PRINT Summer 2014

Douglas Wolk

Cover of Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez’s Love and Rockets, no. 1 (Fantagraphics, 1984).

TO UNDERSTAND what Fantagraphics Books publishers Gary Groth and the late Kim Thompson have done for comics as an art form over the past thirty-eight years, you have to imagine, say, Sylvia Beach and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and André Bazin and Edith Grossman and Barney Rosset and Clement Greenberg having all their roles in their respective media performed by two guys working from a converted two-story house in Seattle. If the only thing Fantagraphics had ever published had been Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez’s series Love and Rockets (which they’ve been doing since 1982), they’d still be Hall of Famers, but they’ve also nurtured subsequent generations of extraordinary cartoonists, from Daniel Clowes and Chris Ware to Lucy Knisley and Eleanor Davis. Their magazine the Comics Journal has demanded ever more expressiveness and range and intelligence from the comics form since its inception in 1976, and eventually browbeat the good stuff into existence. They’ve translated remarkable graphic novels from around the world. And they’ve made a point of digging up the best work from comics’ pulp history, by artists both ultrapopular (Charles M. Schulz) and forgotten (Fletcher Hanks), and reprinting it in beautifully designed collections. Groth and Thompson haven’t just developed comics’ artistic vanguard, they’ve—miraculously—found an audience for it.

Douglas Wolk is a critic and author based in Portland, OR.