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One-Artist Anthology Comics

Daniel Clowes, Eightball #17, 1996

As if it wasn’t enough that comics are the domain of the obsessive control freak, there is a cartooning sect that perfectly defines the creative mania responsible for some of our greatest works: the one-artist anthology. It’s a publishing sensibility that may have had its moment in the sun decades ago, but it’s never really been a dominant point of interest for cartoonists. That’s not surprising; carrying the weight of multiple narratives issue after issue is not particularly alluring to those who just want to draw cool stuff for a page rate, or for those who just want to tell their stories one book at a time. What may seem like a dated platform to some may still be a viable option for those who would rather pace themselves as such, and for readers who appreciate the richer values that only this format can provide. I traced the lineage of the one-artist anthology to the underground comix movement, I waded through the black & white boom as well as the ’90s glut, and I examined the slim offerings that our current dry spell is responsible for. Looking back has reaffirmed my belief that some of the highest achievements in comics are results of the finely tuned succession which only the one-artist anthology format can lay claim to.

Starting Point

Robert Crumb is responsible for every single line in all twenty-eight pages of Zap #1. It was 1968, and Apex Novelties published the collection of different comic stories during the emerging counterculture. This first Zap issue wasn’t technically the first full comic book that Crumb had drawn, though. Brian Zahn intended to publish the contents of what would later be Zap #0 as early as 1967, but that plan fell through when Zahn left the country with the original art. Crumb found photocopies of the pages and had them published as Zap #0, which was released after #2 came out in ‘68. What we’re left with is two solid issues of pure Crumb unencumbered by any type of demands outside his own acid drenched discernment. Crumb wasn’t interested in branding himself through a comic-book title, either, much to the chagrin of mentor/friend Harvey Kurtzman. Crumb kept changing the identity of the comics he was doing every issue. In just two years, he independently created entire stand-alone titles such as Despair, Uneeda Comix, Homegrown Funnies, Your Hytone Comics, XYZ Comics, The People’s Comics, and Snatch Comics (with six pages by S. Clay Wilson). Kurtzman wondered why Crumb hadn’t built a solid home front for his work, the way Kurtzman had done with MAD and Help (not so much with the short-lived Trump and Humbug). Regardless, Robert Crumb had virtually created the one-artist anthology from scratch, producing page after page of everything that came to him. It’s a method that has worked for him throughout his career.

Only Journeymen

Mike Sekowsky, Showcase #90, March 1970

An unlikely candidate for a one-artist anthology is a Mike Sekowsky issue of Showcase. This was the tryout title for DC Comics and each month featured a different lead character. Sekowsky was left to edit, create, write, pencil, and most likely color the last six issues before its projected cancellation. He devoted entire issues to stories such as Jason’s Quest and Manhunter 2070, but it was specifically in issue #90 where he placed a teen romance adventure up against a couple of his space thriller pages and threw in a faux-house ad for upcoming stories, to boot. Such complete control in a mainstream comic was unprecedented (the next notable example would be Jack Kirby’s return to DC five months later), yet there’s no coincidence that such freedom was available in a title with little hope for success.

 

Steve Ditko, Wha--!?!, 1975

Inspired by his contribution to Wally Wood’s self-published anthology Witzend, Steve Ditko took the black & white small press plunge with his sociopolitical Avenging World (’73) and two issues of his Objectivist vigilante Mr. A (’73 & ’75). It wasn’t until his next comic, Wha–!?!, published by Bruce Henderson, that Ditko decided to introduce several thematically different characters in their own tales. That single issue allowed Ditko the room to meld his philosophy with the physical heroism he perfected at Marvel and DC, along with a couple of random morality plays. It was the first superhero one-artist anthology. Ditko wouldn’t return to the format for another decade with two full color issues of Charlton Action, edited by Robin Snyder. There, Ditko presented his Static character as the main draw, but the back-ups varied in focus, mood, and even page layout. This led to three dense issues of Ditko’s World, published by Renegade Press. It was as if Ditko could hardly contain his swelling of ideas and imagery, with most every corner of these comics furnishing his stamp. Of his generation, Ditko was the only one who continually expressed his beliefs through this setup, and he certainly had a strong enough voice to carry it through several decades.

Steve Ditko, Charlton Action #11 featuring Static, October 1985

Somewhere In California

Hernandez Bros., Love and Rockets #1, 1981

Love and Rockets is more of a two-artist anthology (three-artist for the first few issues), self-published by the Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez back in ’81, and picked up a year later by Fantagraphics. The title was a healthy mix of individual stand-alone tales, recurring characters, and all types of genres. From quasi-autobio, romance, and adventure to urban culture, art history, and exercises in made up languages. Concentrating on his sprawling Palomar stories didn’t stop Gilbert from throwing in stories about old punk 45s, Adrian Adonis, or locker rooms. Even the back covers were more excuses to just… try shit. They were inspired and unafraid of the trends of the time and the editorial forces that wouldn’t even know what to do with such work. This was before there was any “alternative” scene or built in audience for this stuff. Love and Rockets was their world and these were the conditions the Hernandez brothers were setting.

 

That type of authoritative abandon is the essence of the one-artist anthology. Love and Rockets remains a complementary two-artist institution to this day, but make no mistake, the Bros. got to that level on their respective terms.

Insane Masochists/Creative People Make These

So far we have Crumb, Sekowsky, Ditko, and the Hernandez Bros. as a sort of template to go forward from. Allow me to dote on a few follow-up notables.

Chester Brown, Yummy Fur #1, Vortex edition, December 1986

Chester Brown’s mini-comic, Yummy Fur, was made from ’83 to ’85, when Brown individually distributed it to book and zine shops in Toronto, lasting seven issues. Vortex Comics reprinted the material in ’86 starting with a brand new first issue. Brown went on to produce new and original content after the reprints ran out, causing Yummy Fur to reach seminal heights within the burgeoning independent comics community. The most prominent stories to emerge from Yummy Fur were “Ed, The Happy Clown”, an adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew, and Brown’s own autobiographical material. Yummy Fur switched to publishers Drawn & Quaterly for the final eight issues before concentrating on a different story altogether in ’94’s Underwater.

