Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"All in Black and White for... Well, probably not a Dime"

Several years back publishers DC Comics and Marvel Comics began publishing massive tomes filled with old issues of their comics.  DC called their line Showcase Presents (the reason behind said title I'll get into later) and Marvel titled theirs Essential.  The feature of both titles was to make old issues available to the public in an inexpensive format.

Both the Essential and Showcase lines featured all the issues featuring a particular character in chronological order and each book usually ran (and still runs) to something over 300 pages... all for about $20.  How can they offer so much for so cheap (and believe me, that's cheap)?  Two simple things -- the comics are printed on cheaper paper than the heavier, glossy stuff that modern comics and trade paperbacks are printed on (the stuff that Essential and Showcase use is kind of a step or two up from newsprint.  And if you aren't careful and store your copies of these away from heat and direct sunlight they will start to yellow like old newsprint.  Let's just say I'm careful but I've seen others who were not so).  The other thing is that the comics are printed in black and white.  The original color comics are scanned and the color digitally stripped out and then the art digitally touched up a bit to make sure it's clear.

Now, for some, this is heresy of the first order.  Some because it changes the original format -- that comics were *meant* to be seen in color.  Some because they simply hate black and white art in all forms... color snobs who won't even see a black and white movie.

For me... it depends.  For some comics, stripping away the color doesn't really impact the story any and for the most part I'm buying these books to get the stories.  And for some comics stripping out the color actually allows you to better see the original artist's line work better and you come to a greater appreciation of their talent and skill.  For other comics, however, stripping away the color does ruin things because you might discover that the line work was not very good to begin with and the color hid the flaws.  Or it may be a case where color was an integral part of the characters and the stories and removing the color ruins that.  A good example of this latter is the character Green Lantern.  The character has always been defined by his glowing, green energy constructs and his weakness to things colored yellow.  So taking the color out of a Green Lantern story... kind of takes away what is, for me at least, part of the very character and story. 

So why am I going on about all of this?  Well, let's just say I've been on a run lately and I figured it might be a good time and place for me to share some of my observations about some Silver and Bronze Age comics, characters, and stories.

"All in color for a dime!" used to be a selling point of early comic books but here we're going to be looking at "all in black and white for about $20". 

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