Robot 6

It’s tough to top a headline like ‘Fantagraphics’ Groth Discusses the State of Comics’

Gary Groth in action

Gary Groth in action

…so I’m not even going to try. Instead I’m just going to link you to Alex Dueben’s thusly titled interview with Fantagraphics Co-Publisher and The Comics Journal Editor Gary Groth over on the CBR mothership, in which the trailblazing alternative-comics publisher and critic tackles a wide variety of the biz’s big topics. Here are a few choice nuggets:

On Fantagraphics shifting to digital:

To one degree or another, all of our books can be read on a screen.

We’re cognizant of that and we’re certainly moving in that direction. I think what the future is going to hold is that books are going to be on multiple platforms, in digital and in print. I don’t think one is going to necessarily overshadow the other. They can be available in various formats. We’ve been literally working on the digital formats for the last year, just working out all the bugs and talking to the various platforms. I’m sure by this time next year, a lot of our books, if not the majority of them, are going to be available digitally.

On the Borders bankruptcy and its affect on graphic novel sales:

I don’t think it’s affected us. I think whenever something happens like when Borders closes, something comes and fills that gap, even if that something is only Amazon. Borders didn’t affect us at all, because Borders didn’t buy many of our books. As you probably know, the book buyer at Borders was apparently obsessed with manga and bought almost exclusively manga. Of course it would have been nice to have been sold in Borders for all those years, but we weren’t. Trying to be sold in Borders was like beating our heads against a brick wall, so when they went under, we didn’t suffer at all. Barnes and Noble is still strong. We’re strong with independents. There are a number of chain stores in the South that we sell pretty well to, like Books-A-Million. Amazon is either the first or second largest seller of our books.

On whether he has any advice for DC regarding their line-wide relaunch:

[Laughs] I don’t think I do. Good fucking luck.

I’m not even sure what that’s supposed to accomplish. It seems like a pitiful attempt to con more people into buying the same old shit. I probably shouldn’t be so cynical. I’m sure that some brilliant talent could breathe some life into this stuff. Like I said, I’m not one to talk. I haven’t read this stuff, but it just seems so completely uninteresting to me, and in a way, it’s idiomatically alien to me. We get a box of comics from DC every so often and I’ll look through it. Stylistically, the work kind of repels me. It’s too frenetic and manga-influenced. I’m way too old for that stuff. I wish I could be a more cogent commentator on that stuff, but then I’d have to devote time to actually looking at it.

On why Disney is publishing its complete Floyd Gottfredson/Mickey Mouse and Carl Barks/Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics through Fantagraphics instead of its subsidiary, Marvel:

I haven’t the slightest idea. It was never brought up. I’ve literally never asked them, “Why would you want us to publish them rather than Marvel,” so anything I give you would be an inference. When I was negotiating with them, to tell you the truth, I hadn’t even thought about it.

There’s much more where that came from, including discussions of the death of the alternative comic book, the Kirby and Siegel/Shuster lawsuits, Disney’s role in extending copyright, the Fantagraphics brick-and-mortar store, the Golden Age of Reprints, the relaunch of The Comics Journal, and the great undiscovered cartoonists. Read the whole thing.



Simon DelMonte

June 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thanks for saving me the time, as I have not liked Groth very much for 25 years. He’s worthy of the respect a successful publisher should get, and the importance of Fantagraphics cannot be understated. But he was busy hating superhero comics even when his company was publishing Amazing Heroes magazine, and I have had little use for him since then. Which is fine since he has little use for me, I am sure.

Oh, dear God.

Superhero comic fans have the thinnest skins.

It’s good to see he’s got his eye on digital. That’s actually the first new and interesting thing I’ve heard from Fanta in a long time.

As for the baseless DC and Marvel bashing: Meh, what else is new? You spent that nickel, pal. In fact, just about every time you open your mouth. Sing us a new tune.

Simon – Groth is just a self-promoter like any publisher. This “art for the sake of art” spiel he gives is just his preferred posturing, his chosen mechanism for bashing on other publishers. What it amounts to is that superhero and fantasy books published by Fanta are good and superhero and fantasy books published by anyone else are bad… he has never seemed to give DC enough credit for their frankly amazing Vertigo line but will always champion his own stuff… he has always talked about how shameless other publishers are for deigning to make profitability a priority but Fanta has published artless smut comics, begged for charity handouts from fans for the purpose of paying legal bills and nearly gone into bankruptcy so it’s just thinly-veiled hypocrisy. And the idea of TCJ being completely without bias and the best source for wholly objective reviews when it itself is just Fanta’s in-house self-congratulatory machine is a bit absurd… but who can say anything since it has something of a lock on well-written, if partisan, criticism?

Who cares? I don’t get bent out of shape over it. He’s just making money, like everyone else.

It’d be pretty hard to say that when Fanta has published books soley dedicated to Sandman, has run interviews with the likes of Gail Simone, Brian Wood, Geff Johns, Karen Berger & Jim Lee, and put Dr. 13 and Hellblazer on year end best lists.

And he’s only saying this stuff is because people ask him, and they want an opinion from one of, if not the most influential independent publishers. To deride him for publishing smut and for hating superheroes despite the existence of Amazing Heroes is asinine. Its just business. Sometimes you just have to do it. Yeah, they asked for handouts because they preferred art and free speech over commerce.

As for TCJ being an in house self congratulatory machine, well their firs review for Love in The Shadows was one of the most negative pieces I have ever read. Then again, they also just published a loving missive for Chester5000, a three part essay on The Invisibles, and praise for Xombi.

People need to shut up about Gary Groth, and to hate him because he hates superheroes is one of the pussiest things I have ever heard. Karen Berger, Jim Valentino and Dina Schutz have both said they wished they could focus and publish books like Fanta and, but that’s not their business.

Mr. Pants is right.

I hope you were referring to Simon or perhaps someone else entirely because I plainly stated I don’t take Groth seriously as anything but a schill for his own company and a muckraker… I don’t take him seriously enough to get upset so the “pussies” comment clearly doesn’t apply to me.

And not a single fuck was given that day.

ne1: Yeah…clearly.

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