Monday, March 18, 2019

Updated Tour Schedule

Here's an updated schedule of places I'll be talking about A Fire Story. Two additions:

March 30, I'll be at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco for a talk and signing to go with an exhibition of original art from A Fire Story. Wow! That exhibition is actually on the walls already, we just couldn't schedule the party until the 30th. I haven't seen it in person, but the photos look fantastic! Thanks to Andrew Farago and CAM for the honor.

April 10 I'll be at Moe's Books in Berkeley, Calif., one of the Bay Area's most venerable heroic local independent booksellers. Looking forward to it!

For local folks, I hope to see you this Friday at Copperfield's in Sebastopol, another fine heroic local independent bookseller who's been very supportive of my work over the years.

Thanks for everyone who has come out or plans to come out. I've never really book-toured before; what I'm learning now is that every person who shows up, and every book sold, really makes a difference in how the bookstore and even my publisher feel about the book.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Wow. Now in 3-D!

In my last post from my Corte Madera signing, I teased a story about receiving "an amazing gift that knocked my socks off." It's not much of a story because I still don't know much about the gift's provenance except it was handed to me by a man named Steve. Steve made these:

Daffodils from A Fire Story. This is Karen's favorite drawing from the book; she may claim this one for herself. Again, photos don't really do these justice, partly because of reflections in the glass.

The climax of The Last Mechanical Monster. This is at least five separate layers of precision-cut paper, all stacked and spaced to give a stunning 3-D effect.

Photos don't do them justice. They're multi-layered cutouts of my art in shadowboxes that gives them an astounding three-dimensional effect. The thoughtfulness Steve dedicated to these, deciding which parts of the picture should be at which level, particularly on the Last Mechanical Monster pic, is very impressive. I have no idea how he cut out the art; I can only imagine him hunched over a board with a scalpel and magnifying glass.

In person, they're breathtaking! Both will have places of honor on my studio wall, as soon as I have a wall.

I don't know Steve. All I could do is stammer out my deepest thanks before he was gone. I hope he sees this and knows how much I love them, not just for what they are but for the time and care he obviously took to make them.

Monday, March 11, 2019

We Have Lift-Off

A whirlwind weekend! Saturday night: a spectacular book launch at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. More than 200 people showed up, overflowing the museum's little auditorium and packing the Education Room upstairs, where my talk was simulcast. So many friends, covering every stage of my life: high school, early jobs, cartoonists, new and old neighbors! My family came, including my daughter Robin, who I didn't think would be able to make it and surprised me.
Local independent bookseller Copperfield's brought about 75 copies of A Fire Story and sold out. They also carried Mom's Cancer and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow, which I really appreciated, so I signed a few of those. Other people brought books they'd bought elsewhere. I signed my custom bookplates for people who couldn't get a book but promised they would later.
I spoke for about half an hour, then signed books for more than an hour. Best part was introducing several of the people who appear in the book, who had seats of honor up front. I asked for a show of hands of people who'd lost their homes, then those who had close friends or relatives who'd lost their homes; nearly every hand was raised. It was a hometown crowd of people who'd been through an extraordinary disaster together, very powerful. We cried, we laughed, we cried some more.

People lined up to buy books from Copperfield's before my talk began.

Possibly the coolest I've ever looked in any photo in my life.

Nice view from about halfway back in the auditorium. Photo from Raina, thanks!

Some of the folks in the Schulz Museum's auditorium. The hall filled to standing room only. I see many good friends in this photo!

The line for my book signing in the museum's Great Hall after the talk. I'm sitting off screen to the lower left. The Schulz Museum provided a very nice snack spread for folks to nibble on while they waited. The museum really went all out for this--after-hours, snacks, staff and volunteers on duty. I'm touched.

Man at work.

So cool to have Raina Telegemeier and her father Denis at the launch. I've known Raina since before Smile, and her dad has become a real friend as well. They had to drive a ways to get here; it meant a lot to me.

With Cartoonist Maia Kobabe, whose graphic novel Gender Queer comes out in May. I'm looking forward to it, I know it'll be good!

Sunday was mellower: a signing at Book Passage, one of the Bay Area's great bookstores, in Corte Madera, Calif. About two dozen people, only a few of whom had direct experience with the fire, with a very different energy, but it was really nice. I like talking to smaller groups (and I've talked to much smaller, like groups of two or three). You can have a conversation.

Heading into Book Passage on Sunday afternoon.

Book Passage set up a nice display at the entrance. Notice the book standing on the counter by the register, and the giant cover on the back wall!

A nice-sized crowd of nice people--including one fan who gave me an amazing gift that knocked my socks off. But that's a topic for a future post.

