Friday, July 29, 2011

Thanks to Jordan Rich and His Listeners

Welcome to any listeners of the Jordan Rich Show dropping by to check out me and my work! Since I'm drafting this in advance I don't yet know if I was a good guest, but I hope I didn't embarrass myself, my profession, my publisher or my country too much. And my sincere thanks to Jordan.

Here are some links to a few of my blog posts that are more noteworthy than others:

My very first, after winning the Eisner Award for Mom's Cancer (July 2005).

Mom's passing (Oct. 2005).

The New York book launch party for Mom's Cancer, my first (and still my favorite) big-time literary event (Feb. 2006).

My first time on radio, on NPR's "All Things Considered" with cartoonist Miriam Engelberg. I only mention it because Miriam's book Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, about her fight with the cancer that eventually killed her, is the only other book sort of like mine that I unreservedly recommend. She was terrific. (June 2006)

The Norman Rockwell Museum invited me to the opening of an exhibition of comic art, the first time I'd seen my work hanging on a museum wall instead of piled on the floor under my desk. A career highlight! (Nov. 2007)

My first post on this here Fies Files blog, announcing Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? (WHTTWOT) (July 2008).

I spent an afternoon as "Cartoonist in Residence" at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, which pretty much blew my mind. (Jan. 2010)

My thoughts on WHTTWOT winning the American Astronautical Society's Emme Award for Outstanding Astronautical Literature for Young Adults (Sept. 2010), plus a few follow-up thoughts (Nov. 2010). Another career highlight!

Last June I helped organize a "Comics & Medicine" conference in Chicago after being asked to speak at a similar event in London in 2010. Both were extraordinary conferences that mined the unexpectedly rich vein where storytelling meets healthcare. It sounds weird but it works. (June 2011)

Anyone interested in posts on specific topics such as how I approach cartooning can skim through the "Labels" to the right. I also put together a little PDF Press Kit that has more information about both of my books as well as reviews and more.

Finally, I'd encourage anyone interested in buying my books to check with your local heroic independent bookseller first. However, if they're unwiling, unable or already out of business, you can find my books online:

Mom's Cancer: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo (Canada).

WHTTWOT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters Indigo (Canada).

To my regulars: sorry I've been too busy to blog as much as I'd like. Day job. It's gonna be like this a while. Many thanks to all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

From Coast to Coast and All the Ships at Sea

I've gotten the nod to announce that I'm scheduled to be a guest on the Jordan Rich Show on Boston radio station WBZ 1030 on Friday, July 29! Since WBZ has a mighty continent-spanning 50,000-watt transmitter in addition to being part of the CBS Radio Network, the potential audience is enormous.

Bearing in mind that I'm always at the mercy of breaking news or a better guest turning up, I'll be Jordan's guest at midnight (Eastern) Friday night/Saturday morning and spend at least half an hour talking about graphic novels in general and my graphic novels in particular. I owe the gig entirely to Friend O' The Blog Jim O'Kane, who as the World's Foremost Authority on TV Single Dads has been Jordan's guest before and convinced him I was worth a listen. If this goes well, I might have to elevate Jim's status to "Benefactor O' The Blog." Sincere thanks to Jim.

Now where did I put my Les Nessman Correspondence Course?

I expect WBZ's facilities have improved since 1921.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Electrons for Sale! Get Yer Electrons, Right Here!

Big publishing news, at least to me: Mom's Cancer is now available for the Kindle, with other e-book platforms to follow very soon! Within a week or two I should be able to direct you to similar offerings for the Nook, Nook Color and Sony Reader, with Apple's iBookstore to follow later this summer.

This has been in the works for a while and I'm very excited about it. I'm interested to see how my book works in electronic format--which may prove difficult since I don't actually own any of those readers. But my artwork is clean and open enough, and my lettering large and legible enough, that I'd expect Mom's Cancer to look pretty sharp.

I'm especially gratified that my publisher Abrams went to the effort. Mom's Cancer was published almost exactly five years ago (that's so hard for me to believe that I checked the math twice) and is now a backlist book that wouldn't ordinarily get a new lease on life. It's nice to see that Editor Charlie and his bosses still have some confidence in it.

We've also had some conversations about what could come next for Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow, including softcover (not this year for sure, but maybe next) and e-book editions. The latter would be an interesting challenge, since we went to a lot of trouble to use different paper stock and such that wouldn't translate to the screen. Simply digitizing the existing layouts wouldn't work. I've already told Editor Charlie and Abrams's e-book person that when the time comes, I want to work closely with them to get that right.

Pretty cool, eh? Some days I like living in the Future.

UPDATE: As of this morning, it's available for the Nook as well!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Independence on the Hornet

I had a great Fourth of July with my daughters, who treated me to an afternoon and night aboard the USS Hornet, as apt a place as any to celebrate U.S. independence.

