For Comicosity’s recent “Most Anticipated Comics of 2018” list, I chose the upcoming anthology mini-series Twisted Romance, and mentioned at the time that I think anthologies are a good way to become familiar with a genre.
I developed that view largely from my experience with prose fiction, specifically my experience when I started to read science fiction and fantasy. I think that reading anthologies can help fans of a genre to try out stories from multiple creators and get an idea of the range of stories within that genre. A new fan can get an idea of the landscape, and an older fan can broaden their reading. Reading anthologies can help encourage readers to keep trying more stories in a genre or medium, even despite finding some stories they might not have enjoyed. Because one book has multiple stories, they might find something they enjoy and have a stepping stone to try out other stories by a particular creator or stories within a similar subgenre.
Considering that I think anthologies can be helpful based on prior experience, I am trying to read more comics anthologies to use this same method to expand my reading of the comics medium. Here are some thoughts on three of the many types of anthologies, with examples of some volumes I’ve recently read.
There are anthologies that include stories in a particular genre, sometimes with a specific demographic in mind to promote diversity. Oath: An Anthology of New (Queer) Heroes fits into this category.
I love superheroes, and I’m glad to see that there are many creators out there who are trying to create new superhero characters. This anthology shows the various angles from which a new superhero story can be approached including: origin stories, action adventures, a day in the life, everyday heroes who help people, character relationships, heroes who learn from their mistakes, and stories with an important message at the end.
This book gave me hope that there are creators out there who are not intimidated by the big names in the genre and are rather enthusiastic about creating new superheroes. There were several stories in this volume that have stayed with me since I read it, and they have characters about whom I would gladly read longer series. I think an anthology like this can be good for readers who are looking for hero stories that keep a minority audience in mind.
By creating an anthology in which queer inclusion is standard, readers can see more queer superheroes in one volume than they are likely to see in most other books. Without the expectation that any one queer story has to represent all queer readers, there is room for more variety in the stories themselves.
There are anthologies that provide the reader with a chance to read stories that fall into a specific subgenre within a subgenre, and Can I Pet Your Werewolf fits into this category.
I admit to being a reader who enjoys traditionally-horror characters (e.g. werewolves) in non-horror stories, such as friendship, family, and romance stories. When I heard about this book, it seemed just the kind of thing I would enjoy, and I was not disappointed. This volume includes fun and heartfelt comics that show the everyday lives of werewolves and the difficulties that come from being one. The stories range from the funny to the serious, with quite a few being a combination of both aspects.
This anthology shows how genre stories can be different from how they are traditionally portrayed and how fans can reimagine an old genre in new ways. I can imagine a reader who does not usually enjoy scary werewolf stories still enjoying the stories in this book. These are the kinds of stories I would usually have expected in reimagining, such fan fiction or in stories shared online among friends, and I was glad to see them published in a book.
There are anthology comics that serve the function of providing further details about an established world. Bitch Planet: Triple Feature fits into this category.
A companion to Bitch Planet, this Triple Feature anthology series contains three stories per issue that are set in the same world as the main story. Through the viewpoints of different characters, we see what this dystopian world is like for characters other than those who’ve been sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost (the titular “Bitch Planet”). This anthology series serves the purpose of expanding the world that we see in the main series. Although one could argue about its canonical status (given that the creators are different from the ones working on the main series) the stories fit together wonderfully and have many of the same themes that exist in the main series.
Somewhere between canon and fan fiction, it lets the reader see how different creators would imagine the sexist dystopia portrayed in this world. As with the main series, the stories contain events that we can easily imagine happening today, despite the fact that several incorporate futuristic technology. Reading this anthology series gave me a greater appreciation for the world that this story is set in and the possibilities for the story to address a wide variety of ways in which sexism manifests in the real world. It also gave me an appreciation for how such side stories can develop a world.
I think this series is worth reading for fans of Bitch Planet, as we see how women in different social situations are all affected by sexism, though in many different ways based on their various circumstances.
These are just three of the types of anthologies that exist, of course, based on what I’ve read recently. I hope that readers will consider checking out some of these books. As a new reader, anthologies have provide a way for me to expand my reading horizons and learn more about a medium that I started reading only a few years ago. I hope that fellow new readers will consider the value that anthologies can bring to their own reading and embark on this adventure with me.