Monday, January 30, 2006

Stars in My Eyes

I'm told by editor Charlie, who has seen the print version, that the "Publishers Weekly" review is not only favorable but Starred, indicating "a book of exceptional merit." That honor is not evident in the online version. Booksellers and librarians will take notice.

As self-effacing as I am, I won't argue with PW's assessment.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

First Review Is In

When it was a webcomic, Mom's Cancer was fortunate to be reviewed by several websites and blogs, some of which I list on my
"Reviews & Interviews" page. I appreciated them all.

But the January 30 issue of "Publishers Weekly" magazine definitely takes it up a notch with the first review of the book. PW is the Bible of the literary world, read by publishers, booksellers, writers, and readers for 134 years. People who buy, sell, and love books make decisions based on PW's judgment. It is enormously influential.

Good thing they liked my book.

The entire review has been added to my listing and may be available on the PW website here (sometimes I can access it, sometimes I can't). It's not long. Respecting PW's copyright, I'll just provide the first and final sentences here:

"Don't let the title put you off: collecting the Eisner Award-winning Webcomic of the same name, this story is more about how a life-altering event affects an entire family than another Lifetime disease-of-the-week story...."

"...The clean, simple comic-strip quality of Fies's art fits the story perfectly, highlighting the gravity of the situation while cutting away undue sentimentality. Mom's Cancer is a quiet, courageous account of one family's response to a universal situation."

I'm especially happy that the reviewer picked up on some of the style, tone, and story-telling choices that I made very deliberately. They "got" it. That's very gratifying.

This is a big deal.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Going Once....

Well, the eBay auction is over, and the bootleg advance copy of Mom's Cancer went for £9.50--that's £1.55 over retail, not including postage.

I don't think it was really a fair fight, though. Although there was more than one bidder, I happen to know that the winner was a highly motivated individual determined to get the book at apparently any price. No, not me! But I can promise it's going to a good home. Thanks, anonymous winner!

I'm still working hard on deadline and posting will be spotty for a while. I do expect to have some pretty exciting news coming up soon, though. Please check back.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I've Been Bootlegged!

Somebody in the U.K. got hold of an advance copy of Mom's Cancer and is auctioning it on eBay. Bidding starts at £2, which is about $3.50 U.S. Right now there are no bids, so if you've just got to read my book immediately, go for it. With my blessing...I guess.

I have mixed feelings. Advance copies are only supposed to go to publishing pros, media, reviewers and such for professional purposes. Heck, they only sent me five copies; I gave two to my sisters and, when I asked editor Charlie last week when I could get some more, he said he thought they were still on the boat. So the part of me that seethes when I see people cut in line hopes the seller gets absolutely no bids and makes no profit whatsoever.

On the other hand, my ego would be considerably heartened by a cut-throat bidding war that took the price into the stratosphere. Or at least above retail.

And yeah, I'm slightly tempted to bid on it myself. But that's just stupid.

In any case, this completely made my week--and it's been a hard week of work, so I deserve the laugh.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Blogging 'Toonists

My blogging is likely to be sporadic for a while. I'm working under several deadlines (in my day job; nothing cartoony) and things are momentarily quiet on the book front. However, I wanted to highlight a few blogs done by cartoonists that I read regularly and who I'm sure would appreciate a visit.

Patricia Storms ( is a Canadian cartoonist and avid book lover who has become a good friend of mine in the way people separated by a continent become friends online. Her portfolio site ( displays some of her work. Patricia also contributes to Drawn! (, an "illustration blog" that gives me a hundred new ideas and a crushing sense of inferiority everytime I look at it. I think very highly of her as a cartoonist and a person.

Arnold Wagner ( is an old-school cartoonist, and I mean that with all the appreciation and respect I can muster. Arnold co-wrote "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cartooning," writes fine essays on cartoonists and cartooning history, and is an expert on old pen nibs and other tools of the trade. My only criticism of him is I wish he would blog more often.

Paul Giambarba ( is another cartooning veteran who, luckily for us, decided to share his work and insights on the Web. Paul embodies everything wonderful about the Golden Age of mid- to late-20th-century illustration and design. In addition, his short essays on great artists of the past are sure to introduce you to people whose work you should know. Paul ought to write a book; meanwhile, I'm grateful to benefit from his experience and wisdom for free.

