Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?
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Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  158 ratings  ·  46 reviews
Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?, the long-awaited follow-up to Mom's Cancer, is a unique graphic novel that tells the story of a young boy and his relationship with his father.

Spanning the period from the 1939 New York World's Fair to the last Apollo space mission in 1975, it is told through the eyes of a boy as he grows up in an era that was optimistic and amb...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Abrams ComicArts (first published April 1st 2009)
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Bob Redmond
Fies writes a story of a boy and his father from the dawn to dusk of the space age (from 1939's World's Fair in New York to the end of the Apollo moon missions in 1975). Nevermind that the boy ages about 12 or 14 years in this time; it's comix time, as Fies explains in an intro.

The text exits in three narrative planes: an essay about the nature of collective imagination, the dialogue between the boy and his dad, and a few complete comic books in context, but also stand-alone adventure stories fe...more
A wonderful book detailing the relationship between a father and son as it parallels the relationship between America and its search for a technological future.
This was wonderful! A very well-constructed history of the 20th-century American imagination for a brighter future. The story traces a father and son from the 1939 New York World's Fair, through the forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies, but with only slight aging of the characters--a subtle nod to time in comics. Attitudes toward the future are also reflected with included issues of a made-up comic, "Space Age," scattered throughout the book and the history it covered. Just really fun for th...more
Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? looks, in comic book form, at differing views of ideal mid-20th century "tomorrows", starting with the 1939 World's Fair, and ending with the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz project. Care is taken to present "negatives" as well as "positives" from the differing eras.

Especially interesting are some rarely-seen (by me) photos. I was especially taken by the ones from the Gemini 4 mission.

The closing chapter, which features a 3-generational family set at a moon base, se...more
Rae Ganci Hammers
Brian Fies' "Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow?" had a lot of promise - in both its premise and its visual aesthetic - but I think it came up short on both counts. In the introduction, Fies discusses how often graphic fiction operates according to its own internal time-logic, but the way he played with time didn't work for me. I had a hard time allowing the same character to be a 10 year old boy during the 1939 Worlds Fair and just heading off to college in 1975. Fies is clearly nostalg...more
I don't usually review graphic novels or include them in my reading lists, but this one is so relevant to my interests that I felt it justified the deviation. Brian Fies takes us through a fictionalized history of the progression of futurist attitudes, starting at the World's Fair in 1935, all seen through the eyes of a father and son. The deliberate conceit of stretching out the aging of the characters through decades (acknowledged in the foreword, appropriately, as a standard comic book staple...more
WHTTWOT hits something that a few people are extremely curious about. Where are the jetpacks, flying cars, robots, and spaceships our future was going to have?! The story is told through the eyes of a young boy, who along with his father, travels through the 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's, watching the world around him (in particularly flight and space travel) as it changes and evolves. The purpose of this story is to note all of the major events, pioneers, and decisions that all impacted the...more
when i read last year that NASA was retiring the space shuttle and that they had no plans for a replacement, i wondered how the space program had fallen on such hard times. armstrong on the moon was a pivotal moment in american history. NASA used to be a flagship for Amercian dominance of the world, and now it seems to be petering away. well, this book did a great job of explaining the build up to the Apollo missions, and the fallout of finding no life on the moon, no life on Mars. this book mad...more
Jake Forbes
I can relate to much of Fies accounting of the death of futurism in popular consciousness. Growing up, I was gung-ho for Sally Ride and Hubble, heartbroken at Challenger and disappointed to find out that only robots would make it to Mars for the foreseeable future. So while Fies chronology basically ends before I was born, the hope for a World of Tomorrow certainly outlived the Apollo program. But now, on with three shuttle launches left to go before the USA has no plans manned space program, I...more
Audrey Maran
As a brief history of technological advances and the U.S. Space program, this was fantastic. I was able to get a feeling for what people living through the times of predicting idyllic worlds of tomorrow felt. I could share in the excitement of the robot maids, cities 1000's of stories high, and space colonies on mars that we have all but stopped dreaming about today. We still speculate about future technologies, but maybe not quite as spectacularly or as optimistically as in the past (or it does...more
Seems like I don't get much reading done lately. A friend recommended this one to me, and I enjoyed it very much. Like most graphic novels there's a lot going on outside the text, much of which I'm sure I miss. I loved the interplay between the sub-plot in the comic books interspersed with the primary storyline (the artist makes a clear effort to pay homage to the golden and silver ages of comics with the series) and how it also reflected the changes in the primary plot--more or less a history o...more
While I enjoyed the story and artwork of this graphic novel, I found myself strangely unable to connect with it at the same time. Brian Fies mentions in the foreword that he is just old enough to clearly remember the first moon landing. I was born about 6 months after it. I think I vaguely remember Apollo-Soyuz in 1975. I have an interest in the history of space flight and American culture of the late 20th century (both explored in the book). However, to me personally, the Apollo era has always...more
Andrew Tatge
This overview of the optimism, then cynicism of the US's role in in the world and it's relation to science is fairly plain, and Maybe more engaging for a younger audience. A coming of age story recounting major Scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century. It's most effective when reminding the reader of how incredible now commonplace things were. Much of the exposition is past tense voice over and not really plot driven.
Tracing the evolution of America's cultural concept of the "future" from the World's Fair in 1939 to the last Apollo mission in 1975, this graphic novel examines urban/suburban planning and the military/industrial complex of the mid-20th century. Using a boy who gradually ages from about 6 to 18 during those 40 years and his father, the author looks at the boundless optimism of the World's Fair (despite the rapid approach of World War II) and how fear and disappointment gradually soured our outl...more
Perhaps the best book to capture the essence and optimism of science, industry, and innovation during the mid-century in America. Written as a graphic novel about a boy and the relationship with his father Brian Fies captures cultural, political, and historical norms and events that contribute to a age that optimistically thought the future was an endless opportunity. Starting with the 1939 World's Fair, Fies introduces his reader to marvels of the times from radios and TVs through nanotechnolog...more
David Schaafsma
A reasonable question: what happened to the World of Tomorrow? Including all of our (enlightenment-based, modernist) optimism, hope for the future? A father-son story in three basic phases, the High Tech modernist phase, through the Moon Landing, maybe, Fies seems to say, then the disillusionment of the sixties (maybe the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Great Depression, etc, also had parts to play, eh?... ) Then becoming a father and reigniting that hope for the future... But it all still feels a lit...more
Jan 04, 2013 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: comics
Amazing book. The artwork is clean, very simple, and serves as an excellent framework for the story it tells. The story is told across several decades, from an insecure America in the 1950s to a moodier one in the 1970s, and the evolution of "The American Dream" and the concept of a World of Tomorrow. It deals with the giddy, breathless optimism for the future, as well as the kind of cynicism that comes from things not going exactly to plan. It tells a great story about hope for the future, and...more
George Marshall
It promised so much: a fascinating theme about our attitudes to technology and progress, based around a moving story about the relationship between father and son. But it delivers nothing of substance and is brought down by Fies' incredibly irritating drawing style that is both cutesy and devoid of detail or subtlety- it looks and feels like a blown up coloring book. The idea of combining a world fair, a father-son relationship and superheroes was prefigured in Jimmy Corrigan and intercutting a...more
In terms of conception and visual execution, this book is wonderful. The underlying idea is that it is an exploration of the optimistic futurism that pervaded so much of US culture from the 30s to the 50s, from the World's Fairs to tract housing. And the style of the drawings varies considerably, in an attempt to capture the look of photos and documents from different moments in that period. But I found the story itself slightly lacking -- the whole felt like less than the sum of its parts. It's...more
Bob Collins
Excellent, thought provoking look at how we thought the world of tomorrow would unfold, from the 1939 World's Fair, through the post-WWII era, through the "space age" to now in a Graphic Novel format. From the Author's Note: "There was a time when building the future was inspirational. Ambitious. Romantic. Even ennobling. I think it can be again."

