Tell me a story about pirates or gladiators or war. I want to hear about damsels in distress and adventure in the Old West and perhaps a jungle expedition on the side. Back in the 50s, I could have found all of these tales under one title: EC Comics. The short sequential stories had pizzazz and presented the best of so many worlds. I hesitate to say that sort of storytelling doesn’t really exist anymore – I am far from knowing about everything on the shelf – but if it does, I’m not noticing it in the stacks at my comic shop. At least, not on a regularly published basis covering the vast array of topics that EC Comics captured.
Why aren’t there more comics presented like digests? I love buying hardcover anthologies with overreaching themes but containing different stories and voices throughout the pages. I’d like to see that translated to an issue format. Besides the appeal of variety for the readers, I feel like such publications would be full of opportunities for creators. Different tales, different artists, different perspectives – it seems like a win-win situation.
One disadvantage of EC Comics for me is that the pages constantly feature the same writers, artists, and letters. The consistent layout, design, and overall appearance are pleasing to the eye, but the steady style can wear a bit thin. If the stories were serial, starring the same characters and continuing a plot, I’d feel differently. In that case, I want the creative team to be the same. The flow is better. But for as often as EC Comics changes up the genre and type of story, I’d prefer differences. I realize the same team and formula (for lack of a better word) led to their success. I don’t know if that would work today, but I believe a compendium showcasing different creative teams absolutely would.
Besides the assortment of adventures, the length of the narratives in EC Comics is a selling point. I often read that the internet in general and social media are wearing down our attention span day by day. We talk in 140 characters or less and microblog instead of blogging (and we blogged instead of writing books). The trend might not be as drastic as it’s made out to be, but it is undeniably present. We may even be getting too antsy to read 22-page comic books. That’s a sad statement, but given that we’re being pushed towards smaller and smaller bites, comics like any of EC’s with several stories per issue have appeal.
You get variety, and you get digestible stories. If you can’t sit still enough to read 6-8 pages of a comic, I don’t know what to tell you. You can jump from spy stories to treasure hunts to mutiny on the high seas. It’s like flipping through channels on the television but with actual satisfaction. EC Comics had that part down, and I’d love to see another publisher do something similar.
Dark Horse Presents and Caliber’s Negative Burn were the last successful attempts at anthology titles. As is often the case with an anthology, quality could vary greatly between issues and stories. The EC books were products of their times, when story magazines, anthology tv series, and the like were the norm. Attention span is a definite downside today, as nearly every scrap of information is delivered to us as sounds bites, whether via the news media, reality tv show editing, or video game pacing of movies.