A blue book cover with an illustration of a small, old house and a person walking down the sidewalk

BFF: Brainfag Forever

by Nate Beaty Author

BFF: Brainfag Forever! collects nearly a decade of Nate Beaty's self-published comics. Brainfag is a medical term for "brain fatigue," culled from a turn-of-the-century Grape-Nuts ad. Nate uses comics to explore love and love lost, urban existence versus living off the grid, self-expression, balancing art and coding on the computer, while generally maintaining sanity in a world gone mad. Featuring extensive new material explaining each issue, including the first 25 years of his life in five pages! Climb inside the head of a cartoonist using comics as cheap therapy.

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Comments & Reviews


"Nate Beaty is one of my favorite comix artist/writers. I really connect with a lot of his stuff. This collection was well-deserved. I'd read some of the issues before, but it was good to read it all in one nicely-packaged format. Also I was surprised to find that there was a drawing of me in there! It was a view of a bunch of us at dinner after the Portland Zine Symposium one year. He spelled my name wrong, but I forgive him."


"I love Brainfag! I was so happy to get this book, so nicely bound and printed. It chronicles 8 years of Nate's life in comic form and I like how, though his drawing style ranges hugely and showcases his talent, his voice is clear and consistent throughout. Rarely does one find comics or graphic novels so rooted in a place as this one. It made me think a lot about the Pacific Northwest and the time I spent there and made me want to re-read old issues of Brainfag, because Nate has only included what he considers the best of the best in this book. You can see more of his work at natebeaty.com."


"A funny, fearless comic artist grows up in public. This portable anthology condenses an agonized semi-life and a wide spectrum of styles, from the gutter to the aether. Like all your great comics people, Nate Beatty blends genius and self-hatred without compromise."


"BFF stands out amidst the myriad of contenders for your limited amount of money not just because it is true, but because it is genuinely good; not just because Beaty creates with an original voice, but because it is a voice you are interested in hearing."


" ... a good book and worth checking out, particularly if you're a fan of journal comics."


"If you’ve followed Nate’s work throughout the years there’s probably still something in here you haven’t seen, and if you never bought an issue of Brainfag before this is a compelling display of the personal and professional evolution of someone with something genuinely original to say, which is a rarity in this day and age."


"Otherwise known as Brainfag Forever, BFF the book, collects most of Nate Beaty's BFF mini comics published from 1999 through 2007. In this case, fag is short for fatigue. Brain fag is a condition of mental exhaustion. Beaty's brain fag stems from survival issues—work, life, love, and health.

For most of the book the adverse political climate of the era colors the main events but keeps to the background. It certainly affects Beaty's life choices and his narrative voice, but it only takes center stage once when his frustration with Bush and the United States of Corporate America surges out onto the page.

A portion of the book is about living in cold, rain-swept, rudimentary quarters on Orcas Island or in Oregon's most northwestern city, Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia. Beaty embraces his life as a struggling, independent cartoonist in this tell-all autobiography. It may be too angst-filled to appeal to everyone. But Beaty is honest (sometimes brutally honest) about himself and establishes enough of a connection with his readers to draw you into his relationships with women, chronic health issues, living situations, work, friends, family, cats, and appearance.

The short, mini-episodes of his pages work surprisingly well to present a coherent portrait of eight years of recollections. Like his life, Beaty keeps trying different approaches to his cartoons. He creates a new caricature of himself every fifty pages or so. But the artwork in his comics is secondary to the narrative. His cartoons get the job done, but it's the patter and narrative that keeps you reading.

Don't get me wrong, Beaty's a terrific cartoonist. BFF also includes sketchbook pages of cityscapes, Portland bridges, and train tracks that are gorgeous. His artwork is a staple of the front and back inside covers of Greg Mean's wonderful Papercutter anthologies. In the end, BFF is a slice of life and the struggle to figure it out."


