Eric Reynolds Talks About Mome, an Anthology for the 21st Century with Chris Mautner Part 2 of 2

Posted by on December 30th, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Previously: Part One.

CHRIS MAUTNER: One of the things from early on that you had in Mome was the guest star who anchored the issue; the “big name” who provided a draw for readers who might be unfamiliar with the other contributors. You just had Gilbert Hernandez and you’ve had David B., Lewis Trondheim, serializing At Loose Ends. How important is that? What does it bring to the anthology to have that, both in terms of aesthetics and marketing?

ERIC REYNOLDS: You know, commercially I don’t think it’s all that important. I think if I took a hard look at numbers sold for each issue, you’re talking about spikes of a few hundred copies when you have someone like Jim Woodring or David B. in there. So it’s not a huge deal. In fact, I remember when I used to work on The Comics Journal, there was a fairly wide variation depending on who was on the cover. And that made sense, because most people were buying an issue based on who the cover interview feature was. I don’t think that was really the case with Mome so much. It was really more something that happened accidentally; I think the first one was David B., and that came about because Kim Thompson said to me, “Hey, there’s this great David. B. story that ran in Lapin. What do you think about maybe running it in Mome?’ I was basically like, “fuck yeah.” [Mautner laughs.] And then it turned out there was another one. So we just ran them as they came along, and Kim translated them.

And then there was the Woodring issues: One day I was going through my own Woodring collection and realized that the “Lute String” story had only been published in Japan, and it was, at that time, prior to Weathercraft, his most recent book, it was the longest Frank story he had ever done, and it was a really exceptional one, and it just seemed insane that you had to import this little, hard-to-find Japanese book to be able to get this comic. So I just asked Jim if he’d be interested in me running it, he was nice enough to say, “Yeah.”

Gilbert’s thing came about because I was just talking to him a few months ago, and he mentioned that when he was working on Love and Rockets Vol. 3, he had done this Roy story that he didn’t think was going to fit, and he was going to have to save it for a later issue. And so I just said, “Well, shit,” you know, “Gilbert Hernandez in Mome would be pretty cool.”

And he said, “OK, let’s do it,” because otherwise, he was going to have wait over a year for it to see it in print. By that point, he would have probably already have done too many pages for that issue, and that would bump something else.

So it’s never really been a concrete decision to have that anchor guy in there. And in fact, there’s plenty of issues that don’t have one. But for whatever reason, for myself, I’ve enjoyed having these counterpoints of these younger artists and then these older cartoonists. The Gilbert strip that was in #19, and also the At Loose Ends story by Lewis Trondheim, I like both — even though those are very different stories, they are both in some ways self-referential comics about comics. For whatever reason, I’ve very much enjoyed putting comics like that in Mome. In a weird way, I feel like it creates a different perspective on things. I liked the idea, when the Trondheim strip was running, of having this more successful, established artist who’s wrestling with all of these real existential, philosophical concerns about art and about his place in the world as an artist. I thought it served as a nice counterpoint to the work that some of these younger folks were doing. It had a little added resonance alongside all these other pieces than it might have even had on its own.

MAUTNER: Is it fair to say that how you put together Mome is a very organic process?

REYNOLDS: Yeah. It’s really just me talking to people, and asking them. I’m not a real ballbuster when it comes to deadlines from issue to issue, so I’ll invite people to contribute and they’ll take their time, whether they hit the next issue or the following issue. They’re just juggling all these things, and it happens to come together every issue.

MAUTNER: How do you work as an editor? How much input do you give to the specific artists involved, especially some of the less-known people? How much input, corrections, suggestions do you make?

REYNOLDS: I have that fairly typical alternative-comics-publisher mentality of, if I’m asking you to do something, I’m more or less going to give you a pretty wide berth. Some artists, in particular, have asked me for feedback in the scripting stages or in the layout stages, and I’ve worked as closely with them as they wanted me to. Others, I simply say, “Would you like to do something?” And I trust that they’re gonna. Most of them I trust. The only time I tend to get really involved in the process is when the artist asks me to, specifically. It has happened, many times; but really it varies from cartoonist to cartoonist. And there are other cartoonists who I’ve encouraged to strive to be in Mome, but I’m not going to accept sight-unseen anything that they do. It’s been an ongoing process of accepting one thing, rejecting another, etc.

MAUTNER: When you reject something, I’m curious about the process, because I know for me, at work, it’s very hard to say, “I don’t want this. I’m sorry: this is no good. This is not what we want.” I can imagine there’ve been times when you’ve been in that position while working on Mome. I’m just curious as to how — without naming names and getting into too much detail — what your general philosophy with that is.

REYNOLDS: Well, I’m not sure what my general philosophy is. If I’m actively having a conversation with someone about potentially contributing to Mome, then I think there’s an implication that I have some respect for his or her work. So it’s a matter of balancing that respect with the hard realities of what I ultimately think of any given piece, specifically, and trying to diplomatically address that. I try to be honest without being cruel or anything. It sucks; one of the hardest things in editing an anthology is saying no to people, for sure. It’s never a fun thing. But most people tend to take it very well.

MAUTNER: One of the things that struck me as interesting about Mome is that it really has become a haven for European work. And now you’re getting people like Nicolas Mahler, whose stuff I love, and I’m so happy you’re running. And you’ve had Émile Bravo, and we already talked about Lewis Trondheim. There’s not a lot of that going on right now, apart from maybe what NBM is doing, and even then they’re very selective. Is that deliberate on your part, or is it, again, you find that person’s work and you’re like, “I want this person in Mome,” or are you deliberately saying we need more European work translated here?

