Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connection, Panel 1 was recently released on the Comic Book School website for free download. Not only do I have two pieces in the anthology, a comics story illustrated by Arielle Lupkin and a flash fiction story, illustrated by Mike Ponce, but I also served as the prose editor for the book. As such, I wrote an introduction for the flash fiction section, which I have posted in its entirety below.

You can download the anthology here.

Flash Fiction Editor’s Introduction: Why Are There Flash Fiction Pieces in a Comic Book Anthology?

Words and pictures have been intimately connected since human beings began telling stories. As many comics pros have been quick to point out, some of the earliest recorded stories—painted on the caves of France and Indonesia approximately 44,000 years ago, were, essentially, sequential storytelling art. To use a more modern word, comics.

But the history of words and pictures complementing each other is not exclusive to comics or sequential art. From the illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages, to the literati paintings of the Ming and Qing dynasties, to Gustave Dore’s unforgettable woodcuts for Dante’s Inferno and Coleridge’s Rime of The Ancient Mariner, images and text enhanced and illuminated each other even in the most serious literature. Some of the world’s greatest artists, such as Edouard Manet (Poe’s The Raven) and Eugene Delacroix (Goethe’s Faust) illustrated editions of some of the great literature of the 19th Century. Charles Dickens, arguably the greatest novelist ever, worked closely with illustrators on all but two of his novels.

It is only during the 20th Century that illustrated writing—at least for adults—was banished to the funny books and science fiction pulps. Why did this happen? The most common answer is that readers’ tastes, led by literary critics who felt that illustrations placed a barrier between the reader and their experience of the text, changed. A more cynical analysis suggests that as books became widely available, they were produced cheaply for the mass market. Art costs money, and pocket-sized, inexpensively-printed, paperbacks are not the best format for presenting illustrations anyway. Either way, by the second half of the 20th Century illustrated prose, with a few notable exceptions like Hunter S. Thompson’s creative non-fiction, was exceptionally rare.

These days, however, things are changing. We live in a world where illustrated literature is respectable once again. Watchmen appeared on many “Best Novels of the Last 100 Years” lists, and many younger readers are more likely to remember reading a graphic novel for class than one of their teachers confiscating a comic book which they read, surreptitiously, inside the book that they were supposed to be reading. Hollywood has mined the pages of graphic literature to create some of the most popular movies and television programs of our time, bringing the genre out of the counterculture and into the mainstream.  At the same time, ebooks (like this one) are now the least expensive form of publication, and have eliminated the cost-related concerns associated with printing illustrations. Still, with the exception of young adult literature, pictures in prose books are still not as popular as they used to be.

They are, however, making a comeback. Many literary journals print art to accompany their selections. Interest in books as art objects, which often contain fancy, illustrated book plates, have become more popular, as well.

It is into this changing landscape that Comic Book School presents the creators who completed the Flash Fiction Challenge. Inspired equally by the classics mentioned above, the old pulp magazines, and early Ray Bradbury short story collections that drew on both traditions, writers and artists from our online community were challenged to create stories that married one page of prose with a single, full-page illustration.

The results speak for themselves. From D. Alley, who like William Blake, wrote and illustrated her piece, The Rescue; to George Dawkins II and Philip Burnette, whose powerful prose and black and white illustrations for The Black Knight are reminiscent of the great 19th Century engraved bookplates; to Mike Ponce, the master of backgrounds, who, like Paul Kibdy did with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, somehow pulled together the surreal genre mash-up with which I presented him in The Duel

In each of these stories, the marriage of art and writing enhances the reader’s experience beyond what either could do on its own. We invite you to join us on the vanguard of this revival.

Please download the anthology (for free),  and to follow me on twitter, instagram, and facebook.

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