Sunday, April 14, 2013

Discuss: Anthology Titles

Doug:  Thanks to Edo Bosnar for the inspiration for today's post, from a comment he made in our second go-round on reprints we'd like to see.


Rip Jagger said...

I was really introduced to the Golden Age anthology comic when DC did those stunning Millennium reprints over a decade ago. In some of those, we really got a great taste of what it was like to read a complete comic from the early 40's, with a lead and lots of back ups.

Anthologies in my reading life have been limited mostly to reprints. Marvel had Fantasy Masterpieces, Marvel Tales, Marvel's Collector Item Classics and such. DC had their 80-page specials. Later of course they had those awesome 100-page books. But true anthologies didn't really show up again until DC did their Dollar Comic experiment, which alas failed.

We've seen sci-fi and horror trotted out from time to time, but the true anthology like an Adventure Comics filled with different kinds of features just doesn't exist. Dark Horse is the last to try it I think with DHP (Dark Horse Presents) and that's noble but doesn't seem to have caused a lot of imitation.

That said the anthology title will likely never catch hold simply because of costs. We forget that comics stayed ten cents for so very long because publishers could keep chipping away at those awesome page counts. When the product finally became so tiny that further reduction seemed pointless, the prices began to rise. The DHP costs eight bucks now I think and I don't know the page count of an issue.

The comic book anthology has become the trade paperback, although dedicated to a single character most of the time. I personally think one of the reasons we all got so excited over Marvel's First trades was that anthology like feel they communicated. Included in a single book were superheroes, westerns, war, horror, and a few other things too.

I remember in the late 70's and early 80's when paperback publishers tried to make magazines fit into that format (Destinies and Weird Tales both tried it and Weird Heroes was a vague attempt at it). These remind of what Marvel might do to tap the crowd excited by Marvel Firsts. I'd buy an anthology called "Marvel Seconds", wouldn't you.

Hey, it's already got a title that makes it ideal for Half-Price Books. Maybe that's a problem.

Rip Off

Inkstained Wretch said...

I loved DC's Dollar comics. What a bargain! New stories, reprints of classic Gold and Silver Age tales. It was always a thrill when I would run across a tattered copy in the dollar bin. (I know: Ironic, right?)

It's a pity they couldn't be made to work. I guess it was inevitable though. Without regular recurring features sales must have been too hit or miss.

The various attempts to revive it were always interesting. Remember when Action Comics became Action Comics Weekly? Nice concept, but then even I gave up after a while. Too many of the features just weren't that good.

It seems to me that a lot of team comics were actually ersatz anthology titles. Different characters would be featured in consecutive issues, along with different guest stars. Anybody notice how, for example, during John Byrne's run on Alpha Flight they rarely all worked together as a team? The title could just have easily been called Canadian Super-hero Action Monthly.

Ray Tomczak said...

I had that issue of Adventure pictured. It was my introduction to the New Gods. I also really enjoyed World's Finest's time as a Dollar Comic.
Toward the end of the seventies, DC tried to revive it science fiction anthologies, picking up Mystery in Space with #111 and introducing a short lived Dollar Comic called Time Warp.
There was some good stuff in those books. MIS #111 contains a beautiful wordless story drawn by Jim Aparo, while TW#5 has my second favorite time-travel story (the first being Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder") "...Until I Find A Way In Time."

The Groovy Agent said...

As a friend is so fond of reminding me, two stories in a mag makes it an anthology, so DC is doing lots of 'em these days. However, I'm with you guys; we're talking a mag with several stories, thicker than the average mag, like the 80 Page Giants, the 100 Page Super Spectaculars (Wooooooooooow!!), the Tabloid sized mags, and the Dollar Comics and of course the great Golden Age mags. That is my favorite format; I love it more than any comic format ever. I always felt I was getting my money's worth when I bought an anthology. Because of the outrageous prices of today's mags, fans avoid them because they don't want to pay more for stories they don't like just to get the stories they do like. Modern publishing has killed the anthology for the average reader (Dark Horses' excellent attempts notwithstanding).

I dearly wish the format would make a comeback. And I don't mean the kiddified mags that Marvel and DC sporadically release to please the cartoon crowd. Shonen Jump was on to something years ago, but no one joined them, and now where's that far-out mag? Sigh.

