Monday, July 27, 2015

Robot Army Still Recruiting

I confess that my efforts to amass a robot army for world domination haven't gone as quickly as I'd hoped. Still, allies report in from time to time with very encouraging progress. Henchman First Class Roy W. sent me these photos of his recruit.




Roy writes: "My son bookmarked your comic for me, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to try and build your paper Robot.  I used screws and nuts for the joints, with pieces of soda straw inside to keep from crushing the joint when I tighten the screw.  Epoxy holds the five inside nuts in place, to make assembly and screw tightening easier.

"I'm not as old as Sparky, but I am old enough to relate to him quite well.  My college electronics course only involved vacuum tubes, inductors, capacitors, and resistors.  There were no computers or calculators available, only slide rules and long-hand arithmetic."

He adds that he plans to display his late wife's Christmas village for the holidays, and add the Robot to the festive scene. "Perhaps he can rob the casino or the cookie shop, or just sit on a house."

That's the sort of evil scheme we here at HQ can fully support and endorse.

Many thanks to Roy and his son, who introduced him to "The Last Mechanical Monster." It was a genuine treat to get your e-mail; thank you for your time and your kind words.

If you'd like to build your own Art Deco Mechanical Monster, all you need are a few sheets of cardstock and a printer. I provide the rest right here.

Thanks again, Roy!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Welcome Comic-Con

Comic-Con International in San Diego fast approaches, and with it The Last Mechanical Monster's running for an Eisner Award for Best Digital/Webcomic. That'll be announced Friday night.

Also with it is a flurry of interest in my comic from new visitors. If you're one of them, thanks and welcome! The Last Mechanical Monster began in November 2013 and concluded 170 pages later in May 2015.

The story begins here.

It ends here (but why would you begin at the end?).

And the "Webcomic Archive" to the right will take you to any page between.

Also, I wrote up a little Author's Note/FAQ explaining what I was up to.

Win or lose (and I don't expect to win), earning an Eisner nomination for The Last Mechanical Monster two years in a row is a tremendous honor that means a lot. Even better are the readers who've taken the time to comment, critique, and enjoy the story.

I hope you enjoy my story about a very old man, his giant Robot, and some thoughts about how we'll be remembered by what we leave behind. I enjoyed making it very much.




Friday, July 3, 2015

Plans for World Domination On Track


The very talented Celesta Johnston has shrewdly joined the winning side in the coming robot wars.

Using the plans provided here following the conclusion of The Last Mechanical Monster, Celesta just built her very own Robot. I'm sure the Big Guy will bring her hours of pleasure and occasional loot from a bank heist.





This is seriously very cool. Thank you, Celesta! I appreciate the time you spent on the project and letting me share your photos.

On to victory.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

And So My Robot Army Begins

Following last Tuesday's finale of "The Last Mechanical Monster," I offered readers a parting gift of everything they needed to build their own giant Art Deco Robots (ahem, out of paper) and invited them to share their results.

The first minions have reported in.

Friends O' The Feature Jim and Nancy O'Kane sent this photo of the Robot's papercraft plans displayed on their iPad. I wouldn't normally count that as an official "build"; however, in this case they were standing in front of Monet's "Water Lilies" at the Musee de L'Orangerie in Paris while on their honeymoon. So I think that counts. I also think, as I told them, they need to reevaluate their priorities. ("Hey Jim! Look behind you!")

What, they don't have scissors and glue in France?!

My daughters Robin and Laura were my very first minions, and remain among my most loyal. Still, it was a surprise to receive their transmission in my secret subterranean lab this morning.

What I need to explain first is that my girls are creative, crafty sorts who also love the Marvel superhero movies. They've gifted each other a couple of those incredibly detailed high-end action figures that so eerily capture the likenesses of the characters/actors that you're afraid they've trapped their souls. Possible spoilers for the next "Avengers" movie ahead:

That whole Ultron death-bot thing didn't work out so well for Tony Stark in the last movie, but I'm sure this'll go better.

A quick spray-coat of high-gloss candy-apple red and he'll be good to go.

You truly wouldn't believe how gleefully giddy these photos made me.

If you build it, I'd love to post a photo. The plans are here.

* * *

Quick Mentions: Lots of Facebook friends and real-life friends are supporting "The Last Mechanical Monster" by voting for it as Best Digital/Web Comic in the Eisner Awards. If you're pro in comics or a related field (bookseller, educator, librarian, journalist, editor) you can vote at eisnervote.com by Monday, June 1.

Also, pal Mike Peterson had some nice parting words for my comic at his Comic Strip of the Day site (see May 29th's post). Mike's a great essayist who's always worth a read.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Coda

After 16 months and 170 pages, The Last Mechanical Monster is done. If you'd like to catch up . . .

the very first page is here, and the very last page is here.

Also, the "Webcomic Archive" to the right will take you to any page you'd like.

But don't leave yet.