Throwing a monkey wrench into the chronology I’ve set up, but worth isolating due to its impact, Dan Clowes hit one of the highest notes in comics with his very own version of MAD Magazine in ’89: Eightball. Published by Fantagraphics fresh off his run on Lloyd Llewellyn, Clowes used this last-ditch effort to create one of the best comics of the 20th century. To elaborate, “last ditch” in this case meant a final attempt for Clowes to do exactly what he wanted to do through comic books. Dissatisfied with his previous work and the industry he operated within, Clowes told his demented and hilarious stories without fear of being denied, disliked, or ignored. Like the Hernandez Bros., Clowes was pushed to greatness when backed against the wall. Eightball hit its stride quickly, but Clowes was on fire when he lined his razor sharp hilarity with stories such as the poignant “Caricature”, the nostalgic “Like A Weed, Joe”, and the eerie “Glue Destiny”. Eightball is a masterpiece, a standard every cartoonist should take a cue from.

Daniel Clowes, Advance Comics, 1994

With one more detour from the timeline, Chris Ware rounds off this portion of exemplars by virtue of his Acme Novelty Library, first published by Fantagraphics in ’93 (well after the one-artist trend had formed). Taking control of the form with unparalleled precision, Ware made every issue of Acme into a work of staggering caliber. This periodical-as-art was always changing in size, length, theme, and with a masterful attention to detail. Ware treated the medium with respect (a respect it perhaps didn’t deserve) and created a layered, personal opus on mere sheets of paper. Acme is a true testament to the value of the single issue, the very value of comics, and although Ware mainly serialized his Jimmy Corrigan story, he never let a chance to put together a one-artist show go to waste, #15 being the last and most diverse one.

 

Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library #1, winter 1993-94

The Deluge

After their initial step with Love and Rockets, Fantagraphics published most of the solo comics in the mid- to late- ’80s and beyond: Peter Bagge created a slew of characters under Neat Stuff (’85), Jim Woodring had a dream comic called Jim (’87), Joe Sacco’s miscellany was found in Yahoo (’88), Scott Russo’s Jizz (’91) managed to last ten issues, while Al Columbia pumped out a couple of beautifully drawn The Biologic Show comics (’94) before realizing that plots and schedules were for suckers. Julie Doucet documented her growth as a cartoonist by self-publishing Dirty Plotte (until D&Q began publishing it, same thing happened to Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve). David Mazzucchelli switched gears from being a highly acclaimed mainstream artist to self-publishing his RAW-inspired anthology, Rubber Blanket, in ‘91. In just three (now out-of-print) issues, Mazzucchelli showed off extensive growth as an artist, a writer, and a publisher, creating some of the most memorable comic book short stories in the process. Johnny Ryan self-published his Angry Youth Comix, Mary Fleener released three issues of Fleener by way of Zongo Comics, and Evan Dorkin was consistently funny in his jam-packed Dork comic from Slave Labor Graphics. Let us not forget Dame Darcy’s Meat Cake, John Porcellino’s King-Cat Comics, Ivan Brunetti’s Schizo, Dylan Horrocks’ Pickle, Sam Henderson’s Magic Whistle, Jessica Abel’s Artbabe, Jay Stephens’ Sin, John Kerschbaum’s The Wiggly Reader, Carol Lay’s Good Girls or the Hernandez Bros. striking out on their own with Gilbert’s New Love and Jaime’s Penny Century. Finally, as someone who was always at odds with the mainstream, yet such a fixture within it, Barry Windsor-Smith crafted nine (out of a projected twelve) issues of his Storyteller series through Dark Horse Comics in ‘96. A couple of the serializations within that title were later individually collected and published by – you guessed it – the “home of the world’s greatest cartoonists.” That’s no joke; you can see that they published most of the titles I’ve listed. Wouldn’t you brag?

David Mazzucchelli, David Hornung, Ted Stearn, Rubber Blanket #3, 1993

Curiously, with Fantagraphics being the primary publisher of most of these one-person showcases, we’re left to wonder whether it was due to their fierce encouragement of an artist’s vision (and the singular anthology was what those respective artists wanted to make in the first place), or if those respective artists saw that Fantagraphics was publishing this sort of format, thus nudging themselves in that direction for an easier shot at being published alongside the top of the line in alternative comics. Not to suggest that the post-Clowes wave of creators had mercenary intentions (especially since the format was never a cash cow) but there was definitely a new guard forming at the time. Although that new generation was still in its infancy, it was very much being cultivated by a single publisher. One can’t blame a creator for trying to adapt, including Ware, and it doesn’t make them any less noble for trying to find their way. As evidenced by the list above, a lot of those titles barely made it past a third issue. Whether or not it was part of the indie zeitgeist at the time, the one-artist anthology wasn’t an approach that agreed with everybody.

Ivan Brunetti, Schizo#3, March 1998

The Drought

The mid- to late-’90s were tough all around for comics. As the decline in sales can attest to, the collective disinterest in the medium leveled the industry’s morale as well as its bank accounts. The audience who once humored it dwindled all across the board. Time passed but comics never went anywhere; they didn’t die the way it’s always predicted every few years. This time, though, graphic novels proved to be the thing that people wanted, as did the bookstores, as did the creators. Who in their right and respectable mind would play with a disposable item such as a comic book? Serious stories needed spines, better paper, and more importantly they needed larger page counts. What they didn’t need was to mess around with limited distribution, serialization, or handwriting indicia every single issue. Not many comic book creators have the resolution or the patience to juggle every chore it takes to make a complete comic, but most that do would rather spend their time crafting their very own graphic novel.

