Thursday, July 30, 2009
(A quick digression about that: some readers don't like it when reviewers reveal themselves in their reviews. I disagree. A review is one person's opinion; I like to know the person. What their experience is, what their prejudices are, where they're coming from. I get a lot more out of a review when I know what the reviewer took into it. For example, I enjoy reading Roger Ebert's movie reviews, even of films I have no intention of seeing, because I think he's a good writer and I like watching his mind work.)
Anyway, Scott wrote:
The marvelous thing about Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? is that through the century of war, of killing and of tragedy, Buddy never loses his wide-eyed innocence. He takes his father’s dream for him and makes it his dream. Buddy is us, the person who read comics, saw all the movies and is young enough to think that he too would one day walk in space and on the moon . . .
Through the tale of Buddy and Pop and through the tales of Cosmic Kid and Cap Crater, Fies reminds us of our dreams and how they failed us or maybe it’s how we failed them. He shows us the imagination and courage it took just to have the dreams but in the end, we fell short of achieving them in the 20th century. Fies does comfort us though, showing that even as the century is over and our hopes are unfufilled at this time, it doesn’t mean we are through dreaming or are done reaching for the stars. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? reminds us how to dream by showing us what we were able to once accomplish. Buddy and Cosmic Kid may have grown up but that doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their hope for the future.
Much appreciated, thanks Scott.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Fies’s clean, cartoon-like art is bursting with such wonder and exuberance that it’ll undoubtedly bring a smile to the face. It cleverly nods towards a simpler style of illustration more frequently seen in comics aimed at kids . . . nicely juxtaposing with the core theme of a loss of childhood innocence. It adapts itself well to “real world” situations, incorporating (often recognizable) photographs that sit comfortably with the hand-drawn imagery, and a playful use of colour successfully evokes different time periods . . .
The brilliance of Whatever Happened To The World Of Tomorrow? is that it reminds us something important that we may occasionally forget: mankind hasn’t given up on pushing itself forward, hasn’t stopped trying to better itself and look at the future with optimism. We may not be living on the Moon yet, but there’s still plenty of time left to make that happen and there’s no reason to believe we won’t one day return there and then continue onwards into the unknown.
It’s a beautifully produced, affecting book that and deserves a place on any discerning comic fan’s bookshelf. 8/10
That's an excerpt, there's more at the site. A review like this, in which the reader engaged the book as I'd hoped, means a lot to me. I don't expect everyone to get WHTTWOT, and I don't think less of those who don't, but knowing I connected with someone somewhere feels very good.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
It's a task I could've made considerably easier on myself with some foresight--a charactertistic I evidently lack to an astonishing degree. Most of the pages, where the text consists of letters inside balloons or caption boxes, are trivial. The fake "comic book" pages are trickier because they have a transparent overlay of yellow newsprint texture--I can't just separate out the letters because they'd leave letter-shaped holes. On a few other pages, some text is so integrated into the art that it's just going to have to stay English.
It's not difficult but it takes time--and, sometimes, a bit of cleverness. As I said, if I'd given it a moment's thought when I was writing the book I could've made the job easy, but at the time I was just concentrating on getting it done. From a Photoshop standpoint, how I accomplished that wasn't always pretty. The nice thing is that when I'm finished I'll have a set of very clean, corrected master files ready for any future use I can imagine, including new English editions, if any.
Kid Sis led me to this list of "73 Ways to Become a Better Writer" by Mary Jaksch. I like many of the items and might argue with a few, but my nagging discomfort with advice like this is that if someone actually set out to consciously follow all 73 ways, they'd be too paralyzed to write. I think Jaksch's list is worth a look, but I'd distill it to three items:
1. Read as much as you can.
2. Write as much as you can.
3. Get your writing out into the world any way you can, but preferably for pay.
Sick Cat Update: We got new lab results back on Marbles, who was pretty close to death a few weeks ago, and the numbers are very good. Her hyperthyroidism is under control with relatively mild medication and her kidney function numbers are back to normal ranges after being super-elevated. We'll keep doing what we're doing, including the daily subcutaneous hydration, and see how she does. Some cats can carry on like this for months or years. Marbles's human will be back home from her archeology dig at the end of the week; it looks like the cat is going to keep her end of the bargain. Good kitty.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Wha--?"). I sat next to the great comic book artist Gene Colan for a group photo, and he was gracious enough to be interested in my work and treat me like a peer. Later, I took the trophy to Mom's care facility (she wasn't able to live at home by that time) and put it on her nightstand, and knew I'd done her proud.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Having published an autobiographic novel about his mother – 2005's moving Mom's Cancer – Brian Fies now delivers an equally nuanced tale about fathers and sons. Beginning with the 1939 New York World's Fair (which brought us General Motors' superhighway-pimping Futurama exhibit) and ending with the final Apollo space mission in 1975, Fies juxtaposes an evolving parent-child relationship – as filtered through our complex cultural feelings about science and technology – with marvelous faux-pulp, Benday-dotted renditions of four decades' worth of "Space Age Adventures," featuring Commander Cap Crater and the Cosmic Kid. Fies neatly nails each era's look – from Siegel & Shuster to Buscema – and the Cosmic Kid's departure from Cap Crater's orbit is no less moving than the son's inevitable independence from his father in a hopelessly optimistic moon-age daydream.
He got it. That feels good.
As a guy with the life-long dream of driving the Oscar Meyer wienermobile, I can scarcely imagine a cooler honor than having an ice cream truck/van covered with my characters (and also supporting libraries, encouraging literacy, blah blah blah). This is a lot better than that Time magazine "100 Most Influential People" thing.
I just wonder: if Jeff actually went to one of the stops, would they give him a freebie?
* * *
Two things a couple of people have asked about lately:
1. I decided not to go to the San Diego Comic-Con this year. No big reason, just a combination of time/money/hassle plus not really feeling like I had a good reason to be there. I love the event, and the people there have been very good to me, but it's also a business meeting as much as a vacation and I didn't think I had a worthwhile amount of business to conduct. I will miss seeing some friends I only get to see there once a year, although I hear some of them aren't attending, either. It's like Yogi Berra said about a once-favorite restaurant: it's so crowded that nobody goes there anymore.
2. I am working on a new cartooning project, something I've had tumbling around in my brain a few months now. I know the plot and am working on character designs: I've got three main characters and think I've got the look of one of them down, one of them close, and one I haven't figured out at all. I don't know if it's a book--it's just a nice little story that may not be "big" enough for print. Maybe it's a webcomic. Maybe nothing at all, I dunno. I do find that when I have an idea stuck in my head like this, pretty much the only way to move on is to do it and get it out of the way. We'll see.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Just a note that this is an interview, not a review. As far as I know, PW hasn't actually reviewed WHTTWOT yet, and I don't know if they intend to. They certainly can't review everything that comes over the transom. However, a lot of people in the book trade look to PW to guide their buying decisions, and a good review there can be very influential--at least, it was for Mom's Cancer, I think. Which isn't to say I'm assuming their review of WHTTWOT would be good. But it'd be cool if they did and it was.
I'm rambling. Thanks to Brigid for the interview, I enjoyed meeting you and appreciate the opportunity very much.
I'm not a big fan of Harry Potter, which isn't to say I dislike it. My kids devotedly read all the books, but my attention drifted away after the first two or three. I've seen all the movies and enjoyed them well enough. I don't think the stories are great literature but I absolutely believe J.K. Rowling deserves every pound she's earned.
Despite my relative indifference, I was completely charmed by these videos, which show what happened when a Japanese girl named Kana beat out 10,000 other Potter maniacs for the opportunity to visit the movie set and report on the experience for a television program back home. The girl herself is wonderful, but what strikes me most is how kindly and gently Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Dan Radcliffe treat her. Especially compared to some of the young monsters Hollywood's been turning out, these kids are all right.
I would be thrilled if just one time in my life, someone were as happy to see me as Kana is to meet these actors. Anyone.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I couldn't let today, July 20, pass without posting this clip, which I saw a few days ago after Walter Cronkite died. This is nearly 10 minutes of CBS's actual coverage of the landing of Apollo 11. I've seen a lot of TV shows, documentaries, and NASA film and photos of the event in the past 40 years, but I don't think I've watched this broadcast itself since 1969. This was what we at home really saw--not the film still aboard Apollo that had yet to be returned and developed.
