Eric Reynolds is Fantagraphics’ PR guy. He also has editorial duties, and is an accomplished cartoonist and illustrator in his own right. He once wrote a comics news column for The Stranger with, um, Stranger founder James Sturm? Unfortunately, the columns appear to predate the online archive.
I spoke with Eric on February 17, 2004, in preparation for an article to appear in The Stranger.
Last time I interviewed you for publication, we discussed the Fantagraphics financial crisis. Can you give us an update?
ER: Fantagraphics’ financial health, I’m happy to report, is getting better and better every day.
We’re out of the immediate crisis zone. Publishing is always a struggling sort of enterprise, but it really has been getting a little bit better every month since late last year. And now as we get closer and closer to some big books for the spring, like the first Peanuts volume, there’s the light at the end of the tunnel right in front of our faces.
Personally speaking, my own frame of mind is infinitely better than it was at this same time last year.
You are going to APE (the Alternative Press Expo) soon, right?
ER: Myself and Greg [inaudible] and Gary Groth are all going. Charles Burns is the sort-of star guest of the whole show, so he’s sort of our number one person that will be there. He’s got signing events the whole weekend and he’s got a big spotlight panel. Dan Clowes is coming on Saturday and he’s always our biggest draw no matter where we go. If he’s there you know he draws a crowd everywhere he goes.
So those are the big two. We’ve got Sophie – Sophie Crumb, she’s going to be there. I’m sure there will be a lot of people eager to see her.
Who are your top selling local artists these days?
ER: The Frank Book [by Jim Woodring] did really great. Our big books of 2003 were Palomar, The Frank Book, Quimby the Mouse, and and what was the other one. . . Well, there was the Bill Ward book, but really I’d probably single out Quimby, The Frank Book, and Palomar.
How did Krigstein [a coffee-table size biography and survey of the influential EC cartoonist Bernie Krigstein] do?
ER: Krigstein was actually late ’02. Krigstein did OK, not great. Palomar is still on it’s curve, so it’s kind of hard to tell where that one’s gonna fall when it’s done. And it’s a forty-dollar hardcover so it didn’t do gangbusters right out of the gate.
Are you going to be pushing it for reviews?
ER: It was such an expensive book that I sent out fewer copies than I normally do and I tended to send them to more national media.
The Frank Book did really phenomenally well, it sold out. We’re going to have to go back to press on it. We should have more copies, I think, in March sometime. So that was really cool, as far as the local angle goes. It was really important to me to see that book do right, you know because I just think so much of Jim. It was really rewarding to see that book get well reviewed and then subsequently sell out pretty quickly.
Aside from that – what’s big and new? We have this new romance comic collection that’s doing fairly well. I don’t know if it’s getting a lot of Valentine’s day driven sales or what, but the initial sales were amazingly strong for a bunch of nineteen fifties comics that nobody remembers.
How important to FG is local alt-comics scene?
ER: I don’t think it’s not important. But I don’t necessarily go out of my way to look for Northwest cartoonists per se. We just kinda look for good work in general. I don’t personally care whether a person’s from Seattle or Timbuktu. I know just from experience having Jim Woodring and Peter Bagge in your back yard – and Roberta Gregory – makes you feel really good and cool and special and it’s something. . . I personally enjoy having them in the same city as me but from a business point of view I’m not really sure it’s all that necessary.
I don’t think Fantagraphics’ reputation per se is contingent on its’ sort of Northwest connection, like it was ten years ago when the media was making it out to be that way.
Compare and contrast Seattle’s comics scene to Portland’s.
I think they are pretty similar really. I couldn’t really think of any marked divergences. I don’t know. I’m not sure how to answer that.
I mean they both have pretty healthy scenes and always have; Portland maybe has been a little bit smaller but, you know, so what. For whatever reason, the Northwest has always been a remarkably fertile area for not just comics but really all the arts.