During a recent trip out west, we had the pleasure of visiting the offices of one of our very favorite publishers, Fantagraphics!
Yes, that’s right, if you didn’t know it before you know it now- the Fantagraphics HQ is actually located in a snug red house, in the suburbs of Seattle. As seen depicted here by Pat Moriarity in his book Popcorn Pimps, another delightful cartoonist we met along this trip.
We were greeted by the lovely and beloved Jen Vaughn, who came aboard at Fantagraphics just a few months ago as their Marketing and Outreach Coordinator and is already clearly a staple in the team. In fact, on her way out to take the job Jen toured the Cartoon Library which she wrote about for Fantagraphics here.
As with many of us that work in the ever-developing business of comics, Jen’s position involves a little bit of everything- from reading Roy Crane notes to his ghost artist for legibility one day, to traveling to conventions all over the country to staff the Fantagraphics table, to working on reading guides or the fake ads in their new Basil Wolverton Spacehawk mini-comic.
Fantagraphics has long been a friend of the Cartoon Library, as they often use our materials for their reprint books and special collections. Below, a few of the most recent books that Fantagraphics has put out over the past few years that we assisted with or which include pieces from our collection.
The San Francisco Academy of Comic Art collection is one of the most frequently used, and Bill Blackbeard often worked closely with Fantagraphics during his life to write introductions and edit various collections that used his materials. The Mark J. Cohen and Rose Marie McDaniel Collection of cartoonist self-caricatures resides here, and Rosie’s private collection provided the nude cartoonist self-caricatures for Naked Cartoonists.
When Fantagraphics begins work on a new collection, they use our catalog to search for what we have or tell us what they are looking for in a material request form, along with their payment for the scans. Then, using our incredible Better Light Super 8k Digital Scanner, one of our fabulous student workers will generate very high resolution images for them, and upload them to the Fantagraphics server.
There are a number of overwhelmingly impressive library collections over at the Fantagraphics HQ, and one of the highlights was meeting with the great Kristy Valenti, Assistant Editor of The Comics Journal whose many responsibilities include managing them and their use. On the right, an image of book designer Tony Ong on the first floor of the house, with a portion of the library of Fantagraphics-published books for reference use in the office.
Throughout the rest of our tour, I was able to ogle boxes and shelves full of the history of Fantagraphics and The Comics Journal, including tapes upon tapes of interviews that Gary Groth and others have conducted over the years (which Customer Service Rep Ian Burns has been tasked to digitize, from what I understand), as well as discs full of raw art for publications.
The best part for any comics librarian, though, is seeing the actual stacks full of comics and graphics novels. Their big, basement library is used primarily by The Comics Journal for research, and contains materials largely from Gary Groth’s and Kim Thompson’s personal collections, as well as submissions, review copies, and more.
The most impressive section is probably the floppy comics, separated by publisher and active vs inactive series. They have a substantial mini-comics collection as well, which is extremely useful for TCJ interviewers to get an idea of a cartoonists publishing history down to their early work.
A big thanks to Jen Vaughn, Kristy Valenti, Jacq Cohen, Eric Reynolds and Gary Groth for all taking time out to talk with me that day! The Fantagraphics house is truly one of those magical physical spaces that captures that familial essence of the comics world that makes it feel like home.
Last, but not least, Kim Thompson’s office dog.