By Nancy Powell
As his spotlight panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, cartoonist Brian Fies was surprised by the Board of Comic Con Directors with an Inkpot Award for Lifetime Achievement.
He also announced that A Fire Story, his comic based on losing his home in the California brush fires earlier this year, will be published by Abrams ComicArts in spring of 2019.
ON the panel, Fies reminisced about his career, starting with a 500-word essay that evolved into the Eisner-Award-winning for best digital comic called Mom’s Cancer. From there, he released the Day After Tomorrow and after he lost his home in the Northern California fires of 2017, Fies fled his home with very few possessions.
“I packed two pairs of socks, two pairs of underwear. I thought I’d be back in two days. We were all wrong.”
The day after he discovered his loss, he went to a local Target after sneaking back home to survey the damage and began documenting his experience. The result was an 18-page webcomic. Drawn in three days, it became healing and therapeutic for him – and hugely popular. National PBS station KQED produced an animated documentary of the experience. Over three million people viewed the video, and he received an Emmy Award in June for the video. As the documentary was shown to the audience, a still visibly shaken Fies talked about the mix of surprise and emotional conflict that came with the Award.
A Fire Story will be published in March by Abrams ComicArts. The expanded comic will include Fies’s original 18-page comic and a limited color palate in order to give the experience immediacy.
“There is humor in the book. There is hope in that book.. It’s about what matters, it’s about community and rebuilding,” said Abrams editorial director Charles Kochman. Kochman was proud of Mom’s Cancer, but he is even more proud of A Fire Story.
Brian Fies doesn’t know where he fits in with his art. But as Kochman reminded Fies, he is first and foremost a journalist, as evidenced by the bigger story Fies will tell in the new book, which discusses the fire’s impact on the environment, the local economy and its devastation on the local community.
“I interviewed a lot of people,” said Fies. “It’s my Fire Story, but it’s also other people’s Fire Story.”
Kochman asked Fies what prized possessions Fies had lost from the fire. Fies describes how his wife Karen lost framed photos of film strips taken from phone booths and local fairs. Fies lost his entire portfolio, including original art and the awards he had received throughout the years. Fies was genuinely surprised and touched when Kochman unveiled replacements of his Eisner for best digital comic and a lost NASA Award. Kochman presented Fies He was with a Golden Bob Ross Award, as well as a last set or original promotional buttons produced for Mom’s Cancer.
All-in-all, it was a fitting tribute to an artist who has triumphed over personal loss and tragedy and whose experiences have touched millions.