How to build an award-winning anthology with Eisner-winning Popgun editor D.J. Kirkbride

March 23, 2017

D.J. Kirkbride is one of the people who I looked up to when I started doing cons. He had an Eisner, a ton of creator friends, and an awesome reputation. Over the years, he’s kept increasing his stable of books from Popgun at Image, to Amelia Cole at IDW, to The Biggest Bang at Dark Horse, to his new book The Once and Future Queen from Dark Horse, which you can find in stores now.

Honestly, I’m really impressed he gets any work with Dark Horse, since they put out so few titles, but I’m always impressed with people who can keep getting books published again and again with big time publishers. I guess it’s a little flaw in my personality where I look longingly at writers who were able to get a publishing deal with a big indie company.

On top of having a book that ran for 30 issues in Amelia Cole, D.J. is one of my favorite people in comics because he’s genuinely nice and helpful all the time. I asked him to come onto the show to talk about his work, but mostly to jam about anthologies. I recently read Popgun Volume 3, the volume that won him an Eisner, and I have to say it was one of the coolest, most beautiful anthology I’ve ever seen. It had no theme at all, just back-to-back awesome stories; 450 pages of them.

Having reached the pinnacle of prestige anthology making, I wanted to have D.J. on to talk about his biggest takeaways from making anthologies. We talked for over an hour about his work, but he was nice enough to send me his bullet points in case you don’t want to listen to the whole episode. Here they are.

  1. Organization is key. Something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet can save your ass. There's a lot to keep track of when dealing with a large number of creators on an anthology.
  2. Bigger isn't necessarily better. With POPGUN, each book got bigger. I thought keeping the price point the same while upping the page count would add incentive for readers, but that didn't pan out. We got to include more great comics, but it wasn't financially responsible.
  3. Themes can be good. While I loved and love the "anything goes" mixtape feel of POPGUN, we might've had an easier time finding readers if we'd had a loose theme for each volume. I'm not sure, though, at least not for POPGUN. The variety was king, but overall, for anthologies, a theme can be good.
  4. A great cover speaks volumes. Mike Allred, Paul Pope, Tara McPherson, Ben Templesmith-- whoa buddy, yeah, we were honored and lucky to have them on our POPGUN covers. A great artist with a cool visual coupled with excellent design, which we had on our covers from Fonografiks, can really help you sell all the awesome comics inside.
  5. You have to LOVE it. Careers aren't often made editing most anthologies, nor is any money. You need to enjoy getting cool work out there to curious and adventurous readers.

There are some themes emerging from all of these interviews, and I can’t wait to do the wrap-up show of the Kickstarter to discuss my biggest takeaways. If you liked this episode, head on over to Twitter and let @djkirkbride know how much you enjoyed it.

If you love anthologies, especially ones with monsters, head over and check out our anthology live on Kickstarter now @

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