Like many in his community, graphic novelist Brian Fies lost his home in the sweeping California wildfires last week.
Unlike many in his community, he made a comic about it.
On his blog last Friday, Fies posted the first part of A Fire Story, beginning with the line “On Monday, my house disappeared.” From there he told the story of his and his family’s experience through gorgeous visuals. “That seems to be how I handle trauma,” he writes in his introduction. “It’s kind of a feature and a bug.”
The comic, which has since been published in its entirety, is as striking as it is detailed, zeroing in particularly on how he and his wife, Karen, evacuated the house with their dog and cat and were then challenged with a series of complicated decisions. Through sketches of the couple kissing, or lightly arguing, or communicating the pain they’re feeling, a real intimacy emerges: “Don’t do anything stupid,” Karen tells him at one point after he decides to return to the area near the house the morning after. And Fies’ attention to process — knowing the how, why, when, and where of very specific moments — gives the comic a sense of immediacy.
Fies, who says he’s been a cartoonist all his life, is the creator of the Eisner Award-winning Mom’s Cancer and the acclaimed Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? His most recent work, The Last Mechanical Monster, is a web comic published on GoComics.com. He lives in the Santa Rosa community of Larkfield, and lost his home as part of the sweeping Northern California wildfires that have killed at least 40 people.
He recently told the San Francisco Chronicle that this isn’t the first time he’s dealt with deeply personal matters in his work (Mom’s Cancer is based on his own mother’s illness) and that he now considers himself a “graphic journalist.” “Comics are the best way for me to tell these kinds of stories,” he said. “It’s like a direct tap into the reader’s brain.”
Speaking with EW, Fies added, “The point of doing the story in the first place was to bear witness and tell readers what it was like to be there.”
Fies has shared the first seven pages of the comic with EW, which you can see above and below. Read the rest of A Fire Story here.