Anthologies have experienced resurgence in recent years, and at the forefront of that has been the anthology series Popgun. After the publication of two successful volumes, the anthology has returned with a third scheduled for release on April 8th. This anthology series features stories in virtually every graphic fiction genre by both well-known and brand-new comic creators, publishing both new stories as well as rarities from the past.
“I'm a big fan of Popgun,” said creator and co-founder/Publisher of Image Comics Erik Larsen, who has stories in each volume of the series so far. “Mark Andrew Smith and Joe Keatinge have done a terrific job of finding new and established talent to fill the pages of this publication. The two have been really driven to bring readers the very best in comics and they lined up a ton of great guys from all over the place. When a book fills up and they have a nice balance of stories then they roll the rest into the next book. They've already got over 100 pages for Popgun 4. Its regularity is due to the tireless efforts of these two and the drive of other creators, drawn to the book because of its reputation and its success. At this point creators are spreading the word and others are joining up because they want to be part of the Popgun experience.”
The success of the first two volumes of Popgun has led publisher Image Comics to give the greenlight to a third volume, which reaches shelves this week. Clocking in at 448 pages, the Harvey-award winning anthology fulfills its mission statement of being a “graphic mixtape”, combining all genres and styles.
“Part of the fun was sometimes finding some sort of song progression in style and tone, but it was also great to just put have some jarring combos that would surprise,” said editor D.J. Kirkbride, who joined the series with this new volume. “We do both with Popgun stories in the 472 pages between the covers. We can have several crime stories in a row, but then we'll suddenly have wild sci-fi or fantasy or a straight up talking animals comic strip. It's this occasionally uneasy mix that keeps the readers on their toes – and hopefully excited to see what surprises await when they turn the page.”
Part of the surprises one can expect in any volume of Popgun is the inclusion of creators who aren’t house-hold names in comics; one of those is Ulises Farinas.
“My story in Popgun Vol. 3 is called “Twig & Cassius”,” said Farinas. “It follows a square-headed boy and his crow, as they track the characters of my previous comic in Popgun Vol. 2, Leaf & Augustus. But Twig, the square headed boy, is distracted by the appearance of a crippled mouse floating amongst the detritus, and must assert his control over the Crow to prevent it from swallowing up the little mouse.”
Another creator with a story in Popgun Vol. 3 is Mike Dawson. While not a newcomer, Dawson is well on his way with his comics' career with the recently published Freddie & Me.
“My story is titled “Max!! Get Out of My Room!” It’s a straightforward little story about a 5th grader with telekinetic powers and his little brother Max, who can teleport. Max, always causing trouble, keeps teleporting into his brother’s room and messing up his games. They get to squabbling, and then things get out of hand,” explained Dawson. “The comic has been colored by Antonio Campo, who did an awesome job with it.”
While newcomers are part of Popgun, the anthology is bolstered with well-known names such as Mike Allred, Dan Brereton, Paul Grist, Jamie S. Rich and Erik Larsen.
“My goal in an anthology such as Popgun is to stand out,” explained Larsen. “I want whatever I contribute to have a lasting impact. Given the fact that I don't know what's in the rest of the book – that can be a challenge but that's the goal – to leave a lasting impression.
"On an artistic level – I try to have my stories be stylistically different from what I would ordinarily do in Savage Dragon and to tell stories that are different in tone. It's an opportunity to experiment. And because it's an ensemble piece, there isn't the pressure to be commercial and do something that carries the book.
"In Savage Dragon – it's all me – if the issue sucks it's all my fault and the responsibility is entirely mine. In a book like Popgun, the weight is on the shoulders of the editors to line up a lot of talented creators with good stories. It's kind of freeing, in a way, to be able to just goof off and have some fun doing comics.”
The challenges a creator faces in doing a story for an anthology isn’t just about standing out – it’s also about fitting in.
“I usually find that the single largest challenge is always wanting to do more,” explained Ulises Farinas. “I found that by focusing on simple moments with characters and their relationships, a dozen pages could tell a reader a lot and keep them wanting more, without relying on a cliffhanger.”
There’s also challenges for the editors putting all the pieces together – keeping it fresh while still being the Popgun that readers of previous volumes enjoyed.
“When my revered co-editor Mark Smith and I were putting the Popgun Vol. 3 together, choosing the stories and the order and whatnot, it really stood out to me as having a very different feel than volumes 1 & 2,” said D.J. Kirkbride, who is co-editor on the third volume. “It was somehow edgier in a way and gave me this pretty cool, almost anxious, rollercoaster feeling.”
According to Popgun assistant editor Adam P. Knave, “Popgun Vol. 3 is the 70’s. It opens with a car, browns leaping with scratched edges and attitude right at the reader. Even before that, the spreads manage to evoke a 50's sensibility with a modern vibe that places them right back into the 70's. That groove, that moment in time.”
Overall, the experience has been rewarding for the creators involved. Erik Larsen has contributed to every volume of Popgun, and plans to keep that tradition going. “It's a place where I can do things I wouldn't ordinarily do. Where a stupid or ridiculous idea can be put to paper.”
Check out Newsarama on Tuesday for a 20+ page preview of Popgun Vol. 3