Fantagraphics' flagship anthology is running up the white flag. Editor Eric Reynolds tells The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon that this summer's double-sized 22nd installment of the quarterly alternative-comics anthology Mome will be the series' final volume. Reynolds says that the decision to end the series has less to do with sales than with his own increasingly demanding duties as Fantagraphics' Associate Publisher, and as a father. Click the link to read Spurgeon's comprehensive take on the topic, tracing Mome's evolution from a young-cartoonists' showcase whose young-cartoonist roster quickly decamped for other projects to a wide-ranging collection of comics from not just up-and-comers but also from big names at home (Gilbert Hernandez, Jim Woodring, Gilbert Shelton) and abroad (Louis Trondheim, David B., Killoffer) alike.
When I interviewed Reynolds about Mome's landmark 20th volume just a few short months ago, I was struck by just how surprised he seemed that it lasted as long as it did: Mome amassed more published pages than any comparable alternative-comics showcase in North America. I'd be surprised too. Anthologies are traditionally a tough sell in comics, and not only did Mome have to overcome that unfavorable climate, it also had to weather some serious growing pains, like its initial line-up's dissolution and a subsequent struggle to find an identity and raison d'etre. Turns out that "Comics that Eric Reynolds likes" was more than sufficient on both counts. While there are almost always a few clunkers in any given issue, and it's gone through different periods that might have turned off parts of the audience (it caught a lot of undeserved flack early on for navel-gazing, and it lost me in the middle of its run with a few too many old-school underground-style strips), Mome produced a healthy share of truly memorable efforts: Al Columbia's creepy comeback, some of David B.'s most lush and luscious fantasy work, a Godzilla strip that's my single favorite Jeffrey Brown comic, Tim Hensley's masterpiece Wally Gropius, the introduction of Olivier Schrauwen to American audiences, Dash Shaw's experimental SF, Michael Jada and Derek Van Gieson's sooty World War II story, vicious horror from Josh Simmons, the chance to see more work than we otherwise might have from Eleanor Davis or Tom Kaczynski or Robert Goodin...Your list might be completely different from mine, which to me is the singular appeal of the series.
There really wasn't anything else like Mome out there since it started up in 2005. Perhaps there didn't need to be. Perfect-bound and bookstore-targeted, Mome was an attempt to take the energy of the '90s' one-creator anthology series like Eightball, Acme, Yummy Fur, Optic Nerve et al and transfer it to the graphic-novel era. Today, anyone with Google Reader can subscribe to their favorite cartoonists' RSS feeds and curate an digital anthology of their very own. Over the past several days, for example, mine has filled up with comics and art from Kevin Huizenga, Michael DeForge, Jonny Negron, Dustin Harbin, Isaac Moylan, Brian Chippendale, and Dave Kiersh; before that it was Zack Soto, Uno Moralez, Zach Hazard Vaupen, Lisa Hanawalt, Lane Milburn, Tom Neely, Benjamin Marra, Jason, Mome vets Davis and Kaczynski and Frank Santoro and Renee French and Gabrielle Bell. All of them are the sorts of artists you'd expect to see in Mome, and all of them are posting comics and illustrations directly to the internet these days. And in the print world, the movement has tended toward anthologies of either a faster, looser, more localized bent, including tabloid-format newsprint efforts like Geoff Grogan pood and the retailer-driven Diamond Comics (from Portland's Floating World) and Smoke Signals (from Brooklyn's Desert Island), or lavishly printed objets d'art, including post-Kramers Ergot efforts like Soto's recent Studygroup12 #4. So the energy Mome sought to harness has since found many other outlets. Few, though, were as dogged in their pursuit of gathering a bunch of great comics together and sticking them in readers' hands as were Reynolds and Mome. I'll miss this book, no question.