Two different experiences, both great, that gave my book a spectacular launch. But I've got to say, my night at the Schulz Museum was a special once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Thanks to Jessica Ruskin, Karen Johnson, and Jeannie Schulz for making that happen.
Photos from many sources, including my daughter Laura and sister-in-law Cathy. Thanks again to everybody who helped make this weekend so special!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Video Killed the Radio Star

Some mornings you wake up with no idea what the day will bring. Yesterday around 9 o'clock, an assignment editor from San Francisco KGO TV called me. Around noon, I was hosting a reporter and videographer in our rental. And by 5 o'clock (and 6 and 11) I was on televisions all over northern California. Today looks to be pretty boring in comparison, but you never know....

Monday, March 4, 2019

Bookplate! Get'cher Bookplate Here!

A Fire Story drops tomorrow (although friends are sending me photos of it in bookstores already!), and some people have asked how they can buy a signed copy. Unless you come to a book signing, that's difficult. I don't have a giant crate of books in my garage, nor really want to get into the shipping business. HOWEVER....
I made BOOKPLATES, which I designed especially for A Fire Story, and will happily send free to anyone who asks! A bookplate is basically a sticker that I will inscribe however or to whomever you want, sign, and mail to you. Then you stick it in your book and BLAMMO, signed book! I did this with Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow and it worked great.
Email me at brianfies(AT) with your mailing address and how you want the bookplate inscribed. Do me a favor and use the Subject Line "Bookplate." I'll send as many as you want, but we're on the honor system here: please don't ask for more than the number of books you have because it comes out of my pocket.
And if someone still really wants their actual book signed, and is willing to pay postage both ways, contact me at the same email address and we'll work it out. But really, a bookplate is even better!
And thanks for reading my book.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On KSRO Radio

I did an interview with local news radio station KSRO yesterday. DJ Pat Kerrigan is a long-time pro who did amazing work keeping the community informed during the fire, and we had a nice conversation. Since it was radio I didn't bother dressing up; if I'd known they were gonna take a photo, I'd've worn a proper shirt. Click the link if you want to hear 11 minutes of me.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Book Tour!

Here's the plan! Looks like I picked the wrong month to give up amphetamines.* Many great bookstores on the list, most of which I've never been to.

Subject to change, including maybe one or two additions. Come out, say hello, and support your heroic local independent bookseller!

* I do not abuse amphetamines.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Book Launch!

People have been asking (no, really!), and now it can be told: We're kicking off the release of "A Fire Story" with a talk and booksigning at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in my hometown of Santa Rosa, Calif. on March 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. I can't think of a more perfect place from which to launch, and Jeannie Schulz and the museum staff have been incredibly kind and gracious.

My publisher Abrams and I are planning several other appearances at bookstores and conventions in both the North Bay and farther afield. I think we'll be announcing that full schedule next week. It's gonna be a busy spring!

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Publishers Weekly "Panel Mania" Preview

From time to time, Publishers Weekly--"the Bible of the book business"--previews an upcoming graphic novel in its "Panel Mania" feature. Today it's mine. If you want a sneak peek at nine pages of "A Fire Story" a month before it's released, here you go!

A couple of behind-the-scenes notes: Pages 68 and 69 are obviously a two-page spread that'll form a single big picture in the book. Yes, I drew all those dots, albeit digitally, in a little nod to comic book artist Jack Kirby. The text-heavy "Larry & Mary's Fire Story" is one of five interviews I did for the book, trying to tell a cross-section of OTHER people's fire stories in their own words, in addition to mine. Some of them are pretty dramatic.

This is the first time a big chunk of "A Fire Story" has been released to the wild. I'm nervous.

Monday, January 28, 2019

LumaCon 2019: The LumaConniest

I had my usual wonderful time Saturday at my favorite event on the comics convention circuit, LumaCon. Held in a sprawling community center in Petaluma, Calif., it's everything you want your con to be: low key, family friendly, free admission, and organized by librarians trying to spark and guide kids' passions for graphic literature. Guest artists get a gift basket and, if you know where to look, a free bottle of IPA donated by the excellent local brewery Lagunitas. They make us feel welcome.

I think my daughters Laura and Robin find LumaCon nearly as charming as I do, since this year they got roped into organizing the costume contest when they weren't watching my table. I didn't even have much to sell but sat at a table anyway, just for the opportunity to talk to enthusiastic kids about making comics.

My table set up, on a tablecloth borrowed from my girls. I've got copies of my books (just one each, not for sale). Front and center is a stack of double-sided posters of my original "Fire Story" that I sell for a few bucks to cover printing costs. Postcards advertising my forthcoming graphic novel (thanks, Abrams!). A portfolio of original art pages from the graphic novel so I can talk about how drawings get turned into books. On the little tablet I loop a slideshow about my various projects and how I made them (the photo that happens to be showing now is of my family in the early days of "Mom's Cancer").

It never fails: a kid comes up to the table with a parent or grandparent in tow. The kid and I are talking about comics, and I look up to see the realization dawning on their adult that, "Oh! Comics are a real thing that grown-up people actually do!" Sometimes you can see their faces shift from vague embarrassment to beaming pride. Their kid just got ten times cooler. That never happens at a bigger con.