The downside of the preoccupation with making larger works is that it has yielded some pretty bloated and unreadable attempts at making both serious art and garbage culture. There’s something to be said for honing skills over the years to the level where one can fill up those hundreds and thousands of pages of something worthwhile, but it’s no longer a question of doing something well, it’s about simply doing. It’s no fault of the graphic novel, though; even on the level of a single issue, excellence isn’t on the menu because going beyond the basic level of aptitude is hardly ever rewarded in comics. The current, prevalent agenda seems to be cranking out page after page no matter what, as creators pray that the law of averages will favor them. There may be hope yet, though, because if there’s anything to be learned from following these one-artist anthologies, it’s that beauty can indeed take root in low rent conditions.

Only Way

Brendan McCarthy, Solo #12, October 2006

Thankfully there have been a few blips on the radar. Ryan’s Angry Youth Comix went official in ’01 via Fantagraphics, who also released Jordan Crane’s Uptight and Sophie Crumb’s Belly Button Comix. Sammy Harkham had Crickets published by D&Q but it was cancelled after two issues; he now self-publishes the title. AdHouse Books put out an issue of Zack Soto’s Secret Voice, which promised subsequent issues. Nick Bertozzi created four issues of his Rubber Necker series from Alternative Comics before concentrating on graphic novel work, but he recently returned to the fold by making the fifth issue as a mini comic. DC’s Solo series, edited by Mark Chiarello, was more of an artist’s showcase than a real deal one-artist anthology, but the strongest issue of the bunch was Brendan McCarthy, who best took advantage of the single issue concept. His was the last of the series before cancellation.

Kevin Huizenga, The Body of Work, 2011

Kevin Huizenga came through with Supermonster, and has since also created a system in which to catalog his work project by project. Instead of springing back to one umbrella title, Huizenga appoints every comic he makes with a KH number, making that designation somewhat of one-artist anthology (not unlike Ditko’s “D” numbers for his aforementioned small press material). Obviously, I’m applying these ethics to Huizenga’s work while projecting my own fascination with the compilation, but I think something as simple as KH numbers can tie it all together in a way that matches my theory.

Michael DeForge, Lose #3, 2011

While there’s no boom for this format on the horizon, we have been witnessing a mild upswing (meaning there’s a faint pulse) with comics such as Ted May’s Injury, Lisa Hanawalt’s I Want You, Michael Kupperman’s Tales Designed To Thrizzle, and Noah Van Sciver’s Blammo. Prominent amongst these is Michael DeForge’s Lose. If you zoom out and take a look at the scope of DeForge’s regular output, you’ll see that he has enough short stories, one-pagers, and mini comics to fill in a monthly Lose title. But why limit it to one’s own solitary comic? The key is expansion, no? Notice how this follows Crumb’s publishing trajectory, even Huizenga’s, in that you get your comic out when you can, but you also spread out to as many outlets as you want.

Steve Ditko, Act 7, Seven, Making 12, Twelve, of Ditko’s 32s, 2011

The most unlikely substantial example that comes to mind is the remarkably determined work of Steve Ditko. His all-over-the-map comics didn’t stop in the mid-’80s. Fantagraphics published an issue of his Strange Avenging Tales in ’97, and Robin Snyder published his Steve Ditko Packages, two of them (#1 in ’99 & #4 in ‘00)  especially packed to the gills with random material. These days, Ditko continues to carry the torch by putting out individual issues, up to 16 and counting, with nary a connection between the stories. The man is 82 years of age and is still producing black and white comics on newsprint. He was one of the first, and with our waning desire to see such tailor-made work, he may very well be one of the last.

Too Fucking Bad

Gilbert Hernandez, Love and Rockets #49, November 1995

That’s the business we deal with. It’s not an easy thing to market, being that the mere mention of “one-artist anthology” explains very little. All you know you’re getting is one person’s particular offerings, and who’s to say that such a vague concept is worth people’s time from a salable standpoint anymore? Let’s get past the bottom line pitch for a second… there are also our interest levels as readers to contend with. Have they moved beyond this point, or are we ready to embrace the totalitarian nature of the one-artist anthology? Are there creators still interested in or even capable of perpetuating this branch of comic books? Realistically, is there even an audience for this kind of thing? Artists can try to create their own audience by simply doing what they do and hoping something sticks, but that’s not a business plan, it’s a gamble, it’s a fantasy, and even though comics are built on the hopes and dreams of the stubborn and/or the delusional, performing to an empty room is never fun.

Daniel Clowes, Eightball #7, November 1991

From a different marketing standpoint, the creator would frequently be on the stands with single issues, as sometimes presence is enough to keep readers captivated. On a deeper level, single issues over complete works give the artist the space to develop a relationship with the audience. Overall, it’s a lot of work for a payoff that only a person with a God complex can appreciate. For all of these limits, there is still a powerful charm in having a good, strong variety of ideas forced within a specific pulpy parameter.

It’s a beautiful thing, the modest booklet quietly containing a master’s vision or a genius’ greatest serialized work. Many of our finest were at the top of their game when they crafted entire publications from scratch, works that left defining marks on the world of comics, one issue at a time. One-artist anthologies are love letters that can make you feel like you’re a part of a very specific world, that you’re in on a joke. It’s the ultimate form of expression in modern comics, and we shouldn’t be found short of assigning heavy emphasis on its importance. The most perfect of comics have lived and thrived within this cheap method of presentation, and for an art form that can be revisited and re-examined directly from the hand of the creator, it doesn’t get any better than that.

Evan Dorkin, Dork #8, 2000

*Front piece image by Gilbert Hernandez, Love and Rockets #49, November 1995

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80 Responses to One-Artist Anthology Comics

  1. Darryl Ayo says:

    Honestly, I think that the decline in One-Man-Anthologies (One Man Armies) is inextricably tied to the problems of it taking longer and longer to produce individual issues. From bi-monthly to quarterly to annually to biannually. Until it sort of just becomes a special event, rare as the birth of a child and just as random. I suffered great anxiety when I began getting into the artcomics scene eleven-twelve years ago and realizing that there was nothing even sort of similar to a regular influx of material that one could enjoy.