A collection of Nate Beatty’s comics from 1999-2007. This autobiographic comic collection captures breakups, post-breakup weirdness, relationships, debating why comics are made in the first place, along with a slew of other life topics. Brainfag 6 contains some brilliant line drawings of Portland’s Bridges, trains and trainyards, and mermaids dancing with humans underwater. A nice concoction of easy to relate to well scripted, diverse subjects. www.microcosmpublishing.com MARINA MENEGOL


"Brainfag is acerbically funny, sharply observant, and nearly Bukowski-like in its candidness. Whether Beaty is drawing black and white cityscapes of Portland, following the step-by-step degeneration of a relationship, or telling a story about a man whose excised colon can predict the future, Brainfag's a wide-ranging read, but always an entertaining one. "


"Here’s another collection of stories that will make you ride an emotional roller coaster. Lacking the humor of most comic collections, this book has a good amount of stunning art to keep the reader entranced in a dark neverland. Usually, reading the diary-type collection books is tough, if not totally boring, because there is nothing really gripping in them: I got up, took a shower, picked my friend up and took him to the airport, and so on. One can see, after twenty pages or so, that this would induce sleep. That does not happen here. In fact, the author makes you want to take that trip with him, because he paints a realistic picture of his travels. On the other hand, this guy’s love life should all be cut out, but I guess that’s the soap opera, gripping part of the book. The other great thing is the main character is drawn so that he ages over the course of the book, which makes the story mature. BFF, Brainfag Forever is a rolling read on a sunny day."


"How much do I love zine omnibuses? The appeal, as always for me, is watching the artist embark on a journey of self-discovery, and seeing how their abilities and interests evolve over time. With Nate, it isn’t so much that he starts at A and eventually ends at Z, but rather that he embraces the opportunity to constantly experiment with different styles and techniques. The presentation of BFF, which reprints in whole several issues of Brainfag, is always changing. Sometimes the comics are vaguely fictional with obvious real-world repercussions. Some of them overtly transcribe conversations between Nate and his friends or lovers. Sometimes the comics are lush with brush-and-ink urban landscapes that wordlessly set the scene of Nate’s life at a particular juncture. Sometimes the comics are hastily scribbled illustrations with tiny, urgent paragraphs of text. But he does not jump from one style to another and abandon his roots, he searches for the best way to express his desires and concerns… sometimes the results are simply adequate to preserve his thoughts for posterity, and sometimes they are rich with aesthetic beauty.

The litmus test of a book like BFF, for this reviewer, is how it inspires me. As somebody who has been making zines and comics for more than ten years, and whose self-publishing output has dwindled as I approach my 35th birthday, I can truly enjoy and appreciate a lot of zines without being really moved by them. But as I read BFF I found myself shifting restlessly. By the time I reached the halfway point in the book, I had to take a break to start my own journal comic, because I’d been carrying around some issues that needed to be worked out and BFF had given me a sense of direction. Now I’m finished with Nate’s book, and not only am I several pages into my own comic but I’ve somehow stumbled upon a series of personal revelations in the process. The way I see it, the most vital creative output is that which begets more creative output in those who experience it, and that is exactly what Nate has achieved in BFF."


"There are arguably too many autobiographical comics in the world (and I say that as a guilty party with Hey Monkey Riot). So I approached Brainfag Forever (BFF) with a fairly high level of cynicism. I was pleasantly surprised. The comics have a beautiful variety, pace and humour about them.

The book is a collection of highlights from the ten issues of Brainfag between 1999 and 2007. The first five issues are dealt with in only 30 pages, which is probably no bad thing since they’re not very good. He really hits his groove when he returns to the Orcas, an island off the North West of the USA, in issue 8. He starts working with Rotring fineliners, without pencilling, thumbnailing or scripting. The result is a 100 page comic of near perfect stream of conciousness detailing loves lost, frustration and life as a late twenty year old.

So far, so fairly standard but Nate Beaty rises above other more average creators by exploring a range of different techniques. He uses pens, brushes and a variety of styles. He deconstructs the comic pages beautifully filling them with funny, poignant stories. There’s a lot of the soul searching that you’d expect from an auto-bio comic but it doesn’t have the self-pitying lint that a lot of them do. It’s certainly a book that’s well worth picking up."


If you're into autobiographical comics and charming drawing styles, then the $9 required here is a bargain.