As I've mentioned before but wouldn't expect anyone to remember, my daughter Laura is a docent aboard the Hornet, which was decommissioned as an aircraft carrier in 1970 after recovering Apollos 11 and 12, and is now a dockside museum in Alameda, Calif. My other daughter Robin has since signed on as a museum volunteer (though not a full docent . . . yet) and they've particularly enjoyed staffing the ship for sleepovers by groups like Boy and Girl Scouts. Because they often work overnight, they've been assigned quarters--an honest-to-goodness officer's stateroom, which is where they invited me to spend the night after watching fireworks over San Francisco Bay at the end of the Hornet's big July Fourth Family Day. (My wife Karen opted out--something about peace, quiet, solitude, not sleeping on a steel floor, yada yada.)

The Hornet was really buzzing (heh) yesterday, with a couple thousand people enjoying a day of food, drink, bounce houses, bands performing on two levels (Hangar and Flight decks), plus an entire aircraft carrier to explore. I particularly appreciated meeting some of the other docents, generally older gentlemen who served on the Hornet or ships of her era and had very interesting stories to tell as well as nice compliments about my girls. As Karen and I say, it's like Laura and Robin have 50 grandpas. Then at night everyone gathered at the Flight Deck's stern to watch fireworks, which I honestly think were disappointing for some. Too low and distant. Not for me, though. Sitting in the cold bay breeze watching glowing dandelions of light puff into the sky was the perfect cap to a full day.

Flight Deck of the Hornet (facing the stern), laid out with picnic tables, a band stage, food and beverage tents, and porta-potties. The silhouette of San Francisco is visible on the horizon. If I'm not mistaken (and there's a 60-40 chance I am), I shot this photo in the very spot President Nixon stood when he welcomed Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins back from the Moon.

Looking the other direction toward the bow, where some aircraft and bouncy-houses were lashed to the deck.

My girls Robin and Laura on their way up the staff gangway. Laura did a four-hour docent shift yesterday, which is why she's in the navy and khaki uniform. Looking sharp.

Laura also took the time to give me a private tour of some parts of the ship normally closed to visitors that I hadn't seen before. Here in the Engine Room, I'm givin' her all I got, Cap'n! ("Bridge, she canna take any more!") Laura later explained that the two wheels I'm so desperately spinning controlled the "ahead" and "astern" steam valves, and by opening both simultaneously I probably would have blown up the turbine. This is why I don't service my own car.

I shot the above video walking from one end of the Hangar Deck to the other. PLEASE NOTE that at the beginning of the video I state that I'm walking from bow to stern. I'm actually doing the opposite. I knew that! Seconds before shooting this, I was standing out on the ship's fantail (i.e., the back end) and knew exactly where I was. I just misspoke. This is why I don't service my own garbage disposal or lawn mower, either.

A sorry attempt at artistry. Again, that's San Francisco in the distance, with the Sun setting behind the Bay Bridge (as well as a crane barge thing docked next to the Hornet).

While the Hornet's history of service during World War II, Korea and Vietnam make it an interesting historic artifact, it is the ship's service in the exploration of space that really gets me tingling. The video below is a quick survey of some of the ship's Space Age artifacts. I preface the narrative saying I shot it just for Friend O' The Blog Jim O'Kane, but everyone else is welcome to watch, too. I'll have a few notes on the other side.

The Sea King helicopter is the same type used to recover Apollo astronauts from the Pacific after splashdown. However, this is not the original #66, but was painted with its livery for use in the movie "Apollo 13." The Hornet acquired the chopper after filming and kept the paint job. The Apollo Command Module capsule CM-011A was used for suborbital tests in 1966. This very capsule was shot into space and recovered by the Hornet, and still has a big dent in its underside from drop-impact testing conducted after it returned. Also in the video is the Mobile Quarantine Facility, a modified Airstream trailer used to isolate astronauts returning from the Moon to protect the Earth from hypothetical space germs. This particular MQF was used for Apollo 14, which the Hornet did not recover; however, nearly identical trailers were used for the astronauts of Apollos 11 and 12, who were retrieved by the Hornet. The "Gemini Boilerplate" is a dummy Gemini capsule used for testing. It's tiny; hard to believe two men fit inside (the real ones, that is).

Me in one of the three most famous Airstream trailers in the History of Forever.

My daughter Robin took this photo of me and a random boy inspecting the interior of the Apollo capsule. He walked right up and explained everything to me. I posted this picture to my Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow Facebook page because this is exactly what my book is about.

My girls and I spent the night aboard ship and emerged around 8:30 this morning to find the Hangar Deck deserted. We took a chopper for a spin around the Bay and then went home.

Thanks to my girls for giving me an Independence Day that was more fun for me than Father's Day and Christmas put together! And again, if you're ever in the East Bay with a few hours on your hands and the remotest interest in any of this stuff, I highly recommend a visit to the Hornet. Ask for Laura.

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Stand On Guard South of Thee

Today is Canada Day, giving me a rare chance to combine two of my favorite things: Canada, and William Shatner. Happy Canada Day! I love you guys.