As I was putting together my 2009 preview of most-anticipated graphic novels, I wondered what was up with the delayed publication of the Fantagraphics history Comics As Art: We Told You So, written by Tom Spurgeon.
The book has been on my most-anticipated list since the moment it was announced; Spurgeon is one of our best writers about comics, and was a longtime employee of Fantagraphics. There are few writers better equipped to create an honest and in-depth assessment of the company's origins and history, and as North America's finest comic book publishing house (with titles like Eightball, Hate, Acme Novelty Library and Love and Rockets to their credit), there is none more deserving of the honor.
I remember the first time I bought the publisher's landmark (and still standard-setting) magazine The Comics Journal; I had never experienced something at once so demanding and so satisfying. Dozens of writers diverse in their tastes but united in their desire to see the comics industry and artform grow up, already. A tacit acknowledgment that some creators do better work than others. No rah-rah cheerleading for the lousy comics that oftentimes top the best-sellers list.
And when Fantagraphics turned to publishing their own comics, it was at first with appealing oddball stuff like Dalgoda, about a dog-like alien astronaut and his adventures, and soon they found their niche by introducing or showcasing brilliant cartoonists like Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge and Los Bros Hernandez. It's hard to remember, decades later and with easily half-a-dozen excellent artcomix publishers in business, but at one point Fantagraphics was the alternative to mediocre superhero comics. Today they publish everything from modest pamphlet wonders like Tales Designed to Thrizzle to super-deluxe hardcover reprints of masterworks like the original Popeye and Complete Peanuts, the latter a 25-volume hardcover project that as of this writing is nearly half-complete, astonishingly enough. Those gorgeous, Seth-designed volumes of some of the most brilliant newspaper comics ever hold a place of honor on my bookshelves, and I am forever in debt to Gary Groth, Kim Thompson, Eric Reynolds and everyone at Fantagraphics for making sure landmark comics like those of Charles Schulz get the top-of-the-line presentation and format they truly deserve.
I think I've made it clear how very much I value Fantagraphics and what it has done, and continues to do, for the artform I love so much. Perhaps you can see and even share my eagerness to read Comics as Art, the history of Fantagraphics, and share my frustration at the fact that it didn't come out as originally scheduled.
So I went to the source to get the scoop: Fantagraphics Publicist Eric Reynolds brought me up to date as to where the book stands in their publishing docket.
Comics As Art is just stuck in the scheduling limbo at this point due to the amount of work involved with it. It's all written and about two-thirds designed, but when it went off the schedule rails we lost our window of opportunity in the art director's schedule and simply haven't been able to find it again. This was probably complicated by the fact that the editor (me) and the designer (Jacob Covey) both had children last summer and have had less time than ever to work on it. We basically just need to find a month or two in Jacob's schedule to dive into it again, at which point it should come together relatively quickly. But I honestly don't know when it'll come out, if it'll be late this year or next. We're just crazy busy and this is a really labor-intensive book.I'm thrilled to hear the book is still in the works and hasn't been permanently shelved. Whatever year it comes out, it's sure to be one of the most enjoyable and talked-about comics-related books.
Order Comics As Art: We Told You So from amazon.com.