I do to.

The future didn't turn out they way we thought it would (it rarely does - "hey! Where's my jet pack.") But usually turns out well.
if the art had been of its time I would have given it a five- the sentiment, the structure of the story, recalls the idealism of my youth, though I was not old enough to really watch the Apollo landings, I did grow up in a science oriented world. partly this is in my father being a scientist, partly in the hope it showed in the future. which is where I live…I liked the comics interludes but as a kid who never read comics, the nostalgic impact is dilute.
An alternative title might be "Whatever Happened To Optimism?" Specifically, optimism regarding our technological future, a future where big science and the-powers-that-be work together to create a cleaner, leaner techno-utopia "for all mankind". The optimism that was embodied in GM's Futurama at the 1939 World's Fair. Fies gives us a plainspoken, clear-eyed hymn to that optimism and creates a case that it may not have all been in vain after all.
Jonathan H.
I bought this a while back and then for no good reason it sat on my shelf for over a year before I finally read it. It's a fantastic look at how the "world of tomorrow" has shifted over the last few decades, told from the point of view of a father and son. What's interesting is that the father and son age more slowly, allowing them to experience decades of change in what seems to be a matter of years. Just brilliant.
The art is fantastic. I really like Fies' sense of how color affects mood. I *LOVED* the use of actual old newsprint paper for the comics included within the work, and how they were tied into the character's POV. However, the book went from somewhat naive (on purpose, but still gratingly so) to downright preachy at the end. In the end, all I can say is that I wanted to like it a great deal more than I ended up doing.
I found this an excellent and engaging recap of modern American technological history. The only disconcerting thing was the never changing look of the two central characters -- it was confusing -- were they supposed to be the same dad and son, the son becoming the dad with his son, or just an anybody dad and son -- I finally settled on the latter. Regardless it was engaging and ended well.
Brandon James
Show, don't tell. I never thought that could truly be applied to a comic book or graphic novel, but here we have it. Without trying to spoil anything, most pages of this book are narrative, with hardly any emotion or artwork to carry the narrative. The best pieces, for me, are the comics within the comic where the author can get a bit carried away. All in all I found this to be too stuffy.
Elizabeth Olson
Managing to be both elegiac and forward-thinking, the thoughtful, loving story chronicles the author's excitement and hope for "the future", starting with the promise of the 1939 World's Fair through the disappointing 1970's end of manned space missions, and on to the eventual appreciation of the present and the renewal of hope, as he yearns for a bright future for his own child.
This book was really good for an older reader like me. The book explores a fictional father and son in the real world of the 1950's and 1960's. I could see it not appealing to a younger reader so much, but it really struck a nerve for me because I lived during this very important era. This is one I would certainly consider reading again, as it certainly is a feel good book.Bravo !
Fraser Sherman
This opens on a kid and his father during the 1939 World's Fair, marveling at the technology the future was going to bring, then picking up on them again in later years as technology advances and our vision of the future shifts and changes. Charming and thought-provoking (we really do take a lot for granted that would amaze people of 80 years ago), though weak at the end.
Although this graphic novel started off a little cheesy and over nostalgic, it actually grew on me a lot and I appreciated the historical info in it. Its meditations on both father-son relationships and the transformations American culture has gone through in the last several decades were thoughtfully rendered, even if not totally unique in concept.
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