Sometimes, the best way to look forward is by looking backwards through a rear-view mirror, or in other words, “Let’s talk about reprints!”
THE HISTORY OF COMICS
There would not be comic books without reprints. Heck, the very first comic books EVER were reprinted comic strips stitched together and sold on a magazine stand. Marvel and DC toyed through the ‘70s with book-sized editions of older comics, but it wasn’t until Watchmen that reprinting old stories became the norm. These “Graphic Novels” would usually get a hardcover edition and a softer trade paperback edition… now almost every run on a comic will get a “Trade” reprint somewhere down the line.
These days, reprinting comics can take a variety of forms. Take for example EERIE ARCHIVES VOL. 11, available this week from Dark Horse. Here we have an expensive and beautiful deluxe hardbound edition of ‘70s horror comics, featuring such standards as The Mummy and Mr. Hyde, reprinted for curious fans, hardcore completists and librarian archivists alike. Did you get that? A box of reprints of comics originally printed on crappy newsprint for 75¢ each is now painstakingly reproduced on beautiful archival paper for $49.99.
Then there is Batman Beyond Unlimited #8, a new comic from DC, which features three tales of a futuristic Batman which originally ran online. That’s right: It reprints something for $3.99 which has NEVER been physically printed, only published online for free.
It gets weirder.
You see, we also have Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, the trade reprinting the five-issue miniseries exploring the origins of Gotham’s most misunderstood tuxedo-wearing Gentleman of Crime. When these issues originally ran, they were about $2.99 each. Three times five is $14.99, the same cost of the trade, but this trade edition also includes the single issue Joker’s Asylum: The Penguin, a fine feathered periodical originally retailing for $2.99.
So here we have a reprint giving you more of a great story you may have missed, or allowing you to have a “reader” or “lender” copy for your friends to read, saving the value of your original issues, OR allowing you to read it for the first time in one setting LESS than it originally cost.
(Here’s something fun to do: Google image search “Penguin Pride and Prejudice” and the majority of the stuff you will find shall be book covers from the publisher Penguin Books for the Jane Austin classic! I hope Elizabeth Bennet punches Batman in the face! BAM! ZOK! LOOK OUT, CAPED CRUSADER, here comes Mr. Bingley! KER-POW!)
Then there’s good ol’ Marvel…this week alone they have trades, archive editions and reprints of issues published months ago in case you missed them, such as Avengers Vs. X-Men reprints, The Evil Deadpool trade and GLOBS of other books.
With more and more comics moving online, or even debuting digitally, will comic book shops take over as reprint houses featuring paper versions of older material? What happens to libraries and other archival institutions as art becomes intangible?
Will we one day see a world where we step into a comic book shop to download single issues onto our tablets at discounted rates?
Who knows… and who cares? All I know is, I get to read about The Mummy, The Penguin, Batman and Deadpool this week! THANKS, Forbidden Planet!
More musings from Unkiedev, Earth’s own sidekick, can be read at unkiedev.blogspot.com