Recent hire, RJ Casey, hails from the town of Chicago but has been out Seattle-way for awhile as an editorial intern working with editor Kristy Valenti and is now working at Fantagraphics on foreign rights and FU Press. Please welcome RJ into our weird fold as we ask him a few questions.
What other jobs/experiences have you had in comics? What's your background in (non-comics?)
I started a small publishing behemoth with Eric Roesner called Yeti Press. We've been wheelin' and dealin' comics, graphic novels, and anthologies since 2011. I also taught elementary school for five years in the suburbs of Chicago. All this after I double majored in English and education at Hope College in Michigan.
What was the first comic you read?
Silver Surfer #54 was the first comic I ever read, but I use the word "read" loosely. It was more like scanning the pages for action before I could decipher the words. The Silver Surfer and Rhino fought in a zoo!
What was the first comic that made you want to write, react, something?
Artists like Dylan Horrocks and Roger Langridge always make me laugh and think, but I'm going to take it back to Bone by Jeff Smith. I was a struggling student in early grades and I learned how to read, quite literally, from Bone. I still reread it at least once a year.
What started out as a really cute way for libraries to get patrons to check out books sight-unseen has turned into a pop quiz for Fanta employees about our books. See a description of a book you like? Try to figure out what it is and then click on the link, order it and fall in love.
Given the recent holiday, we are happy to highlight some employees we are most thankful to have joined Team Fanta this year. They'ved added much to the hivemind. May I introduce (or reintroduce) Marc J. Palm, local cartoonist and manning one of the customer service desks like you wouldn't be-lieve. If you've been in Seattle for a bit, you've no doubt seen a Marc Palm art show or perhaps some of his art advertising a Scarecrew Video show.
1-What other jobs/experiences have you had in comics? I've never worked professionally in comics until now I suppose. Although I've been self-publishing zines and mini comics for 20 years. With that I've done a very small amount of distribution and festival tabling.
2- What was the first comic you read? It was probably Garfield in the papers. But the first comic I think I owned was a super oversized coloring book version of a Spider-man comic from the 80's with Doc Ock.
3 - What was the first comic that made you want to write, react, something? I cannot think of a single comic that was a catalyst. Ever since I saw comics in general, I liked the comic format and wanted to make comics. They just make the most sense to me. Word books are not as exciting for someone as visual as I am and animation can be so limited in the quality of the artwork.
4- What can you recommend to Fanta readers? It's so easy to be overwhelmed by the amount and variety of comics available. I'd say, just follow your eyes and ears. If something looks cool to you or sounds like it has things that interests you, check it out. I explore organically. I like recommendations, but I figure if it's really for me we'll cross paths sooner or later and those times are when I'll appreciate it the most. Don't be pressured to read something you're not into. You cannot force yourself to enjoy something you are not ready for.
5- Weirdest Fanta experience so far? Weirdest time is when I first visited the Fanta office back in 2002? After my friend and I figured out which house it was, I got up the nerve to go and visit the next day. I had asked my friend if I should bring beer or cookies or something. He said "no". So I didn't. I dared to knock on the front door and I walked in after hearing a muffled "come in". Gary was at a desk in the front room and there was another desk next to the door.
Everyone looked at me like "who the hell are you?" I awkwardly said some stuff about how I was a fan and new to the city. Gary told me, "Well, there's no tour or anything". I asked about work and they said that maybe there was something at the warehouse. Years later at SPX, I told Gary the story and he said that if I would have brought beer I would have gotten the tour. AH!! I knew it!
6-Your favorite way to wind down? Drawing is of course the best thing for that. I cannot escape more than when I do draw. But, I'm a real simple Seattle guy, so I like to rent a movie fromScarecrow Video, drink cheap beer and smoke pot.
(Marc, right most, drawing with Eric Reynolds, Max Clotfelter, James Stanton, Simon Hanselmann and more)
7- Your favorite drink? drip coffee with a little cream
8-What projects do you have ahead of you outside of your job? I'm the organizer of the INTRUDER comics newpaperhere in Seattle. So, I'm either working on my comic for the next issue, waiting for contributors to send me work or plotting our next release party.
9-What's the best part of comic conventions? I'll go to cons with expectations to sell stuff, but that's not really the important part. It's more communal for me. It can be like going to a family reunion and seeing what everyone has been up to over the last year. It's also nice to meet folks in person that I've only known virtually or only through their work.
