Six by 6 | The six best stories in Mome
One of the more notable news stories of the week was the announcement by Mome editor (and Fantagraphics co-publisher) Eric Reynolds that the quarterly anthology would come to an end with the release of the 22nd volume later this year.
The series has had a rather remarkable and distinguished run since its inception in 2005. In addition to featuring work by such notable cartoonists like Jim Woodring and Gilbert Hernandez, it’s served as a publishing venue to highlight the work of up and coming artists like Laura Park, Tom Kaczynski and Sara Edward-Corbett, as well as introduce American readers to work by notable European creators like Emile Bravo and Sergio Ponchione.
As a memorial of sorts for the anthology’s oncoming demise, I thought I’d attempt to put together a quick list of my own favorite stories from Mome. This was a tough list to put together actually, and there are a number of names I feel a bit guilty for leaving off, but I’m sure you all can duly chastise me for my omissions in the comments section.
1) Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley. Mome serialized a number of lengthy tales in the past six years, but as good as many of them were, none were as inspired as Hensley’s oddball ode to the teen/humor comics of yesteryear. Truly one of the most unique comics to come down the pike in however many years, it showed how Reynolds’ original ethos of giving new cartoonists a venue to get their work in front of readers could bear brilliant fruit. (I reviewed the book here and interviewed Hensley here, if you want to know more about it.)
2) At Loose Ends by Lewis Trondheim. Anytime you can get someone of Trondheim’s stature and talent in your anthology, you’ve already got me reaching for my wallet. This is especially the case when you’re translating something like At Loose Ends, Trondheim’s farewell essay/midlife crisis of sorts, where he approaches middle age wondering how he can continue to keep his creative juices flowing and produce good work in his declining years and whether he shouldn’t just give up on cartooning altogether. It’s a rather insightful, frank and funny look at the toll drawing funny pictures can take on your psyche and easily one of the best things Trondheim’s done (at least that’s been translated so far).
3) Seven Sacks by Eleanor Davis (Vol. 7). Davis is an incredible talent, an artist seemingly capable of tackling any type of story, be it folk tale, children’s story, or horror. Sacks hints at the latter as it focuses on a riverman who ferrys across a number of gruesome monsters on their way to some sort of strange gathering. And each monster carries with him a rather bulky and squirming sack that contains … rabbits? Maybe? It’s one of the most haunting things Davis has ever done and one of the stories I’m constantly reminded of when I think of how Mome gave young artists a chance to shine.
4) The Veiled Prophet by David B (Vol. 4). As acclaimed as David B’s work has proven to be here in North America, a short work like the Veiled Prophet wouldn’t be easy to publish as a stand-alone story in today’s graphic-novel heavy climate, so kudos to Reynolds, Kim Thompson and company for making the effort to translate this haunting story, a cautionary fable about a cult religious leader who stirs up revolution and in ancient Asia. If you missed it, the good news is that it will be included in the forthcoming David B. collection, The Armed Garden.
5) Satelitte CMYK by Dash Shaw (Vol. 13). Shaw contributed a number of great short pieces to Mome, many of them collected in the book The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century A.D., but this one, about a space station with different levels, each one getting its own color scheme, is probably my favorite. In particular I love its sci-fi trappings, the way it doesn’t fully reveal its secrets until the very end and its inspired use of color. I don’t know if it’s the best thing Shaw’s ever done, but it’s the best thing he ever did in this anthology.
6) 5:45 a.m. by Al Columbia (Vol. 11). I almost went with one of Killoffer’s submissions for this spot but ultimately decided upon Columbia’s wordless story, one of the creepiest and most frightening things to run in Mome, and this an anthology that frequently featured the work of Josh Simmons. A mere four pages long, Columbia offers glimpses into a rather disheveled and seemingly empty home early in the morning before coming upon the ugly punchline, and then finally pulling back and forcing us to completely re-evaluate what we’ve seen before. It’s a typically grim entry for Columbia that, while perhaps less gruesome than his Pim and Francie material, is no less unsettling.
Endnote: At the risk of plugging my stuff so much, I feel I should note I interviewed Reynolds about Mome last year at the old Comics Journal website.