Larry Reid has been an advocate for visual and performing arts in the Pacific Northwest and beyond since co-founding Rosco Louie gallery in Seattle’s Pioneer Square in 1978. He has since served as director of Graven Image gallery and the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA), and as a curator for Experience Music Project (EMP). He is also an independent producer of multidisciplinary cultural activities.
Over the course of his career he has presented the work of countless regional, national and international artists including Lynda Barry, Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Nirvana, William S. Burroughs, Robert Crumb, Lydia Lunch, Ann Magnuson, Chuck Close, Keith Haring, Sonic Youth, Mike Kelley, Karen Finley, Eric Bogosian, Charles Peterson, Einsturzende Neubauten, Von Dutch, Henry Rollins, Daniel Clowes, Gary Panter, Mudhoney, and many more. He has served as a peer panelist for various private foundations and public agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts (1990). He has contributed to several books including Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art, Edward Colver: Blight at the End of the Funnel, Tiki Art Now!, Jini Dellaccio: Rock & Roll, and Sub Pop USA: 1980 – 1987.
Reid currently works as curator and events coordinator at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery in Seattle’s historic Georgetown arts community, where he also serves as president of the Georgetown Merchants Association (GMA). For hours and location, check out their website.
How long have you been in comics retail?
I came to work at Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery when it opened in 2006. I have a background in visual and performing arts programming going back over 40 years. That provided valuable experience for this position.
What's changed the most for your business in the last ten years?
Our retail enterprise is located in Seattle, headquarters of on-line discounter Amazon. Competing with the unlimited resources of Amazon is problematic, and many of young consumers are seemingly unfamiliar with the cultural advantages offered by the brick-and-mortar experience. Connecting with this younger demographic is increasingly challenging.
How do you decide what titles you are going to carry in the shop?
Some people incorrectly assume our bookstore is simply a showroom for Fantagraphics Books. That is one element, of course, but our mission includes nurturing the vibrant Northwest comix community, so I try to be as inclusive as possible. Our store includes a substantial number of regional, national and international self-publishers, as well as a wide selection of alternative imprints like Koyama, Kilgore, Silver Sprocket, Uncivilized, Last Gasp, and many others. The bookstore is also a repository for a lot of rare and out-of-print Fantagraphics titles.
I've always been a little indifferent to the comics industry press as our space has little in common with traditional comic book shops. It’s a cross between a bookstore and art gallery - thus the name Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery. In terms of emerging art, self-publishing, and small press, “news” is more often disseminated by word-of-mouth and social media. I’m not at all hostile to comics news publications, I just don’t follow them closely.
What's your weekly routine with your store like? Has it gotten easier or harder since you started?
We regularly program wildly diverse art exhibitions, artist talks, media presentations, music performances, book signings, and related activities, so it’s hard to `establish a routine. I suppose after twelve years it’s gotten easier, but no less interesting.
What do you wish more publishers knew about comics retail?
I don’t order through the customary “direct market” distribution channels. I always thought that model was unsustainable – even when I worked as Marketing and Promotions Director for Fantagraphics in the early to mid-90s. There were about a half-dozen direct market distributors then; now there’s only one, so I suppose that assessment was correct. I have a great deal of respect for retailers that can work within that complex system. I’m reminded of the perils whenever I visit mainstream comics shops and find hundreds, if not thousands, of comic books in the discount bins.
I hope my customers know how much I appreciate their patronage. It’s often cheaper and more convenient to purchase products on-line. I admire the people that support our space, so I make every effort to create an enjoyable environment and memorable experience. I try to engage every visitor and be attentive, but avoid pestering people, which can be a delicate balance.
What gets you most annoyed about comics right now?
There are a lot of things that annoy me these days. Comic books aren’t one of them.
What has you most excited about comics right now?
I find the diversity in contemporary comix absolutely delightful! Maybe it’s because I re-connected with comix through Love & Rockets in the mid-80s. In many ways that work foreshadowed our current multicultural social environment. It’s just so wonderful now to see all the colorful new approaches to the medium. I’m really fond of emerging artists like November Garcia, Ines Estrada, Lilli Loge, Ben Passmore, and Jane Mai, among others. It’s also rewarding to see so many younger local cartoonists that I worked with early in their careers gaining national recognition - like Max Clotfelter, Marc Palm, Tom Van Deusen, Kelly Froh, and Eroyn Franklin. It’s great to have Seattle’s legacy as one of the birthplaces of alternative comix - dating back to Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Peter Bagge, and Jim Woodring – carried on by a new generation. When we look back on this period in a few years, I believe we’ll discover how privileged we were to be a part of it.
What's the next big thing happening at the store?
On Small Business Saturday, November 24 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, we’ll be celebrate the publication of Best American Comics 2018 with local contributors Simon Hanselmann, Alex Graham, D. J. Bryant, and Max Clotfelter - on the occasion of Max's 40th birthday! Start the holidays in style with cool comix, cold beer, birthday cake, and great company. You can see the Facebook event page here!