In our short attention span culture, it’s surprising anthologies aren’t more popular. A collection of short stories by various authors in one book can be a great way to get a variety of stories, often whetting the appetite for more work by the creators. I’ve been drawn to anthologies since I was a kid, probably through my English and literature classes. Our text books were full of short stories or selections of novels from authors ranging from Mark Twain to Stephen King. Once I got past the fact that reading these stories was school work, I was able to enjoy the varied tales.
My love of anthologies relates to my love of comics, too. In the way, way back of 2007, Mark Andrew Smith and Joe Keatinge were putting together a giant comic book anthology called POPGUN and asked me to join them as an assistant editor (full co-editor for volumes 3 and 4) and contributing writer. It was an ideal way for me to start my career in comics, which had been a goal of mine since I was a kid.
One of my favorite features of the POPGUN books is that there is no theme. Themes can help tie an anthology together, letting the reader know, at least superficially, what kind of stories to expect — no theme, though, made each turn of the page a surprise. To me, it was the greatest feature of POPGUN, even if it’s a sticking point for some readers. Personally, I love the surprises, and we kept that love of the unknown and celebration of variety going for all four of the volumes to date. Working on the books also introduced me to a number of creators I might not have discovered otherwise.
Though I retired from the editing team of POPGUN with volume 4, I still love anthologies as a reader. When Dark Horse brought back DARK HORSE PRESENTS, the prospect of a monthly anthology, smaller and cheaper than the behemouth POPGUN books (which are, it must be pointed out, an incredible value per page), I got excited about getting my regular anthology fix. One common complaint about anthologies is that, odds are, a reader isn’t going to love every story in the book. That’s true, but in the good ones, you’re likely to find you’re getting more bang for your buck than the usual single issue comics in general, and likely at least the same value if you just count the pages you enjoyed.
While I love the unpredictability of anthologies sans-theme, like the aforementioned POPGUN and DARK HORSE PRESENTS, as well as the insane TITMOUSE MOOK, anthologies with themes also offer a great variety. Every western in OUTLAW TERRITORY is different, and even though most assume the stories in FLIGHT are all about flying, that isn’t the case — still, even the perception of a theme might help some folks give a book a shot.
The short story is such a great format in all mediums, and anthologies are a terrific way to get your short story fix. Next time you’re at a book store or in a comic chop, give an anthology a shot.
Here are some comic book anthologies I dig:
- POPGUN 1 – 4 (of course, I mean, c’mon)
- DARK HORSE PRESENTS (on issue 6 as of this writing)
- OUTLAW TERRITORY 1 – 2
- FLIGHT 1 – 7
- TITMOUSE MOOK 1
- WEDNESDAY COMICS
- STRANGE TALES 1 – 2
If you have any recommendations not on this admittedly too-short list, please let me know, because I’m always looking for new stuff to read.