// you’re reading...


Eric Reynolds, Fantagraphics editor, talks about his favorite books

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. You might want to check out previous issues, too, for more reading suggestions.For this issue, I sent some questions to Eric Reynolds who works as an editor and in marketing at Fantagraphics, a publisher of some of the best comics in the world today, based in Seattle, Washington, USA.Also, I attended the launch of the latest CD by The Go-Betweens, called Oceans Apart (EMI), in Brisbane, Australia, on May 1. First up, Eric Reynolds talks about Fantagraphics and the inner workings of a publishing company.

READERSVOICE.COM: I’d like to focus the questions on getting an insight into the publishing industry, but to start off, could you give me five titles of your favourite books of all time?
ERIC REYNOLDS: Wow. That’s tough. Off the top of my head: HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad — The book that most helped me learn how to read critically instead of passively, opening up a third dimension of subtext and meaning in art that my younger mind had been closed to until then.
UNDERWORLD by Don DeLillo — Probably my favorite prose novel of the last ten years.
The opening 100 pages, set during the final game of the Giants-Dodgers pennant race in 1951 (and ending in Bobby Thompson’s famous “shot heard ’round the world”) is perhaps the most amazing tour de force of language I’ve ever read.
It’s sweeping, effortless and downright breathtaking.
LIKE A VELVET GLOVE CAST IN IRON by Daniel Clowes and ED THE HAPPY CLOWN by Chester Brown — These two books aren’t even the best graphic novels by either cartoonist, but remain two of the very few graphic novels that I re-read every year or two.
They both began (in the pages of EIGHTBALL and YUMMY FUR) at a time when I very easily could have stopped reading comic books, having grown tired of the “mature” mainstream I was immersed in as a late teenager.

These books blew my mind as much as the first time I ever ate LSD or heard my first Velvet Underground record.
Both clearly illustrated to me that you could do ANYTHING in comics, that you could probably be more audacious in comics than most other mediums, and that comics could be as narratively powerful as any film or novel in the hands of a master like Clowes or Brown.
DERBY DUGAN’S DEPRESSION FUNNIES by Tom DeHaven — This isn’t necessarily one of my five favorite books of all-time but it’s certainly one of my five-favorite comics-related novels.
So much attention has been paid to novels like Michael Chabon’s Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay and Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, which is great because they are both amazing novels, but I feel like DeHaven has been undervalued because he was ahead of his time.
If you want to immerse yourself in the world of cartooning you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than this rich novel about a fictional, Harold Gray stand-in named Walter Geebus and his ghost writer, Al Bready, set in 1930s New York.
It’s tremendously witty and makes my heart ache because I desperately want to travel back in time to this great era of American cartooning.

RV: How and when did you start working at Fantagraphics?
ER: I started working for Fantagraphics in 1993 as a Comics Journal intern.
Within a couple of months, I became the news editor of the magazine, which I did for a couple of years before moving completely over to the Fantagraphics side of things.
RV: Can you talk a bit about the scale of Fantagraphics and where it’s based, what the building looks like, how many staff it has, what sort of print runs it has on titles, what countries it distributes to, how many titles it publishes a year?
ER: We’re based in Seattle, Washington, way up in the very Northwest corner of the continental U.S.
We work out of a residential, two-story house in a residential neighborhood.
We also have a warehouse on the other side of town, where all of the books are inventoried.
We have about 17 to 20 people in our office and about a half-dozen in our warehouse.
We sell our books worldwide through a variety of distributors, with print runs that vary from 3,000 to 100,000, and I believe we’re publishing about 60 books this year and maybe half as many old-fashioned comic books (the non-squarebound, stapled kind).