Monday, May 15, 2017

The Last Mechanical Monster Lands at

One week from today, May 22, my Eisner-nominated webcomic The Last Mechanical Monster will begin appearing three days a week at

I think that's pretty great.

I began posting the comic here in 2013 and, 170 pages later, finished it in 2015. I was upfront about The Last Mechanical Monster being a "work in progress"--I said so right in this blog's header--which in practice meant it was almost all black-and-white art. I also used the opportunity to solicit readers' suggestions and feedback, and used some of it.

Since then, I've colored the entire thing, and was honestly stunned by what a big difference it made. It really reads to me like a whole new story.

Now will offer it to a potentially much larger audience than I ever reached on my own.

GoComics is the online arm of Andrews McMeel Universal, which syndicates most of the biggest and best comic strips and newspaper features in the world. Peanuts, Doonesbury, Garfield, Pearls Before Swine, and Dear Abby are all theirs. To be clear, Last Mechanical Monster will not be in newspapers, only online. That still means thousands of potential new eyeballs. CoComics readers can subscribe to a personalized list of comics via either a free or premium membership. I might even earn a few bucks if I get a lot of subscribers, and it's easy to sign up for a free account (*ahem*). If it does really well . . . who knows?

GoComics readers familiar with my original story will notice one change right away. My first version made no secret that it was a sequel to the great 1941 Fleischer Studios "Superman" cartoon titled "The Mechanical Monsters." Those shorts have long been in the public domain, so while I obviously couldn't use Superman in my new material, I felt legally and ethically free to retell the old cartoon's story in an opening preface. Well, my editor at Andrews McMeel Universal was understandably leery of that, so the comic starts with a new two-page preface scrubbed of anything Super. Honestly? I think it works better than the original.

A few things about doing The Last Mechanical Monster surprised me. I set out thinking of it as a palate-cleanser--a light little story about an old man and his giant robot that didn't demand of me the angst of Mom's Cancer or even the prodigious research of Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? I did it because it was an idea I'd kicked around for a long time that sounded like fun, and I needed to remind myself that comics could--and often should--be fun.

And it was! Once I got on the right track (I've explained before how I spent many months writing and penciling more than 100 pages before realizing I wasn't telling the story I wanted to tell and started over from scratch, literally on the backs of the pages I'd already drawn), The Last Mechanical Monster was a hoot!

But y'know, that thing happened where the characters became kind of real to me, I felt bad when I made bad things happen to them, and sometimes they told me themselves what they wanted to do next. I found deeper themes about loss and legacy that struck a chord with me. When I finished the last page, a genuine sadness settled over me for days because I wouldn't be spending any more time with Sparky, Lillian, Helen, Chip and Ted. I missed them.

Another surprise was how deeply some readers got involved with and even moved by the story. That comes with the territory when you do comics about illness or even Space Age history, but I honestly didn't expect anybody to really care about my giant robot comic. Yet some did. I had a wonderful correspondence with a man whose father had fallen into depression when his wife died, and my comic helped him climb out of it. The father sent me a song he composed, accompanying himself on the accordion, that makes me smile every time it comes around on my playlist.

Who knew?

So this is a cool deal. Thanks to Shena Wolf and John Glynn at Andrews McMeel Universal. I hope you'll check it out.

In a stroke of good timing, a guy named David Ely is trying to splice together the definitive versions of the Fleischer "Superman" cartoons. They've been in bad shape for decades; Warners did a terrific digital restoration a few years ago but inexplicably introduced some errors. By combining the best of several different versions, David's trying to do the ultimate restoration. Here's his take on "The Mechanical Monsters," some of the most gorgeous animation ever done in the history of the medium, which has nothing whatsoever to do with my "Last Mechanical Monster." Enjoy it.


  1. Awesome! It's fantastic that more people gets to read this great comic, and in a spiffy new edition too!

  2. I read this comic awhile ago and told my brother about it.
    When I showed him the premise of the comic and showed him the cartoon, his reaction was: "Superman is bullshit."

  3. Luckily, there's no Superman in mine. Funny reaction, though!

  4. Reminds me of an anecdote I recently read about Muhammad Ali. Seems he was on a plane and the flight attendant asked him to fasten his seatbelt. Ali stated, "Superman don't need no seatbelt." The flight attendant replied, "Superman don't need no airplane either."

  5. I am enjoying this comic enormously. I am very hopeful it will, one day, be published as a book. I would love to give it as a gift as well as to have such a book for my own.
    (from) Big Fan

  6. Thank you so much for one of the best comics I have ever read. It was great.

  7. When you publish it as a book pretty please include some old school 3D glasses! Just finished reading it on gocomics and loved it.

  8. Wow. Wowee wow wow. Ya know, I was never terribly into Superman but watching this makes me think that maybe I missed something! The animation is terrific and the music outstanding. Almost disappointing that it's so short and so little of the titular villains! Although . . . I don't know if it's just that I've been following the comic for the last year, but I wonder if this IS something I saw when I was little and have forgotten, it has the taste of familiarity.

    Your work, Mr Fries, is outstanding, I mean specifically here in regard to your reconstruction of the original characters -- when that first shadow appears on the ground of the flying robot, I smiled big, and when the shot cut to "Sparky", I thought, "There he is!!!"

    Your work, Mr Fries, is outstanding, and I mean here in ALL regards. Your story had real depth, there were many touching moments, and the characters were very real to me.My favorite moment remains one about midway through, I think. Sparky and Lillian are trudging up the mountainside to his lair, and I believe he makes a remark about how easy it would be for someone to accidentally slip over the edge, and she replies "I know", or some such. The next panel are their hands grasping together. Wow. That's when I started sharing pages, occasionally, on Facebook and telling what a great story it was.

    Anyway, I'm sure others are already begging, but PLEASE let this be published in book form! I know I would want at least two copies, for myself and for my grandson. In any case, I'll continue to follow the blog here -- and I intend to start LMM over from the beginning on GC. Bravo sir, bravo indeed.