Who What Why?
I’m Brian Fies and I don’t like writing about myself in the third-person.
I created the webcomic and graphic novel Mom's Cancer (2003-2006) and the graphic novel Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow (hardcover 2009, softcover 2012, Scholastic 2013). Both won some awards. I also put out a little limited-edition zine, The Adventures of Old Time-Traveling Brian, in 2012. I blog at brianfies.blogspot.com.
The Last Mechanical Monster is a project that percolated in my brain for years. The premise always tickled me and offered a way to have fun exploring some interesting ideas about ambition, mortality, what we leave behind, and how we're remembered. I love the characters. It's a webcomic because I thought the story was perfect for serialization and I wasn’t sure it really cried out to be a book. Not everything does. I could be wrong.
A Work in Progress?
One key reason for releasing The Last Mechanical Monster as a work-in-progress webcomic is to get readers’ feedback. When I did Mom’s Cancer, readers told me what worked and what didn’t--crowd-sourced editing. We talked and argued, and it turned out they were always right.
Please feel free to share your thoughts via the comments on each page.
Another aspect of The Last Mechanical Monster's WIPness is that most of it is black and white. Without color, this really is like the first draft of a novel or the rough cut of a film. Although I love black and white as perhaps the purest expression of the comics medium, color adds mood, depth, texture, understanding. Coloring at this point would be a big job that’d probably keep me from completing the comic at all. It would also be short-sighted, since any future medium (if any) may have its own color requirements (four-color? two-color? watercolor? wash?). Still, the black-and-white absolutely stands on its own, and I’ll add color to the webcomic when it’s necessary to comprehension.
I hope you’ll regard this as a backstage look at comics-creating in progress. When I post the last page sometime in mid-2015, we’ll see if it amounts to anything.
How Is This Legal?
I have enormous respect for other people's intellectual property. Creators have the right to control and profit from their creations. But many of the early Fleischer cartoons, including "The Mechanical Monsters," are in the public domain--as copyright-free as Tom Sawyer or Frankenstein--which is how they became perennial staples of pre-dawn TV cartoon round-ups and can be purchased from the dollar bin at Walmart.
That doesn't mean that anyone can put out their own Superman story. Superman, Clark Kent, Lois Lane, the Daily Planet, etc. are owned, copyrighted and trademarked by DC Comics, and are not depicted in The Last Mechanical Monster except in introductory screencaps from the (public domain) Fleischer film. The only characters from the cartoon who appear in my comic are the now-elderly Inventor and his Mechanical Monster, neither of them a DC Comics property.
But Blogger? Seriously?
The Last Mechanical Monster is more than a creative project for me; it’s also an experiment in process.
I know there are many webcomic portals, as well as platforms such as ComicPress, Comic Easel, InkBlot and others, specifically tailored for webcomics. Google’s Blogger is decidedly not. Here’s the deal:
Ever since I started drawing comics as a child, one of the qualities I've loved best about them is their egalitarianism. Anyone can make comics, with the simplest of tools. For the price of pen and paper you’re in business. These days you’d probably want a computer, too—especially for a webcomic—but fundamentally comics have always valued ideas over the tools with which they’re expressed.
The Last Mechanical Monster tests that proposition. I don’t want to commit to other people’s portals because I can’t vouch for their editorial or business practices. I don’t want my panels plastered with ads because when I’m reading a book by David Sedaris or Jonathan Franzen I never find a half-page ad for biscuits. No criticism of comics with ads is implied, it’s just an aesthetic choice I made for this project.
Blogger is free and takes minimal skill. If I can make it work for a webcomic, anyone can.
I don’t expect to have a lot of readers, especially at first, but I hope that if you like The Last Mechanical Monster you’ll mention it, link to it, and return regularly (if you don't like it, shhh!). One truth I’ve learned is that no marketing campaign is one-tenth as effective as sincere word of mouth. That’s part of the “experiment in process” as well.
It may sound naïve, but I have faith that if I do work I enjoy and am proud of, people will find it and good things will come from it. Thanks for reading.