Episode 141 – Francoise Mouly

FrancoiseMoulyVirtual Memories Show #141:
Francoise Mouly

“I’d rather do something that nobody else would do if I didn’t do it. That’s why I made TOON Books.”

_2966605_origLive from CXC! Designer, editor and publisher Francoise Mouly joins the show to talk about 20+ years of New Yorker covers, launching TOON Books and cultivating a love for print, the pros and cons of going viral, the changing definitions of what’s offensive (and the time she got hauled into a meeting with an Arab Anti-Defamation League), the notion that comics are the gateway drug for reading, and more! (Sorry, no talk about her time with RAW magazine, since she and her husband, Art Spiegelman were interviewed about that later at the festival.) This episode is part of our Cartoon Crossroads Columbus series of live podcasts. Give it a listen!

“The cover of The New Yorker is where the artists have a voice, on a par with the prose authors.”

francoiseandmebyamyWe also talk about Charlie Hebdo, the historical arc of gay marriage covers, the contrasts of her multimodal education in France with the American model, which comics she started her kids off with, how she deals with the moving target of diversity, the evolution of women in the comics scene, and why kids are a fantastic audience. Go listen! 

“There are some topics the media won’t touch with the same willingness. . . . It would be more interesting if there wasn’t such jitteriness.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes! You might like:

Follow The Virtual Memories Show on iTunes, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and RSS!

About our Guest

Françoise Mouly is the publisher and Editorial Director of TOON Books, which she launched in 2008. She joined The New Yorker as art editor in 1993. Ms. Mouly has been responsible for more than 1000 covers during her tenure at The New Yorker. The American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) has chosen many of Ms. Mouly’s images as “best cover of the year.” In 2012, for the publication of “Les Dessous du New Yorker” by Editions de La Martinière, Galerie Martel in Paris presented “New Yorker Covers,” an exhibit of artwork by Mouly and seventeen other artists. Starting in 1980, Ms. Mouly was the founder, publisher, designer and co-editor with her collaborator and husband, cartoonist Art Spiegelman, of the pioneering comics anthology RAW, where Spiegelman’s MAUS was first published. In 1998, after looking for material to help her two children become readers, Ms. Mouly established a RAW Junior division, to publish first the Little Lit collection of comics with HarperCollins, then The TOON Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics with Abrams, and launched the TOON Books imprint.

Born in Paris, Françoise moved to New York in 1974. She was named Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication. Among the many honors she has received are an honorary Doctorate from Pratt Institute, Gold and Silver medals as well as the Richard Gangel Art Director Award from the Society of Illustrators, and France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honour. She and her husband live in Manhattan.

You can follow Francoise on Twitter at @francoisemouly and TOON Books at @TOONbooks.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission of the artist. The conversation was recorded at the Cultural Arts Center in Columbus, OH during Cartoon Crossroads Columbus in October 2015 on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Logic Pro. Photo of me & Ms. Mouly by Amy Roth. Sad to say I can’t find a credit for the photo of Ms. Mouly at the top of the page.

Down and Up

It’s been an up and down day.

Up: Easy time driving out to the Brooklyn Comics & Graphics Festival (BCGF), found a parking spot half a block from the site, and had no line for gas on the way out of NJ.

Down: The panel discussion with Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman and Richard McGuire was too crowded to attend.

Up: We took the L train out to 14th & Union Sq., went down to the Strand, and I actually found a whole bunch of books I was looking for!


(L-R: The New Adventures of Jesus (Frank Stack), The Complete Short Novels (Anton Chekhov), Confessions of Felix Krull (Thomas Mann), Journey Into the Past (Stefan Zweig), Officers and Gentlemen (Evelyn Waugh), Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis), and three Library of America editions of Philip Roth)

Down: After we left the Strand, the Sartorialist walked right by us on 5th Ave. and didn’t look twice at my wardrobe. (He didn’t have his camera with him, but I still felt deflated.)

Up: I had the lardo pizza for lunch at Otto.


Down: Back at BCGF, the exhibit halls were way too hot, so I had to go back to my car and drop off my jacket.

Up: Got to meet Richard McGuire, whose 1989 6-page comic Here changed the vocabulary of comics and the understanding of how time and space can be represented on the page. Learned that he’s working on a full-length book of Here. He was friendly and said he was interested in being a guest on the podcast.

Down: Left my business cards in my jacket, so I couldn’t give him one as a reminder.

