Fantagraphics: Grown Up

Seattle comix publisher Fantagraphics announced last week that it has signed a deal to switch distributors. The new deal is with big, big, really big publishing house W. W. Norton. Asked what this means, exactly, Fantagraphics spokesperson Eric Reynolds kindly provided a long and detailed explanation, saying, "Most every publisher has an 'exclusive' distributor to the book trade, and we've simply switched ours from one to another. But because it is Norton, the deal has some larger significance vis-à-vis the future for graphic novels and the industry's increasing acceptance of them as a literary medium." Ten years ago, Reynolds says, he doubts Norton would have given Fantagraphics "the time of day." "It's taken a critical mass of circumstances for Norton to accept us--it's like the culmination of 25 years of slow, arduous acceptance of graphic novels as literature.... It's kind of like we're finally being allowed to sit at the cool kids' table at lunch. Being almost 30, it's about fuckin' time!" TRACI VOGEL

Art Surprise #1

City Council Member Nick Licata seemed surprised by the breadth of response at a roundtable discussion held in the Arctic Building's Dome Room on Tuesday morning, May 22. The discussion's ostensible topic had been live/work space for artists, but the panelists and the unusually large audience swiftly opened the floor to a range of issues, from larger questions--such as how "artist" is defined by artists' housing, and distinguishing between the needs of individual artists and arts groups--to detail-oriented matters of zoning and the number of parking spaces required with new developments. The panel included an impressive array of private and city shakers and movers, including Council Member Judy Nicastro and representatives of the Seattle Arts Commission, Artist Trust, the DCLU, the Office of Economic Development, Allied Arts, and current artist housing projects and developers. Though the conversation was unfocused and scattershot, there was a clear call to action beyond artist lofts; the needs of small and mid-level arts groups are still only weakly addressed. As Jim Kelly (of King County Cultural Resources Department) commented afterward, "We're further along than we were three or four years ago because we're talking about these things at a higher level, but the work is still to be done." BRET FETZER

Art Surprise #2

In Arts News was surprised to find out recently that the beleaguered arts organization CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art) has quietly hired a new director, F. Daniel Fried. Fried worked at CoCA during the glory days of the late '80s and early '90s, and aims to bring back something of the same spirit to the beleaguered organization, with an emphasis on local artists and curators and traveling international shows. His plans so far are earnest, but a bit vague ("I'm on a mission to stir it up and make things happen"); however, he did mention an exhibition of paintings by police officers and a performance by the theater group de la Guarda as two possibilities. We wish him the best of luck. EMILY HALL

Hook's Words

The booklet for the newly released Criterion Collection DVD of Jules Dassin's brilliant 1955 heist film Rififi contains an essay by none other than Stranger contributor (and recently departed film editor) Jamie Hook. The essay, which was originally printed in these pages on October 12, 2000, extols the film's "dazzling, ornate, and artfully crafted" perfection--particularly in regard to the 35-minute, nearly silent heist scene, which Hook calls "a sacrament of the cinema." The Criterion Collection is an eminently respected series of archival films released on DVD, and before that on laser disc, packed with special features that focus--with few exceptions (like Michael Bay's Armageddon)--on the film's critical reputation. Hook is currently directing Dear Diane, the Typing Explosion play at On the Boards. SEAN NELSON n