    Since there isn’t much money (or any) these people spend their time and energy working full other careers and so here we are. Comics is a crying shame, every day.

    xoxoxoxoxoxo

    You know what really gets me frustrated is this graphic novel stuff. Differently from you, I’m flat out opposed to most graphic novels because it has become not a choice but a perceived obligation for many cartoonists. I don’t remember when it happened but at some point, I began hearing cartoonists say “next? Well I *guess* I’d better start working on a graphic novel.”

    At some point in the last ten years, cartoonists stopped seeing themselves as “legitimate” if they didn’t become graphic novelists. Sure you have folks like Bryan Lee O’Malley or Craig Thompson for whom “brevity” is a foreign concept. But there’s also dozens and dozens of middling, meager, milquetoast graphic novels that come out each year that are just the faintest traces of idea stretched to the bare minimum of acceptible pages to give a book a spine. Insubstantial work.

    When you bring up Daniel Clowes’ EIGHTBALL, you bring up the aspect of cartooning that seems to be dying in today’s culture: grinding. Pushing oneself through many smaller ideas, fleshing things out quickly to see how they blossom and moving on. Spending one’s formative years on short projects that permit the cartoonist to accumulate varied experience before settling into maturity.

    Daniel Clowes didn’t become a graphic novelist fresh out of Pratt. For some strange reason though, current comics culture expects young adults to be graphic novel experts out of the gate. Baby steps, kids.

    • Derik Badman says:

      Agreed on the graphic novel content, Darryl. A great one page comic just isn’t enough for most people.

      It’s almost backwards in relation to the rest of pop (American) culture where the focus is so much more on shorter length, especially online.

    • Daniel Werneck says:

      Great comment. I always think of this when I see a zine like King Cat, for instance. No matter how indie people are, somewhere inside of their brains there is always a little voice saying that large is better than small, long is better than short, color is better than black and white, and so on.

      It’s like back in the 1970s when all of the rock bands were SUPPOSED to make concept-albums rather than singles. Today, mp3 and youtube videos are more important to bands than albums, but comics are going the other way, forever seeking that AUTHORIZATION from society, as if huge hardcover books were necessarily better than mini-comics, no matter the content. The average joe-in-the-street feels better with himself buying a thick “graphic novel” in full color rather than a floppy A5 b&w zine.

      Many of Alan Moore’s classics started out as floppies (V for Vendetta, Watchmen) but had to be bound in thick books to become NYT Best Sellers. The same happened to Maus, which started out as an A5 b&w floppy, and look where it went after that…

      • idleprimate says:

        it’s hard to blame people for wanting durability for their money. stapled comics are really expensive for a small flimsy work printed on cheap paper. I got back into comics because they became more widely available (easier to find) and in sturdy attractive editions that won’t fall apart.

      • Salgood Sam says:

        I think eight ball refutes that as a generalization – the later issues were very sturdy and many of the stores got collected in trades. Also no real reason personal anthologies could not work as euro style albums. Rubber Blanket with a hard cover.

      • Briany Najar says:

        A small bit of Alan Moore related pedantry:
        V for Vendetta didn’t originally start as a floppy (if by that you mean the DC comic-books), it was one of several features in an early 80s multi-artist anthology called Warrior.
        Incidentally, Laser Eraser and Pressbutton (by Pedro Henry, AKA Steve Moore, no relation) also originally appeared in there.

    • Salgood Sam says:

      Good notes! Though I don’t see how this should merit the extreme of being “flat out opposed to most graphic novels” rather than the more in line with your own argument, opposing the idea legitimacy comes with a page count.

      Know more than a few writers who fell pray to the same stupid idealized notion of what it is to be “a writer” – that they had to pen a novel to be able to claim the tittle.

      It’s quite silly and probably destructive, that idea is getting put in young comics creators heads. Short stories are the superior learning environment, and may well be the more suitable and sustainable format for some authors. A third of the way into my longest book yet, I’m pretty sure i don’t want to go over 150 again myself any time soon after this, and i’ve been doing this 20 years. I think letting the idea you have to make long format stories could be pretty damaging to emerging creators. Just as damaging as trying to work on a monthly book or any other idea that takes the joy out of it.

      And why must the personal anthology be a floppy? Seems like very arbitrary notions being put on it there. Writers often have books of short stories. The same format can work for comics. How about presenting the work in digital formats if the pamphlet is not viable, and then collecting it for a the hard cover/trade? I can’t think of any other than my own doing that but i’m sure i’m not the first to think of it. Wonder why we don’t see more.

      Just in general, while I understand the apprehension publishers have over anthologies as a format, i don’t think they have been as creative about exploring alternatives to accommodate/preserve the same creative space as they could be. We’ve got a bit too much by the book and in the box thinking in this business sometimes.

      • Jeet Heer says:

        @Salgood Sam. “And why must the personal anthology be a floppy?” Great point, and worth pursuing. I think we need to separate out the idea of the one-artist anthology from the floppy format. It’s true that historically the floppy has been the birthplace and home of the one-artist anthology but that’s changing. I actually think some of Jason’s recent books (Low Moon, Athos in America) are one-artist anthologies despite being in hardcover. The same is true of Palooka-ville and Love and Rockets volume 3 — these are codex books but they function like one artist anthologies — and in fact once “Clyde Fans” is done, I think Palooka-ville will be a real test ground for Seth to play with the one-artist anthology. Perhaps to stretch the point further (possibly to the breaking point) it’s interesting to think of Wilson as a fusion of the graphic novel and the one-artist anthology. Each segment is a page long and in a different style: so even though it was released as a book, it grows organically out of the habits Clowes developed while working on Eightball of breaking down different components of his interests into short, stylistically-diverse segments.