Nate Beaty’s style and writing is similar to Shawn Granton of Ten Foot Rule (not surprisingly, both were co-authors of the great Zinester’s Guide to Portland). The style reflects an angsty suburban-turned-urban grungy lifestyle and the usual mini-comic expressions of relationship sadsackery and existential floundering in a perpetual damp autumn of the soul, by way of ignoring adulthood and choosing a life of doodling on the poverty line. (Portland is great for that.)

...The lengthy piece from Brainfag #5 ... is his most stylistic and affecting. The illustrations are cartoony, but the watercolor-like shading adds the right emotional depth to a story about the aftermath and unintentional mindgames of a sad breakup.

"Most teenagers eventually become confused twentysomethings not unlike Nate Beaty, who bravely portrays his own emotional rollercoaster in the pages of his autobiographical Brainfag Forever comic, several issues of which have been collected in BFF (Microcosm). The cringey title references fibromylagia, a condition also known as "brain fatigue," i.e. brainfag. Beaty is a classic whiner in the hallowed autobiographical-comics tradition of R. Crumb and Joe Matt.... he blows your mind with beautiful, thick-lined, tragedy-strewn, full-page drawings of Seattle or radiant renderings of Oregon swimming holes."

If you've a taste for young men bemoaning their relationship and artist-career status then BFF will treat you well. Given that this covers eight years, don't be surprised at the diversity and evolution of Beaty's drawing styles. There's a scratchy expressive style, a realistic landscape mode, an all-caps manic version, a thumbnail reporting, and others. The strengths of the comic format come alive here.

It's pretty rare that anyone gets a glimpse into what goes on in the mind of an artist, but Beaty does a good job of giving the reader that glimpse. He shows how his work affects those around him (current girlfriends jealous of his depiction of ex-girlfriends, for example) and how those around him affect his work (bad breakups fuel his juices, good relationships dry them up). At times, BFF is almost philosophical: Beaty poignantly describes the frustration of pouring time, energy and soul into a creative piece, only to have it almost universally disliked.

The biggest trap for autobiographical comics is to get caught up in the author’s own personal aggrandizement or self-loathing. But Beaty shows a reasonable ability to balance himself. When he is in pain and disgusted with himself, it surely comes across, but he doesn’t ask for the reader’s pity. When things are working (admittedly rare) he doesn’t revel in it and expected to be thrilled. That makes his work far more palatable than so many others following in the same vein. Another thing that sets Beaty apart is the variety he shows in his art style. Some of the work is very rough. Some just leeches onto the fringes of realism. And yet at times, he sits down and does work of near photo-realism. But no matter what style he is using, you can see his talent growing as the book progresses, and that’s important. If it didn’t, it would almost be for naught.

"If you're a fan of the autobiographical genre, you'd enjoy this offering ... you'll never find such an unendingly varying style anywhere else."

"One of the highlights was Beaty’s portrayal of his angst over drawing himself. One issue has everyone hilariously portrayed with pig snouts. There are also beautiful illustrations of the Steel Bridge and other areas of Portland. Beaty has a wide range of drawing talents and the writing does not disappoint. Check it out friends!"

"I'm halfway through reading Nate Beaty's amazing comic-zine compendium, BFF, and it is making me feel absolutely giddy. Ten years ago, zines were treasured things that people really labored over, not high production value toss-off art books like the stuff that Nieves tends to produce. Mr. Beaty's collection is a testament to that spirit of self-publishing before high-falutin' art/design types decided to pick up the torch of D.I.Y. publishing (and then just do a mediocre job of running with it). Girlfriends, ex-girlfriends, living weird, and just living life are rendered in a wonderful mix of ramshackle pen and ink alongside beautifully elaborate drawings of Portland, Oregon. Do your self a favor: pick it up. It's in the best read of the summer list for me, along with a bunch of Michael Chabon's stuff. I'll be voting Beaty in the upcoming election."

"...blows your mind with beautiful, thick-lined, tragedy-strewn, full-page drawings of Seattle or radiant renderings of Oregon swimming holes."