I hope it's obvious, but feel obligated to emphasize, that all of the spacecraft visuals in this broadcast were models and animations done by CBS to accompany the real-time audio from Apollo 11. Hours later, when Armstrong was preparing to step onto the Moon, he turned on a video camera attached to the side of the lander to broadcast the event live. Those are the ghostly black-and-white transmissions we're used to seeing. Until then, it was essentially a radio show.
Man, this takes me back. It actually brought a tear to my eye. In ways impossible to explain to someone who wasn't there, Cronkite (along with Life magazine) was the public face of the space program. He enjoyed access and credibility no one else had, and Cronkite sitting there with astronaut Wally Schirra is 198-proof nostalgia for me.
I think I remember being confused when the CBS animation didn't match up with the actual audio from Apollo. You'll notice that CBS had a big clock counting down to the lunar landing, and showed their model spacecraft on the surface while we clearly heard Armstrong and Aldrin still descending. CBS jumped the gun. They didn't yet know that Armstrong had taken manual control of the craft when the autopilot appeared to be setting them into a field of boulders, and almost exhausted the Eagle's fuel poking around for a flat spot to land (the voice saying "thirty seconds" is Mission Control telling Armstrong how much fuel he's got left). It's fascinating to hear the chatter about alarms going off in the lander, knowing--again, in retrospect--that the Eagle's computer had overloaded and the mission was nearly aborted (at one point Cronkite alertly asked about an alarm and Schirra quickly dismissed it as unimportant, which was at best a white lie).
I've said before and probably too often that I consider being alive to witness Apollo 11 to be one of the great privileges of my life. A thousand years from now, that's what our time will be remembered for. And I was there. Ha ha, you punk kids!
WHTTWOT got two recent cites online I want to mention. KaneCitizen, who was kind enough to comment on a recent post here, strongly recommended my book on his "News on the March" blog. And the proprietor of Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff in Concord, Calif., mentioned my book on his shop's Facebook page, calling it his favorite new release of the week--which is wonderful to hear, especially from someone in a position to maybe sell a couple of copies. Thanks to both!
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Forty years ago today Apollo 11 lifted off for the Moon, and I couldn't think of a better tribute than to celebrate a book that told me the biggest lie of my life.
You Will Go to the Moon was written by Mae and Ira Freeman and illustrated by Robert Patterson, and I read it a bajillion times when I was a kid. Published in 1959, this Random House Beginner Book soaked through my skin, rearranged my DNA, and prepared me to be a citizen of the stars instead of the little South Dakota neighborhood from which I watched Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins make history. My original copy is long gone, but I found one in a used book store a few years ago and happily gave it a place of honor on my shelf of much more serious and scholarly tomes on astronomy and space exploration. It taught me more than pretty much all the rest together, even though almost nothing in it is right.
The influence of Wernher Von Braun's vision of spaceflight is strong and obvious--surprisingly so for as late as 1959, when the real manned space program had gotten underway. The fat winged rocket above and the classic doughnut-shaped space station below are pure Von Braunian goodness, so iconic of their time it's easy to forget they were once serious suggestions for actual space vehicles.
t-shirt (behind the coffee drinkers below, unfortunately obscured by a blotch of childhood graffiti). I wonder what that "help wanted" ad would look like.
What terrific art! I've seen a later edition of You Will Go to the Moon illustrated more realistically, informed by Apollo hardware and actual lunar landings. I don't think it's nearly as good. If I can't blast off to a space station with a soda fountain and race Moon cars through craters like dune buggies, well, I hardly see the point in going.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Here's the whole thing:
Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? (Abrams ComicArts; 202 pages; $24.95) by Brian Fies, author of the acclaimed "Mom's Cancer," serves as a bridge between comics that are wholly fictional and those that employ the strategies of journalism or memoir. Fies of Santa Rosa charts the course of futurism from the World's Fair of 1939 to the final Apollo mission of 1975 and beyond. Unfortunately, the mix of straightforward history, comic book parody/homage and fictional father-son narrative never really gels.
So there you go. Needs more gel. I take tiny solace from the fact that Mr. Berry thought enough of my book to include it in an article titled "The Best in Comic Books" in the first place, and that he seemed tough on other books that have been well-reviewed elsewhere. I respect high standards. Still . . .