I wanted to do something fun to thank loyal readers of The Last Mechanical Monster for coming back twice a week, leaving critical and encouraging comments (both appreciated), and supporting the comic in many ways, including your Eisner Award votes (still a few days left to mark your ballots!). This link will download a PDF with everything you need to make your very own paper Mechanical Monster. Disclaimer: it isn't bulletproof, and it won't fly unless you throw it really hard.




So if you're ready to embark on a career of supervillainy and have seven sheets of cardstock in your arsenal, click on this link to download the big guy's schematics. One thought: some of the papercraft involved (cutting, folding, gluing, etc.) is probably more than a child would have the patience or skill to take on. It's really meant for grown-ups. Grown-ups who want a robot paper doll.

I designed it myself (really!), so the engineering might be a little rough. Feel free to tweak it. If anybody actually builds the thing, I'd love to post photos of your results here!

Going ahead, I'll certainly be sharing any news from the 2015 Comic-Con International and Eisner Awards, where we're nominated for Best Digital Comic. Also, there is a chance that The Last Mechanical Monster will see print. Conversations have been had but contracts have not been signed, so that's all I can say about that. Whatever comes next will be in full color (so I'd better get to work).

When I began posting in late 2013, I said that in addition to being a story I really wanted to tell, The Last Mechanical Monster was an experiment in process. Comics and webcomics have changed a lot since I did Mom's Cancer. I wondered if there was still a place for a simple comic drawn with black ink on white paper and posted on a free web platform, without HTML fireworks, animation, gadgets, gimmicks, portals, promotions or ads.

If I built it, would they come?

Well, "they"--and you--did. Thank you, thanks to the few folks who reviewed and linked to it, and thanks to the judges and voters who made it a contender for two Eisner Awards. You made my little experiment a great success.

I hope you enjoyed the story of Sparky, his Robot, Lillian and Helen as much as I enjoyed making it up. I'll miss them.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Page 170

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A few days ago, my wife Karen (who still hasn't forgiven me for Sparky) said, "Well, the Robot had better be all right, and he should serve everybody ice cream!" Her idea was so much better than mine that at the last minute I redrew this page (and a bit of the previous page) to make it so.

More stories should end with ice cream.

With this page, The Last Mechanical Monster is done. But please come back tomorrow for some final thoughts and a special gift to thank you for reading, commenting, and supporting my comic.

--Brian


Friday, May 22, 2015

Page 169

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As I commented yesterday, this is the right side of a two-page spread (already thinking ahead to print). The Blogger template doesn't really make it feasible to post an image that wide without making the type too small to read, but here's what the whole thing looks like:


New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Page 168

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New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Page 167

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New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Page 166

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In the previous page's comments, reader Royce Day linked to his own take on how he thought The Last Mechanical Monster should end. His short story does a nice job capturing Lillian's voice and includes a character I couldn't. My only hesitation in recommending it is that it might be better than what I've got planned. As I replied to Royce, as far as I know I've never been fan-fictioned before!

* * *

New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Page 165

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New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Page 164

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There's no point being coy about it: Sparky is really, truly gone and I'm sad (and my wife's still mad).

Now I want to tell you a story I promised back on Page 117 . . .


I had a very hard time beginning work on that page and spent a few days fiddling around and procrastinating. I couldn't figure out why. There wasn't anything particularly daunting about the art or writing, yet I couldn't bring myself to sit at the drawing board and put ink on the paper.

Then I realized: it was the start of Sparky's last day on Earth, and I just didn't want to kill the old villain! I knew that once I drew that page, his fate was sealed.

Being the Grim Reaper is a tough gig.

My original idea for Page 117 was that Sparky wouldn't sleep at all, tossing all night wondering whether his lifetime ambition had been misguided. I changed my mind at the last second and let him fall asleep. It seemed somehow important to have a clean break between all the other days of his life and his last. I didn't want him to face his Robot already exhausted. A three-hour nap wasn't much but it was . . . merciful. I owed him that.

* * *

New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!


Friday, May 1, 2015

Page 163

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New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!



Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Page 162

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New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Page 161

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New readers and Eisner voters! Thanks for dropping by, I appreciate it. If you'd like to catch up, I recommend beginning with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1. It's a pretty quick read.

You can use the links above to navigate, or click on each page to advance to the next.

And if you like the story, please come back and tell a friend. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Page 160

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We interrupt this comic for a startling announcement.

Startling to me, at least.

"The Last Mechanical Monster" has again been nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Webcomic!


For those unfamiliar, the Eisners are sort of the Oscars or Emmys of comics. A panel of industry experts nominates comics in several categories, which are then voted on by comics professionals. Handsome trophies with spinny globes are awarded during a banquet at Comic-Con International in San Diego in July.

This honor is unexpected. Each year's Eisner judging panel comprises completely different people, and I had no reason to hope that this year's panel would feel the same about my work as last year's did. Especially since the world of webcomics is so large and diverse. To be picked out of that enormous field of talent by people who know and love comics means a lot.

