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DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint has been releasing one-shot anthologies on a fairly regular basis, using them to dust off old titles like Strange Adventures, The Witching Hour and Mystery in Space, which gives contributors a general theme, and likely helps the publisher maintain trademarks.
Despite once being as common as mutant superheroes are today, anthologies of any kind haven’t been readily embraced in the modern marketplace, and one imagines the ever-increasing costs of comics doesn’t help. These Vertigo titles, featuring short, generally forgettable, riff-like stories from a multitude of creators — which the law of averages suggests will include some stories a reader won’t like — will run you $7.99, just two bucks shy of an ad-free, spine-having trade paperback collection of Image Comics’ Pretty Deadly … or Vertigo’s own FPB: Federal Physics Bureau.
This year the imprint is trying something slightly different: It’s still publishing $8 anthologies, with a variety of creative teams riffing on a theme, but rather than raiding long-faded DC titles (sorry if you were waiting for a revival of More Fun Comics or Adventures of Bob Hope),Vertigo is going with a sort of printing theme. Four anthologies, published on a quarterly basis, each using one of the four basic colors of traditional printing: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. If nothing else, this will make repackaging and reselling these stories in a trade format a little easier, as the theme will be consistent between a series of anthologies.
The cyan issue debuted this week; it’s a very strikingly designed comic. The cover by designer Jared K. Fletcher is simple and understated, and it pops off the comics rack and begs for special attention. Even the two-page table of contents, in which each story is given a paint swathe-like panel of cyan/different shades of blue, is lovely (I feel tempted to make a joke about combining the thrill of reading a table of contents with the thrill of picking out a paint color, but I can’t; I genuinely dug those pages on an aesthetic level).
So the idea is rather inspired, as is the design — but how are the stories? Par for the course, I suppose. Some good, some bad, some mediocre; some clever uses of the theme, some that seem to ignore it all together. Let’s take a look, shall we?
You may have already heard about Orbital Comics’ Image Duplicator art show in London (probably via this piece at The Beat): This story is right in my wheelhouse, but I was resisting writing about it until there was a large enough stockpile of art from it to present here. The show is a reaction both to the recent Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the city’s already-iconic Tate Modern gallery, and to the BBC’s coverage of the event (which I wrote about at the time elsewhere).
Dave Gibbons is a long-standing critic of Lichtenstein (you can find footage online of him complaining about what he calls Lichtenstein’s “dishonesty” from as far back as 1993). Gibbons appeared on the BBC’s documentary to put the case for the accusations of plagiarism that may always dog Lichtenstein’s reputation. The segment featuring Gibbons debating with presenter Alastair Sooke was filmed in front of the famous “Whaam!” canvas. Sooke was all too dismissive of Irv Novick, somewhat deriding his work in order to flatter Lichtenstein. It seems odd Sooke chose to criticize Novick’s compositional decisions and praise Lichtenstein’s, when every element of Roy’s piece was lifted from Irv’s. Anyway, these new perceived slights seem to have been enough to stir Rian Hughes, Jason Atomic, and the Orbital Gallery regulars into action.