Friday, March 17, 2006

Two New Reviews

Arnold Wagner is an old-school cartoonist, and I say that with great respect. He wrote "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cartooning" a few years back and is a historian of the art and craft of comics. He also knows more about nibs than anyone I've ever met.

I got to know Arnold the same way I've gotten to know a lot of people in the past couple of years, via the Internet, and he's been kind and encouraging to me. If he weren't, I wouldn't have mentioned him in my book's acknowledgements. Arnold recently posted a review of Mom's Cancer on his blog, saying it is "honest about the difficulties, including those most of us don't think about, about the dark moments, but there's warmth, humor, and hope along with the kind of reality most of us know." Aside from this review, I think a few minutes touring Arnold's website is time well spent.

David LeBlanc is the editor of the Comic Book Network Electronic Magazine, a text e-zine sent to more than 1,400 subscribers. David reviewed Mom's Cancer in his March 10, 2006 issue. Since his archives are a bit difficult to dig into and he gave permission to reprint his work, I've pasted the review below.

Many thanks to both Arnold and David.

By David LeBlanc
There are a few graphic novels, or long story arcs of series that stand out by how they affect your thinking or just your enjoyment of the reading. For me some of those are MAGE:THE HERO DISCOVERD, PEDRO AND ME, FAITH A FABLE, INNOCENT BYSTANDER and a few more perhaps. I now add to that list MOM'S CANCER. The aforementioned titles are ones I purposely bought extra copies to give to those I felt should read them. MOM'S CANCER will be shared with others I love as well.

When the Eisner committee decided to recognize comics created for the web with their own award, Best Digital Comic, MOM'S CANCER won the first ever Eisner for the web version of this story. It is a non-fiction account of his mother's battle with lung cancer and the interaction of her three children as that struggle progressed. It covers the two years from 2004 through 2005 in the lives of Brian, his two sisters, his mom and his stepfather. As often is the case with serious subject matter, the author looks back to earlier times to examine the basis of beliefs, feelings and motivation of some of the characters.

I too lived through the diagnosis and battle against cancer of my own mother, though not as intimately as Brian and his sisters had to. This is not so much about the disease but about the effects on those involved with the patient. It is not a how-to cope book either. Rather it is a frank telling of one story. He shows how each sibling played a part - nurse sister was the guiding figure cutting through the red tape and making sure things happened, younger sister lived with mom and bore the day to day care-giving duties while Brian offered what help that he could and learned as much as he could about what was going on to be informed on what to expect.

It is remarkable that so much information is passed along during the course of this journey. No two cancers are alike and some may be shocked to learn that treatments are often altered as you go
with changing circumstances rather than some fixed regimen that is followed explicitly. At the later stage in the cancer Mom had, only 5% survive so it is easy to see the choice not to go through extensive chemotherapy, which is seriously debilitating, is made by many. There is really one thing that stands out - the support of family in caring and understanding is most important if the patient is to fight the fight.

Brian has a delightful cartoon style you will warm up to instantly. His scripting and sense of humor makes it readable from first to last. Regardless of how the story may end, it is a story of hope. Another person may have been resigned to her fate and that would have been a different journey. This one is about a choice to fight and not give up. It is uplifting to see these people not give in to despair. I hesitate to say how it ends, though there are really two endings. I will say I teared up reading the afterword. Anything that affects you emotionally like that is well worth your time and money. This one's a keeper.


D.D.Degg said...

The Ft. Worth (Tx) Star-Telegram
reviews your book:

Brian Fies said...

Thanks very much, D.D.! I don't know how you do it.

Star-Telegram reviewer Todd Camp looked at both "Mom's Cancer" and Jessica Abel's "La Perdida," which I've seen bits of but haven't yet read. It's a quite favorable review, which makes his "B-" summary grade for "Mom's Cancer" a little surprising to me. Maybe he's a tough grader. I'll take it.