Welcome to the second instalment of Jack of All Trades. I had originally planned to use this second column to compile a list of those uncollected runs for which comics fans were crying out for collected editions, but it seems that asking BleedingCool's hive-mind of readers for suggestions at the end of last week's column was opening a real can of worms.
It turns out that there are far more much-loved-yet-uncollected runs than could fit in a single column–so rather than trying to cover everything in one go, I'm going to try and include a selection of BleedingCool readers' most wanted TPBs at the end of each column, starting this week.
For now, I'll instead turn my attention to another subject that came up in the course of discussions in last week's thread: the issue of publishers failing to keep certain books in print. Whilst it's well-known that certain volumes are reprinted pretty much in perpetuity (for legal reasons, if nothing else), others seem to go Out Of Print pretty quickly after their initial release.
(Hence the title of this week's column. No, I'm not secretly a Britney Spears fan.)
Marvel, in particular, seems to have a habit of running off just a single, limited print run for certain collections–especially their big hardcovers and omnibuses–which leads to availability drying up within a year or so, meaning that the books can only be obtained second-hand at exorbitant prices. Certain regular TPBs seem to suffer the same fate too, with no apparent rhyme or reason dictating which ones become rare and which ones will always be easily available.
My question with this is as follows: if books are regularly selling for several times their cover price in the second-hand market, aren't publishers leaving money on the table by not ordering a second print run? Some of Marvel's most high-profile big books of recent years (like Brian Bendis' Alias and Daredevil omnibuses, or omnibus collections of classic stuff like Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four and Frank Miller's Daredevil run) are sorely in need of reprints, but the company doesn't seem in any hurry to do so.
Equally, DC are sitting on their hands when it comes to reprinting stuff like the two Absolute Authority volumes, whilst other Absolutes (like Watchmen or Sandman) have been easy to get hold of ever since they came out, years ago.
I can't pretend to know the reason for this (could it really be a cynical way of encouraging demand?) and it's also questionable whether inflated sale prices on ebay or amazon are truly representative of a high demand, or just indicative of a few would-be buyers fighting over a limited number of copies. However, if anyone from Marvel or DC's trades departments feels like sharing the rationale that goes into deciding whether a volume gets reprinted or not, I'm sure a lot of readers would be very interested to know.
And whilst we hold our breath waiting for that, let's get onto my picks of this week's new releases.
Batman: No Man's Land v.1 TPB: This new TPB collection of a Batman story that's well-known (if perhaps not well-loved) is notable because it apparently includes issues that weren't present in the earlier collected editions. So if you're a "No Man's Land" fan who has been outraged that DC didn't do the story justice in the past, this should be right up your alley.
Chew: The Omnivore Edition v.2: Many of you are probably tucking into Chew in singles, and yet more of you are probably devouring the series in TPB form. However, for those who can't resist those high-end, deluxe editions, this is probably the best way to feast on what the series has to offer.
Criminal v.6: Last of the Innocent TPB: This is the first volume of Criminal that I haven't bought in single-issue form, as whilst I enjoy the added backmatter that the individual instalments provide, I've found that Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' noir-drenched stories read better in a single sitting. I can't wait to check out this latest entry into the series, which (from what I hear) features a slightly more experimental approach to the art and story than we've seen in the previous five volumes.
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus v.1 TPB: Getting back to the subject of out-of-print omnibuses, this week sees DC publish a softback version of the first in their excellent series of Omnibus editions collecting Jack Kirby's Fourth World saga. Whilst it's definitely a big investment of time (and money–even a TPB doesn't come that cheaply when it collects so much material), it's well worth it to experience what is perhaps the King's most personal and revered works. Let's hope they get the remaining three volumes out in softback soon so that readers aren't forced to pay over-the-odds for the increasingly expensive hardbacks.
Girls: The Complete Collection: It seems like many moons ago that the Luna Brothers' Girls came and went, which makes me wonder why Image have chosen this moment to launch a complete omnibus collection of the entire series. In the intervening years, I can't honestly say that this horror/mystery/nudie-ladies story has crossed my mind all that often, but Image must think there are enough people out there clamouring for a bumper edition. I'd say this is one for hardcore Girls fans only (so to speak): the book is very much an acquired taste, so if you're thinking about checking the series out for the first time, the smaller TPBs are probably the way to go.
X-Statix Omnibus: Now this final book is one that I know readers really have been clamouring for. Collecting Peter Milligan and Michael Allred's runs on X-Force and X-Statix–along with loads of other related issues–this volume is likely going to fly off the shelves. If you're interested in a genuinely unusual, quirky and idiosyncratic take on Marvel's mutant characters, this has probably got 'Christmas Present' written all over it for you.