Up: I had a good conversation with David Mazzucchelli, which I skillfully started by talking about one of his obscure short comics, not his superhero work from the 1980’s. (I later told him that his Daredevil comics were pretty awesome when I was 15 or 16 years old. He was happy that I grew up along with his art.)

Down: He has no interest in being on my podcast.

Up: Gary Panter and Anders Nilsen both said they’d be on the podcast. (I went out to get my business cards, so I could give them reminders.)

Down: Art Spiegelman gave me the cold shoulder while he was talking to a pal of mine outside the show.

Up: Bought an awesome little book by McGuire, and a new edition of Nilsen’s Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow, about his girlfriend’s death from cancer.


Down: Nilsen drew an empty chair for his sketch on the book’s frontispiece.

Up: Met Anne Ishii and Jillian Tamaki and had a nice conversation with them and my pal Tom Spurgeon.

Down: Made them really sad when I told them about Anders Nilsen’s follow-up book, The End, which has a 2-page spread that makes me want to cry.

Up: No one I talked to had any too-terrible stories from the hurricane and nor’easter. That makes it a good day.

What It Is: 7/13/09

What I’m reading: Killshot, by Elmore Leonard, and Asterios Polyp, by David Mazzucchelli.

What I’m listening to: LP by Discovery, which was okay, but a little too deliberately like a poor man’s Postal Service.

What I’m watching: Just The Tall Guy (one of my favorite movies back in college, but one I haven’t watched in at least a decade), and this week’s Deadliest Catch. Amy had a pretty late work-week, and I tend not to watch a lot of stuff by myself.

What I’m drinking: Plymouth & Q Tonic.

What Rufus is up to: Making his first foray into a lake.

Where I’m going: Back to the office! Eek!

What I’m happy about: That I managed to reduce my daily caffeine intake by more than 50% during this vacation! (Also, that I managed to clear around 225 square feet of my backyard by pulling up rampant forsythia, cleaned out my garage, took care of a ton of other items on my to-do list, and still got to spend time with my brother & his family.)

What I’m sad about: That the downstairs freezer and the washing machine both crapped out last week. We got a new washer on Sunday and have a repair guy coming next week for the freezer.

What I’m worried about: Getting back into the rhythm of working at my office, as opposed to working at home.

What I’m pondering: How much of my Top Companies issue will be out of date by the time it sees print.

What It Is: 7/6/09

What I’m reading: I finished The Hunter, and I’m waiting for delivery of David Mazzucchelli’s decade-in-the-making comic, Asterios Polyp. (Boy, do I hate the term “graphic novel.”)

What I’m listening to: My new Mad Mix CD, “Stix Stigma,” which I’ve started sending out to select friends.

What I’m watching: Apollo 13, Roman Holiday, and Federer’s impossibly long Wimbledon finals match against Andy Roddick. Congrats, Rog!

What I’m drinking: Plymouth & Q Tonic.

What Rufus is up to: A little of this, a little of that. Basically, back to the old days. I even left him for a full work-day (about 9 hours), and he was just fine.

Where I’m going: Maybe down to the shore for a day with my brother and his family. Maybe to the Frick or the Met, to see some art.

What I’m happy about: That I finished the July/August ish of the magazine  last Thursday and then managed to win my Fight With the Forsythia over the weekend! Since I’m taking this week off from work, perhaps I’ll engage the Battle of the Mulch. (Actually, I have a To Do list of about 20 projects, chores, and errands; I’ll have to juggle those with spending time with my aforementioned brother and his family, who are here to visit for the week.)

What I’m sad about: Even Gil Thorp has a Twitter feed, and I still refuse to use that site/service. It really is my first “you goddamn kids and your crazy new technologies!” moment. Our IT dept. set one up for each of our magazines, so I evidently have to start posting things there during the workday, in order to boost traffic to our site. I’m thinking posting “Whoa! I’m editing now!”, “I should probably cut down on the office pretzels”, “I’m going to stand up now.”

What I’m worried about: That something going tragically awry if I rent a chipper to take care of the forsythia branches. That said, I did manage to reclaim around 225 square feet of my backyard, so I’ll take the risk to life and limb.

What I’m pondering: If I stop posting on this blog regularly in order to focus on a few topics that deserve long-form essays, will I discover that I’m not really capable of insightful writing and be forced to admit to my own puerility?