In January, Boom! Studios are bringing out a 2014 "Mix Tape" super-sized comic anthology featuring the work of some of their most popular creators as well as introducing new creators and giving them a chance to strut their stuff. The tone of the anthology is upbeat, celebratory of comic art, and for a denizen of indie comic shows like myself, feels like a slice of that overlap between handmade comics and indie-style monthly comics. The "Mix Tape" will appear in 8.5×11 inch format, sporting a sparky dayglo cover, and containing titles like The Midas Flesh, Lumberjanes, Teen Dog, Cyanide & Happiness, and much, much more. The anthology captures the inventive spirit of comics in the 21st century and makes for a delightful reading experience.
Anthologies have long been a mainstay of comics, especially as an avenue to introduce new creators to the world, so in honor of that, I asked contributors to tell us why the anthology format challenges them artistically and what this collection has meant to them.
Hannah Means-Shannon: Why do you think an anthology format enables such a degree of creative expression for creators? What did creating your story add to your experience as a maker of comics, personally?
Rian Sygh: I think anthologies are a great way to really flex your creative brain meat. They provide both an exercise to be as concise as possible and an excuse to really experiment and get out of the box with your art and stories. Anthologies like the Mix Tape are great because they provide a forum for all these different artists with all their different perspectives to share all their weird little ideas that maybe wouldn't have worked in other formats and wouldn't have been seen otherwise. I certainly would never have been compelled to draw a comic about hamburger people without the BBMT! Creating the original character designs and my own short for the anthology really pushed me to get creative, like, extra creative. The prompts and stories were so colourful and refreshing, I felt like I really needed to push my contributions to reflect the fun atmosphere of the project.
The Mix Tape was so much fun to work on and I'm genuinely excited to see what the other artists have done!
Jake Lawrence: Anthologies are a great opportunity to try something a little different and create a comic that connects with people in only a few pages. I think it's challenging in many ways, but that's why I find it exciting and fun. Plus, it's neat to be a part of something with a bunch of other artists. I'm super excited to see what everyone else came up with! As for me, it was cool trying to come up with a small and kinda weird story that probably wouldn't have fit into a full issue of Teen Dog, but worked well just as a one off thing. It was also a nice way to add another tiny story to the Teen Dog world. Plus, its always fun to write a Thug Pug strip, I love that rude dude!
John Kovalic: The format worked particularly well for me, personally, because I was tasked with creating the first-ever Munchkin comic. Had it been the full Munchkin #1 book, that could have been pretty daunting. Instead, like a quick game of Munchkin itself, I was able to just have fun with it. Knowing that other BOOM! creators would be doing wildly different sorts of stories, with every sort of art style imaginable, was actually extremely liberating—I could get away with doing a fun, silly little comic, with no constraints. I had a great time with it!
Creating this first Munchkin short was a blast—it was a very different process from the Dork Tower comic books, for me. In particular because I got to work with great editors over at BOOM! My comics process is normally more like a tightrope walk: it's just me, on my own. So being a part of a terrific team was a very rewarding experience.
Stefan Tosheff: In my experience, working within the confines of the space I'm given in an anthology actually forces me to be more creative. I have to find a way to make my story work within those limits, and make the most of it. For myself this was actually really far from anything I'd ever done for hire. I got to write, draw, colour and letter the entire story, which was really great. It's not something I had thought I would ever get to do, and I really enjoyed it.
Braden Lamb: When I was starting out in comics, I contributed to a few anthologies published by the Boston Comics Roundtable, and I'm still contributing to anthologies like this and others. Seeing my work next to that of my peers gives me a healthy sense of creative competition to try to do my best work, and it's also a chance to do a little stylistic exploration to keep things fresh.
Carey Pietsch: It's really exciting to consider and then such a treat to get to see how your work fits into the larger whole of an anthology! It's like going into a game with the knowledge that all of your teammates are stellar; everyone ends up stepping it way up. And I was delighted to get to work with Noelle [Stevenson] and Shannon [Watters'] Lumberjanes script! I'm a big fan of the series (Brooke [Allen's] artwork has been amazing!), and this was a sweet way to wrap up a smaller side story after the grand scale of the end of that arc. I really loved the challenge of pushing the expressiveness of a mostly-silent character through acting, too—but I don't want to spoil the fun of seeing who Noelle and Shannon wrote about, so you'll have to read it and see. :)
Ryan North: I've been on both sides of the anthology table, and what I love about it in each case is seeing how far people can go with an idea, taking it in places you've never imagined when you started out. It's fun to read, it's fun to write, and hopefully it's fun to draw!
For my story, it was a chance to go back to the world of The Midas Flesh and see a little more of that world. So much of the comic takes place in space with Joey, Fatima, and Cooper on their little ship, but it's really a universe-spanning story—so any chance to see more of that universe is something I'm happy to see. Also, our short story got to address an idea I had for the book but never had a chance to fit before, so it was really satisfying to hit that note in the end after all.
Madeleine Flores: I think that an anthology format is fantastic! It's super popular in Japan and I'm glad that I get to be a part of it—it was fun having to try to get the feel of my comic across while being restricted page count wise. I hope people like it!
Look out for the 42 page Boom! Box Mix Tape 2014 in the New Year–it'll be hard to miss and you'd regret it if you did.