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Eric Reynolds from Fantagraphics publishers on his favorite books

Eric Reynolds talks about editing at Fantagraphics...

READERSVOICE.COM: What obstacles should people interested in becoming small-scale independent publishers be ready for? What should they do about these problems?
ERIC REYNOLDS: Yikes, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
It’s not a very profitable industry, so you’d better be driven by love of books more than a love of money.
And you’d better have discerning tastes and a clear vision for what you’re doing, or what you pubish will end up in the landfill with so many books.
RV: Where does Fantagraphics find its authors and artists? Does it use agents or some other method?
ER: We really just try to keep our finger to the pulse of comics and pursue what we like.
Some things come to us, some things are sought out by us.
But there’s no science to it, we just pay attention and go after what we like.
RV: Can you talk a bit about the editing process? You edit Fantagraphics’ Robert Crumb titles, and I was wondering what this process entails from publisher’s brief to finished product.
ER: Being called “editor” of the Complete Crumb is perhaps a bit generous.
The work itself has all been drawn, so I don’t exert any editorial influence on the content of Crumb’s work, of course.

Most of the work is research — identifying everything that came out in a given period and tracking down reproduction-worthy copies.
But I do have to make editorial decisions about how to present the material and often go over these things with Crumb, and I give him feedback in regard to what he should cover in his introductions (though, ultimately, he does whatever he wants).
RV: Was it a different approach editing Angry Youth Comics?
ER: Yeah, definitely. Johnny’s a close friend and contemporary, and he’s producing new work for us, and I helped get him published by Fantagraphics, so we have a closer relationship.
He doesn’t ask for a lot of editorial feedback, but I’m here when he needs it and we just generally work a bit closer together in every way.
RV: Can you tell the story of when you co-authored and edited Hysteria in Remission: the Comix and Drawings of Robt. Williams?
ER: Well, we published Williams’ collection of paintings, Malicious Resplendence, in 1998 or so.
I didn’t work on the production of that book, but I did arrange a book tour for Williams and accompanied him on a few of the stops.
We really hit it off, I love him and his wife Suzanne to death.
I forget who proposed it, but the idea came about to collect all of his comix and drawings, as a companion to Malicious.

I basically offered to put it together out of a love for that stuff, and it took about two years and a couple of trips to Robert’s house in Los Angeles to get the book together.
This is without a doubt the highlight of my experiences as an editor for Fantagraphics.
It was a thrill and an honor to get this work back into print, in a package that is respectful and worthy of one of America’s greatest artists.
I’m especially grateful, in hindsight, that the book led to an even closer friendship with the Williams, to the point where today I really look to Robert like a father figure.
RV: You were responsible for evolving the publicity and marketing of Fantagraphics. What steps did you take?
ER: Well, I’m partly responsible. Fantagraphics had a good publicist when I started working here in 1993, named Larry Reid, He was the first one to really help Fantagraphics exploit the media to its advantage.
We get a lot of publicity in proportion to our sales, but I attribute that largely to the quality of the line.
It’s not difficult to market or publicize something as inherently important and gorgeous as Jaime Hernandez’s LOCAS or Daniel Clowes’ EIGHTBALL, you know?
But as far as what steps we’ve taken to put ourselves in the best position, it mostly comes down to behaving like a real publisher and setting a schedule far enough in advance to craft an appropriate marketing campaign, to give ourselves enough to create galleys and advance reading copies and plan events well in advance so they can be properly promoted.