Sorry to be rambling on a Sunday morning, but I hope you get my drift. I miss, miss, miss the anthologies of yore.

Oh, one other thing: while I wouldn't call DC's Dollar Comics of the late 70s a smash success, I'd hesitate to label them "failures", as well. The format did last about five years and spanned many a mag...

See why I read the posts but don't respond much? I can't shut up, lol!!

Doc Savage said...

I would love a good anthology title...problem is, they usually aren't very good. The publisher is going to put what it considers top talent on a top-tier character or team comic. Anthology mags from the '70s had maybe 1 or 2 decent features and the rest looked like amateur hour. Seriously, I was reading some I bought at the bargain bin and wound up skipping entire stories just because the art was so poor. Even the Green Arrow backups in Detective around '84 were just so badly drawn I felt cheated that i paid for the pages were wasted on it. I think that's the biggest obstacle/hurdle for anthology magazines--quality control. Given that Marvel & D.C. can't even manage tonmake their top comics any good, I'd hate to see what leftovers they sling together in an anthology.

As for reprints, I'd love to see Superman Family, Batman Family, and World's Finest from the anthology days. I'd also love to get the backups of Airwave, Atom, and Aquaman that used to run in Action Comics. I used to buy Action for the backups as I'm not much of a Supeman fan. Oh, and the Huntress backups from Wonder Woman were pretty good, better than the lead feature.

Anonymous said...

I used to love the DC Blue Ribbon Digests (which were reprints not new stories, but still good); Detective Comics usually had some interesting backup stories too.

Mike W.

Edo Bosnar said...

Absolutely loved the anthology titles; and even though I was and am more of a Marvel boy, I have to admit DC really dominated with the anthology titles. I was a little late in the game for the 100-page spectaculars, but I did get a few of them. I think Super Team Family #4 is the first of these I had, and I had a few of the early issues of DC Super Stars as well.

But later I was really into the dollar comics. I not only had that issue of Adventure pictured here, I become a regular reader immediately thereafter. There was so many great stories in there: New Gods, then JSA, Flash stories generally better than those in the regular series, those outstanding Deadman features; hardly a dud in the lot. I think the Wonder Woman stories were the weakest in terms of story and art. I continued reading Adventure when it transitioned to a 'double-feature' book with Plastic Man and Starman.
I also loved World's Finest - more often than not, I usually enjoyed the 'extras' more than the main Superman/Batman story.
I think the two 'family' (i.e. Superman and Batman) were generally the weakest, except that the last few issues of Batman Family were really outstanding - really strong stories and really good art by Jim Aparo, Michael Golden, Joe Staton... And this continued for while in Detective when it became the new Batman family title and turned to dollar format.
As for non-superhero stuff, I recall TimeWarp being mostly quite good during its all-too-brief run.
And Mike W., I used to love DC's digests as well, had a whole stack of them, but I think they merit a separate post (maybe considered together with Marvel's pocketbooks).

Humanbelly said...

The title I haven't seen mentioned that, to me, represents a lot of the pitfalls of potential modern anthology titles is "Mavel Comics Presents"-- from the early 90's, remember? A large, weekly title from Marvel for, I believe, a somewhat higher cover price. It suckered everyone in right off the bat with Barry Windsor-Smith's introduction of Wolverine as the newly-escaped, monitors-strapped-to-his-privates Weapon X. And. . . I couldn't tell you what a single one of the other three stories was.

I was a hopeless Marvel Zombie at that point, and kept shelling out for that book week after week for a loooooooong time, even after I recognized that it was almost exclusively 2nd (or 3rd) rate material, try-outs, or bones tossed to fading professionals.

It also would require almost the opposite of current story-telling conventions. In the anthologies, it's necessary to get a hefty amount of story-telling packed into a tightly limited number of pages. Today's decompression-mania (although I admit, I'm several months out of touch now)actually places a higher value on nearly inert story-progression spread over as many pages as possible. As mentioned, this is obviously attributable to the publishers having a long-view eye on the more lucrative TPB market.

Ah, it's all too bad, it is. . .


