Eric Reynolds: Fantagraphics Books | Eye on Publishing

Passionate, informed, and with a palpable commitment to turning his artistic vision into reality, Eric Reynolds is not shy when it comes to discussing the value of comics, which he sees as a medium with a fundamental purpose: to make art. “There is a difference between art and entertainment,” said the 24-year veteran and current associate publisher/editor of Seattle-based comics publisher Fantagraphics Books in a recent phone interview with LJ. “The comic book world has diversified, and one thing you can’t deny is that superhero [comics] are no longer the mainstream.”

For Reynolds, great comics and graphic novels (book-length comics) “engage fans by combining different disciplines that work together in the medium to create a realized whole.” Not an easy feat. Reynolds, who is constantly evaluating new submissions, remarks that “sometimes a creator wants the work to be a comic, but it’s really just a story. The beauty of comics stems from an undiluted vision, often that of a single creator.” Cartoonists whom Reynolds considers “shining examples of what the medium can do,” who have not only influenced his own work over time but been instrumental in defining the Fantagraphics model of legitimizing comics as art, include the Hernandez brothers (Jamie, Gilbert, and Mario), Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, and Chester Brown.

An avid comics reader and cartoonist himself, Reynolds came of age in the 1980s in Orange County, CA. “I was always drawing,” he notes, recalling his favorite pastime since his youth. Yet while he loved to draw and read comics, he admits that he never saw the two melding into a viable career. That changed in the summer of 1993, when he accepted an internship at ­Fantagraphics, where, come that fall, he held a full-time position as a publicist. With loose designs on becoming a journalist, Reynolds had studied literature and journalism at the University of California, Irvine, the seeds of a future in editorial planted through his work as cartoonist and managing editor of the campus newspaper. It helped that he was also a huge fan of Fantagraphics, a company founded in 1976, when publishers Gary Groth and Mike Catron acquired the adzine The Nostalgia Journal, renamed The Comics Journal, then ­Fantagraphics.

NEW TITLES

Unreal City by D.J. Bryant (Aug. 2017)
Black Hole: Studio Edition by Charles Burns (Oct. 2017)
Michael Dormer and the Legend of Hot Curl
by Michael Dormer; ed. by Michael Powers & Eric Reynolds (Aug. 2017)
The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman (Aug. 2017)
House of Women by Sophie Goldstein (Oct. 2017)

While Fantagraphics is known for publishing works that push the envelope in terms of subject matter, leaning more toward the literary and political than the superhero genres of the comics mainstream, Reynolds seeks to shift what he sees as a misperception by many that the company is only interested in avant-garde, alternative comics and not actively pursuing and producing contemporary work on a regular basis. Perhaps the most recent example of the company’s commitment to current work is Reynolds’s brainchild, the new anthology Now. Released as separate issues beginning this September, Now aims to showcase the current diversity in the field, featuring short comics by emerging talents from around the world, including Eleanor Davis (How To Be Happy), Noah Van Sciver (Fante Bukowski), and Gabrielle Bell (Lucky).

Cartoonist D.J. Bryant, whom Reynolds has been following for a decade, debuted his first collection, Unreal City, with Fantagraphics in August. “This book is going to turn heads for its virtuoso cartooning; I can’t wait for people to see it,” says Reynolds. Also published in August and another in-house favorite is Charles Forsman’s The End of the Fucking World, a new edition of the 2013 original set to coincide with a forthcoming Netflix series.

Michael Dormer and the Legend of Hot Curl is another project that Reynolds finally saw realized this summer, one close to his own heart, a kind of love letter to his Southern California roots. Coedited with Michael Powers, it highlights the art of Dormer (1935–2012), who, like many creators Fantagraphics brings onto the comics scene, existed on the periphery and was a key player in the design of 1960s and 1970s surf culture.

Two books coming this October that Reynolds wants to make sure readers don’t miss are Sophie Goldstein’s House of Women and Charles Burns’s Black Hole: Studio Edition. Touted as “science fiction meets psychosexual drama” and centering on four women who attempt to bring civilization to a mysterious planet, Women heralds Goldstein as a major talent and is described by Reynolds as “one of the most fully realized graphic novels I’ve read in a while…destined to become a perennial classic.” Black Hole, first published by Fantagraphics in serial form, then released as a collected edition by Pantheon, gets a makeover in this “studio edition” that delves deeply into the artist’s oeuvre and is considered by Reynolds as one of the “all-time great Fanta books.”

It’s been a busy year for Reynolds, one that looks to be only getting better. His plan for going forward, which includes his Fantagraphics family, is simple: “To keep doing what we do and to do it well.”—Annalisa Pešek

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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Annalisa Pesek About Annalisa Pesek

Annalisa Pesek (apesek@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor, LJ Book Review
[photograph by John Sarsgard]

Comments

  1. Sandy Moltz says:

    Whenever I visit Seattle, a trip to the Fantagraphics store is second on the list of must-see locations (fish ladder is number one). It’s a great place — with just the amount of weirdness I require. And the music store that shares the space is also a necessary stop.

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