For a medium as diverse as that of comic books, it's surprising to some that the American market has historically proven so closed to the anthology format. A single comic book, or graphic novel, full of stories of varying length (as opposed to the single tale format that is dominant) would seem natural for fans to gravitate towards, but it's been a hard sell at best. A few years ago, Image Comics released "Flight," an anthology that quickly gained critical acclaim and saw very strong sales. While "Flight" dealt with the theme of, well, flight, Image Comics' newest anthology has quite a different approach: robots. CBR News caught of with "24seven's" editor Ivan Brandon, who was happy to talk about the graphic novel anthology, which finds him working with some of the most talented creators in comics.
"'24seven' came about in a bunch of random conversations at conventions and so on with like-minded creators who showed me there was the potential there for a hell of a book," explained Brandon. "'24seven' is, for me, somewhat like a smaller record imprint at a major studio. A lot of the creation of work for hire comics is the equivalent of playing session guitars on someone else's album, whereas in the path to creating '24seven,' this quickly became an opportunity to let some of the best minds in comics finally cut loose on their own songs, unfettered by continuity or any of the other bits of the business that hinder free creativity. The result will be obvious, the fans will get to see their favorite creators doing some of their most amazing and creative work."
Since "24seven" was announced, some have compared it to "Flight," which recently left Image, and the comparison isn't unwarranted. Both are anthologies, both are produced by Image, and both use a thematic device as a "spine" for the graphic novel, but Brandon maintains that "24seven" is not simply "Flight" featuring robots, though it was influenced by the acclaimed anthology. "At our inception, 'Flight' was still at Image, and obviously it opened doors for retailers and creators alike to look at new types of stand-alone material with more potential promise of commercial viability. No one's 'in it for the money,' but it helped to ease (somewhat) everyone's constant fear of the gamble of trying something new.
"'Flight' obviously sets the standard for us as an incredibly well executed collaboration between the art-scene elite. The difference for us, I think, is that 'Flight' was a very artist-driven book, so what I wanted to do was match that level of visual decadence but add to it some of my favorite writers from comics and film."
When you think of robots, you might think of the Transformers, a Gundam machine, or perhaps even an Asimov story. Those are all concepts rooted in science fiction, which helps to differentiate it from typical robot stories. "24seven" may be more than meets the eye, but it's not science fiction. "Well that's the beauty of it," smiles Brandon. "Rather than a stereotypical genre exercise, every one of these creators has taken their idea and essentially created their own hybrid genre, each in a completely different direction from the other.
"Robot stories in general have inherently been about progress and change. When we decided to go down this road it became clear we had no choice but to do something different and new with them. The great thing about this anthology is that each creator team has approached the subject from their unique perspective. So the robots in one story may be a metaphor for the Sisyphean condition, whereas the robots in another story might be just 'check out these cool robots!'"
Don't worry that this anthology will be preaching some kind of after school message to readers ("see kids, robots are people too"), as Brandon explained that the core message of the book is far less pedestrian. " Overall, the message is creativity. But each story has its own spirit and message, and I leave it to the readers to come away with their own interpretations of the experience."
Looking at the preview pages with this article, it's obvious that Brandon isn't kidding about the variety of genres touched on in "24seven." Action, adventure, horror, romance…wait…romance? "We tried to run the gamut and the results are even more diverse than I'd expected. But there are always more ideas out there and we're all building more and more robots in our heads to do more and more new things. If the kids like the songs we've written, maybe we'll write some new ones."
Brandon is especially proud of the creators assembled to work on "24seven," who were quick to sign up when the project was offered, and represent a diverse sampling of comic creator talent. The original solicitation included the following creators:
Becky Cloonan, Farel Dalrymple, Phil Hester, Mike Huddleston, Adam Hughes, Frazer Irving, Alex Maleev, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jim Mahfood, Tony Moore, Mike Avon Oeming, Rick Remender, Esad Ribic, John Ney Rieber, Eduardo Risso, Jim Rugg, Ben Templesmith, Danijel Zezelj and others.
"Here's a new list, in no particular order and I'll add even more names as we get closer," teases Brandon. The new list follows: width="127" height="190" alt="" border="0" align="right">
- Matt Fraction ("Casanova," "Punisher War Journal")
- Leland Purvis ("Vox," "Pubo")
- Frank Teran ("Punisher," "Aliens")
- Kelly Sue Deconnick ("30 Days Of Night")
- Eric Canete ("Aeon Flux" Animated Series)
- Paul Azaceta ("Grounded")
- Hilary Barta (ABC's "Tommorow Stories")
- Jonathan L. Davis (Screenwriter; Eli Roth's "Scavenger Hunt," "The DukesOf Hazzard")
- Vasilis Lolos ("Nebuli")
- Brandon Graham ("King City")
- James Stokoe ("Rival Schools")
- Mark Andrew Smith ("Amazing Joy Buzzards")
- Jasen Lex ("The Gypsy Lounge," "The Science Fair")
The production of such an anthology is a sign that the comic book market is changing, an observation that won't surprise many, but Brandon's perspective may be different than yours, as he says. " I think we're at a point where, although the vast majority of the business still leans in a specific direction, the successes of a lot of the more unique properties in other media and on the stands have opened doors to a lot of extremely interesting and exciting work being produced in comics, maybe the best era we've seen in that regard."
With the release of "24seven" creeping up, Brandon urges fans to pick up the graphic novel, so they don't miss what he calls one of the most unique comic book projects of the year. "Just looking at the art and the people involved should be enough to get any comic book fan enthusiastic about '24seven'; it is everything you could possibly want out of an anthology, with top-notch writers and artists crafting unique stories that the readers will go nuts for.
"I'd like to see another volume. It would be hard to compete with this lineup, butI'm game for the challenge, if the readers want more of it."
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