Comic publishing veteran Matt Hawkins opens Stairway Anthology with a simple statement summarizing his career philosophy: “People helped us get into the industry, so let’s do the same thing to help others”. In this way, Stairway Anthology is, metaphorically, the “stairway” that Hawkins offers new comic writers to promote their work. Stairway Anthology is a collection of eight works created by eight new faces in the comic world. These creators were given complete creative control of their work, which is only being published in this anthology format once. 

As with most anthologies, there are going to be hits and misses; comparing stories within an anthology is part of the fun. The ultimate flaw with Stairway Anthology is the lack of cohesion or theme among any of the stories, aside from that of the creators being new to the industry. As a whole, Stairway Anthology is uneven and inconsistent. However, this is not to say that the individual stories within the volume are not worthwhile. In fact, there are a few standouts. Among them are Octavio Karbank’s Bee Afraid, a fun, cute comic about the trials of dealing with insects in your house; Austin Hamblin’s Big Guns Stupid Rednecks, a darkly comedic story that masterfully blends action, comedy, sci-fi, and gothic fiction; and Kevin Cuffe and Bob Frantz’s Spirit of 666, a monster-filled retelling of the year 1776 with some great illustrations and promising writing. Yet, despite these standouts, I cannot recommend the anthology as a whole. The few standouts do not justify the existence of the entire collection. And, ultimately, given that many of these works are previews, readers will be left wanting after reading a story they enjoy. The thought running through my mind while reading the collection was “Isn’t there a better way to promote these budding creators?”.  

Aside from the issues of consistency and cohesion among the stories in this anthology, there is one other glaring issue: the distinct lack of representation among writers. As Hawkins notes at the beginning of the anthology, the stories in this collection were selected from over 10,000 submissions. Out of those 10,000 submissions it appears that not a single woman was chosen. I have trouble believing that not a single submission by anyone that identifies as a woman was worthy of appearing in this collection. Ultimately, this is the key issue throughout Stairway Anthology: a severe lack of curatorial prowess. 

Though the mission of Stairway Anthology is admirable, the execution is lackluster. Stairway Anthology lacks any “hook” that would entice or intrigue readers. There is certainly talent displayed among the creators in this anthology. However, as a whole, it may not be worthwhile to add this one to your shelves. For those looking to find new comic creators, or enjoy a solid anthology series, you may be better off recommending one of the, now defunct, The Best of American Comics publications by Houghton Mifflin.

Stairway Anthology
By Matt Hawkins, Henry Barajas  and Ryan Cady
ISBN: 9781534317024
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: T+
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

  • Olivia

    | She/Her Local History Librarian, South Pasadena Public Library

    Olivia Radbill is the Local History Librarian at the South Pasadena Public Library. In addition to assisting in Adult Services, she is responsible for all archival objects, documentation, and historical inquiry. Previously, she served as the Literacy Services Librarian at the Santa Fe Springs City Library. Originally from Maryland, Olivia has previously aided in archival and genealogical projects at both the National Sporting Library and Museum (NSLM) and the Frederick County Historical Society. In her free time she runs a graphic novel book group for women and indulges in absurd amounts of vegan food.

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