Chester Brown has had a long, illustrious career as a cartoonist, and his work has only become more insightful and sophisticated as he’s aged. His best-selling memoir Paying For It made a huge impression thanks to the amount of care Brown put into exploring the different aspects of prostitution via his personal experience as a john, and this month sees the release of Mary Wept Over The Feet Of Jesus, a graphic novel that delves into prostitution and religious obedience in the Bible via retellings of Biblical stories.
The book is a fascinating look at how women in the Bible used their bodies for personal gain without incurring the wrath of God, but it also includes tales of characters who weren’t prostitutes, yet still challenged the rules of God without being punished. This preview features the story that gives the book its title, detailing the moment when Jesus allowed Mary of Bethany to anoint his feet with expensive nard. Brown fleshes out this event with conversations that aren’t in the Bible, but he believes they would have surrounded the anointing based on his extensive research, which can be found in the lengthy notes section in the back of the book (also included here for this excerpt.)
Brown makes a strong visual choice in keeping Jesus and Mary in silhouette in these pages, bonding the two characters via their shared visual characteristic while also lending them a mystique that the other main figures in the book don’t have. We don’t fully see Jesus or Mary, but we do see the oil that represents Mary’s love for her savior, and giving extra focus to the object reinforces how important it is in the narrative. Jesus’ final lines of the story hit harder because Brown doesn’t pair them with any imagery, and presenting Jesus’ words on their own emphasizes the power of his message, a message about allowing people to love in their own way without judgment or condemnation.