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John Carter, Warlord of Mars
by Wayne Markley
It is no secret that I am not the world’s most significant fan of modern comic book storytelling. I do not like these stories that are developed to be six issues so they can be collected into neat trades. A ideal example of this is the Avengers titles. practically all storylines are five or six issues so as to make a good collection. This is not to say that these are poorly told stories, or that the collections are not worth reading. To me, it is like a realty agent selling you a house he wants to sell, not selling you the house you want. A story ought to take as long as it needs to be told, be it one issue or six or thirty. and I think that when stories are made to fit the format of the collection, you are not necessarily getting the best story. Now, on the other hand I do like trade collections, particularly of older material that was not written to be collected at a later date. I am not arguing against monthly, single comics. I have purchased and collected single comics for 45 years now and I have thousands of them going back to the 1930s. Mind you, at this stage of my life I would not mind selling the lot and keeping the trades. and here is why.
Recently I purchased a set of the marvel Comics John Carter, Warlord of Mars comics from the 1980s.I purchased these because I read them when they first came out and numerous years ago I sold a fair chunk of my marvel Comics, including the John Carter issues. I recently re-read the novels and read the new Dynamite John Carter (which is not bad, which is high praise from me for a Dynamite title) and it made me nostalgic for the marvel John Carter’s. I still have the Dell, Gold essential and the DC versions of John Carter so the geek in me thought I ought to have all of the various incarnations. There are some great stories in these marvel books, and some good art work including some very early Frank Miller. So I purchased them on eBay. They came and I sat down to read them and I discovered something I had forgotten. Old comics tend to yellow, smell, and the printing quality was horrible. The newsprint is thin and the colors are bland. There is still a good nostalgic feel to the books with the ads and the storytelling (mostly single issue stories, hint hint) was straight to the point. but the pile of 30 books is sizable and they’re now just taking up space. thankfully for me, Dark horse recently announced that they will be releasing a nice, thick, trade paperback of all the marvel issues. I am looking forward to this collection because I will have all the books I purchased on eBay in a good trade paperback about the third of the size of the pile of comics. It will have bright white pages with sharp colors that got washed out and faded in the original comics, and the collection will not have the ads or filler of the original comics. If in terms of presentation the original comics are a four on a scale of ten, then the collection is a nine. and this example is true for many collections.
Another example are the DC Chronicles trade collections. here DC has taken select characters (Superman, Batman, Flash, green Lantern, and wonder Woman) and they are reprinting all of the character’s appearances in good spiffy trade paperbacks. These are very good for a number of reasons. first off, you get all the stories in sequential purchase as they first appeared. For example, in the Batman series of stories, it reprints Detective Comics, Batman, and Worlds best Comics, all in the sequence they originally appeared. In these collections the colors are so sharp and clean, well as clear as the art can be for that time period. The Flash and the green lantern stories practically jump off the page as they are so bright and clean and the paper stock is bright white and much thicker than the original comics. and then there is the costs. To purchase these original comics would cost a million dollars plus, while these trades are a mere fraction of the original cost.
Chronicles of Conan
An example of the production values of reprints is the Conan series that Dark horse has been doing. Dark horse has three different reprint series currently going on, excluding the collection of the new Conan stories. The longest running series so far is the Chronicles of Conan. These are full color trades reprinting all of the marvel Conan comics from the 70s and 80s. These are very good way to get Conan stories on bright glossy white paper at a very good price. but these collections also highlight one of the negatives of these reprints. first off, there is the exclusion of the Conan stories that feature Red Sonja, due to the fact that Dynamite has the license for Red Sonja, and the two shall not cross. Unless it is Conan in a Red Sonja story that Dynamite publishes. The second issue is the reprinted stories look like they were scanned directly from the original comic book pages. When you look at the trade, the pages inside have a different colored tint to the reprinted page but the trim around the page is bright white. This is different than the DC Chronicles reprints where the pages are redone in the reprint so there is no color difference from the reprinted page and the trim. but to be honest, the DC process is much more expensive and time consuming so I can understand why Dark horse (and many other publishers) do not do it this way. Dark horse is also doing the savage Sword of Conan, which reprints the old marvel magazine savage Sword of Conan. These are black and white reprints of a black and white magazine and they look great. The pages are reprinted slightly smaller than the originals, as these trades are comic book sized, not magazine sized. A small quibble. My only grievance about these collections is they only reprint the Conan stories and skip over all the other material that originally appeared in savage Sword of Conan. many of these were articles, or comic stories featuring other Robert E Howard characters, or just barbarian stories, and were not necessarily that good. The third collection that Dark horse is doing is the Conan newspaper Strips by Roy Thomas and John Buscema. This is a very good package with the Sunday strips in color (which I wish other publishers would do) and there will hopefully be much more collections in the future. My only grievance about this newspaper strip is they missed a strip in the book. In my opinion there is no reason to miss a strip in a strip in a compilation unless a copy of that strip cannot be found anywhere, and then that ought to be noted in the collection.
There are tons of other reprints week after week. DC also has there showcase line which are very good collections of the library in thick black and white “phonebooks”. marvel has the same in their essential line. marvel also has a long running reprint series with the marvel Masterworks, which are beautiful hardcover collections of their characters over the years in sequence, all re-colored and all on very good white paper. recently marvel started reprinting these Masterworks in paperback. marvel has also been reprinting various storylines in full color paperbacks for years now. all of these are very good and are done in the DC manner of re-coloring/or at least having the pages and trim mix and not having the look comic book pages scanned in. marvel tends to reprint certain storylines based on what is currently popular or which new film is forthcoming. There are hundreds of marvel collections with any number of their characters you can pick from. While not all the stories are to my taste, the quality is well worth anyone’s money. As always, everything written here is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts of Westfield Comics or their employees. comments or review copies are welcome and I can be contacted at MFBWAY@AOL.COM.
Classic cover from the Grand Comics Database.