      • Rob Clough says:

        Part of that differentiation, Jeet, is to mark the difference between an artist forced to do a “graphic novel” because that’s what expected of them, and an artist who either isn’t ready, isn’t interested or simply prefers to do shorter work. A hardback book (which generally demands a bigger publisher) would seem to be out of reach for many, less experienced cartoonists, while a comic book seems like a more easily achievable thing.

        I think Ice Haven is an even better example of that fusion between graphic novel and one-artist anthology, given that Clowes explicitly experiments with vastly different genres, many of which seem to have little to do with each other on a surface level. (Obviously, on a thematic/emotional/psychological level, there are many connections to be made.)

      • Jeet Heer says:

        Agreed, a book implies something about an artist’s intent and stature and/or marketability. The floppy is likely to remain the best incubation ward for younger cartoonists to develop their styles and interests. Still, I think there is a continuity between some of the older one-artist anthologies and some of the books and graphic novels being done now. Also agree about “Ice Haven” (the Deathray should be in there as well). Mr. Wonderful is perhaps the exception to all this in not being stylistically fragment (aside from a small interlude and the endpapers) and discontinuous.

      • Michel Fiffe says:

        Sam, I also agree that one-artist anthologies need not be floppies at all (however, would a nicely published, oversize magazine like Rubber Blanket be a “floppy”? Maybe that’s just splitting hairs too much; a spine can be the determining factor here). Jason’s Athos in America is a great example, and a case can certainly be made for Ice Haven.

  2. Frank Santoro says:

    That was a good one.

  3. An interesting survey of the one-man anthology. It’s hard to find examples earlier than Crumb’s “Zap Comix”: the best I can come up with are “Milt Gross Funnies” from 1947, and Jack Davis’s “Yak Yak” from 1961.

    Your mention of Huizenga’s numbering reminded me of another cartoonist: P. Craig Russell, whose series of 1980′s comic books published by Eclipse could also qualify as a one-man anthology (“Night Music” et al.)

    • Doug Skinner says:

      What about Walt Kelly’s Pogo books? He used to alternate the collections of dailies with larger-format books that included non-Pogo strips, text pieces, short stories, verse, penciled strips, and other stuff. Some of them do have an anthology feel to them.

      • Daniel C. Parmenter says:

        Indeed, or for that matter the single-creator MAD Magazine anthologies? (e.g. Sergio, Don Martin, Dave Berg). In the case of the Sergio and Don Martin anthologies, these often included longer narrative pieces that were not reprints from the magazine (e.g. Captain Klutz)

      • Michel Fiffe says:

        I think the thing that sets them apart is that they were mostly collections of reprints as opposed to Crumb making a specific item from the ground up. Still, that may not necessarily disqualify them. Great suggestions, all.

      • Daniel C. Parmenter says:

        Mostly, but not all. As I said, MAD also put out a fair amount of original single-artist material in paperback form, such as the Captain Klutz books and my all-time favorite, “MADvertising” by Dick DeBartolo and the criminally underrated Bob Clarke, featuring some of the latter’s best work (IMO) in glorious black and white. Although it came out in the seventies rather than the sixties, that one might make for an intriguing post-MAD MEN reissue. I suppose that’s a special case, since Clarke didn’t write it, but I think it fits within the parameters of this discussion pretty well.

      • Doug Skinner says:

        I think all of those single-artist MAD paperbacks were original material. Don Martin was the first.

        Feiffer put out some anthologies, too, as well as reprints of his weekly strip. “Feiffer’s Album,” from ’63, has longer strips, illustrated stories, and short plays. Maybe the solo artist was more acceptable in book form?

      • Daniel C. Parmenter says:

        Even the Dave Berg ones? I thought those were reprints, but I honestly don’t remember and I foolishly gave away a lot of ‘em some years back.

      • Yes, those single-artist MAD collections were original material. The copyright belonged to the artists, who paid Gaines a small fee for using the trademarked MAD logo in their books.

  4. Tony says:

    “Barry Windsor-Smith crafted nine (out of a projected 12) issues of his Storyteller series through Dark Horse Comics in ‘96. A couple of the serializations within that title were later individually collected and published by Fantagraphics”.

    May I again abuse Kim Thompson’s accesibility and ask whatever happened to the collected edition of “The Paradoxman”?

    Also, if anyone could explain what BWS’s been up to for over an entire decade now… his last published comics were 5 pages in Wolverine #166 (September 2001).

    The guy is 63 now, he “retired” at 52. Contrast that with Corben, who’s 71 and more prolific than ever during the last decade.

  5. What, no love for Dylan Horrocks’ Pickle?

  6. Dave Knott says:

    Although it was published as a paperback book, I think one could make the case for Kurtzman’s “The Jungle Book” being an early example of an artist trying to work in the one man anthology format. Kurtzman was already well known as being something of a control freak when he worked for EC, (particularly the war books) and his subsequent attempts at humour magazines, and “Jungle Book” was his attempt to bring the entire anthology process under the control of one man. I believe that it was originally intended as the first in a series of such books, although it didn’t sell well enough to warrant continuation. Further, Kurtzman himself is obviously a formative influence on Crumb, and Crumb was almost certainly aware of “The Jungle Book” when he first set out self-publishing “Zap” as a collection of multiple works by a single creator in one package.

  7. Costa K says:

    Great read, esp. since I just made one of my own and am (SLOWLY) working on issue 2. A weird subsect of comics that I don’t think gets enough of a spotlight on it as it should.

  8. Daniel Werneck says:

    What about Michael Kupperman’s “Tales Designed to Thrizzle”?

  9. Michael Kupperman says:

    Well, this is why I feel I depressed with comics- the lack of support I receive in the comics world, exemplified by articles like this one. Never mind I’m doing a one-man anthology for years now. Never mind it actually sells well enough for Fantagraphics that it’s their ONLY surviving pamphlet comic.

    And then you wonder why it’s a declining format?

