Saturday, February 11, 2006

Marvel Essentials

I love the Marvel Essentials. Nice, thick volumes, usually chock full of comics that I enjoy reading. In recent times there's been Essential volumes for such short-run '70s comics as Super-Villian Team-Up, Iron Fist and Silver Surfer, along with volumes for Luke Cage, Ghost Rider, Defenders and many, many more. They're a great idea - around 20+ issues of a book, printed in black and white with the original cover art, complete credits and, best of all, the creators get royalities. This means that prolific artists such as Mike Esposito, Jim Mooney and Sal Buscema get a few decent cheques during the year. In fact I think you'd be hard pressed to pick up any of the '70s volumes and not find any of those three guys in there, especially Mike.

Is there a downside? Sadly there is. The printing quality can sometimes be right off. The most recent volume, Spectacular Spider-Man Vol II, suffers from some of the worst reproduction that I've ever seen. These aren't Golden Age comics we're talking about, these are comics from the late '70s through to the early and mid '80s. For the most part the reproduction is crystal clear. The line-work is fluid and sharp. Then we come to the odd reproduction - in this case issues #40, 43 and annual #2 look for all the world to have been reproduced from scans of photocopies of low resolution scans of photocopies. I'm sure that Marvel have those issues on hand, if not then I know people who own original art from the issues in question and when it comes down to it, I have a complete run of the book from issue1 through to 150 - they can borrow mine if they want. There should be no excuse for this kind of shoddy work, especially in this day and age of digital reproduction.

The Spider-Man volume isn't the only one to suffer from poor reproduction. Other books usually have one or two issues in them that look horrid. The problem with the Spider-Man book is that the reproduction on those three stories render them virtually unreadable. It's a shame really, and all Marvel say is that they'll 'fix' future printings. That means if I want a perfect volume I'm either not going to buy the first print, or buy two printings. Mind you if I don't buy the first printing, and others do the same, then it's highly unlikely that there'll be any future printings. I applaud Marvel for printing obscure titles, but I wish they could just get it right.

You see, the idea of Essentials isn't new. We've had similar volumes here in Australia since the dawn of print. And the idea is so good that DC are now doing the same with their Showcase series. However the difference is that DC are making damn sure that the reproduction for all their reprints is top shelf. No great surprise there - perhaps Marvel can take a leaf out of their book - if it's not 100% then just wait until it is.

Now I'm waiting for Essential Moon Knight. That'll have some tasty art!

3 comments:

Chade said...

I tell you, that Showcase House of Mystery looks fantastic. I've only had a few flips through it and it makes me want them to do a House of Secrets one. Why is it that DC always do a higher quality work on these reprints over Marvel? I remember seeing some of the Submariner/Captain America stuff that was bloody apalling.
Oh well, only 6 months until the Absolute Sandman comes out and by all accounts it should be very pretty. Apparently DC have been going over it with a fine tooth combe cleaning up the pages to ensure the best possible product.

Danny said...

That's the difference. DC will do their best to source the best possible product to reprint. They clearly have a better file library - I know that Marvel had a tendency to throw stuff out, such as stats and, of course, there's that whole original art situation. At the end of the day it amazes me that Marvel can botch up reprinting stuff from less than 20 years ago, where DC can reprint stuff from over 50 years ago in stunning quality. DC took Marvel's idea and made it far better - perhaps Marvel should be learning from them.

Tim said...

I have most of the original books from my childhood, but have thumbed thru them at the bookstore. I miss the color and the book size is smaller, so I have not bought them. Sal Buscema was definetly an under appreciated artist. I loved his work on Captain America.