done."


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