We Told You So: Fantagraphics Celebrates 40 Years
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of Fantagraphics Books, and the publisher will celebrate the occasion with a series of events throughout the rest of 2016. Founded in 1976 by Gary Groth and Mike Catron (soon to be followed by Kim Thompson), the company has published over 5,000 comic books and graphic novels over the next four decades, confirming its reputation as the publisher of the world’s greatest cartoonists, and as a champion for cartoonists who don’t fit within the commercial confines of traditional corporate publishing.
The highlight of the anniversary celebrations will be the long awaited release of We Told You So: Comics As Art, an irreverent, 600-page oral history of Fantagraphics edited by Tom Spurgeon with Michael Dean, as told through interviews with virtually every key player in the company’s history – as well as a few of its adversaries – and copiously illustrated with hundreds of photos, comics, drawings, and rare ephemera from the Fantagraphics vaults.
Throughout the summer and fall, Fantagraphics will also celebrate its anniversary at various comics festivals. Comic-Con International in San Diego, the Small Press Expo (SPX) in Bethesda, MD and the Columbus Crossroads Festival (CXC) will each sponsor events and programming and host special guests spanning Fantagraphics’ provocative and pioneering history, with details for each to be rolled out over the comings weeks. Additionally, Fantagraphics will close out the year with a birthday bash back home in Seattle for their staff, cartoonists, and fans. Slated for Dec. 10th, the event will also mark the tenth anniversary of Seattle’s beloved Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery.
Fantagraphics began its activist agenda by publishing The Comics Journal in 1976, which, over nearly 300 issues and over 5,000 pages, fought for the economic and creative rights of three generations of cartoonists and militantly insisted that comic art was as capable of the same heights of expression as the greatest accomplishments in every other popular form.
The editorial standards of The Comics Journal led Groth and company to soon put its money where its mouth was, and beginning with Jack Jackson’s Los Tejanos in 1981, followed the next year with its flagship title, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s Love & Rockets, the floodgates opened and introduced readers to a murderer’s row of new talent throughout the ’80s.
Fantagraphics’ devotion to the past, present, and future of comics remains undiminished, and recent years have seen the rise of a new generation of cartoonists that represent the depth and diversity of the form that Fantagraphics stands for, including Ed Piskor, Eleanor Davis, Dash Shaw, Simon Hanselmann, Lucy Knisley, Olivier Schrauwen, Jason, Ulli Lust, Johnny Ryan, Cathy Malkasian, Lilli Carré, Leah Hayes, Josh Simmons, Noah Van Sciver, Liz Suburbia, and so many others.
Forty years ago, comic books were seen as little more than mindless, adolescent escapism, shunned by literate adults and ignored by the wider culture. Changing the perception —and the fact— has been hard fought, and, 40 years strong, Fantagraphics remains committed to the belief that comics is art, and continues to elevate the form by publishing the most encompassing range of contemporary, cutting-edge cartooning, collections of the seminal underground artists, classic and gag cartoonists, international cartoonists in translation, and library-quality editions of classic newspaper strips and comic books that showcase the form as an artistically sophisticated medium of expression.