    • Tim Hodler says:

      We also forgot to mention Sam Henderson’s Magic Whistle. Both of these are obviously big oversights. Sorry about that, Michael. Everyone interested in one-man anthologies should check out both titles asap.

    • Michel Fiffe says:

      Michael, I’m sorry you feel slighted by my article, or more specifically, my lack of mentioning you at all. However, I think it is a bit much to tack the decline of the format onto my piece, or rather “articles like this one” (I may have missed them, but where are those other articles about one-man anthologies that you feel ignored by?) I’m glad Thrizzle sells enough to keep itself afloat. That success, coupled with these commenter’s rallying, should serve as proof that you actually do have support in the comics world.

      Re: Sam Henderson’s Magic Whistle. Thanks for the reminder, Timothy. MW is indeed awesome. I should point out that I never aimed to make a Complete List and I never stated that. I didn’t only single out and talk about the ones I personally like (I listed a few I don’t really care for). I just wanted to give a general overview of the respective eras. It was a deluge for a good reason, so forgive the omission of titles like Pickle, Artbabe, Good Girls etc.

      I should also mention – for those who’ve already personally asked me outside of a comments section – that I didn’t include titles like THB, Hate, Palookaville, or Peepshow because they seemed to mostly focus on a single narrative instead of a flurry or different ideas/stories/characters.

      Otherwise, thanks to those for the kind words regarding the rest of the piece! There are some good pre-Crumb suggestions there, but I’m very glad I got to talk about [most] of the comics in question.

      • Moses says:

        I first heard of this article not because of the content, but because I heard that Mr. Kupperman was complaining about it. Yet when I actually came to read it, Kupperman had been added to the article (as well as Sam Henderson). That indicates (to me, anyway) that the exclusion was not malicious, but an oversight that the author and editors have corrected, just as they changed the title to “One-Artist Anthology Comics.” I’m curious to see if Mr. Kupperman acknowledges the correction here or on twitter.

        This reminds me a little bit of the recent dust up between the Metropolitan Opera and Opera News, which is published by the Metropolitan Opera. The GM of the Met tried to bar reviews of their shows in Opera News because they didn’t always give good reviews of their own shows. One of Kupperman’s tweets was, “The Comics Journal is published by my publisher!” I don’t think The Comics Journal would be anything much more than a catalog if it did nothing but give good reviews to books by Fantagraphics. The article even points out the fact that most of the artists discussed are published by Fantagraphics, though makes a point of mentioning other publishers.

        Overall, I gotta say that while I am disappointed by the grimble-grumbling going on about who was included or excluded, I commend TCJ for responding to the critics.

  10. This is a great article, and the topic has been on my mind quite a bit over the last few years. I’ve often remarked that the trade paperback roundup practices of the mid to late 90′s probably instigated the death of the single issue entity, which in turn lead to the death of the one man anthology. As a consumer, the idea of waiting until four issues ran for a collected volume became alluring for organization or practicality, and publishers probably found that in doing both, the collected volumes were ultimately both cheaper to put out overall and had a better margin of profit.

    The absence of the single issue one man anthology has indeed lead to the make or break graphic novel market we have now as discussed above by others. It’s a pisser for sure, as the pressure to stay the same becomes problematic. For instance, a serious work that gains attention might make it harder to change direction for the next book. People that used to be very funny now have to stay serious as to not undermine their credibility. The single issue format allowed for more subject and stylistic changes. Once it had been setup that you could do anything under one roof, there wasn’t a pressure to do only one type of work.

    I’m glad to still see some around, and I’m still pissed that I didn’t get all of the individual Eightballs when I had the chance. I thought they were going to be around forever because they kept getting repressed, and for the record, all of those subsequently seperated stories “Velvet Glove”, “Ghost World”, and even “Death Ray” read better in the original Eightball format.

  11. Al Kennedy says:

    Yeah, Thrizzle is probably the most prominent one-man anthology title out there at the moment. Very surprised it’s not featured here.

  12. The_Critic says:

    That Thrizzle isn’t mentioned isn’t just an oversight on the author’s part, it’s a goddamned crime. Get me rewrite!

  13. Rod McKie says:

    I’d like to see Mike Kupperman here and I can’t believe he isn’t included. For me, an oversight like that ruins the entire piece, because it’s an incomplete study without him. And that’s a shame because there would be a lot here I could agree with.

  14. Derik Badman says:

    We could just as easily say it’s a “crime” that King-Cat was excluded. It’s been going longer than any of the examples, I believe… But it’s not like Michel claims this is an exhaustive list/history.

  15. BVS says:

    great article! this form keeps dieing then rising from it’s grave.

  16. Frank Santoro says:

    See? This is why I keep the comments off.

  17. Kristine says:

    Okay, I’ll bite.

    Too bad about the omission of Michael Kupperman (and kudos for including Michael DeForge), but at least he has the right genitalia to be included in the topic. Thanks for mentioning Doucet and Fleener and Sophie Crumb; bummer about their chosen format being reserved for men.

    Seriously, is “one-person anthology” so awkward a phrase? Are those 3 extra letters so heavy and onerous to type that you have to exclude half the human race?

    Excuse me while I read some Gabrielle Bell minis on my lunchbreak now…

  18. Sean Ford says:

    great piece. has anyone mentioned the decline of the one-man anthology being pretty much economic and market-driven? as much as cartoonists may feel they have to make graphic novels as ayo mentions, i think publishers are pretty much forced to think in those terms now as well. with the diamond thresholds killing sammy harkham’s Crickets and some of the other surviving one-man anthologies or floppy indies or whatever you want to call them in 2009, publishing a graphic novel that can possibly make it into a bookstore is really the only way to go for a lot of publishers and cartoonists. heck, even love and rockets had to go the spine/trade route. though i’d love to see a return to the form.

  19. Joe Williams says:

    You forgot a secret one I’m thinking of. How dare you! And you forgot to mention the gay German midget movement of the 1920s. I’m never coming to this site again!

