American comics creators will tell stories set in the world of the blockbuster anime and manga "Attack on Titan" in a new anthology announced by publisher Kodansha Comics at its New York Comic Con panel on Thursday.
In fall 2016, Kodansha will publish "Attack on Titan Anthology," a full-color, 250-page collection of short stories by a roster of creators that includes Scott Snyder, Gail Simone, Michael Avon Oeming, Faith Erin Hicks, Kate Leth, Jeremy Lambert, Ronald Wimberly, Genevieve Valentine, Afua Richardson, Tomer Hanuka and Asaf Hanuka. The book will have the same trim size as an American comic -- larger than the traditional manga size. The stories will range from 5 to 25 pages, and the book will also include pin-up art.
"Attack on Titan," the story of a group of teenagers fighting to save a walled city from human-eating giants, is the top-selling manga in the U.S., and a runaway best-seller in Japan. Kodansha Comics publishes the original series, and the anime can be viewed on Crunchyroll and Funimation.
Kodansha has already published a number of "Attack on Titan" spinoffs from Japan, including manga and novels about the characters, a guide to the science of "Attack on Titan," as well as two volumes of "Attack on Titan: Colossal Edition," each of which collects five volumes of the series along with color pages and other extras. There was an Avengers/Attack on Titan crossover earlier this year, but this is the first time a whole group of American creators have been set loose in the world of "Attack on Titan."
Ben Applegate, associate director of publishing services for Random House Publishers Services, who oversees the editorial team at Kodansha Comics, said he got the idea for the anthology from The Animatrix, a collection of short films by Japanese animators based on the film The Matrix. "When 'Attack on Titan' took off, I was editing the English editions, and Kodansha asked me to come up with some ways to add unique extras to our manga releases," he told CBR News. "My first thought was to do variant covers by Western artists, which we've already started doing; Tony Moore just did one for volume 16. But I also had this crazy idea for a collection of original stories by Western writers and artists -- like a reverse Animatrix for 'Attack on Titan.' We pitched it just ahead of our visit to the Kodansha offices in Tokyo in November 2014, and I was stunned to find that everyone at Kodansha loved the idea -- even the executives at the very top were pushing for it."
The next step was to brainstorm a "dream team" of creators, and former Marvel and DC editor Jeanine Schaefer, who is now working with Kodansha, was able to connect with many of the first-choice creators. It turns out that many superhero creators are also manga fans -- or at least have some in the house. "Several of the creators have kids who are fans," said Applegate. "When Jeanine asked Gail Simone, for example, she said something along the lines of, 'I have to do this. I'm going to be such a hero to my son!'"
Valentine said she first heard about "Attack on Titan" through "the collective recommendation engine of the internet." "I actually avoided it at first because of my iffy tolerance for body horror (and the Titan barf did nothing to ameliorate that, let's be honest), but that's so much a part of what the story is trying to say -- it's disgusting and it's needless, and that's the entire point, and the farther you go into the story the more resonant it becomes."
Hicks, on the other hand, noticed the hordes of Attack on Titan cosplayers at comic cons. "I started checking out volumes of the comic from the library, and ended up reading eleven volumes in two days," she recalled. "Had some weird dreams afterwards."
The intensity of the story, in which the characters are fighting for survival against a constantly changing set of foes, was a draw for many of the creators.
"This entire series is intense," said Richardson. "How do you consolidate that kind of fear and anger and raw emotion of fighting a damn near impossible and apathetic advisory in still images? I hope I do it justice."
"For me, the most challenging part is exactly what inspired my story: the depth of the worldbuilding, which tends to ask more questions than it answers in really eerie ways," said Valentine. "By the time we hit the 57th expedition, all I could think of was the tourists that had gone to that forest, and what life must have been like, oblivious and just on the edge of disaster, for those hundred years of peace. Every new place we see in 'Attack on Titan' is a reminder that war is a living thing that displaces whatever lived there in the Before."
"There is something about the books that has a deeply felt real world horror, and a range of authentic emotions," said Tomer Hanuka. "It's the opposite of camp. So finding that balance, in a universe populated by flesh eating giants, was a challenge. The series is very deft at handling this tension, and for me it's a big part of the engine of the stories -- you care. And when you care, the stakes are high. Really high."
Applegate did not give the creators any hard-and-fast guidelines to begin with. "We're trying to create a book with a wide variety of stories, so I want to start with what the creators are interested in doing and go from there," he told CBR. "So far, we've got a few serious stories in the Titan continuity, a few stories involving Titans in new settings, and a few completely off-the-wall comedy pieces." The creators will be allowed to invent new characters as well, he said.
"Giving creators -- especially the creators we're working with here -- the room to stretch their legs has been key in the stories were getting back from them, as each creator finds the part of Titan that speaks to them," said Schaefer. "You can see how each one really lines up with the strongest storytelling instincts of each writer or artist, and everyone is really excited to tell the story they're telling. So far, every pitch has given me goosebumps."
Still, anthologies bring challenges of their own. "I've been lucky/cursed to work on a lot if anthologies over the years," said Schaefer. "When I worked at Marvel, in the X-Office, the cycle would go: get really excited to do an anthology, swear we'll never do it again, immediately launch another one. For as much work as they are, they're incredibly fun and incredibly rewarding. On a good one, you get a lot of varying voices and styles, everyone is invested, and the thread that connects them is really strong, which is exactly what we have with this project. So I'm hoping I'm bringing my experience with the fun side working on these, and helping to ease the pulling your hair out at 3 a.m. side at the same time!"
Check out the full list of contributors listed below in alphabetical order:
- Brenden Fletcher
- Tomer & Asaf Hanuka (team)
- Faith Erin Hicks
- Kate Leth & Jeremy Lambert (team)
- Michael Oeming
- Afua Richardson
- Paolo Rivera
- Damion Scott
- Gail Simone
- Scott Snyder
- Cameron Stewart
- Babs Tarr
- Genevieve Valentine
- Kevin Wada
- Ronald Wimberly