I never expected everyone to like or "get" WHTTWOT; plenty of people whose opinions I respect have said good things about it, so I'm not crushed. I am disappointed because I knew that the Chronicle planned to mention WHTTWOT, and a good review in one of the largest-circulation newspapers on the West Coast could have made a big difference. I doubt it'll do any harm in the long run--this isn't a Broadway play, where one critical pan can sink you--but it sure doesn't help.
I expect to be bummed out for a couple of hours and then shake it off by the afternoon. That seems about right.
Monday, July 6, 2009
After establishing his bona fides, Jeff wrote, ". . . it is in these contexts that I experienced such joy and excitement upon discovering Brian Fies' wonderful graphic novel Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? It was as if Fies had channeled so many of my passions--the '39 Fair, comic books, Disney and the space program, just to name a few--into 200 beautifully illustrated pages that chronicle the birth, death and potential rebirth of forward-thinking idealism."
And he concluded: "If Disney's original EPCOT film gave you goosebumps, or if you ever emerged excited and energized after riding Spaceship Earth or Horizons at EPCOT Center, you will no doubt be similarly thrilled and motivated by Brian Fies' amazing journey across the 20th century. It is a hopeful, happy vision, and one I intend to revisit many times in my own world of tomorrow."
Many thanks to Jeff for his generous review. By the way, as everyone knows, 2719 Hyperion was the address of Disney's original studio in California.
* * *
Friend-of-the-blog Namowal kindly posted some thoughts about WHTTWOT on her blog "Tail O The Rat." She called my book "delightful," my drawings "cute," and concluded by saying, "Each time I look at it I find something new." I like that a lot. Thanks!
* * *
Finally, a review of Mom's Cancer by Markus from the Philippines, who some may recall commented in my blog a few posts ago. I very much like the fact that people continue to discover my first book, and appreciate Markus mentioning it. He strongly recommended that everyone pick it up "immediately," and added, "For me, that is the strongest asset of the book--it’s unreserved honesty. Heck, I’d prefer reading this anytime than watching any of those 'reality TV' shows if I wanted to take a peek at real life." I appreciate that insight.
Friday, July 3, 2009
My wife Karen is the Director of Employment and Training for our county's Human Services Department, which means she sets policy and distributes funds to help people get the education and skills they need to hold jobs. The news story below is about one of her projects, a summer jobs program for at-risk youth. Karen doesn't appear in the story--she's a behind-the-scenes organizer happy to let others take the bows--but she worked very hard with a lot of people and community groups to pull this together in a short amount of time. It's quite an accomplishment and I'm real proud of her.
Anyway, here's a look at what the most talented and hard-working member of our household does.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
When LitGraphic closed in mid-2008, the Rockwell curators asked if they could hold onto my drawings for a few more years while they took the show on the road to share with other museums. I was told this was unusual for Rockwell exhibitions, but LitGraphic had proven so popular that other institutions wanted it as well. I liked the Rockwell people so much, and they took such respectful care of my pages, that I didn't hesistate to agree. After a little lull (to let the excitement die down and everyone's adrenaline levels subside to normal, I guess), an actual tour has firmed up:
- The Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio; Oct. 2, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010 (as I mentioned previously, I'll give a talk at the exhibition opening in Toledo on October 2)
- The Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, W. Va.; Feb. 20, 2010 to May 23, 2010
- James A. Michener Art Museum, Doylestown, Penn.; Nov. 13, 2010 to Feb. 13, 2011
- Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, Mass.; November 2011 to January 2012
- The Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, N.Y.; March 3, 2012 to April 29, 2012.
There are a few obvious holes in the schedule that may yet be filled by other venues. If you're near one of those cities in the next couple of years and a fan of comics, I think LitGraphic would be worth looking for and checking out. I don't know which pieces are making the journey, but the original show at the Rockwell had work by Dave Sim, Terry Moore, Sue Coe, Peter Kuper, Barron Storey, Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, and many others. Sharing wall space with such creators was truly a lifetime honor and memory for me.
My Night at the Museum--Rockwell, that is. The opening was actually heavily attended; my wife and I just sneaked in a few minutes early for some alone time.