  20. DanielJoseMata says:

    Decent checklist, now where’s the article?

  21. Jay Evans says:

    A lot of this is also a discussion of pamphlet vs. trades. Ware and Los Bros and Clowes kept so many plates spinning that reading collections is an entirely different experience than reading their pamphlets. Reading about the death of Speedy is very different from reading “The Death of Speedy”. Some bands are so good that it’s rewarding to get the singles and the albums.

  22. Richard says:

    The lack of Henderson or Kupperman is a good reminder why I don’t check this site out more often.

    • Tim Hodler says:

      Comments like yours make me forget why I haven’t blown my brains out yet.

      Listen, I realize you’re just a drive-by troll and likely won’t even return to see if there’s a response, but for all the other drama queens out there, let’s set things straight: Since this site relaunched one year ago, we have reviewed two out of the two books released by Michael Kupperman over that same time period (positively, I might add). We also published a lengthy excerpt from his interview with Al Jaffee. In addition, we have asked him multiple times to contribute to the site, which unfortunately hasn’t worked out yet. Sam Henderson contributed an excellent piece to this site just a few months ago, and ironically enough, I was e-mailing back and forth with him about a future contribution not long before I noticed all the complaining here.

      Bottom line: We like these guys’ work, think it’s important, and plan to keep covering it. But the whiners who keep showing up and refusing to take yes for an answer aren’t doing them any favors.

      • Richard says:

        And only acknowledging a minority of a minority of a minority of a whole helps who exactly? This blogzine caters to a theoretical NPR/hipster audience that for the most part does not buy too many books with pictures.
        And I resent the “troll” comment completely. There are a world of persons outside of your clique of regular commentators who are not trolls. I take pride in trying to look out for the under dogs and black sheep, but highbrow like TCJ is a royal slap in the face to the thousands of blue collar sequential artisans who are keeping the industry alive.

        Bottom Line: TCJ does not rate.

      • flawless trolling, would read again

      • Ayo says:

        Man trolls, gets called on trolling, backs the truck up and trolls harder to clear his troll name, did I miss anything important?

      • MAD de la Rosa says:

        I just want to know what it is that TCJ does not rate. The last sentence got cut off for some reason.

        Also: “blue collar sequential artisans”? Come on, that’s got to be a joke. He pushed it too far there and gave himself away.

      • Richard says:

        Responds the trolls.

      • Salgood Sam says:

        You are framing the intent of a article to suit your complaint Richard. That’s frankly self serving BS.

        I can not begin to name the number of times I have not been mentioned in articles like this coving something I’m active in – hey i’ve been trying to get a personal anthology project going for years now. The first self published incarnation got me an award nomination and lots of nice words but still struggles to get notice or bought outside of comics events and publishers, while being encouraging abstractly, so far don’t want to take the risk. Is it mentioned? Not even a little. Do you see me complaining here? No, i read this as what it is.

        No where in this did it call itself a comprehensive list. It’s simply and only a short history of the format that just slightly speculates at why its not a strong seller. Not a put down, this article simply never aspired to be what you portray it as a poor example of.

        If you have such a problem with it, why not use your commenting time to list all those forgotten blue collar sequential artisans you seem to think were slighted? Instead you just name two more well known creators others pointed out and bitch. This lack of any content to your comment is what makes you a troll in action if not intention.

        Yawn.

        I deplore nothing more than ego hiding as sudo-class warfare in a crowd where there is little between the so called “blue collar sequential artisans” [what a phrase] and the perceived elite, other than time in the light and experience. No one here mentioned or unmentioned is getting rich from their personal anthology. Save that kind of talk for the occupy sit-ins and promote what you love.

      • Richard says:

        Sam, your work is stellar and a half, but complacency and stoicism are not the same thing.

        yawn and then some. I’m out.

  23. FLEISCHER says:

    A men by the neighme of CHUCK INCINERATES did a comic by the names of DARK HOLE.

    • Kristine says:

      Amen.

      And less not froggit d’aboriginal carton-pitchur-maker, MILT DISGUSTIN, an hiz NIZE BABY n LOOEY DAT DOPE.

  24. Not strictly one-”man”, but one that comes to mind is Dame Darcy’s MEAT CAKE.

    Also, Richard Sala’s EVIL EYE.

  25. Alright, so people aren’t reading the article. that’s too bad, beyond all the nitpick pc elements, it’s a good goddamn article, but nobody seems to be addresing it, the idea is tied to the transitioning winds of the tradepaperback versus the floppy. Cost escalations have rendered the floppy nearly extinct. And with that, no publisher is willing to take on a new one person anthology. The format that made it a commercially viable collected format is dead, and they have indeed poisoned the well. So what do we have? Make or break goddamn graphic novels. I say break from this Marvel/DC ethic and get back to nurturing the artist.

    • The format is nearly extinct with more traditional publishers, but in the underground it’s alive and well, with small publishers and artists themselves self-publishing these books. Off the top of my head I think of Noah Van Sciver’s Blammo, Joseph Remnant’s Blindspot, Tim Lane’s Happy Hour in America. And there’s plenty more!

      • BVS says:

        I think comics just take so long to produce that an audience and interest in a particular cartoonist just can’t be sustained if you have to wait the at (even for fast cartoonists who have no other work they need to do) long time between graphic novel publications. Imagine if you had read Charles Burn’s Blood Club GN in 92′. and then you were just forced to wait, denied a Burns fix until 2005 when Black Hole came out. that would suck.
        would a big book like Big Questions even exist if Ander’s Nilson Hadn’t been slowly cultivating an audience via the beautiful single issues that he published for about a decade?
        so if the serialized comic book doesn’t currently have a sustainable market, somethings going to have to take it’s place. I for one am sort of ashamed at how dependant I am on google reader in order to see new work from artists I love. it kidn of works but it’s lame, it feels like a bad and temporary solution.

        so it seems to me that making a 30 page comic book is always going to be the fastest and cheapest way to make your material exist in a printed form. make em’ find some way to sell them somehow. they can’t take that away.