10-What's your favorite place in Seattle for food or public place? I like cheap eats and comfy places. I enjoy Cafe Racerbest. They've got food, beer and coffee. It's got a great multi level/room layout. There's a big table for groups to meet or draw at. It's just so lived in and full of interesting things that I feel at home.
Unless you happen to be in the inner circle of Fantagraphics you might not know that our publisher's son, Conrad Groth, spent the summer interning at MAD Magazine in NYC. In the latest issue of MAD, they wrote a little thank you to Conrad (on the left) and the other summer intern. He's working his way up, up, up! We're happy to have Conrad back on the West Coast though, with the knowledge he gained over the summer.
Did you know you still have 13 hours left to pick out some spooky titles from our Halloween sale?! Details on all the titles for sale until MIDNIGHT PST tonight! With all that extra money you'll be able to make a wicked costume for your kiddos or self. Oh no...did you forget to make a costume for Scooter? Just a little black paint and sharpie and you can whip up a great Charlie Brown in no time (costume and kid by freelance editor Shawna Gore).
Swee'Pea from Popeye is also another easy one (costume and kid by Associate Publisher Eric Reynolds)
We've recently had some new blood join our satanic circle in comics and are proud to highlight them. Meet Keeli McCarthy, one of our designers. She's currently working on many books for us, too many but she's a tough nut.
What other jobs and experiences have you had in comics? I was the first female employee at a shop called Atomic Comics in the mid-90s in Phoenix. I was hired as the "alternative comics" person. I diverted a lot of questions about Image release dates with "um, how about checking out that Julie Doucet book there in the corner?"
What was the first comic you read? My introduction to comics came through the wonderful world of Jack Chick tracts. Mormonism, Satanism, D&D, hippies... I ended up with a childhood preoccupation with hippies because they seemed to be having so much fun freaking out in those densely-drawn panels. I still have dozens and dozens of pictures of hippies that I drew as a child. I was also a big fan of Archie.
What was the first comic that made you want to write, react, something? I really discovered comics when I picked up my first issue of Eightball. It was during the middle of Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron, and so I had to scuttle around the local comic shops to put together the back issues. I was so fascinated with Clowes' pastiche of period references, something that definitely influences my work today. I was also hugely influenced by the ghoulishness of Al Columbia's Biologic Show and anything horror from EC.
What can you recommend to Fanta readers? I discovered Carl Barks when I designed the Ghost Of The Grotto collection and I've fallen in love with his stories. His human/animal hybrid characters are a hoot. The gags are great, and the colors in the Fantagraphics reprints are so sunny and beautiful. I'm also excited to sit down with the final printed version of Gast.
Weirdest Fanta experience so far? I would say that the weirdest thing about Fantagraphics is the old house we work in. There is original art, staff art, and just...stuff everywhere. I discover some new little gem each day. Like the Gap ad in which the model's face has been replaced with one from an Al Columbia painting, the whole thing blasted through with a rifle shot. I have no idea how this came about and I will never tire of looking at it.
(note: associate publisher Eric Reynolds shot this many years ago)
Favorite way to wind down? I try to move away from the two-dimensional world as much as possible after work, and cooking is a great way to do that. I love making big elaborate dinners. I am also the queen of improvised soup.
What projects do you have ahead of you outside of your job? I've been working on a series of brush and ink drawings based on observations of people's behavior in public places-coffee shops, dentists' waiting rooms, nightclubs. They're a fun exercise in getting better at inking good solid blacks. Last year, while living in New Zealand, I put together a zine/gallery show of 20 artists commemorating Oddbodz, which were New Zealand's answer to the Garbage Pail Kids. I'm hoping my next project can be that huge and crazy and fun. I'm also planning a trip to Tokyo in the next year with NYC/NZ zinester Erin Fae to write and draw a book about Japanese coffee culture.
Best part of comic conventions? I'm not a huge fan of comic conventions. I usually only go when there is a creator I really need to meet. Then I just field that person's puzzled glances as I hover around their table with a huge creepy smile on my face.
Favorite place in Seattle for food or public place? I recently discovered the giant hammering person sculpture and its history of mayhem, which I rather enjoy thinking about. Food-wise, TNT Taqueria has been haunting my memory with their TWO delicious meatless taco options. Also, this town has a staggering amount of donut eating opportunities, which I find very appealing.