Doc Savage said...

Solo Avengers was halfway decent at least for a while...a nice way to keep second- and third-string Avengers active. The Hawkeye lead was pretty good, the backups were variable quality and suffered from being switched out regularly--probably would have been more interesting if there were some longer stories with Monica Rambeau, Mockingbird, et al.

Doug said...

Just a couple of comments on the already very good comments above.

Edo, Michael Golden's Man-Bat series in the last few issues of Batman Family was wonderful to look at. I always wished the main series of the Dynamite Duo would have had someone like Golden, or a strong journeyman like Buckler at the helm rather than Don Heck.

Matt and HB raise good points about many of the anthologies being filled with either B/C-level characters or like talent. As HB said, the notable exception was MCP with Windsor-Smith and Buscema on Wolverine.

Matt, in regard to Solo Avengers: if I recall, that was basically a split-book. I'm not sure I'd qualify that as an anthology, but if you would -- then Marvel's Silver Age split-books might be the best crafted ever. Talk about a lot of bang for your 12c!

I always felt a bit disappointed in the Giant-Size issues that the lead story wasn't truly a "novel-length thriller in the Mighty Marvel Manner!" While generally longer than the 20-21 pages we'd have gotten in the monthly, the reprints did irk me a bit. Looking back I can now appreciate them, but as a child I felt a bit deceived.


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, the lead Batman story in those last three issues of Batman Family were also drawn by Golden. Once Detective assumed the "Family" mantle, Don Newton usually did the art on the Batman stories. Great stuff.

By the way, Marvel Fanfare counts as an anthology title, doesn't it? Can't believe it completely slipped my mind when I wrote my first comment. I loved that series during the time I was reading it. It always had great or at least fun stories, and nobody can make the complaint about B-list talent being involved.

Doc Savage said...

I always felt cheated when half an annual or special or "giant" was reprints. Not just because sometimes it was a story I already had, but just in general I wanted something new. Never gave a hoot about, say, the Justice Society!

david_b said...

Agreeing on the Solo Avengers book, I thought that was a super idea, a great outlet for Clint to keep him in the limelight, yet still allow a rotating cast of other B or C type characters to get some ink time during the 80s..

I believe I collected the first dozen issues, the Hawkeye story art was pretty good. Despite having to put up with a solo Doc Druid or Monica story, it was still fun to read..

As for others anthology titles, the covers were always pretty good (as shown here..), even if the interior art stank, like with Heck on Batman Family. At least you had good Dillin or Adams art on the covers (love that Triple Action cover..).

Also great were the DC Superstars or Specials, such as that super Titans issue and the GL special, both again had awesome covers..:

Doug said...

Edo --

Oh, so we had Golden sort of "bookending" the stories in the book. I think the only issue I had with Golden art may have been the last issue -- #17, maybe?

Sure Marvel Fanfare was an anthology, and one full of heavy hitters. I think, although I don't have very many issues, that the Baxter paper and A-list artists made that a special title.


Edo Bosnar said...

Doug, ish #16 had only a Man Bat story drawn by Golden; issues 17-20 all had Batman stories with his art as well (man, the GCD sure is a helpful tool!).
And thanks for those cover links, david_b. Personally, I recall having (and I have to thank the GCD again for helping me with issue #s) DC Super Stars #2 (featuring Adam Strange and other space heroes), #5 (Flash reprints, including Golden Age) and #7, my absolute favorite of the lot: it had a beautiful Jim Aparo cover and reprints of Aquaman stories from the 1960s. I read that one to tatters.
Another favorite of mine was one of the earlier dollar comics: the 5-star Super-Hero Spectacular. I pulled that one off the spinner rack because of that awesome Neal Adams cover, and it didn't disappoint: five all-new stories featuring the Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, Atom and Batman, that last story featuring some of that all-too-rare art by Mike Nasser/Netzer. That's one I would love to re-acquire, but I've never seen a copy cheaper than $10.

Ray Tomczak said...

