Between the Panels: Lovely Flying Beasts By Lance Victor Eaton (June 2007)
Those clicking through hoping to find a review about a lovely flying beast may be either disappointed or elated to discover that this column is looking at three different anthologies dealing with romance, flight, and sasquatches (big foots, yetis, and abominable snowmen too). Anthologies act like buffets in the comic world. If based upon a particular theme, these collections explore just how many different ways one can utilize that theme. In the three examples below, themes of love, flight and supernatural humanlike beasts provide the centers around which all stories revolve, and yet each artist or team produces a distinctly different idea or executes it in a unique style.
Now, the premise of Project: Romantic: An Anthology Dedicated to Love and Love Stuff (edited by Chris Pitzer) might scare away typical comic book fans, but they would be missing out. Sure, the cover looks cute in all pink with contrasting characters embracing one another. But with over thirty short pieces, this collection delivers the goofiest and zaniest commentaries on love ever compiled. The stories come at readers from all different angles and the art, too, dramatically differs from one piece to the next. Many are only a few pages long and very sparse in words, while the color styles are striking and diverse. Some stories embrace love while others mock it; yet some do both simultaneously.
Who would want to read an entire anthology of stories about sasquatch? Probably someone who owns every season of the X-Files on DVD, right? One of the most underrated anthologies of the year is Josh Howard Presents Sasquatch. The stories range from the amusing to the touching. While many have color, others run in black and white, that choice often blending well with tone and atmosphere. And while some pieces err on the side of goofiness, others delve into the realm of science-fiction. But they prove deeper than the pulp-fiction image one might associate with the anthology's theme.
For the average comic book reader, Kazu Kibuishi's Flight Volume One proves the easiest of the trio to justify. It's an anthology centered on the amazing ability to defy gravity (albeit temporarily). Originally published in 2004, this collection of over twenty stories provides a cornucopia of imagination on the topic of soaring through the air. Whether it's mechanical or natural, abstract or concrete, these tales take readers on the first few steps off the ground. And, just as in the other two anthologies, this collection ranges in style, color, and narrative devices.
Readers certainly won't like all the stories in any anthology they come across, but more often than not, they like more stories than they dislike. While not a common practice in the graphic novel arena, the use of anthologies (as apparent with this lot) appears to be increasing. This is beneficial for many reasons, not the least of which is that it gives emerging artists in the field a chance to publish their work and get their foot in the door. For readers, it exposes them to a wide array of styles and artists that they might not have known otherwise.
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