Joe The Barbarian: Deluxe Hardcover
Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy's Joe The Barbarian is an interesting beast that both gains advantages and shows its weaknesses in collected form. It's enlightening to read Morrison's story–about a boy who embarks on a hallucinatory fantasy quest whilst in the grip of a diabetic coma–in one sitting, as seemingly disparate plot points that got lost in the long wait between single issues feel more closely connected and meaningful when you can read the whole story as one piece.
It's also true that the story's abrupt ending feels as though it comes slightly less out-of-the-blue when you can appreciate the build-up that Morrison seeds throughout the second half of the story, and the deluxe hardcover format is certainly a great-looking showcase for Murphy's textured, highly-detailed artwork (the opening issue remains a masterclass on establishing tone and environment through visuals alone).
However, there's no escaping the feeling that the book's whimsical characters and fantastical diversions–as well as its novel premise which draws parallels between the mundane reality of Joe's real-world quest to find something sugary to eat and the Hero Quest of his imagination–don't feel quite so fresh and exciting when you're battered over the head with them for eight straight issues in a row. This is maybe not a book to buy and read through all in one go, but instead to dip into and enjoy over the course of a few days or weeks.
It might have come out a few months ago, but this omnibus collecting the entire David Michelinie/Todd McFarlane run on Amazing Spider-Man is such a nice package that I thought it warranted a mention here. You'll probably already know whether you're interested in it, based solely on your tolerance for McFarlane's work, but for those of us Spider-Man fans who grew up with his run on the book as a high-water-mark for superhero art, it's a collection that's impossible to pass up.
This tome includes every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from #296-329 (including some non-McFarlane issues that were missed out in the earlier "Visionaries" and "Legends" TPB collections, thus leaving some of the stories with gaps), as well as the Prowler story from Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #10.
There's also a lengthy afterword by Michelinie, and a really comprehensive gallery of all the other covers, pin-ups and other Spidey work McFarlane did for Marvel at the time (he provided a fair few covers for reprint titles and so forth). I'm not always interested by pin-up galleries, but given that McFarlane's style lends itself so well to flashy full-page images, this one is really worth it.
Publishers collecting slightly older work in high-end formats should look to this book as an example of how to put together a collection like this properly. I can only hope that a second volume, collecting McFarlane's run on the adjectiveless Spider-Man title, is on the cards at some point.
BleedingCool's Most Wanted:
I'm going to end by listing a couple of the nominations of much-demanded as-yet-uncollected runs mentioned in last week's thread. If you have any further suggestions, stick 'em in the thread below!
Grant Morrison's Zenith: I know that there are legal reasons why this 2000AD strip from Morrison's early career hasn't been fully reprinted–and why the existing collections are so hard to come by–but there's got to be some way to resolve those issues if so much potential money is sitting on the table. Hopefully something will give and the relevant people will find a way to make it happen.
[Rich adds – it was printed. Then stored in a warehouse pensing legal resolution that didn;t happen. Eventually the print run was pulped. A few copies escaped into the wild.]
Mark Millar's Swamp Thing: It's inconceivable to me that DC would leave a substantial run by one of the industry's most bankable writers uncollected, but Millar's run on Swamp Thing has yet to be granted a single TPB, let alone a higher-profile collection. I have no idea whether DC have a policy of minimising reprints of work by creators who have severed ties with the company, but it's the only reason that I can think of for not giving Millar's run on the book wider exposure.
[Rich adds: It's also one of the best things he's written as well. It was initially written with Grant Morrison, it is possible that their acrimonious split and DC's current reationship with Grant may be a factor.]
Solo: One of the most interesting books that DC put out in recent years, the 12 issues of Solo provided a showcase for a host of great artists to experiment with some slightly more personal and more idiosyncratic work than we get from their regular work-for-hire jobs. A spiritual precursor to Wednesday Comics, it seems criminal that the company hasn't seen fit to give this series a big hardcover coffee-table edition, or at least a straight TPB.
'Mazing Man: 'Nuff said.
To Be Continued…
Finally, if you have any thoughts on the subject of next week's column, let me know those in the thread below: I'm planning to write about the trades programs of the big publishers–which ones work, which ones don't, and how they could improve them to better serve tradewaiters without cannibalising sales of single issues.
And of course, keep those suggestions coming for the BleedingCool tradewaiting wishlist!