SEQUART: What were your original criteria in selecting artists for MOME?
REYNOLDS: Really just good cartooning, good storytelling. Also, the idea was that these cartoonists didn’t have a regular venue to publish, although that agenda sort of got away from us between the time we conceived Mome and the first issue — in the year or so that passed there, some of the contributors, like Anders Nilsen or Jeff Brown, did have other venues, but we liked them enough and they were into Mome so we didn’t worry about that so much.
SEQUART: Were there artists you had to throw out because you and Gary disagreed on them?
REYNOLDS: I’m sure there were, to some extent, but more to the point, there were enough people that we did agree on that we focused on them.
SEQUART: What was your initial vision for MOME as an anthology?
REYNOLDS: I feel like I’ve answered this question often enough that it’s become a sound bite, but I just wanted an accessible comics anthology that would bridge the gap amongst people who were buying high-profile graphic novels in bookstores, like JIMMY CORRIGAN or LOCAS or PALESTINE, but didn’t know where to go next. Something that would lead someone from, say, GHOST WORLD to MOME, and then MOME might introduce them to a whole host of other books and artists.
SEQUART: What led you to abandon the initial concept of the same artists in every issue?
SEQUART: In what ways has adding new artists transformed your vision, and are the criteria for adding new artists different than the criteria for selecting your original group?
REYNOLDS: The ‘vision’ — if you can call it that — continues to evolve. Really, I just want each issue to be a solid and surprising read, and each issue requires different solutions to achieve that. The critieria for new artists remains the same, really.
SEQUART: Was there a worry that translating the works of experienced talents like David B would overwhelm the other stories in that issue?
REYNOLDS: Yeah, there was at first. I was a little resistant, but frankly, I finally bought in to the David B. idea for mostly commercial reasons, even though he’s great. We ran that first story of his in Vol. 3, which is a crucial issue in any series — if sales dip precipitously, it can be an extremely uphill battle to build them both up. I thought David B. would be a great way to give the series a boost and help cement the long-term viability of the series and ultimately give all of the cartoonists involved a boost as well. I mean, that’s pretty good company to keep, David B. And now we have a Trondheim story debuting in Vol. 6 that again, I somewhat resisted at first because Lewis is so well-established. But the story, a very existential autobio story about approaching middle age and striving to retain some vitality as an artist, somehow seemed to fit perfectly. The juxtaposition of this story against a backdrop of all of these other younger cartoonists who are still very much in the formative stages of their careers has a resonance with the whole book that is greater than the sum of its parts.
REYNOLDS: For me, probably Jonathan Bennett. Jonathan had probably done the fewest amount of pages of any of the MOME contributors when invited. It was definitely Gary who pushed for his inclusion — I really hadn’t seen enough to feel like I could even know if he would be a good addition. But he’s been a pure joy to work with — his work has consistently surprised me, it’s so fully realized and displays such an intuitive grasp of the language of comics that it kind of awes me. And I really get along with him personally, he’s one of those guys who just seems to see comics more or less the same way I do.
Jessica Abel once told me that my aesthetics were so refined that she doubted I would ever find a cartoonist that I like as much as the cartoonists I grew up loving — Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, the Hernandez brothers, Chester Brown, Jim Woodring, etc. — and Jonathan is the type of cartoonist that gives me hope that she might be wrong. Tim Hensley and Gabrielle Bell are two others that have consistently knocked me out. I would publish them in MOME forever if they were game. Tim Hensley’s “Wally Gropius” is about as perfect a comic as I have read the last few years, he’s just a phenomenal writer, thinker and cartoonist.
SEQUART: Who has the most room for improvement?
REYNOLDS: I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable singling anyone out. But really, I hope they all have room for vast improvement.
SEQUART: Common wisdom in the comics industry is that anthologies don’t sell. What have sales been like for MOME so far?
REYNOLDS: Sales have been incredibly strong, knock on wood. We just reprinted the first issue, which I think we initially printed 4000 of.
SEQUART: What new artists are you planning to bring in for future issues?
REYNOLDS: T. Edward Bak is going to begin a serial in either Vol. 8 or 9. Zak Sally is working on some material. There are several other folks we’re talking to but I’m not sure I should mention them yet, as much as I’d love to. There is a young cartoonist named Jim Woodring who we’re talking to who will probably take Trondheim’s slot once his “At Loose Ends” story wraps up.