Interview - Eric Reynolds

Interview: Eric Reynolds, Comic & Editor of The Comics Journal & Fantagraphics: 16th June 2003

Media Man Australia interviews Eric Reynolds, who's comic work has brought him international acclaim and notoriety.

Eric discusses his background and career highlights.

What's your background?

I was born in Orange County, California, on June 22, 1971. I remained in Southern California until graduating from the University of California at Irvine in 1993 with a B.A. in English and Comparative Literature. In the summer of 1993, he moved to Seattle to accept a position as the news editor of The Comics Journal, a respected trade magazine of news and criticism about comics that was founded in 1976 and more recently won the 2002 UTNE Independent Press Award for Arts & Literature coverage. As news editor from 1993 to 1996, I was known as the industry’s most aggressive advocacy journalist, particularly in regard to first amendment issues.

My coverage of cartoonist Mike Diana’s case against the State of Florida, an obscenity trial that sent the young man to jail for drawing “dirty” pictures, drew attention to the case from the ACLU and media like Utne Reader and Mother Jones.

In 1996, I moved over to the side of the Journal’s parent publisher, Fantagraphics Books, the world’s foremost publisher of graphic literature and alternative comics. I assumed the editorial duties for a variety of authors, including living legends like Robert Crumb and up-and-comers like Johnny Ryan. I also took over the company’s publicity and marketing, which he perceived to be a perpetual shortcoming of the company’s.

How are you positioned in the market?

Fantagraphics is widely acknowledged to be the nation’s foremost proponent of treating the artform of comics as a medium as legitimate an artform as any other for expressing the full breadth of the human condition, and I am widely considered to be an integral cog in the Fantagraphics machine.

Who are some of the best cartoonists you have worked with?

Robert Crumb, Daniel Clowes, Robert Williams, Chris Ware, Los Bros Hernandez, Jim Woodring, Joe Sacco, Peter Bagge and Kim Deitch, in no particular order.

What other media attention have you garnered?

As a publicist and promoter, I have earned local attention by garnering a 1999 King County Events & Promotions Award (KEPA) for putting on the area’s most creative and successful independent fundraising event that year in the “Under $50,000” category. The fundraiser was for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (a non-profit organization that protects the First Amendment rights of comic book industry professionals) and held at Seattle’s popular Crocodile Café; the event included an art show (with over 40 donated pieces by Chris Ware, Jim Woodring, Ed Fotheringham, and many others) as well as performances by New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman and local punk rock legends Gas Huffer and Peter Parker. The event raised $10,000 and was the non-profit’s most successful fundraising event of the year.

I has also taught cartooning classes in his spare time to Seattle-area junior high school students, through the city’s Coyote Junior High School program and written book reviews for The Stranger.

Where has your work appeared?

As a cartoonist, I have contributed to the New York Times, The New York Press, The Stranger, The Rocket, The Ganzfeld, Bakunin and Yeti, amongst many others. My artwork has appeared in exhibitions ranging from Seattle to New York to Portugal.

I have a knack for being in odd places in comics history. In March 2002, I attended the Granada Comics Festival in the Spanish coastal town as a guest of the festival’s organizers along with fellow Seattle cartoonist Peter Bagge. The event featured a controversial awards ceremony that satirized the terrorist acts of Sept. 11, 2001, and included a live sex performance onstage. Myself and Bagge were the only Americans in attendance, and I was the only one whom apparently brought a camera — the event scandalized Europe and it was my pics that were circulated from Spain’s El Pais newspaper to as far as newspapers in the UK and the Ukraine.

What TV shows have you appeared on?

I appeared as a character on The Simpsons television show in 2000 and has made cameos in comics such as Hate, The Sandman, Eightball and others. He was even once violently killed in a licensed Aliens comic book from Dark Horse Comics.

What's the deal with Bethesda?

I recently served on the steering committee of Bethesda, Maryland’s SPX/EXPO, an annual gathering of independent comics press and artists and academics, but resigned in protest earlier this year amidst great controversy. A news story appeared in the March 31, 2003 edition of Publishers Weekly. The event is the medium’s most prestigious festival, treating comics as a serious artform as opposed to mindless genre entertainment and “hot collectibles.”

Why did you resign from ICAF?

I resigned over what he saw as a betrayal of the show’s ideals in regard to a proposed merger with the Baltimore Comics Convention and a severing of the show’s relationship with ICAF, the nation’s largest academic conference focusing on the medium of comics. I was perceived as an aesthetic hard-liner, opposed the merger with a traditional comic convention as well as the break with ICAF.

Tell me about ICAF?

ICAF draws comic book professionals and academics from around the world; the event’s most recent guest of honor (in 2002) was the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who attended at the behest of Reynolds, a longtime friend.

What projects have been keeping you busy lately?

I continue to promote and market Fantagraphics full-time, along with the notion of comics as literature, while pursuing personal projects like the recently released Hysteria In Remission: The Comix & Drawings of Robt. Williams, a massive retrospective that I co-authored and edited along with the notorious outsider painter represented by the Tony Shafrazzi Gallery in New York City.

I also continue to edit Fantagraphics’ R. Crumb titles as well as special projects like Dirty Stories, an anthology challenging notions of pornography and eroticism by gathering the medium’s best cartoonists to tackle the theme of “sex.”