REYNOLDS: I’m not deliberately saying we need to get more European work translated. But, it’s not completely accidental either. I think part of it has to do with the fact that Kim Thompson’s here, and he’s turned me onto a fair amount of stuff. And then I’ve also found enough stuff on my own that, between the two of us, it’s made it seem like there’s a real over-arching intent there. But Kim’s a real fan, and Kim’s a real student of European cartooning. So, he’s very enthusiastically turned me onto things. Then there have been these cartoonists that I’ve stumbled across that I’ve fallen in love with, like Olivier Schrauwen, who’s become one of my very favorite cartoonists right now in comics. So, I’ve just been lucky enough to establish a relationship with him, and he’s been productive enough that I’ve managed to include him in a number of issues.

MAUTNER: That last story you had by him — about the quadriplegic — that was amazing.

REYNOLDS: Yeah! The guy is phenomenal. He’s in that groove where everything he does, you don’t see it coming. Every time you think you’ve got him figured out a little bit, he does something completely surprising.  Visually, his work is stunning to me. I love the way that he plays with color, which is a real attraction for me as it pertains to Mome specifically, because we do have the luxury of having color in there, so it’s something I like to take advantage of if we’re going to pay to print a full-color book. And then cartoonists like Émile Bravo: At first, I think it was his agent just happened to send me a story, and I just loved it.  It didn’t really have anything to do with the fact that he was European; it just worked out that way.

MAUTNER: How successful is Mome in general? You don’t have to give me actual numbers, but I’m just curious. It’s lasted five years, so I assume it’s holding on.

REYNOLDS: It’s modestly successful. But, that said, it’s been successful enough to keep going and we’re not publishing it to lose money, that’s for sure. It’s modest. By our own relative standards, it does modestly. I think it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 copies an issue: which is fine. I’m perfectly happy with that.

MAUTNER: What do you have coming up for the next couple issues? What can we look forward to?

REYNOLDS: Well, have you seen Vol. 20?


REYNOLDS: So I’m starting to work on 21 pretty shortly here. I just last night got a fantastic six-page story by Sara Edward-Corbett which is, I think, the best thing she’s ever done. It’s a different style than she normally works in, even though the subject matter and themes are very much in the same vein as most of her Mome stuff. But it’s got an almost Edward Gorey-ish quality to it that’s really beautiful.

What do I have lined up for the future that I can mention? Tom Kaczynski is working on a piece for the next issue, which I’m excited about because he hasn’t been in Mome for quite a while. There’re a couple more Europeans that I’m trying to get into Mome that I happened to discover at MoCCA this year. I don’t think I should mention them, because I’m not sure which issue they’re going to be in. There’s a lot of repeat offenders, if you will, people who have been in previous issues. I just started running work by Aidan Koch in #20, I like her work, I’m interested in seeing more short stories from her. I’m sure she’ll be in other issues. Josh Simmons’ White Rhinoceros is going to continue, and I think that thing is batshit insane in the best possible way.

MAUTNER: [Laughs.] One thing that occurs to me is: Mome, in some ways, has replaced — people either used to self-publish or run their little pamphlets, which would serializ stories they were working on. And that, of course, has gone the way of the dodo, but Mome, in some ways, has filled that gap in. You’re a farming ground for people to work on these multi-linked stories that go out and get collected: things like Wally Gropius, or Life With Mr. Dangerous, or a lot of the stories you’re currently …  Even somebody like Nate Neal, which hearkens back to what we were saying in the beginning, the original idea of Mome, where now he’s just produced his own graphic novel, which you guys are publishing.

REYNOLDS: That, more than anything, has been my intent with the whole series. I grew up as a fan of alternative comics in periodical form I will probably never love any comic as much as I loved Eightball and Yummy Fur and Love and Rockets when I was 20 years old, and that excitement of a new issue of Eightball and those first 10 to 20 issues of Yummy Fur — where you never knew what was going to be in the next issue. Sure, you might expect another eight pages of Like a Velvet Glove, but even that, you had no idea of where it was going to go, and you always knew there were going to be surprises.

I miss that, and I think that, by and large, cartoonists, whether they know it or not, they miss it as well, because I think you need to learn how to walk before you can run, and blah blah blah. Some cartoonists are going to miss out, not having the luxury of doing stuff in shorter chunks and shorter deadlines. Cartoonists like Tim Lane, who I’ve been running the last few issues, I think he’s a really great cartoonist, and he clearly has a knack for short stories. I sometimes worry that, in the environment we have today, cartoonists like him will be discouraged from doing what they ultimately want to do, because there is such an emphasis on long-form works. Even if not long-form works, big collections, whether you do short stories or not, you’ve got to compile at least a hundred pages to get it out there in the world.  This ignores the whole concept of Web-comics and everything; I’m really speaking in terms of print. I enjoy cartoonists whose work is specifically created in mind for print.

MAUTNER: Do the contributors to Mome get paid?

REYNOLDS: They do. It’s quite honestly an insultingly low page rate [Mautner laughs] that’s totally beneath what they deserve, but that’s probably true of just about every anthology that’s ever been published [laughs], so I don’t feel too guilty about it.
All images are ©2010 their respective creators.

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2 Responses to “Eric Reynolds Talks About Mome, an Anthology for the 21st Century with Chris Mautner Part 2 of 2”

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