Education: University of California, Davis, B.A.
Cartoonist, journalist, and author. Daily Democrat Woodland, CA, journalist, 1983-86; inorganic chemist and laboratory supervisor and manager, 1986-87; writer, William Nesbit & Associates, 1997-99; freelance writer, editor, and consultant, 1999—.
Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic, 2005, for Mom's Cancer.
Mom's Cancer (graphic novel), Abrams Image (New York, NY), 2006.
Brian Fies is a many-faceted writer of nonfiction material, an illustrator and cartoonist, and even a chemist. As a freelance writer, he works in areas such as technical writing, business writing, marketing communications, and journalism. He is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed graphic novel Mom's Cancer, the true story of his mother's battle with lung cancer and of his and his family's reaction to her illness. The illustrated story focuses on Fies's mother and the emotional and physical toll the disease takes on her, on his younger sister (identified as "Kid Sis"), his older, medically savvy sister (referred to as "Nurse Sis"), and on Fies himself. Determined not to give in, Fies's mother fought the disease with all the strength she had, aided by her supportive but emotionally devastated children. For Fies, writing and drawing the strip was one of the ways he dealt with the turmoil and tragedy. In the end, "I was taking something bad and trying to turn it into something good," Fies explained in an interview with Jennifer M. Contino on Comicon.com. "It worked for me."
The story originated as a Web-based comic strip but was collected into graphic novel form and then published. Musing on the Mom's Cancer Web site, Fies discussed why he chose to use the medium of comics to relate his mother's story of strength and determination. "It was the right medium for the story I wanted to tell," he stated. "Comic strips meld words and pictures to convey an idea with more economy and grace than either could alone." During her ordeal, Fies made a sketch of his mother while she slept during a chemotherapy treatment. Encouraged by the power and truth of this drawing, he was inspired to proceed with the story in comics form. Ultimately, the book garnered the inaugural prize in Best Digital Comic category of the Eisner Awards, a prestigious award given out annually to the best work in the comic book and graphic novel industry.
Critical reaction to the story and its presentation was solidly positive. A Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked that the "clean, simple comic-strip quality" of the artwork of Fies's graphic novel "fits the story perfectly, highlighting the gravity of the situation while cutting away undue sentimentality." Fies "does an excellent job of developing the clashing personalities" within the family, "making the family members both real and highly accessible," commented Matthew L. Moffett in School Library Journal. Library Journal contributor Steve Raiteri stated: "Readers who have undergone, or are undergoing, a similar struggle will be touched deeply." Ray Olson, writing in Booklist, concluded that "Fies's book may be one of the most well balanced contributions to the literature of coping with cancer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 2006, Ray Olson, review of Mom's Cancer, p. 37.
Library Journal, May 15, 2006, Steve Raiteri, "Graphic Novels," review of Mom's Cancer, p. 83.
Publishers Weekly, May 2, 2005, Calvin Reid, "Abrams to Pub Mom's Cancer," p. 15; January 20, 2006, review of Mom's Cancer, p. 47; April 7, 2006, Hannah Tucker, Whitney Pastorek, and Ken Tucker, "Graphic Novels 101: Drawn from Life," review of Mom's Cancer, p. 66.
School Library Journal, May, 2006, Matthew L. Moffett, review of Mom's Cancer, p. 163.
USA Today, May 23, 2006, Liz Szabo, "Laughing in the Face of Cancer," profile of Brian Fies.
BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (September 23, 2006), Lance Victor Eaton, review of Mom's Cancer.
Brian Fies Home Page,http://www.brianfies.com (September 23, 2006).
Mom's Cancer Web log,http://momscancer.blogspot.org (September 23, 2006).
Mom's Cancer Web site,http://www.momscancer.com (September 23, 2006).