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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?
Following the debut today of Vertigo Quarterly: CMYK, a four-issue anthology series from the DC Comics imprint, writer Joe Keatinge was quick to speak out about his collaboration in the first issue with artist Ken Garing, which he says was substantially rewritten by editorial without any consultation with him.
“The issue is advertised as featuring a collaboration between Ken Garing and me, with me on story and Ken on art, but there’s an issue with this and I felt the need to make it clear,” Keatinge wrote on his blog. “The story as published does not entirely reflect what we conceived and I originally wrote. I’m going to make this as quick possible as there’s a lot going on in the world that actually matters, but I felt like, after the warm reception to Shutter and Planetoid, some people reading this might buy comics with our names on them and thought it was unfair to them to not say something.”
He explained that he was approached to contribute a story to Vertigo Quarterly, and he looped in Garing, with whom he’s working on an upcoming series. Vertigo editor Mark Doyle was “very accommodating,” Keatinge said, but upon receiving a mock-up of the completed story the writer discovered it had been changed significantly — without consultation or an opportunity for him to address the issues Vertigo sought to address.