My current copy of 5-Star Super Hero Spectacular I got for under a dollar, though its not in great shape. Good enough for a reading copy, though. That issue was my first look at Kobra, a villain I absolutely love. I've since collected the entire 7 issue run of his series. (Apparently, the story in 5-Star would have been issue #8) The Green Lantern story in that issue was Joe Staton's first work on the character. If my copy were in better condition, I'd have asked him to sign it when I met him at Gem City Comic Con in Dayton a few weeks back.

Doc Savage said...

I got 5-Star for under a dollar, too, but my copy had the tabloid pages still connected so I had to use a pen knife to open it up and read it. Still haven't read the whole thing.

Edo, I bet if you hold out and check bargain bins a decent copy will turn up for you at a reasonable price. I got a bunch of early '80s Moench-Newton Batman and Moench-Colan Detective for under a dollar each recently, and when I check dealers online they are asking like $17 for them just in mediocre condition.

david_b said...

Yes I've seen that 5-Star issue and it looks like a beaut..!! Was keeping an eye on it to buy soon.., but am keeping my purchases down lately to pay bills. I've been buying up some nice Silver Age Worlds Finest with Adams covers (ish 183 and 184 from '69), and JUST got a copy of Thanos vs Avengers for under $20 shipped. Life is good.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to anthologies, I don't think of American comics at all - my mind heads straight to the UK, where the weekly anthology has long been a standard. 2000AD is the obvious one to mention; home of Judge Dredd, but also many other fine titles, and of course breeding ground for talent that eventually wound up working "across the pond."

It has many predecessors, though - Eagle was before my time, but for the British (and in my case Australian) Marvel fan in the sixties, the Power Comics range filled the niche, with titles like Smash, Pow, Wham, Fantastic and Terrific...all in black and white, but who cared? The rest of any issue was filled with either home grown adventure strips illustrated by top local or Spanish talent, or comedy strips by the likes of the legendary Ken Reid or Leo Baxendale.

TV21 was another beauty,created to cater for the fans of Gerry Anderson's puppet TV shows such as Stingray, Fireball XL5 and towering above them Thunderbirds, lavishly illustrated by Frank Bellamy (the photogravure printing ensured quality reproduction of really beautiful work).

Unfortunately, none of the above titles were particularly long lived. Whenever you saw the heading "Exciting news inside, chums!" on the cover, you knew it was the inevitable announcement that your favourite weekly was going to be rolled into another one.

There were other titles in the early 70s: a line of Marvel reprints, plus more TV spinoffs (Countdown, TV Action), and one I liked called Vulcan, which was again reprints, but of quality material like The Steel Claw, The House of Dolmann, and best all all, The Trigan Empire (a sort of ancient Rome with high-tech situation).

I don't know if there's just something about the American fan mindset that has trouble with anthology formats, or whether there just isn't sufficient talent to produce the material (surely not?)...I suspect the UK style would never catch on if only because of the idea of black and white printing (the one consistent criticism I read about the Essentials packaging).

B Smith

Edo Bosnar said...

Thanks for the advice, Matt, but since I'm not living in the states any more, I have no LCS to visit that has dollar bins full of Bronze Age goodness. So for that kind of stuff I'm pretty much restricted to online searches. And before anyone suggests eBay - been there, done that. Even when I find a cheaper copy, the seller quotes an outrageous shipping rate.

B Smith, I don't think American fans have a problem with the anthology format as such, it's just that these days the cost of a single issue would be too high. As indicated by the comments here, anthology titles were really common in the Bronze Age and before. Besides the super-hero titles mentioned here, there were also the various horror, western and sci fi titles - again DC led the way here (esp. with Weird War Tales, which often combined all three of these genres), but Marvel had a few, and I think most of Charlton's output in the '70s/early '80s can be considered anthology titles. And it seems like before American fans weren't even put off by black & white, as shown by the popularity of magazines like Savage Sword, Marvel Preview and all of those Warren titles.
By the way, re: Trigan Empire - I've seen some scans of this on other comics blogs before, looks really nice.

david_b said...

Side-note, I just opened up World's Finest 183 which I mentioned getting on my earlier post..

Hmmm, the team of Ross Andru/Mike Esposito drawing Supes and Batman in 1969.. Seemed very odd, having not seen Mr. Andru do anything prior to Spiderman, and especially Superman/Batman.

Great Adams cover though..!!

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