Favorite drink? Black coffee. Preferably accompanied by a donut.
Thanks again for answering questions, Keeli! More soon from the pit where management keeps us at night.
We've recently had some new blood join our satanic circle in comics and are proud to highlight them. Meet Anna Pederson, badass at large currently at the warehouse who started back in January but was also an intern back in 2012!
What other jobs and experiences have you had in the comics industry? Fantagraphics was my first comic industry initiation when I did a stint as an editorial intern my senior year of college. After moving to New York, I did another internship with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF), because this industry is a labor of love, and you have to work really hard for free for a while. In NYC I also did my first retail work with Forbidden Planet, which honestly is one of the most informative areas of comic book publishing.
When the West Coast called me back home, I bummed around for a few months on the internet writing reviews for blogs and retailers, until Fanta found me in a ditch and brought me back into the fold.
What was the first comic you read? I think I've been reading newspaper comics since I could read, even the creepy weekday ones that talk about work place sexual harassment (I'm looking at you, For Better or for Worse). But then it was a gradual slippery slope into manga with Toriyama and Otomo, and mostly Vertigo titles, like Hellblazer, by high school. I was always an art fan, so without realizing their comic book ties, I was a fan of people like Moebius, Barry Windsor-Smith, andJack Davis. These dudes expanded my reading and visual tastes for the better.
What was the first comic that made you want to write, react, something? I've always enjoyed comics, but I think I'd be lying to myself if I thought it was anyone but Brandon Graham that made me feel like the worlds he created were visceral, and existed beyond storytelling purposes. I think I got my hands on King City sometime in high school, and I hope this makes him feel old. His street/graffiti, Japanese, Moebius style wraps my head in a blanket and tucks me in at night, while simultaneously fulfilling my need for sexy puns. The best of both worlds if you ask me.
Anna's Brandon Graham tattoo of Earthling J.J. Catingsworth the Third, photo Robin McConnell What can you recommend to Fanta readers? A book I picked up completely at random, but fell completely in love with has been Things Just Get Away From You by Walt Holcome. His whimsical and classic cartooning style often feels like how Pogo would read if all those characters grew up to be slightly dejected about society. But throughout his stories, Holcome hits on distinctly profound moments of love, childhood, and chasing dreams.
But I'm also really really excited for the release of Nijigahara Holograph by Inio Asano. It's everything that drew me into comics; horror, intense detail, magical realism. Love it.
Weirdest Fanta experience so far? I think this place used to be a lot weirder than how I found it. At least according to all the stories I've heard from legacy employees. I do remember once talking about whether or not plants would grow better with the nutrients of menstrual blood. But I'm probably the only one who remembers that, so who's the weird one now?!
I remember that conversation well, Anna. What's your favorite way to wind down? I love to bake. Cookies, pies, etc. Ask Kristy Valenti (Fanta editor) and she'll probably regale you with stories of my pies. I also sing a lot, mostly show tunes. Alienating one coworker at a time listening to Cabaret. Which shouldn't be hard to do since I only have one coworker.
What's your favorite drink? Whiskey. In my experience, if you work in comics you either drink whiskey or nothing at all. So chose wisely.
What projects do you have ahead of you outside of your job? The past couple of years have been spent on a pet project with local artist Josh Heath. It's probably one of those 'will never see the light of day' things, but you can't stop working on it either; quantity creates quality. I still write weekly columns about new comics coming out and why you should buy them, along with awesome preview videos hand made at Zanadu comics. But long term, my dream would be to curate and produce at least one multi-artist book, which is kind of the like the nerd idea of a fantasy team.
What's the best part of comic conventions? Conventions can be stressful, but I honestly love talking to people who are genuinely curious about the books you're trying to sell. They usually have a lot of enthusiasm, and are wiling to let me sell them amazing and weird books that hopefully makes them appreciate the unconventional, and become a reader for life. I sell people what I believe in.
Thanks again for answering the questions, Anna! More to come from the office monkeys soon.
Not pictured: Eric Reynolds, Mike Dean, Preston White, Paul Baresh, Anna Pederson, Larry Reid, TJ, Janice Headley, Dave Holmes, Jacob Covey, Matt Silvie and Dean. Our smooshed spiders-everywhere-in-the-trees-oh-god outtake.