I first came across Rina Ayuyang’s work with the arrival in 2010 of Whirlwind Wonderland, which collected her various minicomics in one slim book. Iwas quite taken with the warmth and good humor she displayed in detailing her life, family and relationships, and I dubbed it one of the most criminally ignored books of that year.
While she’s still putting out the occasional minicomic, Ayuyang has recently become a small-press publisher with her new imprint Yam Books. The company is off to an excellent start with its first book Ticket Stub, by Tim Hensley, which came out late last year. The book, which collects the off-kilter minicomics Hensley created while working at his former day job as a closed-caption editor is a head-spinning series of dada-esque riffs on popular movies.
Curious about what sort of challenges Ayuyang might have encountered in making the transition from indie cartoonist to indie publisher, I asked whether she’d be up for answering some of my invasive questions. Thankfully, she was more than happy to do so.
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.
“5 years, 20 volumes, 72 artists, and 2,352 pages of comics.” Strictly by the numbers — taken from the Editor’s Notes that kick off Mome Vol. 20: Fall 2010, on sale this month — Fantagraphics’ signature anthology is a force to be reckoned with. Launched in 2005 with the intention of providing a regular home for new work by promising young cartoonists like Gabrielle Bell, Jeffrey Brown, Anders Nilsen, Paul Hornschemeier, and Sophie Crumb, it rapidly evolved into something else, something arguably more: a showcase for alternative comics of nearly every style and stripe. During its five-year history, Mome‘s diverse accomplishments have included publishing work from European greats like David B. and Lewis Trondheim, serializing Tim Hensley’s acclaimed graphic novel Wally Gropius, reintroducing Al Columbia to the comics scene prior to the release of his landmark Pim & Francie, giving Dash Shaw yet another forum for his experimental take on science fiction, providing an unlikely venue for underground legend Gilbert Shelton, showcasing up-and-comers like Jon Vermilyea and Nate Neal…and, like all anthologies, starting a good deal of debate over which contributors were any good at all. With its like-clockwork quarterly schedule, Mome is a go-to destination for finding out what’s going on at comics’ cutting edge.
Presiding over all this has been editor Eric Reynolds, who inherited full control of the anthology from original co-editor and co-publisher Gary Groth. When last I spoke to Reynolds about Mome in October of 2007, he was prepping Vol. 10, which sported a new look, new work from Columbia, and the second half of a story by altcomix titan Jim Woodring. Three years and ten issues later, the series has gotten a full-on makeover from designer Adam Grano, and is in the midst of some of its most challenging work ever from Shaw, Josh Simmons, Derek Van Gieson and more. What has changed, what has remained constant, and what lies in store? Reynolds spoke with Robot 6 about all this and more in a fifth-anniversary interview.
If I’d ask you five years ago to describe what Mome Vol. 20 would look like, what would you have said?
I would’ve said there’s no way this thing’s going to last 20 issues. Really, I’m sure I would have had no other answer.
If my review the other week didn’t make it clear, I’m a big fan of Wally Gropius, Tim Hensley’s ingenious, hilarious and occasionally disturbing take on classic teen comics. So when the opportunity to interview Hensely came, I leapt at it. He’s been in the comics press a lot lately (something I reference an embarrassing amount of times during our talk) so I made a bit of an effort to build off of what had been said in past interviews. Whether or not I was successful in my efforts, hopefully you’ll be inspired enough to check out the book, which really deserves as much attention as it can muster.
On Friday, publisher Alvin Buenaventura announced he had shut down his imprint Buenaventura Press as of this past January, due to a single knockout legal/financial blow. Publicly available details are few, in keeping with the private way the move has been handled for the past six months. But comics creators and critics en masse are mourning BP’s demise and reading the tea leaves as to where its publisher, artists, and entire brand of comics will land.
Robot 6 reached out to several of the artists published by Buenaventura, as well as a few of his fellow publishers, for their reaction:
Working with Alvin over the years has been really amazing. He has introduced me to a lot of magical and influential artists and hooked me up with tons of inspiring and perverted books. His place has awesome shit scattered all over- mountains of crazy books, toys, memorabilia, gigantic figures, artwork- it’s like a bomb went off. Now that he’ll be taking a break from the business we’ll finally have more time to play Rock Band and trip out on weird TV shows.
–Matt Furie, writer/artist, Boy’s Club
by Tim Hensley
Fantagraphics Books, 64 pages, $18.99
Wally Gropius can be a tough book to describe. It seems to revel in its contradictions. It’s both an affectionate paean to the Archie/Harvey/Dell comics of yesteryear and a blistering critique of them. It has contains disturbing imagery and themes that will shock the unexpectant reader, but is also utterly silly, joyfully so at times. It comes off as jarring, even downright bizarre, in its blend of word and image, yet at the same time feels strangely familiar. Even with its influences writ largely on its sleeve, it’s hard to find a book to compare it to.
I had never warmed to Hensley’s work prior to this story, originally serialized in the Mome anthology. The few short pieces he did in anthologies like Dirty Stories left me befuddled and cold. His work seemed so deliberately off-putting, so more concerned with being clever than good, that I honestly didn’t quite know what to make of it.