Editor Adam Prosser Conjures A ‘Strange Romance’ In A New Sci-Fi Anthology [Back Pages]
People may say that superheroes are still the biggest thing in comics in 2016, but don’t be fooled: romance is where it's at. The comics scene is increasingly packed with different anthologies and stories finding new ways to explore romance, connection, love, and friendship. There’s no end to what you can do with a strong romance story, and that’s evidenced brilliantly in the new comics anthology Strange Romance, which is running on Kickstarter right now.
Back Pages spoke to editor Adam Prosser about how the book came together, and what strange, weird love stories readers can find inside.
ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of the anthology?
Adam Prosser: Basically, we're an anthology of love stories which happen to also be SF, fantasy, horror, or other "weird" genre stories. Simplicity itself!
CA: What was the genesis of the project? How long have you wanted to get this up and running?
AP: I've been making comics online for a while and I've managed to build up a rolodex of talented up-and-coming comics people just from hanging out online. After I participated in the Toronto Comix Anthology I decided that editing an anthology looked like it would be a fun experience and a good way to help us signal boost each other. It's a classic case of, "I want to be part of the scene, so I'm going to create my own scene".
The thing about doing this stuff online is that the leap from idea to reality is pretty fuzzy --- the idea germinated in the back of my head for a while, then I started talking about it with my pals, then one day I was saying, "To heck with it" and leaping out of the airplane.
...The metaphorical airplane.
CA: We seem to be heading into a revival for romance comics as a whole; this column has featured several romance projects over the last few months. What interests you in the genre within comics, particularly?
PA: When we think of "comics" we always think of certain genres, but I've always been fascinated by the other stuff that has a long tradition and a strong aesthetic but isn't as foregrounded. And romance comics are part of that.
Just as superhero comics have this elaborate system of tropes and ideas that people can play around with endlessly, so too do romance comics. We all instantly recognize the close up of the crying woman with an emo thought balloon as a signifier. It's not just an image, it evokes decades of other stories. And just as superheroes have evolved, so have romance comics. So, if superheroes, which for ages were seen as disposable junk for kids, can become a genre of ideas, I think romance comics can be too.
CA: This also races away from the perhaps typical Paul Rudd-style romantic comedy story. Was it important to you that these stories be weird, unexpected, and approach love and romance in a different way?
AP: That's precisely it! When you meld SF and fantasy with romance you've got a way to grapple with ideas and imagination, but in a way that's always going to be grounded in human emotion. In many ways that's the ultimate romantic notion --- that love can take all these weird forms, transcend reality and humanity, and still be love.
Hopefully this isn't getting too deep… I like nerd stuff and I like romance, so I thought I'd combine the two! Case closed.
CA: How did you find people to join you for the volumes? What were you looking for from contributors?
AP: Like I say, I hang around with a whole gang of people who do comics but aren't world-famous (yet), so all I really had to do was float the idea. I hoped the hook was good enough, that it would sort of generate its own momentum, and sure enough, it did. I've actually managed to attract a couple of relatively big names for the second volume --- yep, there's going to be a second volume!
This is my first time playing editor, so I was relishing the chance to work with people on developing their stories. Hopefully I wasn't too overbearing with my suggestions. This is the kind of anthology that really thrives on killer one-line concepts --- like a guy who uses time travel to try and fix all the mistakes in his relationship, or an amnesiac falling in love with a computer simulation of their past self --- so naturally there are a lot of those kinds of things.
And of course we had to have a few the Tales From the Crypt-style twist endings. I did think it was important to make room for a few stories that are a little quirkier and can't be boiled down to a logline, though.
In terms of the art, I'm a big fan of the simpler, more expressive style --- old-fashioned Silver Age and "cartoony" stuff. I tend to think that mode of drawing is, despite its lack of "realism," much better at conveying emotion and personality, which makes it a good fit for an anthology about romance. It does depend on the story, though --- some of our artists definitely have more detail and texture.
CA: Who will we see showing up in the anthology? Which writers and artists are involved?
AP: There's Mike Levine, who's written for The Onion and has a new book out; as well as Ken Lowery, who wrote the comic Like a Virus, which I believe you guys featured when it was being Kickstartered. There's the writer/artist team of Sam Noir and Chris Yao, who worked on the transmedia series Heroes of the North, the supremely talented Paul Milligan, James Reilly-English, and… well, here, I'll just list 'em: Ryan Rosendal, Matthew Tavares, Alex Correa, Travis Hymel, Margot Blankier, Philip Rice, Sharon Gauthier, Charlotte Finn, Shane Kirshenblatt, Erik Rangel, Aaron Feldman, Rebecca Slack, Miike Something, Stephany Lein, Julia Alfano, Nizamt, Daniel Reynolds… and yours truly too.
CA: Why take the book to Kickstarter?
AP: As with everything else about this project, it was largely a case of, "OK, well, let's try this thing now," with the hope that it'll be fun and rewarding (and so far, it all has been)! We were starting from a very very verrrrry small budget so a print run was going to need crowdfunding to happen. We figured Kickstarter's something that we really ought to try --- really, I think it's becoming a bit of a rite of passage for indie creators, succeed or fail.
We're creating some cool bonus content, like cheesy cardboard-style Valentines by our artists and additional text pieces in the form of love letters from alternate dimensions, which I guess we could have technically done at home in our basements, but this gives us an excuse to actually show them to people!
CA: Before Kickstarter, this was published on ComiXology. How did you find that experience? Did that help bring new readers to the project, did you find?
AP: It's actually early yet --- the book went up on Valentine's Day and it's still selling, and the numbers take a while to come back, so it's hard to make any grand statements about readership. But ComiXology is really a boon to indie creators --- a way to get your work out there and make a profit without having to max out your credit cards on printing. Honestly, my experience with them, both for my own indie stuff and as the editor of this collection, has been pretty great.
CA: If you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final project?
AP: It should be in people's hands in late September or October. We're not messing around!
Strange Romance is currently running on Kickstarter until Sunday 14 August 2016, seeking a funding target of $12,000. To find out more, head to the crowdfunding page! In the interests of disclosure, please note that the anthology's contributors include ComicsAlliance writer Charlotte Finn.