Robot 6

Do comics sell short stories short?

From Warren Ellis & Colleen Doran's 'Superidol'

In recent years there has been a resurgence of anthologies in comics, and with good reason. Anthologies offer a taste of numerous styles through varied creators telling a concise story. Even if one story is lackluster, there’s several other stories in the anthology that should outweigh that to offer an interesting package.

Anthologies are a common trend in the wider publishing medium, especially when it comes to fantasy and sci-fi — genres that are spiritual brethren to the comics medium by and large. But one thing that hasn’t crossed over is short-story collections. Short-story collections are — what else — collections of short story with one unifying point — the author. Just look at Joe Hill, prose author and comics writer of the IDW series Locke & Key. His first book was a collection of his short stories called 20th Century Ghosts.

The closest thing comics have done to that is the very-missed DC series Solo, which tapped one creator to do a series of stories in a 22-page comic. That project went away far too soon, and the idea of a comic book short-story collection has remained a mute subject for years. But what if publishers reached into the back-catalog of today’s top writers and collected short stories they’ve done for anthologies or online and combined them into a book?

Take Warren Ellis for example. He’s been working actively in comics since 1994, and has done a number of short comics for anthologies, back-ups as well as online one-off strips including the excellent “Superidol” with Colleen Doran. Here’s a list of a couple, with loads more out there:

  • “Candy Flower Napalm” with Terry Shoemaker (from Akira #38 from 1995)
  • “Judge Edwina’s Strange Cases: Feed Me!” with Sean Phillips (from Judge Dredd Magazine #7 in 1991)
  • “Dada 331″ with Phil Winslade (from A1 #6 in 1992)
  • “Sugarvirus” with Martin Chaplin (oneshot from 1993)
  • “Superidol” with Colleen Doran (published at in 2001)
  • “The Operation: Friday I’m In Love” with Phil Hester (from Oni Press Color Special 2002)
  • “Poppy” with Lea Hernandez (published at in 2000)
  • “Better Living Through Chemistry” with Brian Michael Bendis (from Negative Burn #37 from 1996)

Ellis isn’t the only one with short stories floating out in back issue bins and the internet — Alan Moore, Garth Ennis, Mark Millar and even some younger creators like Matt Fraction. Would you by a short story collection by your favorite comics writer OR artist? Who would you want to see a short story collection from?



I was just thinking about this all week! I read Adrian Tomine quite a lot, and his early Optic Nerve books are all essentially short stories. Even 32 Stories came out to collect some of the work that didn’t get serialized.

Minor nitpick, but short-story collections don’t always have one unifying point. Sure, sometimes collections are assembled thematically, or there’s some kind of framing story that links them all together (however loosely). But often enough, the only unifying point is that they are stories that are short. :)

As a Brit, I’m contractually bound to point out that the canonical examples of short-stories in comics are 2000AD’s Future Shocks. I don’t know if they’ve been published in America yet, but in the UK you can get two TPBs that have the meat of these stories. First is “Complete Future Shocks” by Alan Moore, which speaks for itself. Second is “The Best of Tharg’s Future Shocks”, which contains stories by, among others, Peter Milligan, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison. Import them if you need to, but buy them you must.

I’m sorry, I don’t know why I went a little Yoda at the end there.

The Ugly American

October 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

No, they just overcharge.

Steven R. Stahl

October 5, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I”d have to know how many pages each story had, or the average length of the stories, to decide whether a collection was even worth considering. In a prose short story, a writer can have up to 9,000 words to work with. What can a comics writer do in five pages, seven, or eleven? If he has to introduce a character to the reader and establish the basic situation, how much room will be left for anything else? The Marvel short stories I’ve read generally assume that a reader is familiar with the characters. Even given that familiarity, the Marvel short stories I’ve seen over the past year have been weak.

Perhaps I’m uninformed, due to unfamiliarity with indie anthologies, but I can’t think of a single comics writer whose collection of short stories would entice me. Below a certain number of pages, the comics format is more of a hindrance than a benefit in telling a story.


Issues of Solo weren’t 22 pages, it was a double-sized series.

Fuck yeah I’m down for short stories. I read that Azz/Risso Spirit backup the other day and remembered that those dudes rock a short better than most. I’d read a book of just short stories by those two no problem. Or shit, just bring back Solo.


October 5, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Rather than just stories by one author, I’m puzzled as to why Vertigo haven’t released collections – even best of’s – of Flinch, or the various ‘weird’ anthologies they did in the late 90’s – from romance, to westerns to war.
I’ve picked up quite a few cheaply in back issue bins, and there’s a lot more quality than you’d probably expect.
They also have a real ‘who’s who’ of creators working across them, and some of the stories are dynamite.

I would totally buy a book of short stories by a single artist or writer, such as Alan Moore or Skottie Young (though I don’t know that he has done any short stories). I would be really intrigued to see short story books by someone I had not read before, particularly, to get a flavor of what they can do. I love other anthologies, like Flight, that include a wide variety of art and writers. Of course, I would hope that a short story comic anthology of a well known writer/artist would be the same average cost as other anthologies.

i wish DC would do another Wednesday Comics. maybe not in the same format, but just a book of short strips by creators released every week, bi weekly, monthly, whatever.

What people need to do is READ 2000AD.

You’re not wrong, mr. pants. Hell, I mentioned 2000AD in the very second comment, but, with nary a peep following, it looks like no-one read that either.

Even Angela, who would “totally buy” a book of short stories by Alan Moore seems to have missed my mention of a book of short stories by Alan Moore being available. Oh my.

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