Of course this year, like last, I talked to a lot of folks about the fire. I had one copy of my Fire Story graphic novel to show off, and wanted to let everyone know it comes out March 5 and I'll be doing a lot of local signings and such (to be announced soon!) to support it. I think I sold a few advance copies.

My other great reason for doing LumaCon is hanging out with my cartooning friends.

Pics and Captions:

One of LumaCon's heroic librarian organizers, Nathan Libecap of Casa Grande High School.

My pal Jason Whiton, whose 700-page book on Mort Walker is the finest biography and tribute the late cartooning legend could have hoped for.

Paige Braddock, whose new "Jane's World" collection I bought. Twenty years of Jane! Somehow I missed taking a photo of pal Lex Fajardo ("Kid Beowulf"), whose table was directly across from Paige's. 

Cartoonist Shaenon Garrity ("Skin Horse") and her husband Andrew Farago, author/editor and curator at the Cartoon Art Museum (CAM) in San Francisco. Their young son Robin was there, too, but dived under the table when he saw my camera. Andrew and I talked about a "Fire Story" exhibition we'll do at CAM in the spring, and then I bought the "Zombie Gnome" book Shaenon and Andrew did together because who wouldn't?

Thom Yeates has drawn thousands of comics and characters in his distinguished career, and is now the artist for the comic strip "Prince Valiant," whose pedigree for top illustration talent is unmatched . . .

. . .  which is why I was thrilled to buy a page of "Prince Valiant" art from him, which will hang in a place of honor on my Wall O' Art, just as soon as I have a wall. 

Tom Beland, whose graceful liquid linework I admire and envy, gave a chalk talk. Tom recently transitioned from ink-on-paper to full digital drawing with greater ease and enthusiasm than anyone I've ever seen. Pixels or pens, his art and storytelling are beautiful.
It's not a comics convention without some Jedi and Rebel scum stinking up the place.
Craft tables. Lots of kids made and decorated cardboard shields and such.

Contestants line up on stage for the cosplay competition.

Younger cosplayers didn't compete, but took part in a costume parade that weaved throughout the convention.

Why I love LumaCon. BTW, I always ask parents' permission before photographing their kids. Unless, like, they're in a costume parade or something.

The man on the left is a hero because he stands for the best ideals of liberty and justice. The man on the right is a hero because he stands on two-foot-tall stilts.
One of the main purposes of LumaCon is to mix young people interested in comics with older people actually making comics. These girls' table was next to mine. They offered homemade stickers for $1 each, and they sold about a million of them. I could learn a lot about product development and marketing from them.
Out back, live-action role players (LARPers) chased each other around with swords and staffs, with supervision.

Cart of deadly (?) swords ready to fortify LARPing legions.

So went the fifth annual LumaCon, and the fifth I've attended. It occurred to me this year that the event is starting to build some history for itself. Nathan Libecap told me that some of the students who attended the first LumaCon as child fans are now coming back as high school teens selling work of their own. Maybe in another five years, some of those same kids will be tabling as published professionals! What a neat legacy that would be.

Meanwhile, I'll keep coming as long as they'll let me. It's a great day with people who love comics for all the right reasons.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Trolley Molly Don't Love Harold

We have a tradition in these parts, come fire or rain (Cliff: "Yes, my friends, I've seen fire and I've seen rain." Norm: "Cliffy, EVERYBODY'S seen fire and rain."): the annual singing of the greatest Christmas carol by, in my opinion, the greatest cartoonist of all time, Walt Kelly. You know the tune. Join in, with unctuous boisterity.

 My best wishes to you all.

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Although A Fire Story won't be released until March 2019, many reviewers have received rough-draft galleys (black and white, with incomplete artwork and edits) and are starting to weigh in. So far, it augurs well.

Waiting for a book to be published is unnerving. My work is done, it's out of my hands and committed to print. Nothing more I can do. It's like standing backstage waiting for the curtain to rise on opening night--for four months.

Jittery, you look for signs. What are people saying? How are pre-orders going? Uncertainty gives early reviews a lot more weight than they might otherwise have. A bad one could be devastating; a good one electrifying.

It looks good so far.

My book's first review was a starred review from Kirkus, which is kind of a big deal. "Drawings, words, and a few photos combine to convey the depth of a tragedy that would leave most people dumbstruck." Kirkus is very influential in the book trade and the "star" is a real plus.

Publishers Weekly lists "A Fire Story" as one of its Top Ten Comics & Graphic Novels of next spring. This isn't a full review, but PW's Calvin Reid had been a real supporter of my past work and his opinion means a lot to both me and people in the industry.

At Study Breaks, Sarah Brown listed the six "Most Anticipated Graphic Novels of 2019." One of them is mine. It's in good company, including books by the Hernandez Brothers and George Takei.

And back in October, my friend Paul Gravett, the UK's leading comics critic and scholar, highlighted A Fire Story in an article for The Bookseller magazine, calling it "urgent first-person journalism, encompassing the wider stories of fellow survivors and global climate change."

Steady as she goes . . .