Finally, for simple daily fun, I recommend The Comics Curmudgeon (, which takes apart the comics page with sarcasm and occasional genuine insight. Nothing makes Josh's day like the meddling machinations of Mary Worth, the giant talking wildlife of Mark Trail, or the sixth circle of Hell into which the Lockhorns have been condemned. Fair warning that some commentary veers toward adult themes and language.

That oughta keep you busy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Once in a while I'm contacted by a writer, artist, or cartoonist who's heard about Mom's Cancer and invites me to take a look at their work. I don't feel particularly well qualified as a critic, my opinion is of little more value than anyone else's, I don't know any secrets to getting published, and I'm not in a position to help anyone's career but my own (and I'm none too certain there). As long as everyone understands those ground rules and I have the time, I'm usually happy to oblige.

Mammoir is a book written and illustrated by Tucky Fussell, who was a fourth grade teacher in Boston when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tucky is currently teaching overseas and her mother, Betty, sent me a copy. It's a remarkable piece of work.

Tucky brought her professional experience as a former advertising writer and commercial artist to Mammoir, which is structured as a series of "teaching units" covering her diagnosis, treatment, reconstructive surgery, and subsequent life. Tucky's black-and-white line art is loose and "undergroundish," sometimes displaying a simplicity and crudeness that looks a lot like spontaneity and urgency to me. I think it's appropriate for this story. Her narrative is imaginative, almost stream-of-consciousness: she interjects pop culture references and Hindu deities into discussions with her breasts (which talk back) and a wise-cracking laboratory rat who follows her around like her own Jiminy Cricket. It's an abstract, very metaphorical trip through Tucky's life and imagination.

While I might disagree with particular narrative or artistic choices, Mammoir accomplishes a lot of things I like. First, it clearly comes from the same impulse that led me to create Mom's Cancer: capture the details of this strange experience, turn something bad into something good, and help other people through similar ordeals. Second, I feel like I get to know the character of "Tucky," like her, and care about what happens to her; that's hard to accomplish in any medium. Third, to the extent that I can tell, it's accurate and honest about cancer; a lot of it was eerily familiar to me because my family lived it, too. Fourth, I simply have a ton of respect for the work and commitment that went into its 176 pages, knowing that she had to start on Panel One of Page One just like I did.

More information about Mammoir--including Tucky's bio, sample pages, and order information--is available at The book is produced by AuthorHouse, a company I don't know but which appears to be a print-on-demand publisher like Lulu or CafePress. The copy I received is well printed and bound, and looks completely professional in every way. Why this do-it-yourself technology hasn't completely revolutionized the publishing industry is beyond me.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Found: A Story of Hope

The administrative features of my main website ( let me see the various queries that people type into search engines to find it. It's almost always some combination of "cancer," "lung," "mom," "comics," "brian fies," etc. But today I saw one that brought me up short: Somebody found Mom's Cancer by searching for "a story of hope for lung cancer."

Imagine what's going on in your life when you Google a sentence like that.

I hope I was able to help.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

auf Deutsch

This is pretty cool. I got my first look at a few pages from the German edition of Mom's Cancer today. The book is being published by Knesebeck, which--like Abrams--is a subsidiary of La Martiniere Groupe. It's nice to keep it in the family.

My two years of high school German were only a little help in reviewing the material and I'm content to put my faith in the skill of Knesebeck's translators. Editor Charlie and I had some discussions about type; I think the font chosen maintains some of the casualness of my original hand-lettering while remaining very legible. It's acceptable. As long as the words and pictures are clear, I'm pretty easy-going about how my work is presented. The story is the important part...everything else is icing on the cake.

As I said a while ago, I'm looking forward to starting a foreign-language collection. So far, sehr gut.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eyewitness to History

Writing the previous post reminded me of when my daughters were studying South African apartheid in history class a year or two ago. During my brief career as a newspaper reporter in the mid-80s, I had the opportunity to cover several protests and sit-ins aimed at convincing a nearby university to divest from South African business interests. So when my kids asked me what I knew about apartheid, I was very excited to dig through my archives and pull out the newspaper stories I'd written on the subject to share with them.

I was slightly less excited when my girls got extra credit in their class for bringing in these "primary historical documents from the era." I felt like I'd drafted the freakin' Magna Carta. "Eyewitness to History" indeed.