I talked a little bit about MOME last week, and mentioned that I’d finished reading VOLUME 7 and enjoyed it, and I just finished volume 8 the other day. All of the real reviews have been done and everyone’s already remarked at what a treasure Eleanor Davis is (all deserved) and debated over whether or not old cartoonists really do start to lose it as per Lewis Trondheim’s assertion in “At Loose Ends.” In fact, over at his blog, Jog has done a bang-up job disassembling MOME VOLUME 8 already, and has also done a lengthy review of MOME VOLUME 7.

But before this came out a few months back, I questioned here on my blog, in reference to Trondheim and previously serialised artist David B: “I’m not sure how promoting the book on the strength of established talent fits their mission statement, other than maybe goosing the sales a little (a noble pursuit).” Eric Reynolds e-mailed me afterwards to thank me for paying attention and ask me my further thoughts, and here they are:

MOME is a complete connundrum to me because, despite thoroughly enjoying it, I feel like it’s supposed to be something else. I keep comparing it to DRAWN + QUARTERLY SHOWCASE (which was originally going to be called the “New Talent Showcase,” actually) because both books have a similar format of 120-200 pages, both have(had?) a mission statment of bringing work to market from new and emerging cartoonists, and both are giving a high-profile venue to these works with great production values that place the work right alongside other great graphic novels and anthologies. But I think that on the whole the D+Q SHOWCASE has been more successful in its stated aims, by consistantly delivering excellent, genuinely different and self-contained work. I also think that, with a quarterly schedule to start and a mandate of serialising work (with many serials dropping out of the anthology or going on hiatus every volume) each issue of MOME, despite a square binding and lush production values just feels like a more ephemeral thing… I can happily recommend one of the showcase books due to the inclusion of a complete narrative by Sammy Harkham, or Genevieve Castree, or Kevin H. or Martin Cendreda or whomever. I find that with MOME, no one (or even two or three stories) is strong enough for someone to purchase volume 7 (if they haven’t picked up the first 6) (though many will happily stand and read the story I tell them is good for the 3 or 4 minutes it takes). Even getting behind things like AT LOOSE ENDS by Trondheim, or the serialised DAVID B stuff… I’d much, much rather each volume of MOME included the whole story from beginning to end to complete the… wholeness… of each volume on the shelf.

(Maybe there are plans at some distant point in the future to collect these stories though, and running the whole story as opposed to serialising it would clearly harm the eventual sales of such a project…? But then I feel like ANY appearance of a Euopean work in English would likely harm its further English-language sales in a different format… I dunno.)

But next month begins the serialisation of a short Jim Woodring story, for example, that certainly feels to me like it oughtta be read in a single sitting (and that kind of was the intended format for it…).

Which isn’t to say that the anthology isn’t successful, or that it isn’t selling well for us, or that I don’t enjoy it: It is, It does, I do. I even like anthologies conceptually, and want to see more of them. But if the book isn’t going to just be a new talent showcase anymore, if it’s going to have a lead feature, a cover feature to really hook us, then do it! Run with it and hook us! MOME 9: INCLUDES A COMPLETE GRAPHIC NOVELLA BY JIM (FRANK) WOODRING, plus 3 short stories and your 4 favourite continuing serials! But if this is serialisation before collection, a SHONEN JUMP for the art-school set (oh man, that’s gonna get me in trouble) then scale it back, include all the serials, the short stories, and maybe even beef up the interview and editorial content and really take advantage of the ‘periodicalness’ of the format (but maybe work far enough ahead so that no one has to miss a volume (or two or three)). I just feel like its got its feet in two worlds right now, and despite a spectacular recent issue and ’shake-up’ of the book, it just doesn’t feel ‘there’ yet.

Anyway, there’s my two cents on MOME. I hope this does not cause an internet riot.

Best,

- Christopher


5 Comments on “On Mome 7 and 8”

You can track this conversation through its atom feed.

  1. Koala Mentala says:

    I have a very bad feeling that the Woodring novella might just be a reprint of this one.

  2. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » June 27, 2007: Daredevil goes to a gay bar says:

    [...] Christopher Butcher describes what’s wrong with Fantagraphics’ Mome anthology. [...]

  3. derikb says:

    Chris, you make good points about Mome. It’s only by an accident of online subscription services that I’m still getting issues of it. I’ve found it to be a scattered, inconsistent affair.

    I’m not sure how much it was ever really just about promoting new talent. The inclusion of artists like Jeffrey Brown from the start speaks to that (Brown is (sadly) probably better known than Trondheim in the US).

    I’d love to see your suggestion put into effect, with some more complete stories and fewer (but more consistent) serials.

  4. Eric Reynolds says:

    Hey Chris,

    Thanks for the MOME essay. Your insights as a fan and retailer are always valuable to me. The comparison to the D&Q showcase is interesting, the big difference of course being the quarterly schedule. The D&Q Showcase has released four issues in four years — MOME has had eight in two. Oliveros can do know wrong when he takes his time with something, and the Showcase books have been no exception. By its very nature, with more cartoonists per issue and a quarterly schedule, I would expect MOME to be a bit less consistent. But I’m glad you’ve noticed the improvement over the last few issues because it’s palpable to me and I’ll stack #8 up against any anthology this year. It sounds like your biggest concern with MOME lies in the serialization of certain stories, which I can tell you is a concern of mine, as well, and always a struggle to balance. Take Woodring for example: my original thought with Woodring’s story, when I first read it, was that it should be its own book, one that has nothing to do with MOME. I mean, it’s a brilliant, 45 page Woodring novella. For whatever reason, though, Jim doesn’t want to publish it as its own book in the U.S. But I felt like the story should be read, so I asked him about running it in MOME, to which he graciously agreed. I considered running the entire story in one issue, but after consulting with Jim and the other Mome artists, it was quite clear that everyone was more comfortable with running it in two chapters than in its entirety. And you know, I can live with two 20+ page chapters. That’s barely a serial.

    You made reference to “getting behind things like AT LOOSE ENDS by Trondheim, or the serialised DAVID B stuff… I’d much, much rather each volume of MOME included the whole story from beginning to end to complete the… wholeness… of each volume on the shelf.” Which I don’t completely disagree with, especially since there actually hasn’t been any serialised David B. stuff in MOME! Every David B. story we’ve run has been run in its entirety in one issue. Issue #3 had the complete, 36 page “Armed Garden” and #4 had the complete, 31 page “Veiled Prophet.” And the idea with including those stories was precisely that they might complete the ‘wholeness’ of those issues.

    But running Trondheim or Woodring’s stories in their entirety in one issue would completely overwhelm everything else in those issues because of their length. At that point, MOME would really stray off course from what I want the anthology to be. The Trondheim story would have eaten up two thirds of an issue and not left room for much else.

    None of your notions of taking advantage of the ‘periodicalness’ are lost on me, it’s something I’ve been struggling with from the get-go, trying to mix things up while keeping things on track at the same time. #8 includes an art gallery by an artist I’ve admired for a long time named Mike Scheer, and I wrote a short intro to his work. Expect to see more non-comics features/interviews, but only so much. The focus remains comics. MOME’s quarterly deadline is its blessing and curse. It doesn’t allow for longer shorts to appear in their entirety like those in D&Q Showcase, but it does have its own unique advantages. Keep reading!

    Thanks,

    Eric

  5. Jog says:

    Koala – Yep, that’s the one.

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