Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary















Home > Commentary and Features

A Preview of the Next Volume of Mome and an Interview with Co-Editor Eric Reynolds
posted February 26, 2006
 

TOM SPURGEON: How would you grade your three issues of Mome so far, and why?

ERIC REYNOLDS: Aw, man, don't make me do that. If I grade 'em high, I'll sound like an ass, and if I grade 'em low, I'll fail in my mission to promote the series through this damned interview. Let me just say that the first issue is the weakest, so if people enjoy that one, it bodes well. I think the first three show consistent improvement. The third has come the closest to feeling 'just right,' so to speak. I just got advance copies of the third and sent them out to the contributors and the consensus seems to be that this is the best one yet. But I'm also working on the fourth right now -- people are turning in their stories this week -- so I might change my mind once I see how this one shapes up.

SPURGEON: Now that you have a couple of issues beneath you, how do you expect Mome to change over the next year?

image
REYNOLDS: Well, there have already been a couple of fairly big deviations from what we originally envisioned. The set lineup of the same ten artists every issue has proven near impossible to accomplish. I don't mind, it's still pretty close, and in some ways its allowed us to have our cake and eat it, too -- mixing the content up just enough to keep people on their toes, but also maintaining a consistent feel to it with the pool of ten or so folks we invited from issue one.

For the third issue, it was becoming obvious as the deadline loomed that we were going to have some space to fill. John Pham, Paul Hornschemeier and Sophie Crumb all had to skip the issue for very legitimate, personal reasons. It was actually Kim's suggestion to include the David B. story, which I somewhat resisted at first because David B. didn't fit the profile for Mome, he was already far too well-established with Epileptic. But once I read the story and the more I thought about it, it became a no-brainer. It is David B., after all. Plus, third issues are traditionally the worst-selling in a series, and I knew that having him would frankly be a great draw for some folks who maybe didn't take a chance on the first two issues. With the exception of David Heatley's third "Overpeck" chapter, it is an entirely stand-alone issue, and as such a good jumping-on point, better than the second issue was.

The third issue also sees the first contribution by R. Kikuo Johnson, who also has a strip in the fourth issue. Kikuo was a no-brainer -- he is an ideal Mome contributor despite the success of Night Fisher, He's young, extremely talented and has no regular venue to publish his work. As an aside, getting to know Kikuo over the last year has been one of the highlights of my last year at Fantagraphics. I liked Night Fisher from the get-go, but it has only been after getting to know him that I've really begun to appreciate his full potential. He's got the calling. I've had a similar experience with several other Mome contributors, like Jonathan Bennett and Gabrielle Bell. I have much more respect for them now than I did even when we invited them to contribute.

I'm getting off track. I'm loosely seeing Mome in cycles of four, roughly. I'm about to put the fourth to bed and have some ideas to mix up the next four. We'll see some new contributors beginning in the fifth issue, including Tim Hensley and Zak Sally. I'd like to eventually phase out the interviews in favor of other non-comics features, without tipping my hand too much. Two of the initial serials, "221 Sycamore" and "Overpeck" will end in the fifth and sixth volumes, and will be replaced with Tim Henlsey's first extended narrative of his cartooning career, titled "Gropius," which is about a teen millionaire named Wally Gropious, who has to marry the saddest girl in the world or he'll lose his inheritance. It's the longest story Hensley's ever attempted, by far, and I'm thrilled to publish it because I think he's a truly inspired artist and borderline cartooning genius.

SPURGEON: How do you and Gary split the responsibilities of editing? Do you each have artists you like?

REYNOLDS: I'm handling most of the nuts and bolts of it, though I keep Gary abreast of everything that comes in an we go over the strips and edit the book together. As far as having artists we each like, yes and no. I mean, that's how we came up with who to invite, we each targeted different people to contribute, but we also agreed to give each other veto power, so everyone who's in Mome we've both signed off on. For the most part we're in lockstep. I don't think either of us has exercised our veto power yet.

SPURGEON: How much input do the artists have?

REYNOLDS: Well, I'm not quite sure what you mean, but I've done my best to keep them informed of everything going on and have input into the series. If the artists aren't satisfied, then I won't be, either. It's their book as much as it is mine or Gary's.

SPURGEON: Tell me about bringing R. Kikuo Johnson into the fold on #3. Do you expect to bring in non-core cartoonists like this in future issues? What does that add?

REYNOLDS: I would actually love to make Kikuo a core artist if he can do it. If I'd met Kikuo six months earlier than I did, he likely would have been in the first issue. We always intended to bring new artists into the fold, although the original idea was that we would rotate new people in and out every four issues. It's proving to be a bit less scientific than that, but I do want to continue to balance a somewhat steady line-up with a surprise or two every issue. For example, Sammy Harkham was originally going to be one of the core artists, but he had to back out because of his commitments to Kramers, the D&Q Showcase, and his Poor Sailor book. But the door remains open to him, and I hope to other new voices, as well.

SPURGEON: Do you reject material? Can you?

REYNOLDS: Yes, we can and have already, without getting into details.

SPURGEON: The last brand-new anthology Fantagraphics gave this level of commitment to, Zero Zero, seemed to get bogged down in a lengthy serial by Richard Sala in its first issues and then seemed to go serial happy for a bit after that. How do you balance serials and short pieces? How would you settle such a dispute among several artists wanting to do one?

REYNOLDS: It's important that Mome not fall into that trap; I do not want more than two or three serials per issue and will strive to maintain that balance. I don't forsee it as a problem.

imageSPURGEON: How do you balance cohesion and variety? It doesn't seem like you have any of the wild marks-on-paper gang like the cartoonists in Paper Rodeo; is that not a type of comics you feel fits what you're trying to do with Mome?

REYNOLDS: That's basically correct. I love that stuff, but I want Mome to have a strong focus on narrative and storytelling and limit that kind of overly-abstract, non-linear approach to comics in Mome. I essentially see Mome as something of a bridge between the most accessible and successful graphic novels like Ice Haven and Epileptic and the wider art comics landscape.

SPURGEON: One thing a publication like Mome can do is force cartoonists to publish more regularly than they might get to otherwise. Have you seen the benefits of this with any of the Mome folk?

REYNOLDS: Definitely. Jonathan Bennet and Gabrielle Bell have done some of the best work in their lives for Mome, the deadline has really helped them settle into a cartooning groove. David Heatley's done the most interesting story of his career, and I think the deadlines have helped him finish it much more quickly than he would have otherwise.

SPURGEON: Does Mome need that one big breakout star to work over the long haul?

REYNOLDS: I hadn't really thought of it quite like that, to be honest. I certainly am aware of the commercial advantages of having a "star" in Mome, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that was part of the reason for featuring David B. in the third issue, but it's not something I necessarily see as essential. I hope Mome breaks everyone out, so to speak. I don't want to put the cart before the horse.

SPURGEON: Are you seeing or hearing anything about the audience for the book that specifically encourages you?

REYNOLDS: The encouragement that many of contributors have given me is the best I could hope for, but I also have been encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive reception the book has received by critics and fans. The reviews and sales have been strong thus far.


*****
*****
From Mome Volume 4, Edited by Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics Books, Fall 2006
*****
*****



image

*****

image

*****

image

*****

image

*****

image

*****

image

*****

image

*****

image

Reynolds, cover to Mome's first volume; art from Cendrena, David B., Hornschemeier, Brown, Pham, Johnson, Nilsen, and Bell