In this second part of our interview with Fantagraphics’ Eric Reynolds, we discuss the official reason for the death of Mome, bringing new blood into the anthology, and the importance–or lack thereof–of sales figures.
What’s the official reason for the end of Mome?
I don’t know if there’s an official reason. I just felt like the time had come. It had been over five years. I’m really happy with it. I’m proud of what we did. But at the same time, there are always compromises you make along the way. I felt I’d already run my course with it. I could have kept it going. I sort of set myself up with a template that was fairly easy to do, three or four times a year.
If there’s an official reason, it’s that I have a stronger than ever grasp on publishing in general and Fantagraphics, in particular. But I didn’t want Mome to become any sort of burdon on Fantagraphics. As much as I love doing it for the cartoonists, I just didn’t want it to become either a money loser or something that took up a lot of time in the art department. It wasn’t there yet, but I could see it getting there. Let’s face it, after 22 issues, like any series, there’s a pattern and you can see the writing on the wall.
Mome was sort of hanging in there okay, but it wasn’t growing any larger.
So the numbers weren’t dropping, they just weren’t increasing?
There were sort of slowly dropping. You could see a spike, from issue to issue, depending on what was on the cover. But the print runs on the last couple of issues were in the 3,500 range, which is pretty modest. There were a few issues that sold a little more poorly that others, and I didn’t want to get to a point where—when we’re publishing 75 books a year, and four of them are Mome, I just didn’t really want them to be anything less than a benefit to everybody.
It just felt like the time was right. I had a kid a few years ago, certain things in my life have changed. I felt like the best thing to do was end this now, while we’re still on a pretty high note. And I can always start another one.
You mentioned that certain covers sold better than others. How close were you following the minutiae? Were you looking at sales figures?
No, not at all. Frankly, I probably would have been well-served to have been doing that more. But until the end, it really just reflected our taste, and I wasn’t thinking too commercially, at all. It was always nice when the opportunity arose to put someone like David B. or Jim Woodring on the cover. But ultimately, we were including those guys because we think that they’re amazing, not because they sold copies. If they sold copies, that was a fringe benefit.
Do you feel like you did a good job, as far as continually bringing new blood into the anthology?
I think I did in some ways, and I can certainly look back and see ways that I didn’t. I think if I had one regret about the series, it’s that I think I over committed to a few serials. Nothing against them in and of themselves, but as far as flow of reading from issue to issue, I just think there too many of them at a certain point, and it just bogged me down and left me less space to run one-off single stories by random cartoonists that I like.
The new issue is pretty massive. Is this largest you’ve done?
Oh yeah, it’s twice as long as any of them. That was pretty much my opportunity to cram stuff in there, stuff that I’d been wanting to put in for a long time. I finally had one last chance to do everything I could.
Who made it in under the wire?
There are quite a few, actually. Joseph Lambert, Chuck Forsman, Malachi Ward, this kid named Nick Drnaso, who was a student of Ivan Brunetti at Columbia. There are several—Jesse Moynihan. I’d been reading Jesse Moynihan. He did his Washington Carver Webcomic. That was fantastic. I was trying to figure out whether I could run it in Mome. I decided against it, because it was created for the Web as a Webcomic. To run it for the Web just sort of didn’t have much purpose, as much as I liked it. But I really like his work, and I was happy to get it in there, even though I couldn’t make it work with the Carver story.
Were more people approaching you at shows with work? Is that how a lot of them came to appear in the series?
I suppose like any anthology, there were a few cold submissions, things that had been given to me at shows or sent in the mail, but most of it was me seeing something by someone and approaching them and asking if they’d like to contribute. There are lots of different processes involved with who in there how.
Lilli Carre, who has been one of my absolute cartoonists over the past couple of years and has done some absolutely great stuff for Mome, she started contributing sheer happenstance. I was talking to Paul Karasik at SPX a few years ago, and he said Lilli just showed me this awesome story she’s working on. We had already published The Lagoon at that point, so we’d already had a relationship with her, so I’d never thought to ask her to do something for Mome. So Paul mentioned this to me and I walked over to here and she showed me a few pages, and I was like, “oh me god, we’ve got to run this.” She’d already been working on this story, not for Mome, so I ran it in there and she seemed to enjoy the experience and just kept doing more stuff for it.
So it’s a pretty organic process. Some people asked me, some people approached me, some people are already friends, but I hadn’t thought to explicitly ask them, so they asked me if I’d be interested.
[Continued in Part Three]