  26. Jeet Heer says:

    John Porcellino is exactly right. I was thinking of writing a rejoinder to this article — which I enjoyed! — arguing that the one-artist anthology is actually enjoying a renaissance. Aside from the titles John mentioned there is Lose, Pope Hat and the other titles mentioned in this thread. Part of what’s going on is that as the older alternative publishers like Fantagraphics and D&Q have moved on to graphic novels and books, a string of interesting boutique publishers (Koyama, Adhouse, many others) have taken over the format (not to mention all the interesting self-publishing going on). Also, the rise of comics festivals (SPX, MOCCA, TCAF, etc.) has created an alternative distribution network that allows for a side-stepping of Diamond and the Direct Market. So I think there’s a future for this the one-cartoonist anthology — a bright future, actually. I’ll try and write more on this later.
    With all the nit-picking, I don’t think people have given Michel Fiffe enough credit for writing a thought-provoking piece. There’s are many interesting arguments to pursue from this piece.

    • Rob Clough says:

      Yeah, Jeet and John P are definitely right. I get sent tons of one-artist anthology comics all the time. Joseph Remnant just put out his second issue of Blindspot, by the way, and it’s great. A lot of the CCS grads have done this as well.

      By the way, while Michael Kupperman was right to protest his absence, Fanta is still putting out a few other books of this kind as periodicals. In addition to Jordan Crane’s Uptight, Pete Bagge’s Hate Annual is a true anthology comic, as it features several different stories and doesn’t just focus on the Bradley clan anymore.

      And while they’re not anthologies, publishers like Blank Slate are devoted to the comic book qua comic book, though in a format that more closely mimics the high-end model from the Ignatz Line rather than the standard American floppy. One of my future High-Low columns will be a survey of many recent actual comic books, dipping into Retrofit, Blank Slate and several others.

    • Just wanted to note that I very much enjoyed the article too, Michel!

    • MADdelaRosa says:

      Second the praise for Ethan Rilly’s Pope Hats. That last issue was stellar.

    • Michel Fiffe says:

      Jeet, I would love to read a follow up from you. Although I was aware of most of the titles you, Rob and John have listed, their impact didn’t register with me as a group effort/movement, per se, perhaps due to the fact that I saw the previous (and dwindled) wave as exactly that, when in fact it wasn’t really a movement at all. While I described the current crop as a “faint pulse”, this renaissance appears to be anything but and well worth documenting.

      Thanks for that, John & Jeet! I really do appreciate this level of feedback and discussion.

      • Rob Clough says:

        Michel, I think that the fact that there was a “faint pulse”, as you note, is what spurred a lot of young cartoonists to publish in this format. Love and Rockets going to an annual book was in many ways the last gasp for the old guard (though as I said, Bagge, Kupperman, Crane and others are still doing it) and I think encouraged others to pick up that mantle. Box Brown’s Retrofit comics have gone a long way in doing this, but it seems to be an idea that’s swept across this particular generation. Sam Gaskin’s 2012, Josh Juresko’s Bad Breath Comics (a really great comic that no one seems to know about), and Ben Horak’s Grump Toast are three more good examples of this.

  27. Dan Lester says:

    Here in the UK, there are quite a few small press/self published artists producing one-person anthologies. Just off the top of my head, there’s Steve Tillotson (Banal Pig), Francesca Cassevetti (Striptacular), Douglas Noble (Strip For Me), Schmurgen Jonerhaffs (Schmurgen’s Uncompromising Comic), plus my own title, Monkeys Might Puke.

  28. James says:

    Unfortunately, the focus on “graphic novels” is making all sorts of problems for cartoonists. Writing and drawing are both difficult to do well….but collaboration is discouraged in the alt/lit areas (and is rapidly becoming even more problematic in the mainstream because of writer overpromotion)….young artists are expected to “master” both writing and art (some academics even think they can teach “mastery” of the form) and do long pieces with no “learning time” on short works. Break out with a book length masterpiece or else. Unfortunately, few are up to this, in reality. Short works give more variety for the artist as well but publishers always say that anthologies don’t sell, despite that I and many I know buy them all the time and many have done well…. for a long time, too. Must I name them?
    Many of us may prefer to do short stories for the reasons detailed above or just because those are the type of ideas we have, but now we are all forced to do long-form works for which we must do hundreds of pages of the same few characters blabbing….hard to keep coming up with interesting angles for that. And then we are starting to gt books that are basically short stories milked out by formatting to look like full books but with only a few panels to a page….basically ripping the audience off. Or like Art S.’s 9/11 thing which was like ten pages printed on cardboard to look thick, ha ha. Anyway most of this is our own damn fault because we are jumping headlong off that cliff with little prompting and letting the floppies go….letting print books themselves die…helping it along in fact.

  29. Pingback: Michel Fiffe » One Artist Anthology Comics

  30. Pingback: Michel Fiffe explores the one-artist anthology concept | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment

  31. Briany Najar says:

    I enjoyed this article and, on reflection, I think that single contributor anthologies might be my favourite kind of comic.
    Of course, there were lots more classic-era undergrounds that could have been mentioned (e.g. Feds ‘n’ Heads from 1968, and Bogeyman #1 is all Rory Hayes, no?) but I see that the focus of the piece is more on the 80s-90s alt/indie scene, which is fair enough, it’s clearly not supposed to be an encyclopedia.
    As they used to say at the start of certain documentaries, this history was “a personal view,” and long may people divulge them.

    One thing bothers me – the more-so because other commenters have brushed past it, and I’m starting to think I might have a blind-spot somewhere – so I must ask:
    what the flippin heck is Love and Rockets doing in there?

  32. Briany Najar says:

    I expect Ron Rege will destroy the internet when he finds out about this article.
    Better start writing it all down.

  33. Pingback: AN EXTREME DIALOGUE | alec reads comics

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