The Illusion of the Comic Anthology
Ever since I started reading graphic novels, I was always attracted by the idea of the anthology collection. I don’t know if this was just my frugal nature manifesting itself in the style of book I would seek out at the used book store, but I always felt like I was getting the best deal for my money. One day, I came upon an anthology of LGBTQ paranormal romance comics called The Other Side at my local comic shop. Immediately, my interest piqued. Paranormal and fantasy fiction are some of my favorite genres, and I did not often see them with a focus on queer culture. I was surprised to find that the publishers were able to stuff nineteen different stories into their tome. Needless to say, I bought the book on the same day.
Within the first night of buying the book I sat down to read it, and I couldn’t stop reading it. However, by the time I finished it, I felt a sense of dissatisfaction. It was as if I had read an entire book yet nothing at all. As attractive as nineteen stories may seem on the back of a cover, the implementation left me wanting more. To be able to fit all these stories into one anthology book, each story felt like just a concept. None of the stories had the time to be able to fully come into their own nor develop what they put forth. Because of this, I rarely felt like I was getting any stories from the book; Rather, I felt as if I was getting morsels of sentiment that weren’t backed by plot or characters.
I don’t think that the dissatisfaction I felt was because of the writers’ levels of talent (both veteran and newbie artists worked on the anthology, and I wouldn’t be able to tell who was who). I think that the concept of the book had been doomed from the start. Anthologies are tricky to work with, especially when it comes to comic writing. Anthologies allow for artists and writers to bring together a variety of ideas, including some that would not have worked as an entire novel. In that same vein, weaker stories are short enough to be forgotten if there aren’t that many of them. However, comic anthologies have a large problem that its other printed word companions do not; only so much information can fit on one page at a time. While pictures can tell a thousand words, the information transmitted by a single panel could be told using a fraction of the space the panel takes up with text. With even less space to work with, comics are left as either well-polished web comics at best or rough drafts of concepts at worst.
The concept of the anthology, especially the comic anthology, is tempting. The ability to transmit many different story ideas in one single volume seems like a bargain to the consumer and a marketable product for the supplier. However, in trying to do too many things at once, each individual story falters and fails to become something of its own. I would love to hear where you guys stand on the concept of the anthology. Can it work in comics? Can it work in written text? I would love to know what you think!