To curious readers finding their way here for the first time, I'd suggest starting with my story's Preface before going on to Page 1

Also, my Author's Note offers a sort of mission statement describing what I'm up to here--what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. That's the deep cut for those really interested in process.

All my thanks to the Eisner judges and any new readers they've brought my way. If you're a reader I hope you enjoy the story, and if you're eligible to vote in the Eisner Awards I'd appreciate your consideration.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Page 155

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Red-blue 3-D glasses strongly recommended by not required . . .

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Page 154

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Got your red-blue 3-D glasses handy? This would be a good time to leave them within easy reach.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Page 151

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Use the links above to navigate, OR click on each page to advance to the next.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Page 149

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Today's sound effect is brought to you by Dick Sprang, a Golden Age comic book artist who drew Batman and Superman in the 1940s and '50s.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Page 147

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Today "The Last Mechanical Monster" got one of the most thoughtful and thorough reviews I've ever received, via Derek and Adam at "The Comics Alternative Podcast." The review is about 30 minutes long (!) and begins at 32:00 of the podcast linked to above. If you don't have 30 minutes, there's a nice summary write-up on that page as well. Thanks again to Derek and Adam. Great way to end a week!


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Page 142

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Look, maybe I didn't think this through . . .

In the previous post I offered a free drawing and future acknowledgement to anyone who could help me name the big, small, and just-right books at the bottom of the page. And it seriously did not occur to me that maybe three different people would each come up with one title I liked. I don't know why but it didn't. STILL, I'm a man of my word and will be very happy to send an original drawing of Sparky and the Robot to the following commenters:

-- Jsutliff was the first to suggest Crime and Punishment for the big book.

-- Mike was the first to come up with I, Robot for the small book.

-- And I'm the Momma, That's Why! gave me Fahrenheit 451 for the just-right book.

Look for those titles to magically appear on the three book covers on Page 141 as soon as I get a few minutes to add them.

Mike, I know your postal address. Joe Sutliff, I don't think I have yours. And Momma, I have no idea who you are. E-mail me your addresses at brianfies@gmail.com and I'll get a drawing in the mail as soon as I can, with my thanks.

My selections may seem a bit obvious or "on the nose" but I think that's partly why they're funny. The books are like fools quipping to the audience about the action on stage. I thought some of the other suggestions were terrific--RUR, Farewell to the Master, Magic School Bus, Theory of Everything, Centennial, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, etc.--but sometimes too obscure or even too thoughtful. In this case I don't want a reader to have to figure out a puzzle--just get it fast and move on. (At other times, I DO try to create a little puzzle and give the reader the satisfaction of figuring it out; just not here, because I don't want to slow down the "bang-bang-bang" pace of those three panels.)

Which I guess offers some insight into how I think about timing and so on as I build a story. Not my intent but there it is.

I'm also cheating a little, since (I learned by looking it up just now) I, Robot and Fahrenheit 451 are almost exactly the same length. We're going to assume our Fahrenheit 451 is the special big-print annotated director's cut edition.

I had fun with this; hope you did too and that there are no hard feelings. By the way, my wife Karen thought my choices were boring. But then, she wanted to title the heavy book Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater (18th edition), which would've been funny to exactly two people (us) and an impenetrable mystery to anybody else. So her judgment is suspect.

Thanks for playing and thanks for reading my story!

--Brian





Friday, February 13, 2015

Page 141

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Use the links above to navigate, OR click on each page to advance to the next.

At the risk of spoiling the joke, "Klaatu barada nikto" was a password that deactivated the world-destroying robot Gort in the classic science-fiction movie "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951).

Behind the Curtain: I wanted to go for a gag here with the three books, but couldn't quite figure out how to pull it off. The joke would've been that the first book is some turgid "heavy" tome that most people are reluctant to read--something like War and Peace or Joyce's Ulysses. The second book is a piece of "light" reading--maybe a children's book. The third "just right" book I couldn't come up with anything I liked. To work as a tight gag, the three books would ideally be thematically related, and even better would reflect something about the story or characters--for example, something to do with robots, science or superheroes. So:

CONTEST TIME! In this post's Comments, suggest titles for the three books. They should be actual books that people know, not funny names you make up. I'm the judge and jury, and I'm not obliged to declare a winner. But if anyone comes up with three book titles I like enough to use, I'll send them an original drawing of the Robot and Inventor Sparky, and remember to mention them in the acknowledgements of any future print or e-book incarnations (if any) of "The Last Mechanical Monster."

I'll be interested to see how this goes (or doesn't)!

UPDATE: The contest is over and I think went pretty well! See Page 142 for details, and thanks again.



Friday, February 6, 2015

Page 139

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Sparky's new casual wear is dark blue, with red and yellow stripes across his chest. Make of that what you will . . .