*Mom’s Cancer — Best of 2006

Mom’s Cancer deservedly won the 2005 Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic (the debut of that award category). Now, collected in hardcover, it launches the Abrams Image line of illustrated and art books.

Brian Fies created Mom’s Cancer when his mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. It captures how he and his sisters dealt with her treatment in an affecting, honest fashion. Although a very personal story, it is also universal in its lessons about the search for answers, the will to survive, and the importance of family.

Mom's Cancer cover
Mom’s Cancer
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Aside from Brian and his mother, the characters include his two sisters, one of whom is a nurse. That’s fortuitous for the family — as a reader, I often found myself wondering how someone without that medical knowledge could ever manage to navigate the system effectively. Early on, the author acknowledges how often luck plays a role in the sequence of events, and he does lots of his own research both for her and for his own comfort.

The art style is a model of clarity, very easy to read and supporting the journalistic approach. The author’s narration leads the viewer through events, and segments from one to multiple pages are titled to indicate changes in subject. Popular culture references are comfortable and familiar in the midst of the story’s changes. One sequence, for example, is structured as a board game path. Other panels mimic superheroes, a mad scientist’s lab, and the board game Operation. Metaphor helps bring the emotional reality of the experience home to readers.

Fies traces his mother’s journey through denial and confusion. She doesn’t want to know some things, like how bad her prognosis might be, and she’s not told some things she does need to know by doctors who forget how scary and unusual this is for a new patient. She loses a lot — control, the ability to drive, her independence — and her family tries to help in all the ways they can, but there’s relatively little they can do.

Those who’ve gone through similar occurrences will likely find it reassuring to realize the commonality of shared experience. Those who haven’t will learn from it. The last few pages, especially, are an emotional rollercoaster with powerful effect.

13 Responses to “*Mom’s Cancer — Best of 2006”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Sounds very interesting. I went through similar things a few years back with my dad, though his was kidney disease.

    When I first lost him, I don’t think I could have read something like this at the time. Yet now with some time and distance it just really intrigues me.

  2. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] I can’t help but contrast this with Brian Fies’ Mom’s Cancer. That was a smoothly drawn, handsomely packaged hardcover that dealt with the illness of someone close to the author; this is a scribbly-looking paperback with minimal package design about the author’s own disease. That one had to be comics, to illustrate the characters’ expressions and experiences visually; this one could have easily been a prose journal. […]

  3. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] In other award news, the Quill Awards, a kind of people’s choice book awards co-sponsored by Reed Business Information (owners of Publishers Weekly, among much else) and NBC, selected Naruto Book 7 in its Graphic Novel category. I do love manga, but I think that choice demonstrates the problem with popular voting: it beat both Fun Home and Mom’s Cancer to win. […]

  4. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] If you can only order one book this month, it needs to be Mom’s Cancer (Abrams, $12.95, MAR06 2860). […]

  5. Cancer Vixen » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Me a Shallower Person was in the traditional black-and-white autobiographical comic vein, while Mom’s Cancer, formerly a webcomic, won the first ever Digital Comic Eisner Award. That subject isn’t a […]

  6. A Detailed Harvey Awards Ceremony Writeup » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Sadness won the Special Award for Humor in Comics. Pope then awarded Best New Talent to Brian Fies (Mom’s Cancer). Many of the presenters had minimal remarks of their own, preferring to leave the focus on the […]

  7. Happy Holidays! Best of 2006 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Mom’s CancerIncredibly powerful due to being so personal and honest. […]

  8. A “Documentary Graphic Novel” — Photo Reference as Art? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] bitter son feeling guilty about leaving home.” They’re aiming for readers of books like Mom’s Cancer or Fun Home. (Ambitious, since both of those garnered major awards when they came out two years […]

  9. Brian Fies’ Next Book Previewed: Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Fies wrote and drew Mom’s Cancer, one of my Best Graphic Novels of […]

  10. Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Fies wrote and drew Mom’s Cancer, one of my Best Graphic Novels of 2006, so I was greatly anticipating his followup, especially once […]

  11. Medical Comic Conference: Graphic Medicine June 2011 in Chicago » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Fies, the talented author of Mom’s Cancer, passes along the following event news: The second international conference on Graphic Medicine […]

  12. Interview With Brian Fies About Graphic Medicine Conference » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] the idea of the conference was terrific, and exactly in line with some of my reasons for making Mom’s Cancer. Plus: free ticket to London. It was an easy decision and I had a great […]

  13. Seeds » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] those about dealing with cancer, either one’s own or that of a family member. (Compare Mom’s Cancer, Cancer Vixen, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, and Our Cancer Year, to name the best-known.) […]




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