The popular anthology has drawn raves from The Onion and San Francisco Bay Guadian and been banned from the entire country of Canada. I also finds time to pursue my musical interests; my band, the Action Suits (which has featured fellow cartoonists Pete Bagge, Al Columbia and Jeremy Eaton over the years), has released five records over the last several years.


Editors note: A industry innovator that has experienced the highs and lows in the business. The quality of his work speaks for itself. We wish Eric continues success.


The Comics Journal official website

The Comics Journal: Ignoring Turbulent Times, by Eric Reynolds

Fangraphics Books official website

Comic Art Collective: Eric Reynolds profile

Eros Comix

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

Quotes about Fantagraphics:

Fantastic Fantagraphics quotes:

"The publishing company that cartoonists are thankful to for perhaps starting this minor genre is Fantagraphics." Martin Arnold, New York Times, November 2, 2000

" What we are doing is the literary equivalent of grunge rock. We're the grunge comics." Larry Reid (of Fantagraphics), Seattle P. I. June 1, 1992

"Fantagraphics is the home of some of the best storytellers in the world documenting a part of America pop culture for posterity." Tammy Watson, Stale Mate, Issue 1

"And without Fantagraphics comics, I would be hard pressed to think of an excuse to hide under my blanket with a flashlight and eat frozen pizzas all night." Tammy Watson, StaleMate, Issue 1

"...Fantagraphics books, has become one of the nations leading producers of "alternative comics"- the 90's version of the underground comics of the '60s and '70s." Clayton Park, Puget sound Business Journal, Vol. 13 #44 March 19-25, 1993

"Fantagraphics "hard-edged" alternative titles have received glowing praise from the national media, including The Village Voice, LA Weekly, and Entertainment Weekly." Clayton Park, Puget sound Business Journal, Vol. 13 #44 March 19-25, 1993

"...A round of applause for all the folks at Fantagraphics, for keeping alive through long, lean years the great tradition of comic art, embracing all the sub-genres from superhero to Zero Zero, Olympian to Gutter, manga to serie noir." Art Town, Edited by Roger Downey, Seattle Weekly, Nov. 26 1998.

"Seattle- based Fantagraphics is the largest, best alternative-comics publisher in the U.S." Queen, NY Press Holiday Gift Guide, Nov. 26- Dec. 2 1997.

"Fantagraphics Books is today regarded as the most popular and successful publisher of alternative comics. In an industry threatened with mainstream commercial appeal, in a time when there have never been more alternative comics publishers, Fantagraphics remains committed to the ideals upon which it was founded." The Official Newsletter of the Words and Pictures Museum, Vol. 6 #1 Feb.-April 1998.

"Fantagraphics Books publishes some of the best and most intriguing comics on the market." Maurice Harter, Words and Pictures.

"Fantagraphics Books is putting out some of the most handsome and innovative comic books in the country." Clark Humphrey, Seattle Times/ Seattle P.I, Nov. 5 1989.

"...Fantagraphics is considered the granddaddy of today's alternative market..." Richard Seven, Pacific Northwest-The Seattle Times Magazine, March 18 2001.

Why Fantagraphics matter:

"FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS as been to the '80s and '90s what City Lights was to the '50s and '60s: the premiere gathering place, publisher and promoter of the era's most exciting and multi-faceted form of literature." - Utne Reader

"It'd be difficult to find more challenging and entertaining rabble-rousers amid the panorama of popular culture." - The Village Voice

"Fantagraphics publishes the best comics in the world." - Wired

Fantagraphics Books has been a leading proponent of comics as a legitimate form of art and literature since it began publishing the critical trade magazine The Comics Journal in 1976. By the early 1980s, Fantagraphics found itself at the forefront of the burgeoning movement to establish comics as a medium as eloquent and expressive as the more established popular arts of film, literature, poetry, et al. Fantagraphics quickly established a reputation as an advocacy publisher that specialized in seeking out and publishing the kind of innovative work that traditional comics corporations who dealt almost exclusively in super-heroes and fantasy either didn't know existed or wouldn't touch: serious, dramatic, historical, journalistic, political, and satirical work by a new generation of alternative cartoonists as well as many artists who gained prominence as part of the seminal underground comix movement of the '60s. Fantagraphics has since gained an international reputation for its literate and audacious editorial standards and its exacting production values.

The work of artists such as R. Crumb, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Dan Clowes, Joe Sacco, Chris Ware and others has continued to gain commercial momentum and critical recognition over the last 20 years by combining the social relevance of the previous generation of underground comix artists, attention to personal and psychologal veracity, and formal experimentation and innovation.

Fantagraphics' authors have garnered more favorable press attention than any publisher's in the history of the medium. Recent books alone have received significant, positive coverage in TIME, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, Spin, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, and others. Fantagraphics was ranked among the top five most influential publishers in the history of comics in a recent poll by an industry trade newspaper; it was the only independent publisher on the list, and the only contemporary publisher named alongside corporate behemoths Marvel and DC.

Our Fall list represents one of our strongest and most varied, from new collections by Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Gilbert Hernandez, Bill Grifith, and Dan Clowes to reprints of classic work by Arnold Roth, George Herriman, R. Crumb, and Gil Kane, to a hardcover art collection celebrating the work of cartoonist and fine artist Bernard Krigstein, a new book by one of Europe's most acclaimed young cartoonists, and even a 2002 Calendar by an artist who is best known for setting a new standard for mainstream comics storytelling - a truly connoisseurial list of great cartooning.